Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

NECC Days 2 and 3

The past two days at NECChave been full of great learning and excellent experiences. I received a tweet asking our favorite session. I was having trouble deciding on just one, so I responded with several sessions. Most of the sessions have had something to offer, but Chris Lehmann’s School 2.0: Combining Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools stood out.

In this packed session (notes below), Chris gave us his take on education first and then took us, as a group, the process of developing an UBD lesson. Along the way he masterfully facilitated the development, asking refining and clarifying questions, redirecting as needed. I could almost put myself into his school and see how he works with his staff through this process. really, really good stuff. I think I want to work at the SLA.

Although they appear below, they bear repeating when considering our approach to education, leadership, and related technologies “Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach. AND It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching.”

That’s the truth.

One of the other benefits of the session and also the conference is that I got to meet several of the authors of the blogs I read including Wes FryerWill Richardson, Karl Fisch, Bud Hunt, Stephanie Sandifer, Chris Lehmann, and Ewan McIntosh. For all of our online interactions, it’s very nice to shake hands and talk with people face to face.

By the way, before Chris Lehmann’s session ended, Ewan McIntosh had already posted about the session. When Dean Shareski asked how he could post before the session was over, Ewan tweeted in response “McIntosh always posts before the session’s done. I’m tomorrow’s NECC today ;-)” Good humor.

Chris Lehmann’s Session Notes

In our hurry to learn “What’s new,” we can’t lose sight of “What’s best?” Examine using the new tools in a school-wide, constructivist manner.  Recommended by ISTE’s SIGTC

 

·         http://ubd21c.wikispaces.com/

·         We work best and learn best when it matters to us

·         Create caring institutions

o    Who the direct and indirect objects of our sentences are

§  We teach kids first, subjects second

·         It’s not about us

·         It has to be inquiry driven

·         It has to matter

·         It needs to be metacognitive

·         Technology infused

o    Ubiquitous, necessary, and individual

·         It has to be driven by understanding

·         How do we get there?

·         Pedagogy matters a lot

o    (it matters for everything)

·         Progressive teaching

o    Using 21st Century Tools

·         How to prevent Technology Overload

o    What’s good is a better question than what’s new

§  The best one is the one we decide to use

·         5 things for kids

o    Research

o    Collaborate

o    Create

o    Network

o    Present

·         A Convenient and Reasonably False Taxonomy

o    Tools for each

·         Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach

·         What are your goals and what tools get you there?

o    It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching

·         Understanding by Design

o    How much more could kids learn if they didn’t have to spend all this time figuring out the adults

§  Transparent Learning

o    Step 1: Desired Results

§  What transfer goals and content goals will be met?

§  What should students come away understanding?

§  What essential questions will students explore and address?

§  What knowledge & skills [content] will students leave with?

o    Step 2: Assessment Evidence

§  How do we authentically assess?

§  What performances and products will reveal evidence of understanding?

§  What other evidence will be collected to reflect other Desired Results?

§  (the schools we need) Tests and quizzes are dipsticks to see if kid get the skills

§  (Authentic assessment is not just an end game)

o    Step 3: The Learning Plan

§  What activities, experiences, and lessons will lead to achievement of the desired results and success at the assessments?

·         http://www.scienceleadership.org/drupaled/keywords/showcase

July 2, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coercion through Competition

This post started out as a comment on Wes Fryer’s Looking beyond coercion, tests and seat time post from May 19. I found myself with rather a lot to write about on the topic and didn’t think it was appropriate to post an entire blog topic in a comment. Even so, I’m not sure I said exactly what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to, but here it is for your consideration. I encourage you to read Wes’ post first.

 

Having been a high school assistant principal, I have often been accused of being a poster child for coercive education. Indeed, the coercion passes from the Compulsory Attendance Laws through the office of the assistant principal right into the laps of kids who, because we have sold out to corporate mentality of money for time, are told they have no choice in the matter. We threaten with truancy proceedings and grade jeopardy, but we simply miss the fact that we must do a better job of demonstrating to them why it’s important for them to be there. We undermine our message of importance when we engage in ridiculous “traditions” like letting seniors (not underclassmen, mind you) out a week early or penalizing students 50% or more for not writing in cursive.

 

We are coerced, ourselves, by flawed national and local educational policies that reduce educational pursuits to little more than industrial-era performance metrics, workforce preparation, and college readiness (which has of late become a euphemism for workforce preparation). This is a recurring theme for me previously on this blog here, here, and here . Plainly, we have abdicated our social-moral responsibilities in favor of power, prestige, and money.  When the specter of school finance looms over every single decision we propose or make, we have no choice but coercion so we can keep our funding dollars. The priority simply becomes the money and not the kids.

 

Wes writes that “We must move beyond our current school finance systems which pay school districts based on seat time.” I submit that movement beyond is not enough; we need the complete and utter destruction of the current methods of school finance. This means obliterating capitalistic and corporate influences and mentalities in education and that’s not going to happen in a global society where our primary indicators of success are largely economic. I’m not advocating for setting up any “ism” here (before anyone accuses me of doing so); it goes beyond that.

 

Nearly everything about education is about competition: the highest funding ratio, the best grades, the best test scores, the best colleges, the best jobs, the best schools, the best technology. As with every competition, there must be loss. It’s here that I agree with Dr. Cook,

“The purpose of education  in a free society must be to liberate the full powers of the individual toward the common good…The common good is not served by the loss of any person…No democracy has any business accepting, much less supporting, any endeavor that does not hold the good of the individual  and the good of the society to be the same…To put it another way, education must not be the means by which individuals pursue their own goals to the detriment of others…And it is not a contest to be won…it is on this point that democracy and capitalism collide” (p 129-130, Unencorporating Education).

Some will probably accuse me of being un-American right about now; that’s not my intent. I think Wes and Dr. Cook have hit upon something that goes to the core of our culture and, for all of our rhetoric (mine included), I’m not sure we have the honest will to do anything about it, if may also echo Gary Stager as well.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Acronymns Started Fighting This Week

Subtitle: Education Reform Legislation Update -4.19.08

On Thursday (4/17/08) this week I received my BriefCASE from the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) detailing the legislative updates and amendments for Senate Bill 212, also called Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4Kids), that passed the second reading of the bill in the Senate. I have referenced this initiative-turned-bill in two of my previous posts on March 19, 2008 and March 30, 2008.

CASE writes (I’ve added links): “These amendments will put Colorado on a fast track to piloting EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) for purposes of data collection in the 2008-2009 school year. The next phase would call for the elimination of 9th and 10th grade CSAP and adoption of ACT College Readiness Standards for reading, writing, math, and science. It would move forward the following assessment package: Explore in 9th grade; PLAN in 10th grade and ACT plus ACT writing in 11th grade. All assessments would be administered in the spring.”

Later that day, I received a news release from the Colorado Department of Education(CDE) that detailed Commissioner Dwight D. Jones‘ “concerns about rush to adopt assessments before standards.” CDE Communications can be found at http://www.cde.state.co.us/Communications/index.html. Here are some quotes from the press release.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones today expressed his concern that amendments to Senate Bill 212 approved today may tie the hands of the department in choosing the best possible standards and assessments for Colorado students.

Specific concerns (abbreviated and bulleted, read the full text here)

  • Alignment with standards. The ACT/EPAS products are not based on content standards adopted by 178 school districts across the state.
  • Achievement gap information.“The Colorado public needs an assurance that any proposed system would provide a similar or better view of achievement gaps.”
  • Costs. “No state in the country has gained federal approval for what is being proposed today,” said Commissioner Jones. “No costs have been projected or identified for the process of gaining federal approval…
  • Growth model. “It’s unclear what adjustments are needed to fit a new test into the growth model,” said Commissioner Jones.

This appears to be the first skirmish in the highly publicized legislation. The legislative amendments definitely seem to be an acknowledgement, albeit political, of the general (correct or not) perception that CSAP is an irrelevant (at least in terms of usefulness to students beyond high school) exam. CDE has spent much of their time and energy on a longitudinal growth model that has CSAP scores at its heart. See Reference 1 and Reference 2for more information. There’s a sort of disconnect since the legislature, in House Bill 07-1048, required CDE to work with a technical advisory panel appointed by Governor Ritterto “to revise the growth model developed under HB 04-1433 to better quantify student growth (CRS § 22-7-604.3). The statute stipulates that the analysis of longitudinal growth should serve as the cornerstone of Colorado’s education accountability system.” (Note: HB 07-1048 is in the appendix in Reference 1 and mentions CSAP specifically. See the press releasefrom the technical advisory panel from March 6, 2008.) Apparently the House, Senate, Governor, CDE and the 178 school districts have lots of work to do before this becomes a practical reality. Is practical too hopeful of a word?

As an additional point the people over at ACT must be absolutely drooling over the prospect of getting an entire state of 9th and 10th grade students taking their tests. Of course we have mandated the ACT for our 11th graders already. Let’s not forget that although ACT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit company, they aren’t giving their tests away and it’s in their best interests to capture as many kids as possible to give weight to their college and workplace influences. Their continued corporate health directly depends on their sustained growth. Their National Career Readiness Certificate and the associated WorkKeys assessment can’t be far behind if we go down the currently proposed legislative path. 

CSAP or EPAS, I could go on, but I already have: Fit: Corporational Education; State Standardized Test Questions. Let’s just hope there’s not more Death Threats for Test Scores (Thanks, Wes!)

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope Springs Digital

The science assignment, in all its wrinkled, photocopied paperness, emerged from the depths of my 5th grader’s backpack. It contained, smacking of “parental involvement,” directions about how to display the results of the experiment on a tri-fold posterboard…due the next day.

The parental involvement I don’t mind, but when it comes to tri-fold poster displays, it becomes less about parental involvement and more about uh, parental guidance -and I don’t mean Mike Parent’s blog. (Although a blog does eventually play a part in this tale -read on, Digital Reader).

I dispise tri-fold poster displays and their inbred cousins, construction paper cut outs and foam display boards. They’re the so analog, so last-century, remnants of ancient business presentation expectations that have infiltrated our classrooms and science fairs. They’re very useful for the static displays of parental creativity and competition in gymnasiums converted to exhibition halls. Some may publicly look down their noses at the neatly arranged, heavily parent-influenced items on the tri-fold, but secretly covet the blue ribbon hanging on the corner of the board. And that’s where it starts. The pitiful tri-folds find themselves stuffed in the far less-traveled corners, assuming they even make it out of the classroom. So, in an effort to help our kids present themselves in a positive light, we parents make suggestions that turn into directives that turn into maddening scrambles and searches for mom’s special scrapbooking scissors that add some flare to this border. I wonder how many Sunday nights have ended with parents meticulously gluing display doodads while the kid is off in the other room playing video games. Nobody else? Must just be my house.

No longer, I resolved this time. (Plus, all the craft stores were closed and we were fresh out of foam board having used it all up on a quite beautiful State of Ohio display, which, by the way resides behind a door in the spare room downstairs as a monument to a maniacal frenzy of parental involvement.) It was time to take a chance with our kid’s education. Risky, I know, but I just didn’t have it in me to top the Ohio display.

About then I made a crazy Web 2.0pian decision and suggested that we put the required pieces of the assignment on a blog. Since this would be my son’s first foray into the blogosphere, I would set the blog up for him and give him a basic how-to after he had recorded all the required elements in a Word document. I wanted the initial blog experience to be more about the learning and less about the technical manipulation.

So he proceeded with his experiment, recording the materials and his hypothesis and the procedures and and the data and taking pictures as required. I set his blog up so he could copy and paste his text from the laptop. I made sure to make his blog viewable by invitation only because I knew I’d have to convince the hand-wringing, Internet fear mongers that this wasn’t a digital terrorism plot or would jeopardize his safety on the Internet. The really radical part was that we had several discussions about safe online behavior and what to include on the blog. We spoke about the type and amount of pictures he would be using and what he hoped to communicate with them. We talked about design and formatting and how each of those could help his audience understand him more clearly. We had more meaningful conversations that connected more of his past, current, and future learning to what he was doing just then. Certainly much better than the strained interactions of previous display-type projects. We’ll have more of the same conversations, I’m sure -and that’s just great.

With the entry edited and posted, I turned my attention to the science teacher and the district. This was going to be a surprise for the science teacher and I didn’t much appreciate those when I taught. I figured, more hoped, it was worth a shot. Just in case, I made a PDF of the blog post and emailed it to her after the blog invitation. She was able to see the blog from home and later on at school. She made some meaningful comments with questions and my son responded with thoughtful answers. I thought their exchanges were much better than a grade written on the back of the poster. Even more, she was very encouraging with the next assignment asking him to make another post.

For us and the teacher, it’s a dynamic resource easily accessible, not shoved in a corner or behind a door. We can look at the difference between the two entries and see the improvement -although he didn’t initially proof his spelling and mechanics on the second one, but we’ll work on that. His teacher shared it with some of his other teachers, who asked us to invite them so they could view it and we did. I was glad to see his excitement and his teacher’s. When the time came for the second assignment on the blog, he needed very little direction in the creation and organization. In fact he planned from the beginning how he was going to use the digital tools to accomplish his task. Score one for the Web 2.0pians.

April 15, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Advancing Online Learning Conference

The people at Virtual High School, Liz Pape and all, have done a great job with the Advancing Online Learning Conference including some engaging speakers and breakout sessions. Dr. Mark Milliron delivered our keynote Wednesday morning, giving his take on current learners, the future of education and its relationship to the world. At lunch Dr. Jesse Harriott, VP of Research for Monster Worldwide spoke about preparing students for competition in a global workforce. Allison Powell from NACOLand Steven Ruscito from Middletown High School in Rhode Island took part in a panel and broadly discussed among the topics above the October 2007 Blackboard report Learning in the 21st Century: A National Report on Online Learning. Sessions I attended over the two days included Online Instructional Programs & Models; New Approaches to Online Science; Non-traditional or At Risk Students in Online Learning; Current Research in Online Learning; and using Virtual Classroom Tools. 

Today’s (Thursday, 4/11) keynote featured Robert Currie from Michigan Virtual High School who discussed, among other things, Michigan’s online learning graduation requirement and the CareerForward initiative created in conjunction with Microsoft’s Partners in Learning “to help Michigan students understand how to plan their work lives and career opportunities amid the implications of the global economy.” Specifically, students ask and attempt to answer the following “challenge” questions: What am I going to do with my life? What is the world of work like? What will I need to succeed? What’s next for me? 

Those are compelling questions for sure and Mr. Currie gave his presentation in the context of 21st Century Learning Skills. However, are those questions really anything new? Do we see them afresh in the spotlight of the future? Ask Gary Stager about his take on 21st Century Learning and he’ll probably tell you something like those are nothing new. Ask Will Richardson, Dave Warlick, or Wes Fryerand they’ll paint a slightly different picture. Regardless of where you (or they) land, the spectrum seems to support a deliberate and reflective approach to purposeful, relevant, engaging, and meaningful education. Additionally, if you haven’t read Alan November, Scott McLeod, Mike Parent, Karl Fisch, George Siemens, Clay Burell, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Jon Becker, and others to get a flavor of the varying perspectives, you must and soon. Feel free to contribute “must reads” of your own in a comment.

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Fear and Control Online

Wes Fryer posted about a report in the February-March 2008 issue of American Psychologist titled “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” Wes and LiveScience’s “Bad Science Columnist writer, Benjamin Radford, outline the myths of the report that says in its opening paragraph, “The publicity about online ‘predators’ who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate.” Later, the authors write “The purpose of this article is to provide an accurate, research-based description of the characteristics and prevalence of this high-profile social problem; make recommendations for effective responses; indicate needs for future research; and give professionals basic resources to help manage issues that arise in practice and other contexts.”

Say what? A rational, research-based, purposeful approach to a problem? What will the social activists on NBC and in Washington, DC say? What will all the school Internet filter managers say? What about CIPA?! What shall we do?!

Here are my suggestions –lingua en buccae,

  1. Ignore the research and the professionals in the field and make decisions based on hysteria and sensationalized media reports.
  2. Don’t educate yourself by reading Internet Safety and Social Networking for Parents or Safe Digital Social Networking. They’re posted on wikis and everyone knows those are unreliable. In fact, did you know wikis lure our children to their intellectual demise and are completely unreliable? People who want to corrupt our children use, ugh, wikis…and blogs and social networking sites and all of those newfangled tools of destruction.
  3. Let your preconceptions make your decisions.
  4. Avoid tough topics and conversations about the nature and sources of the problem. They may make you and others uncomfortable.
  5. Scare people by telling them only part of the truth. It’s best just to tell people only about the bad stuff that’s out there -so they can know.
  6. Fool yourself into believing that you can monitor and restrict all your kids’ online interactions. Who uses text messaging anyway?
  7. Blame the schools.
  8. Underestimate others and overestimate yourself. After all it worked for Great Britain and the colonists, the church and Martin Luther, Hitler and the British, South African people and the apartheid-South African government. 

Social networking isn’t just about the high profile online sites, it’s about the millions of blogs like this one. In fact, if you’re here and you don’t think you’re a social networker, think again. Do all of us need to be aware of the risks? Absolutely. However, I’m still waiting for the media frenzy and social activism for the greatest risk of all to our kids, one we actually expect most of our kids to participate in. I shudder to think of the rights violations arguments and lawsuits that would happen if we took the same fear and control approach.

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment