Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

Helpful Educational Placement

Seen at a school information night.

Any information parents want to give the school which would be helpful for the student’s educational placement, needs to be addressed to the grade level counselor, and received no later than…

I wonder if I should submit a response like this…

My child needs active, engaging, teachers who work with technology as a platform for instruction, extension, investigation, revelation, inspiration, engagement, collaboration, innovation, authentic experience creation, and connection to the world. He needs teachers who won’t assume that learning results from assigning worksheets and who use homework as a leveraged investment in the educational process. He should be placed with teachers who hold themselves to the same standards they hold their students. He should be placed with teachers who have high standards without being rigid. He should be placed with teachers who have figured out that they teach kids, not subjects. He should have teachers who have been given the freedom to do all of these things by their leaders and have chosen to do so even though it may not necessarily be easy or convenient. He should be placed with teachers who value and engage in professional collaboration for the good of their kids. He should be placed with teachers who will never call themselves digital immigrants or him a digital native. He should be placed with teachers who have been given the resources they need to accomplish all this. And, he should be placed with teachers who get paid enough not to have to choose between gas and groceries.

 

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May 19, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Wrap Up and a Crackpot

The TxDLA has wrapped up but not before Gary Stager called himself a crackpot and gave a thought provoking presentation. The crackpot reference to himself came in the context of one who proffered so-called “crazy” ideas. I don’t know about crazy, but he definitely has some serious upstream opinions. He gave us a serious drink from the Stager firehose. In fact I’m still processing some of those ideas and deciding where I land. People like Gary Stager are like that, though. One minute I’m nodding my head in complete agreement and the next I’ve got the mental brakes pressed to the floor. Regardless, he’s a passionate educator who will leave you thinking.

Here’s some ideas from his presentation as they are filtered through my processing and frenetic note-taking. I have added the categories above the bullets for reflection more than anything else.

Right On! 

  • Stager cites a quote from Daniel Hillis’ Pattern on the Stone book [extended slightly for context]: “The computer…is a device that accelerates and extends our process of thought. It is an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we could ever have taken them on our own.”
  • If your classroom questions can be answered with a Google search, then let them.
  • Learning occurs in a community of practice where expertise is distributed.
  • Eliminate self serving and schizophrenic practices and policies.
  • We shouldn’t think of education as a competition.
  • Be open to emerging technologies and decentralizing tools.
  • The tools don’t matter unless they get in the way.
  • Collaboration begins at home.
  • We have operated on the SDSU curriculum for too long (Sit Down and Shut Up).
  • He routine meets kids who have never had a meaning conversation with an adult.
  • For faculty, collect the experts you want to study with.
    • Create a community of practice.
  • We should use technology to create authentic experiences in more domains in ways never possible before.

Hold On!

  • Stager doesn’t really care for Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and wrote an article called The Worst Book of the 21st Century – a review.
    • It would seem to be a little incongruous for me to have a few posts ranting against the corporate influences in our school and then write so much about a business book. Essentially, I think we must look beyond the rigid structure of American education and begin the discussions that will take us there. That’s the take-away of Pink’s book for me even though Pink never intended this book for education.
  • ISTE should take a stand on how computers should work.
    • He said something like this very quickly and got a smattering of applause. I’m not sure where he was going with this, but to generally discount the efforts of ISTE leaves me cold.
  • An educational revolution will not result from web 2.0.
    • Maybe not completely, but it certainly could provide the spark. Indeed, many have suggested it already has.
    • Also, I think he may have thrown a backhanded insult at those of us who consider ourselves bloggers for education, saying we are standing outside the circle of expertise. He seemed to contradict himself when he asserted that a way to join the community of practice was to learn from our [experienced] elders and emulate their behavior and practices. I’m not sure what to do with that. Maybe I should ask Karl Fisch, Wes FryerAlan November, George Siemens, David Thornburg, Dave Warlick, or any of the other educational leaders that write on The Pulse blog.

Go on…

  • There’s nothing new about 21st Century Skills. They are simply the skills that rich people wanted their kids to have in the 20th century.
    • I would like to see a little more from him here than a simple dismissive attack.
  • Every course should be taught as liberal art.
    • He didn’t spend enough time here to give me a good picture and I’d like to know more.

More about Gary Stager so you can check it out for yourself… 

  • Stager-to-Go is the place where Gary Stager can share news & views not suited for his professional outlets.” He’s the Senior Editor for District Administration and its blog The Pulse.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Day 2 and A Man with a Crazy Story

Dave Carey, a POW in Vietnam from 1967-1972, spoke today using the analogy of his life in captivity as lessons for educators. As a side note, he wasn’t actually at the conference here in Galveston, but delivered his presentation via videoconferencing technology from Austin. I thought that was a great way to spotlight that kind of technology at a Distance Learning Conference. (Harriet gives her take on the talk as well.)

He prefaced his talk by saying he is most often asked variations on the question: “How did you do it?” As he spoke, he repeated several main points (among others) that translate to our journey as educators.

  • Do what you have to do.
  • Fix the communications.
  • Decide to grow as a result of and through your experiences.
  • Keep the faith in each other and beyond yourself.
  • Learn from each other. 
  • Use your sense of humor.

He mentioned that we initially may think that we, as educators, may not have a whole lot in common with POW’s and their struggle, but he repeatedly brought his story back to us and illustrated the connections. At the beginning he referenced that his captors firmly believed in the divide-and-conquer through isolation and the prisoner’s way through that was to develop a system of communication so they could share and transmit their common knowledge and experiences. The POW’s, used their collected knowledge, simply, to survive. They relied on the experiences and knowledge of everyone to educate, entertain, and, even in a POW camp, grow. It’s a great illustration of how a community of connected individuals united under a common purpose does more than just survive.

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Day 1 and A Crazy Man

Today I’m attending the Texas Distance Learning Association Conference in beautiful Galveston, Texas. Alan November delivered the opening keynote and had a follow-up breakout session. At both presentations he rather strongly suggested insisted that we redefine student roles in the classroom. I have included an excerpt from his page below.

Student as Contributor: Digital Learning Farm
Before tractors and combines, more that 60% of the population in North America was involved in farming. Today less than 2% lives of the population works on farms. Farm children made a vital contribution to the family with real chores. While technology eventually eroded the meaningful work of children, we have enough technology today to restore the dignity of real work in school. All of our students can use collaborative online tools and research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.
These contributions include:
* Curriculum Review Team
* Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
* Global Communication Team
* Official Scribes
* Resource Finders
* Technical Editors

If you are unfamiliar with Alan November, I would encourage you to check out the November Learning website and all the resources there. I’ve already registered for his Building Learning Communities Conference in July. Alan is crazy. I heard him say so today. And you know crazy people have dangerous, sometimes blasphemous ideas. The excerpt above makes myhis point. That’s dangerous stuff when you think about it. Are we ready to have kids do those things? (For an expansion on those ideas, check out TxDLA’s “blogstress” Harriet Watkins’ post about the keynote.)

As for his blasphemy, he suggested we actually let kids use Wikipedia with all its errors and unreliability! Only he took the insanity one step further when he suggested that we use that type of technology to give our students a global platform for publishing, commenting, and idea refinement. That kind of crazy talk will surely have some reaching for their benzodiazepines. (If you are going to click on that link to see what that word means, you are risking your educational sanity by using an unreliable source even if you get everything you need to know in the first sentence. You’ve been warned!)

Maybe we only want to give lip service to this whole 21st Century Learning stuff. Alan doesn’t. He made his doctoral students actually contribute to a Wikipedia article for their peers to review. Wow! I want to be crazy like Alan November!

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

State Standardized Test Questions

Boy: “Dad, why do I have to take the CSAP tests this week and next week?”

Dad: “Son, the CSAP tests are part of the Colorado Student Assessment Program and, look here, the law says so, ‘Every student enrolled in a public school shall be required to take the (state) assessments (in the content areas and grades administered). – Colorado Revised Statutes [22-7-409(1.2.a.1.d.I)].'”

Boy: “When will I know how I did?”

Dad: “Four or five months from now.”

Boy: “When I’m in the next grade? Will my new teacher tell me how I did?”

Dad: “Well, they send the Performance Report home and the results get stored in a data warehouse that your teacher has access to.”

Boy: “If I do well, how will that help me in school?”

Dad: “It won’t; it shows your teacher, school, and district did a good job. It helps them.”

Boy: “What if I don’t do well?”

Dad: “Well, they might put you in a different class to help you get better.”

Boy: “With other kids who didn’t do well? You know, some kids just write anything in their tests. Will any teachers want to teach that class? It sounds like a tough job.”

Dad: “I’m sure the teacher will do her best.”

Boy: “Our principal came on the announcement speaker and said we should get lots of rest and eat a good breakfast the day of the test. How come he only says that during testing time? Is it okay to stay up and skip breakfast the rest of the school year?”

Dad: “No, you…”

Boy: “And how come we don’t have any homework for the testing weeks? My teacher said it’s because they want us to concentrate on our work. How come we don’t do that all the time?”

Dad: “Well, see…”

Boy: “I kinda like testing time. We actually don’t do that much work in class for almost two whole weeks. And I can’t wait until I get to my junior year in high school. Those kids don’t have to come in until noon because the freshmen and sophomores are testing all morning. Except one day when only sophomores take the Science test. And some kids’ parents say they don’t have to take the test. Our principal says that those kids’ tests count against our school.”

Dad: “That last part is true, but it may be changing.”

Boy: “Do the teachers still get paid for not teaching those weeks?”

Dad: “Yes, it’s part of their jobs.”

Boy: “Wouldn’t they rather be teaching?”

Dad: “Without a doubt. But some people say this will help them teach better.”

Boy: “But our teacher says that our 5th grade class will be compared to next year’s 5th grade class. Is that right? I mean, we’re pretty smart but the fourth graders are a bunch of booger pickers.”

Dad: “Um, the State is working on that. They are trying to look at how you do and, hopefully, improve each year.”

Boy: “That makes sense. How come they haven’t been doing that all along?”

Dad: “What else have you been told about the CSAP tests?”

Boy: “Somebody named Nickelbee made the schools give us all these tests. We have one or two administrators who are in charge of the tests and some secretaries that help sort and bubble the outside of the tests with information about us and if we finished the tests. In fact, we had a visit from a nice lady from the district office who says her only job is to coordinate all the tests the kids in the district take. She’s nice, but I think she likes numbers a little too much.”

Dad: “Now be nice. You know if a teacher messes up and give the wrong test or a kid goes ahead, she gets blamed?” 

Boy: “When you add up all the teachers, support staff and secretaries, paraprofessionals, building adminstrators, district administrators and support staff, and all the people at the state level, and all the paid test graders, for all the 477,000+ kids in grades 3-10 in all the schools in all the districts in the entire state and multiply that by the three or four tests each kid must take over multiple days, that seems like lots of time and money.”

Boy: “Dad, is it worth it and where does all that money go?”

March 6, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 3.07.08 -Called to the Profession

Passion. Called to the profession. Inspired by another teacher. Making a difference.

Those are the top reasons the book study participants gave today when I asked them to tell their story and frame it within the question of why they got into education. Empathy, chapter 7, in A Whole New Mind contains a portfolio section called Empathize on the Job. In activity #2  How Did I Get Here? Dan Pink writes “Sometimes you work near people for years but have little idea about the path that brought them alongside you.” So today I asked. We, at the request of the group, modified the activity and had each person tell his/her own story to the whole group. I took notes on one side of a notecard and listened for themes in each person’s story. The dominant ones are at the top of this post. The word passion came out of every story directly, simply, plainly, and unflinchingly. This, from a group that ranges in experience from only a few years to 20+.

I wasn’t surprised about passion, being influenced by another teacher, or making a difference. Those seem to be very common bonds among educators. The other, called to the profession, surprised me a little. Many in the room spoke about being called to the profession, having it in their blood, or simply knowing from an early age they were supposed to be in education. More than one took a circuitous path, some resisting, but we all ended up here. It seems to be somewhat anachronistic, especially in today’s postmodern technological realm, to respond to a call.

This identification of purpose or meaning (Chapter 9) resonates and grounds people, making them unshakable stalwarts. Passion permeates what they do, who they are. Not all educators reside here, but the ones who do simply radiate and attract kids (and adults) to themselves. It’s not out of ego or grandiosity; it’s their quality. The same thing happens when the sunrise stops us or a piece of poetry gives us pause. We cannot really quantify it, but we can see its results. Kids, other staff, parents, even you know who these people are.

The ones who answer their calling are not limited to education, but few other vocations so poignantly intertwine people and purpose, message and meaning, wisdom and wonder. Can we teach kids to answer a call regardless of vocation? I’m not sure, but we can prepare them to be ready, receptive, and reflective. The purpose of education starts there.

February 23, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unencorporating Education & The Purpose of Schools Part 2

Click to go to The New Business of Education home.  The writer’s strike may be over, but that doesn’t mean there’s much on. After absorbing only so much of the latest round of school violence, I started flipping channels and came across the Nightly Business Report on a local PBS station and caught the tail end of the teaser for a series they are running about the New Business of Education. Tonight they were talking about educational technology. I was excited to see how ed tech would be represented from the business side. What great timing. For the most part it was about the money to be made and spent. I’m not sure I actually caught much of the content; I got lost thinking about the premise behind the book I’m reading, Unencorporating Education by Dr. William J. Cook Jr and all the business connections to education.

I’m almost a quarter of the way through the book. I’m not buying it all and sometimes it seems that Dr. Cook is often more interested in sounding like an intellectual than with getting his points across clearly. He sometimes makes assumptions that the reader has some background knowledge and content and proceeds without giving any additional information. He doesn’t, at least in the initial chapters, explain why the first word of the title of his book is spelled with an “e.” I get it, but I’d like to have read early on about his thinking behind that. I suppose one could argue that’s the point of the book, but I digress.

Like I said, I’m not buying it all (funny, considering the capitalistic underpinnings of all this), but the idea has been planted and I probably have my business-in-education radar running. Besides all his references to the Scans Report, the Educate America Act, and others in the first chapter, I’m noticing it too. Books Ideas are like that, right? Read the blog entry on the NBR site by the Director of Program Development, Jack Kahn where he asks is education “The next ‘hot’ investment sector.”  Yes, I’m sure, just not the way educators would hope. As if I needed anymore reason to pause consider the statistic Kahn sites: “total education spending in the U.S. is now close to $1 trillion — more than any other service sector except healthcare.” He doesn’t indicate his source, so I went to the Digest of Education Statistics on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Sure enough, the estimate for 2005-2006 puts it at about $921.8 billion, or about 7.4% of the Gross Domestic Product of the nation. If you go to the site, look at the footnotes. The numbers are probably higher when those variables are factored in and we add two years to the table. Does anyone else find it ironic that potentially useful data from the U.S. Department of Education is not available in a timely manner?

Does that kind of money surrounding education alone prove Dr. Cook’s point? The discussion of money and kids has a distasteful, almost taboo, stigma attached to it, but we can’t serve the kids without it. Are we really diminishing our kids to corporate servitude, as Dr. Cook suggests? Worse yet, does the collective unconscious of some of our young people recognize this and cast them into despair manifested by acts of violence or general apathy? Doom and gloom, I know, but the mashup of school violence and educational encorporation happened for me in only one push of the channel button on the remote. Ideas are like that, right?

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Unencorporating Education & The Purpose of Schools Part 1

I have just started reading the book Unencorporating Education by Dr. William J Cook Jr. Already provocative and engaging in the first few chapters, I haven’t made up my mind yet. The thesis of the book as found on the inside flap and on the website reads,

The thesis of this book is simple: the nation’s fundamental institutions, by intent or by default, have abandoned the historical Western idea of education and thus have opened the door for a hostile takeover by corporate America. The result is an educational system, if it may be so called, that has been robbed of its essential human nature (educare) and turned into a rationalized process designed to produce profitable workers, according to industry specifications. The individual is diminished to servitude; true democracy rendered impossible.

There is no correcting the existing system. It cannot be reformed, reinvented, restructured, or salvaged. It must be utterly destroyed and new systems of learning and teachings created -systems worthy of human beings. The suggestions offered here are an attempt to begin the action.

It’s a compelling, unsettling, and uncomfortable premise to be sure. To borrow from Malcolm Gladwell and his book, Blink, my initial “thin slice” is one of resonance with a measure of caution thrown in. A guest blogger, Greg Cruey, on the Dangerously Irrelevant blog has a post that touches on some of the same ideas. Watch for more to come as I work through the rest of the book.

February 11, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 2.07.08 –What’s the big IDEA?

As part of the blog and discussions, I have developed some points overall and for each chapter to spark thoughts and conversations. In keeping with the Whole New Mind theme, I call it IDEA. No, not the special education acronym, but one for the book as a whole and then each chapter on the aptitudes.  I ask A Whole New Mind book study participants to consider…

Overall

  • Intersection
  • Discovery
  • Examination
  • Application 

For Design

  • Incorporation
  • Democratization
  • Engagement
  • Alignment

For Story

  • Intention
  • Direction
  • Explanation
  • Association

For Symphony

  • Innovation
  • Determination
  • Elevation
  • Assimilation

For Empathy

  • Intuition
  • Demonstration
  • Emotion
  • Amplification

For Play

  • Invigoration
  • Distribution
  • Enjoyment
  • Advancement

For Meaning

  • Implication
  • Discussion
  • Epiphany
  • Analysis 

One of the interesting parts is that any IDEA in any chapter could be applied to any other chapter. I don’t define the bullets very much leaving the connections to the individual members. My goal is to get them looking at each bullet and find intersections of the book and their professional practice, uncover discoveries of ways to engage themselves (and later kids) in the big-picture ideas, examine the way they (and kids) do what they do, and apply all of it in a 21st century (or a Whole New Mind) context. The results are as mixed and as varied as you might think.

As a side note, besides Dan Pink, I have to give credit to Dan Maas who first made a presentation about A Whole New Mind at a CASE conference session that provoked some thoughts that wouldn’t stop needling me. As a result, I read the book and began thinking about the implications for education.  I needed to hear from others and the book study was born. I still need to hear from others, which is why it’s here now.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 1.07.08

This school year I have been meeting with a group of teachers for another book study centering on Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  This time I have two art teachers, a counselor, a special education teacher, three social studies teachers, two English teachers, a technology teacher, a math teacher, and a science teacher. It’s my privilege to be a part of it once again. Be sure to see my post about last year’s book study and what that group did.

I have had some interest in the process I use for leading the book study. So I post here a few guidelines. I’m a little reluctant to put a bunch of content up here because the true power is to customize the study based on the group and their common community. With that said, I did develop some questions for the first three chapters specifically and the remaining chapters generally. I’ve listed some of those below.

The structure of the study has us meeting once a month through the school year (weather permitting) on Saturdays for two hours with the discussion revolving around one chapter. The first three chapters encompass one meeting at the onset. For the chapters on the six senses, we discuss the chapter part and usually transition into some items in the Portfolio section. When I prepare for the group meeting each month, I see what resources I have bookmarked from the Portfolio section and spend some (often too much) time following links and reading blogs and going down digital rabbit trails. Those trails have turned up some goodies that really seem to get great conversations started or help transition to new ideas.

In addition to the meetings, I have created a blog using our district’s web software. I password protect this blog for various reasons, but mostly because I think the sharing among peers is a little more honest and reflective when it’s not subject to the scrutiny of the outside world. Some would argue that we’re missing out on the exchange of ideas on a global scale, but right now, the ideas are for them. I also have them complete a culminating project of some kind to satisfy the fiduciary duty to the district and taxpayers. Projects have ranged from a simple reflection paper to unit designs to in-service sessions to redesigning entire courses and course expectations.

I have approached the first meetings of both studies in much the same insidious way: we’re here to change the world one classroom at a time. The book studies aren’t about complete indoctrination; they’re about giving perspective and providing reflection. The best meetings have often resulted when I have only made the opening welcome and comment or question and have said nothing more. To listen to the conversations, to see the ideas germinate and grow, to feel the energy build as professionals honestly and passionately discuss how they can change the world with their classrooms, that’s why I got into education.

The questions for Chapters 1-3 often start by directing them to a specific point in the reading and turning their thinking to an element of education or culture. Some of them are unsettling once you kind of jump in and get dirty. Some simply elicit a nod of sympathetic recognition. Even though the book is not directly about education, the implications for education are staggering. Should you end up deciding to use the questions, I’d simply ask you to refer to the Creative Commons license on this blog for attribution information. If you’d like more information or to discuss more about the book studies, leave me a comment indicating so with whatever contact information you deem relevant.

A Whole New Mind of Questions -Part 1 -Chapters 1-3 and on

  • What is a knowledge worker?
    • Are schools designed to produce them?
    • What will be the responsibility of schools of the future related to knowledge working?
  • What kind of thinking has dominated the last few decades?
    • Where do schools fit into this structure?
    • What will be the responsibilities of schools of the future?
  • How is the organization of the book metaphorical for the brain?
    • How do schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • How should schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • What are obstacles in making this happen?
  • What is high touch and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is high concept and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is L-Directed Thinking?
    • Where has been its role in the Information Age?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What has been education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What is R-Directed Thinking?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What will be education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What are examples of abundance in education?
    • What do schools in general or our school specifically offer of value and meaning in this age of abundance?
  • Will Asia and related outsourcing be a factor in education?
    • What parts of the educational program could be outsourced?
  • How will automation change education?
    • Note: The question is not will, but how.
  • Why is high tech no longer enough in education?
    • Did education even get there?
  • How have MBA’s (or their thinking) had a place in education?
  • Do MFA’s (or their thinking) have a place in education?
  • Is education at the end of the Information Age if it has it made it there?
  • How does Education currently answer the three questions?
    • What is the value in coming to the schoolhouse?
    • Or how does our school answer the three questions?
  • How should educators respond to the ideas in the IQ and EQ section?
    • Should education emphasize both IQ and EQ?
    • How could this be done?
    • What would an EQ school look like?
  • How does the Money and Meaning section play out in the educational structure?

Big Questions -Part 1 and throughout

  • What are the implications of these ideas for the classroom?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the school?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the district?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the state?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for education in the U.S. and the world?

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments