Bold or Old?

HT to Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) for this great 5-minute excerpt  from a talk by Will Richardson. Mr. Richardson challenges his audience, Are you going to be BOLD or OLD?

I found two takeaways:

FIRST POINT: The 21st Century Literacies from the National Council of Teachers of English. The three of these I find most compelling, largely because they are not being met in the two schools I know best,

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

It’s not easy to develop proficiency with anything if you can’t use it. If you have a computer in your pocket that gives you access to libraries full of information — yet you aren’t allowed to use it during the day? How can you learn how? You learn on your own, without the guidance of teachers and adults in your life.

How can you learn to create and critique multi-media texts if you aren’t allowed to use these tools for assignments? If you aren’t allowed to look at them?

Let’s not even start with learning the ethical responsibilities. In some schools, it’s like plugging their ears: if they can’t hear it, it’s not making a sound! If you never let the kids use the tools of technology (which, right now, are social media, cell phones, mobile devices, etc.,) then there’ll never be a problem. Right? Nope – wrong.

SECOND: Mr Richardson is addressing a room of teachers. In his remarks, he tells the teachers that they should be the “Learning Leaders” – they can convince parents that the kids will be ok, that they’ll get into college. That it’s the right thing to do to have kids who are passionate, deep learners – kids that love to learn.

But what about my situation? I’m the parent. But in our case, it’s the schools that need convincing. I’m not having much luck at this. I’m met with comments like, “If we let them use their phones, they’ll text the answers,” or “We can’t do projects (digital, multimedia, etc.) because that won’t help them get ready for the AP test.” Or teachers who can’t see any reason a student should get an iPad because all the apps are games that aren’t helpful. Or a principal who leaves all technology innovation to the teachers, who’s never been on Facebook. A school district where webpages are three years out of date. A high school that doesn’t require – or even encourage – teachers to post homework, test schedules, etc. online for kids to access.  High school current events classes that only use the print newspapers. A district that won’t look at BYOD because it won’t be equitable – instead of figuring out how to make it work

Mr. Richardson – what would you advise me to do? My kids are moving along through school quickly. They don’t meet any of the NCTE standards of literacy. I shouldn’t have to disrupt them from their friends — and yes, from the other very good things that do happen in these schools — to get them to schools that do understand that it is not a “fun” thing to incorporate the tools of technology into schools, it is the RESPONSIBILITY of schools to do so.

I leave you with this quote from Mr. Richardson,

It’s not about passing a test, it’s about solving the problem, about sharing something with the world that changes the world.  It’s about doing meaningful, real work. School should be real life.


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