Public Education at a Crossroads

March 28, 2012 1 comment
"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

"(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good friend of mine and respected colleague, David Gamberg, recently posted some thoughts on the state od education.  David always provides an insight that provokes thought and discussion, and frequently challenges the way we think and behave.

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How do we judge performance while maintaining the humanity of a profession that rests on an exchange of ideas between the child and adult? Thus is the dilemma faced throughout our nation as we grapple with the impact of testing our students and evaluating our teachers in the age of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process. The art and science of teaching and learning is of course more than either the sharing of ideas and the grading of students and teachers.

The system of educating our youth has been a public covenant, which has supported our economic, political, and social growth for over 230 years. In recent years, we have arrived at a crossroads in education, one that requires a careful balance to move forward. The basic platform for the delivery of knowledge and skills that has been the centerpiece of our system for the past 100 years often referred to as a factory model of education is under assault. Disruptive forces from many directions are challenging the very foundation of the educational establishment as we know it. What will it take to preserve our democratic way of life throughout the twenty-first century given the tumultuous changes that are at hand?

Our American way of life has benefited greatly by supporting and promoting this covenant with education. Public schooling has led to advancements in science, business, and culture that transcend the borders of our country. As the beneficiaries of this covenant we are now wondering how to rekindle the spark of innovation in public education that has been the thread of our democracy woven together since the days of Jefferson and Franklin. Is it through charter schools? Merit pay? Enhanced testing and evaluation measures?

In times of data driven decision-making, rapidly advancing technologies, and disruptive innovation, a battle is being waged for the hearts and minds of many stakeholder groups both inside and outside the world of education. The public-at-large demands results and looks to either a return to basics, or to an elevation of expectations by applying pressure on students, teachers, and schools that is born out of a competitive spirit which is as American as apple pie.

The rhetoric is at a fever pitch given the high stakes of how a well-educated populace will drive economic growth both now and in the future. Those who seek to reform education simply by applying the metrics of a return to the good old days, or those who apply the analytics of contemporary high performing corporate entities, possess only a partisan or a partial view of the picture. The image of a Norman Rockwell classroom, or a teacher crunching numbers as though they were reading the latest profit and loss statement reflects the larger chasm between those who cling to the past and those who have taken up the false mantle of educational reform predicated on an overly simplistic business model.

Many teaching and learning models of old, along with the dispositions of practice that reigned supreme can appear outmoded. In the front of the room looking out at rows of desks, the teacher has stood at the chalkboard lecturing to students with them dutifully following along in their textbooks. The fountain of information that was once poured from a singular source be it the teacher or the textbook, now flows both to and from multiple sources at lightning speed. There is, however, one element of the process that is essentially the same since the dawn of time—rapport. This is the element that shall not give way to any new methodology, technology, or structure.

When a teacher and student have rapport there is a relationship built on trust and respect. The student can confidently approach new material, take risks, and know that their interests are primary. It is not simply that the student enjoys either a class or the teacher. Rather, as with a great coach, the teacher can demand and expect an intrinsic desire on the part of the student to come to a deeper understanding of why something is so, or how something works. To be taught something is to acquire this understanding such that the student may use this knowledge or skill in ways that lift the quality of any process or product.

We see this every time a teacher kneels down and reassuringly works at the eye level of a student to provide insight into a problem or task. When a teacher checks in or checks back repeatedly to ensure that learning has taken place that reassurance pays dividends, as the student is more willing to step forward in new, more difficult directions. What may be misrepresented as building self-esteem is actually a carefully orchestrated set of uniquely human traits to create the conditions for optimal learning.

Delivering content at the touch of a finger on a 24 hour, seven day a week basis is now possible and cost effective. However, who will step in and guide a child towards a path of self-discovery that bears any resemblance to what we may consider to be truthful and accurate? Separating fact from fiction, and imparting the basic tenets of an understanding as to why and how things are in math, science, history, and literature has always been the province of our teachers in school.

Unfortunately, the notion of exercising what may be akin to “a bedside manner” in rendering the teacher-learner relationship now seems to give way to a boiling down of the bottom line of test scores and tax dollars. Advancements in technology, brain research, and organizational efficiency have produced new, more effective structures and tools that can be harnessed to replace old ways of doing things. The new paradigm shift demands a new kind of educational system, one that not only embeds the use of these tools and structures, but also one that captures the imagination of all participants in the process, both students and teachers.

The art and science of how a learning organization moves forward and progresses towards any definition of what we may generally describe as “improvement,” requires many components. There is no silver bullet for the prescription of success. Returning to the notion of a bedside manner, a doctor cannot write a script formulated simply on data from a chart or solely based on the cost of care. Careful attention to these and other details including rapport with the patient creates the dynamic that results in the wellness of any individual.

The American experiment in a free and boundless democracy, at least in part driven by a public system of educating our citizens, has come as a result of an unquenching determination to try new things, be bold, work hard, and take risks. In this ever more complex world where students acquire the habits of mind that will allow them to prosper and carry forward the values of our society we must ask ourselves how to build a system that promotes and protects a true understanding of that which is important to the soul of education.
-David Gamberg

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Begin With the End in Mind: More than just a mantra when it comes to technology in education

February 20, 2012 1 comment
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

The Issue

Too often schools are in the position of having exciting new technology available and having to find the best way to implement and utilize it.  This approach is backwards,  Stephen Covey  penned the phrase “BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND” and these words are particularly useful when developing a plan of action for integrating technology in schools.

Instead of trying to find ways to utilize the latest technologies, schools should instead let the instructional goals define the technological tools that  should be implemented.  As rapid advances in technology unfold, schools are often in the position of buying into what is the latest and greatest and then trying to figure out how and where to use the new technology.

The iPad and now the iPad2 (and soon the iPad3) are perfect examples of this challenge.  Everyone can agree on the wow factor of these devices.  There is no doubt that mobile technology is going to be a big part of any future technology initiatives.  How this devices can effectively be used in instructional environments is still developing.

Many educational technologists are faced with the challenge of integrating these devices, with out a clear directive of why.  That is to say, what is the goal of rolling out these devices.  Often boards of education and administrators want the new technology, feel they need to be on the bleeding edge, but do not clearly articulate the intended goals and outcomes for using these devices.

Frequently, as in the case of the iPad, there are significant challenges that must be worked through when adding new technologies into an existing networked environment.  These challenges can be overcome, but without a clear understanding of the goals for use, developing a solid solution can be difficult.

Goals

Is there a more ambiguous statement than having children become “21st Century Learners”?  It sounds great and looks impressive when included in a technology plan, but what does it mean?  Does it mean every student should be able to use tools such as word processors and presentation software to effectively represent the ideas and information learned about a specific topic?  Does it mean students will be able to utilize social networking tools?  Does it mean children will know how to use Google or Bing to search for information on a topic and then go to the wikipedia link on that topic?  Or does it mean that children will learn the skills necessary to develop the ability to skillfully aggregate information and quickly discern what is meaningful and useful, while ignoring that which is not?  Or does it simply mean that children will learn how to find and download an app?

The point is that the instructional needs should dicate the technology and not the other way around.  The instructional team needs to identify its needs and then work to find technological tools and resources which meet those needs.  Sometimes the latest and greatest technological wonders are simply cool gadgets,with little or no instructional value.

There is a place for Technology in Schools

I do not believe this to be the case with iPads.  In fact, I believe very strongly that the iPad does bring a lot to the table.  Its portability, functionality and ease of use make it a terrific tool for schools.  Before rushing to place a large oder for these devices, schools should clearly identify why they are being purchased, how they are going to be used and what the goals and outcomes are for the use of these devices.

Starting An IOS Implementation in Schools

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Anyone who is working on bringing iPads and iPhones in to a school environment is certain to face some roadblocks.  Schools are a very different environment than commercial entities and homes.

Apple has made some progress in adapting to the ways in which schools must operate.

A good starting point for any schools heading down the path to integration IOS devices is the iOS 5 Education Deployment Guide.

 

Categories: Classroom, EduTech Tags: , , , ,

File This Under the “What If” or Wouldn’t it Be Nice If” Categories

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

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Five education practices that should be replicated nationally

An extra day for teachers to plan and collaborate each week, and requiring classes in advanced reading strategies in high school, were among readers’ top ideas

five-education-practices-that-should-be-replicated-nationally

By Meris Stansbury, Online Editor
Read more by 

An Illinois district has boosted the percentage of its students meeting state standards by requiring reading classes throughout high school.

Education leaders are always looking for examples of successful programs they might be able to replicate within their own districts. But it can be challenging to find a program or policy that could work for hundreds, or even thousands, of diverse schools, districts, and states.

That’s why, in a follow-up question to our story, “Readers: These 10 education policies need to go,” we recently asked readers: “If you could name only one, what school or district practice would you like to see replicated or implemented nationally, and why?” Here are our readers’ best responses.

What do you think of these policies and practices? Could they be implemented on a national scale? And, do you have any ideas of your own for policies or practices that should be spread more widely? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5. Monitoring networks to gauge application usage

“We developed a system called VIC (Virtual Information Center) that monitors all computers in the district to determine which applications are being used. This is not used in a punitive fashion, rather it is used to monitor if software or hardware is being used and when. We have learned a lot about what [software] teachers will and will not use. It’s all about accountability. We measure what we treasure—technology.” —Andrew Berning Ph.D., chief information and technology officer, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, Carrollton, Texas

Five education practices that should be replicated nationally

An extra day for teachers to plan and collaborate each week, and requiring classes in advanced reading strategies in high school, were among readers’ top ideas

4. An extra day for teachers to plan and collaborate

“I would like to see school districts across the country practice a four-day week for students and a five-day week with teachers—one day out of the week, without students, that we could use to plan, prep our classrooms, and prepare students’ work with viable feedback. In my opinion, this practice will help teachers not take work home with them and become exhausted. Students do not know we are always thinking about them, and if they knew how much effort we put into their lessons, maybe they would think how valuable we think their education is to their livelihood. I think this practice already takes place in some of the school districts in Texas. I read about it a long time ago, but I have not kept up with the research on this topic.” —Gail M. Owens, Class Size Reduction teacher, Woodward School, St. Louis, Mo.

3. SEED Math program: Project SEED (Special Elementary Education for the Disadvantaged)

“Started in Chicago in the early 1970s [and] spread to Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and Sacramento, the program invites college students who are math majors to be trained to teach students (in schools where students are poor) discovery algebra from grades 1 to 6. The regular teacher must stay in the room to watch, and he/she will still teach math by normal methods at other times. College students were paid gas mileage to drive in carpools to SEED sites. When this was implemented in the 70s, it was funded by Title III.  When enough students in the school had taken it, math scores improved to the point that the school no longer qualified for Title III. So, SEED math would be discontinued at that school. Scores would fall for the next set of entering students, and [the school] would qualify to get Title III funds again. This was a total waste of time and money. Any school that needs SEED math will continue to need it for others who enter the school. We need to find a better way to fund it. And we need to find a way to deliver it to many schools in the U.S. at this critical point in time.” —Prof. Sandy Feder, Sacramento City College Computer Science Department

An extra day for teachers to plan and collaborate each week, and requiring classes in advanced reading strategies in high school, were among readers’ top ideas

2. Reading as a high school graduation requirement 

“During the past 10-15 years, research has shown that there is still more to learn about the skill of reading as a student progresses through high school, just as there is more to learn about mathematics. The process of learning more about the skills of reading changes as a student’s academic knowledge changes and increases. A reading course at the secondary level should not be considered remedial. In 2004, Lincoln-Way Community High School District No. 210 made reading a graduation requirement for all students. The program is organized around seven essential reading skills: Comprehension Monitoring, Cooperative Learning, Graphic and Semantic Organizers, Question Answering/Question Recognition, Question Generation, Structure: Narrative and Expository Text, and Summarization Skills. From 2004–2009, students in the Lincoln-Way High School District went from 66 percent meeting and exceeding state standards to 77 percent meeting and exceeding state standards.” —Sharon Michalak, Ed.D., assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and staff development, Lincoln-Way Community High School District No. 210, Illinois

1. Tablet computers and electronic, interactive textbooks for all students

“The single most economic and productive action which could be taken to improve K-12 education is to provide each student with an interactive 8″ x 11” tablet PC, together with subject material in digital interactive, color, and animated form instead of paper, books, and similar learning materials. A tablet PC soon will cost less than $100—making it less expensive than present learning tools. We’re in an electronic world that is rapidly expanding—[and] K-12 school systems must get with it to keep up with others.” —Stan Doore, former adjunct lecturer (Information Systems), American University

Facebook for Educators: Safely & Securely

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I came across a great post today on the TL Advisor Blog.  The information presented is very helpful for educators who are interested in using the Facebook social network for professional use, but may be uncertain about how to do so safely and securely.

As the Director of Technology for a K-12 school district, I do not block many of the sites that my colleagues in other districts do.  It has been my experience that the more barriers and limitations that educators encounter in their quest to utilize the latest technology, the more it will result in the educators becoming frustrated and giving up quickly on the use of technology in general.

I also recognize that the educators in my district are professionals and should be treated as such.  Each day these educators present materials to our students in many different formats.  Being professionals implies that they will use their best judgement and carefully monitor the information they are presenting or is being accessed by their students.  

Yes, there are those that may not behave as professionals, but my experience has been that this is the rare exception and far from the norm.  I will not burden the vast majority of the educators, who are working hard each day to provide  the best learning environment for their students, with road blocks put up to prevent a limited few from behaving inappropriately.

There are tools for me to review online activities, when warranted, after a problem is brought to my attention.  I have no desire or need to be monitoring the activities of the educators in my district in real-time.  

Instead, I prefer to spend my time working to assist my colleagues in their efforts to find the and utilize the best technology resources for and with our students.

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“Advice for Choosing Pages, Groups or Profiles When Using Facebook for Education by Lisa Nielsen

I’m an advocate of using real world tools in school.  After all, if we’re not using tools of the world in our classrooms, then what world are we really preparing students for?  The one that is most convenient… or the one that is right for kids?  If you want to do what is most convenient, then you can work at a school where they ban, block, filter and restrict.  You know those schools.  Some kids’ heads are on their desks, others are facing forward listening (but are they really?), and others are engaged in the outdated skill of taking down the words their almighty teacher says or writes on the board. Paper, pencils, pens, outdated textbooks are plentiful.  In schools where we’re doing what is right for kids, you see engaged youth who use the filter between their ears to determine how to best access information. Students are empowered rather than restricted from using personally owned digital devices in school.  At these schools they understand that people, not tools, have behavior.  Fortunately, more and more often these schools that mirror the real world are starting to crop up in places like New Canaan High School in Connecticut and The School in Harlem, New York.

When I speak about schools such as these, I often get a lot of questions like this one I received recently from a Twitter follower. 

“Great ideas for Facebook, but would we be taking a social risk? Facebook is taboo for many admins and districts are frowning on FB because of the potential risk for unprofessional behavior bit.ly/gCEp2n .”

My reply to such inquiries is always the same.  Tools have no intent.  Facebook doesn’t cause a risk for unprofessional behavior, but it catches those who engage in such behaviors.  What we’re really saying when we block and ban is that we don’t want to bother dealing with issues such as those who have chosen to publicly engaged in unprofessional behavior.  It is much more convenient to turn heads the other way.

After I’ve convinced educators that Facebook is a powerful tool in education because it’s one that our kids are already using and it is our professional duty to use and help keep kids safe in the environments of their worlds, I’m often asked this question: 

“Would you encourage using a Facebook page or profile to connect with students? Is there a difference?”


Students bring their own devices to New Caanan High School
and use an unfiltered internet

There is not a one-size-fits all answer.  It depends on your intent.  If you are like me or Principal Chris Lehmann you have one profile because it’s just another way to communicate and you’ll communicate with your students in any way they wish.  The idea of being two separate people may just be too hard to keep track of and you enjoy being a professional and social role model for students.  If you are like librarian Michelle Loots (Luhtala) you use a personal page to connect with friends and family, a professional profile for students and apage to keep students in the know about library activities.. If you are like first grade teacherErin Schoening you create a page as a window into your classroom to connect students with parents.  If you are like Brooklyn Tech High School you use a page as a place to connect with present and past students and teachers.  You might be like Education Land, a group created to connect those who are interested in education.

If you want to understand how you can maintain a professional presence on the site separate from your personal profile, here are some tips, directly from Facebook’s Safety for Educators page (note: You may also want to visit the “Teachers” page in the Facebook Safety Center.)  First they suggest that if you are a teacher and have a personal profile, you can consider creating a group or a Page specifically for interacting with students, parents, or colleagues. Create Friend Lists to control what parts of your profile students are able to access.  If you don’t get the difference between pages, and groups, and friend’s lists here is how it’s explained on Facebook’s Safety for Educators page.

Pages, Groups, and Friends Lists Overview 

Pages 
Pages are for broadcasting great information to people on Facebook. For example, you could create a Page called “Ms. Smith’s 9th Grade Science Class” where you post daily homework assignments. Anyone can become a fan of a Page on Facebook. People who choose to become a fan of a Page will see updates on their profile. To create a Page, click
 here. Pages are free, you can control them with your personal profile, and they keep your profile separate from your students.

Groups 
Groups make it easy for members of a community to connect, share and even collaborate on a given topic or idea. For example, you could create a group called “American Literature 101 Discussions” where you and your students can contribute to group discussions. Or you could create a group for all of the educators in your your department to collaborate on lesson plans and share ideas. To create a group, click 
here.

Friend Lists 
Friend Lists
 provide organized groupings of your friends on Facebook. For example, you can create a Friend List specifically for your students. Then you can control which parts of your profile are visible to this entire list. You can also filter your view of each list’s stream of activity separately on the home page, or send messages and invites to this group of people all at once. To learn more about creating and managing Friend Lists, click here.

Connecting with Other Facebook Using Educators 
If you want to connect with other educators who are using Facebook for Learning, join the Facebook in Education page.  This page is a resource for teachers, professors, administrators, counselors and others who work in education. You can refer to this page for privacy tips to help you maintain both a personal and a professional presence on Facebook. You’ll also find answers to common questions including how to report abuse to Facebook and the best way to use Facebook as a communication tool in your school. To become a fan of this page, click 
here and choose the “Become a Fan” option at the top of the page.

Read Librarian Michelle Luhtala’s response to this blog post at Y U Need 2 “Friend” ur Students!

Lisa Nielsen is best known as creator of The Innovative Educator bloghttp://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com and Transforming Education for the 21st Centuryhttp://ted21c.ning.com learning network. Lisa is an outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education. She is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Thinking Outside the Ban” and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Based in New York City, Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success. Her first book “Teaching Generation Text” is set for a fall 2011 release. You can follow her on Twitter @InnovativeEdu.”

Black Eyed Peas Peapod Foundation and Adobe Youth Voices Public Service Announcement

April 11, 2011 1 comment

The Peapod Foundation, created by the Black Eyed Peas, collaborated with Adobe Youth Voices, a non-profit spearheaded by The Adobe Foundation, to create a new public service announcement. The PSA demonstrates the power of the arts and technology to engage youth from underserved communities.

Through their collaboration, the Peapod Foundation and Adobe Foundation have launched two Peapod Adobe Youth Voices Academies that will give kids access to use video, dance, music, and art to spark social change in their communities.

Learn more and view the PSA here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efSYEZZNrEQ

Crystal (Adobe Youth Voices)”

 

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Education Technology PSA | Edutopia Group Discussions by and for Educators.

“Test Prep and Learning are Two Different Things”

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Will Richardson

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

I just made,excellent use of the last 14 minutes or so of my time ,by watching TEDxNYED – Will Richardson.

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Will as a keynote speaker at a local technology conference I attended.  I had heard and read a great deal about him.  It was all true.  His style made the audience feel very comfortable, very quickly.  It was his content however, that was most impressive.  Will Richardson presented very thought provoking ideas and observations, in a very straightforward manner.

I was unable to attend the TedxNYED on March 5th, in New york City.  From the videos I have reviewed, it appears I missed out on some spectacular speakers and talks.  Aside from Will, well known speakers such as Alan November and Gary S. Stager also provided unique insights during their presentations.

Will’s points were particularly poignant.  As school’s around the country face financial obstacles and are forced to reduce the number of teachers, they are also being pressed to improve test scores.  Schools are in fact becoming (or already have become) primarily focused on test prep and test scores.  During his talk, he points out that “test prep and learning are two different things.”

We have become so driven to produce high scoring test takers, that we are not allowing our children to be creative or to learn in the manner that is best suited for them.

We need to stop the assault on teachers and focus on the needs of children.  Children can do amazing things, if we encourage them and allow them to do so.

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