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.

My Case For Social Media and Technology Use In School

This is a great post about why schools should use social media and tech. The points made here are excellent — and to me, it’s a no brainer. I’m really not sure why my kids’ schools find this so difficult.
I was even more excited to find another parent blogging about these topics! The parent voice is not very present in most of these discussions, except on the Twitter chat #ptchat (this blogger is a big part of that chat.) George Couros advocated for increased parent voice/presence in a presentation at the #TIES13 conference in Minneapolis in December. I agree, and am happy to find other parents in the conversation.


www.sxc.hu hand_on_keyboard

Today, yet again, I have heard people question if and why we should be using various pieces of technology and social media in school. It has been almost 40 years since personal computers were successfully marketed and sold to the general public. It has been over 20 years since the “world wide web” (www) was launched. It has been 10 years since the launch of Facebook and 7 years since the first iPhone was released. These things will continue to evolve in capabilities and how they are used – but they are not going away.

Besides the fact that we are supposed to be educating our children for tomorrow’s world, here are the reasons I can  think of off the top of my head as to why social media  is of importance in our schools (some of it relates to tech – but honestly, I think it’s a no-brainer as to…

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The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers – 99U

Interesting post: “The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers” from 99U.

I saw this in an email for museum professionals, but how does it apply to learners in school — both the adult and kid learners?

The five “creativity killers” sound very much like the traditional school system:

  1. Role Mismatch: the post uses the Einstein quote about judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree, comparing that to the workplace. While we need to be sure to challenge learners to new things, we also need to be sure that they are in a place and role where they are comfortable. Why can’t we allow students to do different types of projects? Why do they all have to take the same assessment? Some learners might be better suited to writing while others are better suited to visuals.
  2. External End-Goal Restriction: wow, that sounds like school to me! The “end goal” is almost always restricted by an external source – whether it’s a state telling teachers what to teach or what tests to give, or a teacher telling learners exactly what to learn and exactly how to demonstrate that learning. According to the post, “external restrictions are almost always a bad thing for creative thinking.”
  3. Strict Ration of Resources: in this case, mental resources, especially time, is the most important resources. Schools are always so crunched for time because are required to get through and extraordinary amount of material for the “standards.” Learners are overloaded with homework from a number or classes, and the perception is that college admission requires a zillion hours of extracurriculars, volunteering and a full slate of AP classes. There is no time remaining to be creative or do much beyond rote. Schools also have a very set time schedule: be here at 8:10, do algebra until 9:05, etc. Why do we expect all learners to need the same amount of time?
  4. Lack of Social Diversity: Yup, let’s put all kids who were born in this set time frame together because that means they’ll be at the same place. Well, no. Why do we assume that just because a child is 7 that they should be at point A in reading, B in math? While I do feel that it is often – not always – important for learners to be with others who are at the same place (e.g. learners who need to move quickly through content or those who need a different pace or approach), it does not mean all of the same age.
  5. Discouragement/No Positive Feedback: Wow — can we say schools? Testing? While some students may get positive feedback from scoring 95% on all the tests, there are far more students who get negative feedback from testing and just being in school day after day. Why not allow for mastery of content with assessments that allow for redoing tests, doing projects that fit or challenge, or doing real world projects that have real impact?

I’m going to go looking for the post about the 5 Things that Encourage Creativity.

Blogging Away

I recently heard that our school district will be rolling out blogs for principals! I’m very excited for this change – it represents a complete shift in openness and communication style.

I ran across an excellent post by George Courous, “Isolation is Now a Choice Educators Make” about why principals should blog. As I’m sure some of the principals aren’t so sure about this new tool, I wish I could send them all to George’s blog, and this one post in particular,

An excellent concept for principals reluctant to make this change:

Blogging is an opportunity to open the doors to our classroom.

Hopefully, they want to open those doors.

George also discusses how blogging has opened his world. I saw this in action at the recent TEDxBurnsvilleED event I attended. He tweeted about how blogging is so important. It was obvious that many of those in attendance knew about George from his blog, and he was so enthusiastic to talk to everyone. Blogging has become key to his professional development, and I would concur. Hopefully these principals new to blogging find that as well. And, hopefully, the district is preparing them to make this transition!


The Learning Revolution

I had the honor of hearing Jonathan Mooney speak recently. This is an excellent quick peek at his message of the need for a different look at education. We can no longer define intelligence as just reading, as the good kid is the one who sits still.

Just watch it. It’s only 7 minutes.

Standardizing Intelligence

Ran across this interesting article about a new book, “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” by Scott Barry Kaufman.

I’ve only read the article (not the whole book) and am intrigued to read the book.

My only concern is the continued attack on “giftedness.” Having been active in supporting gifted learners, I am concerned (and disagree) with the concept that “all students are gifted.” Without reading the book, I agree with Kaufman that all students can achieve greatness, and definitely that society measures intelligence in only one way (more on that later.) However, I am concerned about not meeting the needs of kids who do measure gifted in the traditional manner. These kids have a different learning style that needs to be addressed/met in order for these kids to be able to achieve their potential. They need to be able to move quickly, learn deeply. It is an ongoing concern with the label “gifted.” I do wish there was a term that better defined this learning style.

Standardized Tests

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of this article. Why do we define intelligence based solely on test scores? Why are we such a text based society? Why isn’t intelligence in other areas valued in a similar manner?

…traditional metrics of intelligence are misguided and may even be detrimental to learning and development.

I see this all the time with my daughter. She struggles with tests and with “traditional” learning settings. Yet, allow her to express her knowledge in an appropriate setting, and she shines. Let her make a video,  write a short skit, give a speech – and her intelligence, communication skills, creativity and critical thinking skills shine.  Make her take a multiple choice test? Not so much.

I have had a couple of her teachers comment in the last few years about how she does on these types of projects. The engagement we see at home for these types of assessments is clearly different than what we see for multiple choice tests. In the long run, which skill set is more important? You know what I think….

Yet, she is being defined by these tests, and we see an increasing impact on her self-esteem and image. This is not to deter from the kids who do well on these tests. I just wish there was another measure that was valid. 

Kaufman says it better:

I am against standardizing minds and ignoring the fact that there are multiple paths to the same outcome and that engagement is an extremely important aspect of the equation.

As I’ve blogged before, my daughter’s school uses the exact same tests over and over and over again. Tests must be standardized so that all kids have the exact same assessment. Guess what, kids aren’t standard, nor are they the exact same.

I heard an anecdotal story about a teacher who allowed students to come up with their own project to express their learning. A parent complained because her student got a “B” and now this teacher isn’t allowed to do these types of assessments. Now he has to do tests. 

At the recent ISTE conference, I sat next to a high school teacher from St. Louis. As Adam Bellow showed his awesome video about shredding Scantron tests, he told me that his school got rid of their Scantron tests three years ago. Best move ever, he said.


Kaufman is pretty clear about his solution – project based learning:

… allow students to express their knowledge of the material on their own terms, in their own unique voice, and at their own pace, I think we’d be setting up all students for the future much better, including those students we label gifted now.

No way this is going to happen at my daughter’s school. I’m not sure what the solution is for us, given she has two years left. My son will not be attending this school. 

ISTE13 – Chris Lehmann

I just returned from  at ISTE13.  I am fortunate and grateful that I am able to attend this conference. This is not yet my reflection post. I’m still processing and find I need space to do that. As always, I wrote a great deal on the flight home – it’s the best place to immediately process. I will be posting thoughts from the flight later.

The next few posts are a spot for me to store the video from the conference that I will reference later. I love that ISTE does video on demand. It’s impossible to get to all the sessions you want during the conference — especially when they schedule Will Richardson and Chris Lehmann at the same time!

Chris Lehmann

I’ve blogged about Chris many times. It was watching him at ISTE 2011 and online that really started me down this path. He talk at ISTE13 is no exception. I’m sorry I wasn’t there in person.

Take a look through this video. Think about the questions he asks. These questions would make a powerful faculty experience. I may, in fact, take the questions and write a session even for the staff where I work.

The questions he asks – and is looking for a 10 word answer – include (paraphrased):

  1. Schools should help students become?
  2. How does technology help this?
  3. What are your “Legacy Apps” and how do you change?
  4. What will you do to change in 2013-2014?

Look for the responses on Twitter, #istetransforms. Powerful.

I was also empowered by Chris’s reference to parents. ISTE doesn’t always mention parents as much as I think it should, and it is often about how to convince parents to like tech, to move away from traditional grading. But how about us parents who want our schools to move away? Chris uses the term, Parent Activist. I love it. He encourages these passionate educators to use their role as parents in their kids’ schools to become activists, to encourage change there as well.


Yup. The Students Need Tech

Another blog post supporting the need for students to have technology — not just the teachers. In his post, “Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology,” Ryan Bretag echoes the findings of the study I referenced in my last post where personal ownership of the tools is the best indicator of success.

In one district I work with, they made a concerted effort to get white boards in all the classrooms, at least at some of the schools. I know there are some teachers who have them who never use them, other teachers who would like them but are reduced to asking for grants to get them. (Oh, that irritates me. Why should a teacher have to drum up the money to get tools that they need? Whether or not I think IWBs are the answer, still!!!)

But moving to getting tech in the hands of kids is a slow, arduous process. It’s been painful. In past posts, I’ve referenced how hesitant teachers are to have kids use cell phones for educational purposes. Nearly every classroom has a NO CELL PHONES sign. They say they are BYOD, but wow — there’s no evidence. My daughter could have an iPad, and even has an accomodation that says she can have it, but she won’t because it sticks out.

Those fancy white boards? They don’t do much if it’s just the teacher and one or two students who can do stuff. I loved Mr. Bretag’s comment about converting a lecture to powerpoint to IWB….

I’m working on a curriculum. We get many requests for prepared IWB slide shows. I can only hope these slide shows are being taken apart and used for something besides lecturing — even with fancy white board slides.

Another Brick in the Wall

A Facebook friend asked, ” What’s your favorite down/melancholy song?”  I knew I had to answer with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” In my early 20s, I would blast this song/album whenever I was angry, depressed, or moody (which was frequently!) My roommate would turn around and leave if she came home and this album was playing. She was a very tolerant roommate to put up with me during those years!

Hadn’t listened to it in years. Whoa — words are pretty striking. While they obviously were about something totally different, they speak directly to the work I’m doing now:

We don’t need no education.

We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.