Teaching like it’s 1992

I am taking a MOOC with Cathy Davidson, The History and Future of (mostly) Higher Ed. I’ve heard Davidson on other webinars and probably at conferences.

I didn’t enroll in the certification, although now that I’m in the class, I wish that perhaps I had done that. I’m  mostly watching the lectures — learning lots, and some are very thought provoking.

She is very focused on using history as advocacy. I love this use of history, and the way she outlines the history of education is very telling, and it’s very clear that she is comparing it to how education is today. Why do we have these structures? Where did they come from?

In my experience, it seems that often educators feel that things are done this way because that’s how we’ve always done it. Well, that truly is not the case. Davidson explores the riots that happened at Harvard when blackboards were introduced. The philosophy that using books in education would make students lazy. The development of the multiple choice standardized test. So, why do we hold so tightly to these methods of education? Education has evolved significantly – and with difficulty – over the years. Why are we still teaching the same why we did 20 years ago? 50 years ago?

One great example she discusses in the lecture I’m currently watching is as recent as 1992 — only 22 years ago. Why 1992?

The view of history in this class is not that history is linear progress, but that things are constantly changing and that one change leads to another change.

many of our institutions of education look pretty much like they did in 1992. … We haven’t taken in the key fact that life has changed, that informal learning  has changed.

Why is she focusing on 1992?? Because, according to Davidson, the world changed on April 22, 1993 when the internet was made public. The internet has caused “Uneven Development” in the last 22 years. The internet is a seismic shift, as was the printing press and the invention of mass printing. It has cause incredible change in a very short period of time.

Yet — her argument (and I certainly agree) is that most of our institutions of formal learning look pretty much the same. Sure, kids have computers. Sure, we use email. But the basic tennant of inhaling vast amounts of content and spitting it back hasn’t changed. The need for set times for classes hasn’t changed.

Education is one of those things that helps to filter and focus the world we live in. If we’re still teaching in a world that exists as if the internet doesn’t exist, we’re filtering the world through a previous world that really doesn’t exist anymore.

I hope to go back through some of the lectures and listen more closely. I’ve had to listen quickly to them and move on. Hoping to go back and spend more time.

5 Things Innovative Schools Do Differently – A.J. Juliani

Interesting blog post about innovative schools. It is an interesting list to have in front of me as we look for a high school for our son, especially in comparison to the high school my daughter currently attends. 5 Things Innovative Schools Do Differently – A.J. Juliani.

According to Juliani, “Innovative Schools” have the following characteristics

1. They aren’t afraid of change. They see change as a good thing.

2. They make mistakes. They learn from mistakes.

3. They are transparent. They let community members know what’s happening: students, teachers, parents.

4. They use technology to expand learning.

5. They are connected. They learn from other educators and schools around the country.

On my most cynical days, I would argue that my daughter’s school does none of these, with a few exceptions.

Change: there are a few teachers who just do things differently because they are driven to, and for them, I am grateful. Sadly, most of what I see her doing is the same. The same fill-in-the-bubble test, the same policies, the same refusal to look into new solutions to problems. When new ideas are suggested, they are quickly dismissed.

Mistakes: her school would never admit to a mistake. They have an edge, a need to maintain PERFECTION and not admit mistakes. It’s off-putting, elitist and condescending.

Transparent: Oh my. Let’s not even start on this. A weekly paragraph emailed to parents who subscribe is considered transparent. Facebook is district wide, and totally run by the PR folks. There is this need to keep a perfectly made-up face. It’s not a conversation. It’s a finely orchestrated commercial.

Using technology. Fortunately, there are a few teachers who use this well. There are many more who don’t. There are signs everywhere about no cell phones in class. There is very little PD (from what I hear from teachers). They have put small pilot projects into classes, and this is encouraging. I will be happier when I see the right kind of PD, the teaching students about using tech and the involvement of families.

Connected. How about not connected? Not at all. My daughter finally has one teacher using Twitter to communicate with students. Administrators? Nope. Not at all.