The Ron Clark Academy looks like a wonderful school. But is it realistic to expect a significant number of our teachers to teach like this?
The Ron Clark Academy looks like a wonderful school. But is it realistic to expect a significant number of our teachers to teach like this?
Terry Moe and John Chubb say…
A. “The average technology score [from Education Week’s Technology Counts 2008] drops as union membership grows. . . . technology seems to be advancing more quickly in states where the unions are weakest” (p. 107). [chart is from p. 108]
B. “The percentage of states with state-level virtual schools drops steadily as the unionization of teachers grows” (p. 118). [chart is from p. 119]
C. “[We] look at the percentage of states . . . that have data systems with the capacity to link students and teachers . . . [and see] the same basic pattern as for virtual schools – which is telling, as virtual schools and teacher identifiers have little to do with one another aside from their impact on union interests” (pp. 138–139). [chart is from p. 139]
Previous posts in this series
Terry Moe and John Chubb say…
The fact that [technology] offers enormous benefits is not enough to guarantee that it will be embraced by the public schools and its potential fully realized. Technological change will run into the same political roadblocks that all major reforms have run into, and for exactly the same reasons. Powerful groups will try to block it. (pp. 29–30)
It is a fact that the teachers unions have vested interests in preserving the existing educational system, regardless of how poorly it performs. It is a fact that they are more powerful – by far – than any other groups involved in the politics of education. And it is a fact that in a government of checks and balances they can use their power to block or weaken most reforms they do not like. To recognize as much is not to launch ideological attacks against the unions. It is simply to recognize the political world as it is. (p. 54)
If anything is stone-cold certain about the current structure of power, it is that technological change is destined to be resisted by the teachers unions and their allies. This is “their” system, and they are compelled by their own interests to preserve and protect it. They will go to the ramparts to see that technology does not have real transformative effects. (p. 55)
Previous posts in this series
Terry Moe and John Chubb say…
The American education system faces much more than a performance problem. It also faces a political problem that, in the grander scheme of things, is more fundamental than the performance problem itself - because it prevents the performance problem from being seriously addressed and resolved. . . .
What sets technology apart from other sources of reform is that . . . it also has a far-reaching capacity to change politics - and to eat away, relentlessly and effectively, at the political barriers that have long prevented reform. Technology, then, is a double-barreled agent of change. It generates the innovations that make change attractive, and at the same time it undermines the political resistance that would normally prevent change from happening. . . .
This will mean real improvement, and real benefits for the nation and its children. It will also mean something still more profound: the dawning of a new era in which politics is more open, productive ideas are more likely to flourish – and learning is liberated from the dead hand of the past. [Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, pp. 10–12]
Terry Moe and John Chubb say…
Even today, with educational technology in its earliest stages:
- Curricula can be customized to meet the learning styles and life situations of individual students.
- Education can be freed from geographic constraint.
- Students can have more interaction with . . . teachers and students who may be thousands of miles away or from different nations or cultures.
- Parents can readily be included in the communications loop.
- Teachers can be freed from their tradition-bound classroom roles, employed in more differentiated and productive ways, and offered new career paths.
- Sophisticated data systems can put the spotlight on performance [and] make progress (or the lack of it) transparent.
- Schools can be operated at lower cost, relying more on technology (which is relatively cheap) and less on labor (which is relatively expensive). . . .
Information and knowledge are absolutely fundamental to what education is all about . . . and it would be impossible for the information revolution to unfold and not have transformative implications for how children can be educated and how schools and teachers can more productively do their jobs. . . .
Precisely because technology promises to transform the core components of schooling, it is inevitably disruptive to the jobs, routines, and resources of the people whose livelihoods derive from the existing system. [Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, pp. 7–9]
Terry Moe and John Chubb say…
The revolution in information technology is historic in its force and scope: reshaping the fundamentals of how human beings from every corner of the globe communicate, interact, conduct their business, and simply live their lives from day to day. Education has so far resisted this revolution, as we could have predicted. But . . . we believe the resistance will be overcome – not simply because technology generates innovations of great value for student learning (which it does), but . . . because it is destined to have surprising and far-reaching effects on politics and power . . . . Technology will triumph. But the story of its triumph is a political story. [Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, pp. xi-xii]
Much ado about nothing
I just read the text of President Obama’s hotly-contested speech tomorrow. I encourage you to do the same. Could it be any more innocuous? Whatever happened to waiting to see what happens first and THEN hollering about it? A lot of crying wolf has been going on lately…
If only these opportunities actually existed at scale
I was pleased to see this passage:
What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
I just wish I had more faith in our current schooling system to nurture the problem-solving and critical thinking skills and creativity and ingenuity that the President mentions. Right now I don’t think we’re doing so well in these areas…
On Wednesday I spend the day with 80 or so high school students (juniors and seniors, mostly) in Northwest Iowa. What should I be saying to them about their schools, technology, globalization, and their futures?
A while back I shared one of my two favorite passages from Pamela Livingston’s excellent book, 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work. Here's the other one:
[W]e need to make “The Shift.” The Shift: to classrooms that are not solely teacher-centric, with the teacher as lone disseminator of knowledge and the children in the awe-stricken and lesser role of recipients of the knowledge. The Shift: where the teacher sometimes has the central role when he or she explains and coaches and elaborates on work to be done … but not always. The Shift: where the learners sometimes have the central role, either individually or in groups. The Shift: where the roles of teacher and learner are fuzzy; sometimes the teacher learns from the students; sometimes the students learn from one another; and, yes, sometimes the students learn from the teacher. The Shift: where sometimes it’s hard to know who has the central role, where activities are buzzing along, learning is happening, dynamics are shifting, and no one is “looking up” to anyone as the sole source of knowledge.
Nothing jumpstarts The Shift quite like 1–to-1. Because when every student in the room has a [laptop], he or she does not have to look “up” to the teacher for resources or ideas - the student has resources at his or her fingertips. There is no distribution or retrieval of materials, no sole purveyor of information, and no firm start or stop to learning because it can continue beyond the classroom into the library, or home, or anywhere.
Some find The Shift dangerous. And in a way, it is. It’s dangerous to the educator who controls the classroom with an iron fist and wants all the answers on the test to be things he or she said in class, repeated word-for-word. It’s dangerous to educators who have assigned the same report on Gandhi over the past 20 years and haven’t started to require synthesis or analysis of information. It’s dangerous to teachers who physically stay in one place – the front of the classroom – and move only to write on the chalkboard or whiteboard. It’s dangerous to educators who don’t want anyone to “read ahead” or to “think ahead.”
It’s dangerous to educators who view themselves as the most knowledgeable person in the room and are personally invested in staying that way. It’s dangerous to teachers who haven’t paid attention to their unengaged students and keep covering the material anyway, they way they think it ought to be covered, believing students should adapt to their approach.
If you haven’t checked out Pamela’s book, it’s well worth the read. I give it 4 highlighters.
The New South Wales province in Australia is on a quest to outfit every Year 9 to 12 student with a customized Lenovo netbook by 2012. It is expected that over 200,000 computers will be distributed to students and teachers. If you’re interested, you can read more about the project or listen to a podcast about the initiative.
I think this is a GREAT idea. Guess which high school graduates will be better prepared for a digital world: those who get to use computers in interesting and empowering ways on a regular basis or those who don’t?
The American School of Bombay (ASB) in Mumbai, India is hosting a 1:1 laptop computing conference in February 2010. While the conference is aimed at other international schools, it should be an excellent learning opportunity for anyone who can attend. I attended (and keynoted) ASB's first conference two years ago, brought my buddy, Dr. David Quinn, and had an absolutely wonderful time. I met a bunch of really great international educators and learned a lot about effective 1:1 programs. I highly encourage you to try and attend; Mumbai's a fascinating city! The conference is a collaborative effort of ASB, the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF), the Laptop Institute, and the NESA Center.
If you'd like to submit a proposal to present, the deadline is September 5. The deadline to register and attend is November 15. More information on the conference - including how to register and/or submit a proposal - is at the ASB Un-Plugged Ning.
CASTLE will be sending three representatives to the conference. We're going to make sure we're there in time for the preconference with AALF, which looks totally amazing. ASB is the best 1:1 school I've seen to date; I'm looking forward to seeing how much progress they've made since my last visit. I'm heading up the leadership strand of the conference. Vicki Davis, Julie Lindsay, Doug Johnson, Scott Klososky, and Helen Barrett will be leading conference strands too. Hope to see you there!
I don't know how Chris Lehmann finagled an invite to speak to the FCC, but I sure am glad he did (and that he filmed it!). Click on the picture below to listen to Chris' 10-minute presentation. I promise it will be WELL worth your time.
If it takes 40 minutes for an environmental science class to gather weather data from atlases and almanacs and turn it into pencil and paper charts, how much time is left to think about what the chart is saying? How much time is there to consider “what if” scenarios, such as, “What if the mean temperature rose by ten degrees?” Equipped with a laptop computer, access to the Internet, and a spreadsheet/graphing program, however, students can quickly find and analyze current data. They can plug that data into spreadsheet templates and prepare charts for half a dozen different “what if” scenarios in the same amount of time it would take to make a pencil and paper chart. [Laptops] allow students to get to the thinking faster. [emphasis added]
We waste so much time in school doing things on paper that are more efficient on the computer. One of the primary reasons that adults use computers instead of paper is enhanced productivity. What could teachers do with all of the time that we’d free up if schools made a significant shift away from paper and pencil?
If you haven’t checked out Pamela’s book, it’s well worth the read!
Just a few days left for THE PUSH! Today we focus on ELEMENTARY TEACHERS. What are some excellent elementary teacher blogs that P-6 educators should be reading? We're looking for excellent examples of blogs where elementary teachers generally share their thoughts and work. If you know of some, please add them to the Moving Forward wiki. [Note: On Thursday we worked on elementary classroom blogs where students are writing and sharing. Also, we already covered subject-specific blogs, including preschool / early childhood education blogs.]
Why are we doing this?
Thanks in advance for helping with this initiative. If we all contribute, at the end we should have a bevy of excellent P-12 blogs to which we can all point. Please spread the word about THE PUSH!
FYI, our last push was successful. We now have a list of 48 excellent elementary classroom blogs. With 5 days to go, we’re doing okay in most other areas but could use some help with these:
A reading teacher contacted me:
As the school's remedial reading teacher I was asked to research a reading program for an extraordinarily bright 5th grader. Do you have any suggestions? His 4th grade teacher said he is too advanced to stay with this fellow students now that he is no longer in her class. The best I have come up with is a one-on-one literature program. Are you familiar with HOTS or Mindlink?
Here is my reply:
I don't know. Sorry. Can't keep up with all of the learning software that's out there. Also not a reading specialist... That said, maybe my readership has some ideas for you?
And here is hers:
Thank you, thank you, thank you... I am most appreciative. As you can see I can never find anything on the Internet and I want to help this student reach his full potential. Although the district I work in has a suburban zip code it has the personality of a city school. Most of our resources are utilized to help students reach proficiency and not to enrich exceptional students. I can't thank you enough for your help.This child is special and I don't want to lose him due to boredom or have him become a thorn in his young teacher's side when she can't handle him because he is zoning out or misbehaving.
Any ideas for her?
don't teach your kids to read
for the Web
don't teach your kids to write
pen and paper aren't going anywhere
since when do kids need an audience?
no need to hyperlink
no connecting, now
no social networking
or online chat
blogs and twitter?
what a bunch of crap
and definitely, absolutely, resolutely, no cell phones
block it all
lock it down
keep it out
it's evil, you know
there's bad stuff out there
gotta keep your children safe
don't you know collaboration is just another word for cheating?
don't you know how much junk is out there?
haven't you ever heard of sexting?
a computer 24-7? no thanks
I don't want them
you know they're just going to look at porn
and hook up with predators
we can't trust them
don't do any of it, please
'cause I'm doing all of it with my kids
can't wait to see who has a leg up in a decade or two
Higher order thinking is nonalgorithmic. That is, the path of action is not fully specified in advance.
Higher order thinking tends to be complex. The total path is not “visible” (mentally speaking) from any single vantage point.
Higher order thinking often yields multiple solutions, each with costs and benefits, rather than unique solutions.
Higher order thinking involves nuanced judgment and interpretation.
Higher order thinking involves the application of multiple criteria, which sometimes conflict with one another.
Higher order thinking often involves uncertainty. Not everything that bears on the task at hand is known.
Higher order thinking involves self-regulation of the thinking process. We do not recognize higher order thinking in an individual when someone else “calls the plays” at every step.
Higher order thinking involves imposing meaning, finding structure in apparent disorder.
Higher order thinking is effortful. There is considerable mental work involved in the kinds of elaborations and judgments required. (p. 3)
The seventh item on the list, self-regulation, is one that I think is particularly lacking in many K-12 schools because the teachers “call the plays” so much of the time…
Here’s what I think is the money quote:
The goals of increasing thinking and reasoning ability are old ones for educators. . . . But these goals were part of the high literacy tradition; they did not, by and large, apply to the more recent schools for the masses. Although it is not new to include thinking, problem solving, and reasoning in someone’s school curriculum, it is new to include it in everyone’s curriculum. It is new to take seriously the aspiration of making thinking and problem solving a regular part of a school program for all of the population . . . It is a new challenge to develop educational programs that assume that all individuals, not just an elite, can become competent thinkers. (p. 7)
I liked this book. It's very short, but it made me think. I give it 4 highlighters.
School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is 'getting it'. It's the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn't care about workbooks or long checklists.
For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.
If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.
See also my other slides and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.
Products that can become commoditized and cheap tend to do so, and companies seeking profits move upstream in search of new scarcities. Where abundance drives the cost of something to the floor, value shifts to adjacent levels.
And that’s really it, in a nutshell, for our students and our school systems, isn’t it? Because the need to store information in our heads has diminished yet again as our storage media have become more sophisticated (this time it’s computers and the Internet instead of books), the value that our graduates bring to their jobs increasingly is dependent on what they can do with what they know, not merely what they know. Because previously-scarce information is now freely and abundantly available on the Web, the value that teachers bring to their current jobs is not how well they can spew forth content and then assess what kids can regurgitate but rather how well they can - and their students can - think critically about and act upon important facts and concepts.
I think most educators and policymakers have yet to give much thought to the occurrence (or magnitude) of this shift…
[Many folks have disagreed with the premise of this book, but I found much to think about inside. I give it 3 highlighters.]
The best-selling netbooks typically fall within the $300 to $400 range and their capabilities are increasing rapidly as manufacturers figure out how to include more features. For example, we are seeing larger or solid state hard drives, additional external ports, more included software, touch screens, and the emergence of tablet netbooks or netbooks with removable displays.
Netbooks traditionally have been positioned as laptop replacements and are selling briskly because they can do what we need most of the time. However, many K-12 educators feel that netbooks are not a good option for student 1:1 computing initiatives because they lack the capabilities of a full laptop computer.
I’ve been reading lately about attempts to get electronic book readers (e-readers) into the hands of students. I wonder if schools should be thinking of netbooks as e-readers intead, particularly as tablet-style netbooks and free / low-cost online or electronic textbook initiatives both become more prevalent. The cost of a netbook is comparable to a Kindle, for example, and has greater functionality than the typical e-reader (rather than lesser functionality compared to a laptop). A student carrying around a $400 tablet netbook could use it primarily as an e-reader and also as a laptop replacement. This dual functionality might make netbooks a smart bet for many schools, particularly as the cost decreases - and availability increases - of online and electronic textbook options. Savings on textbooks might offset or even pay for the cost of the netbooks.
Does thinking of netbooks as e-readers make them a more attractive option to schools rather than considering them solely as laptops? Do dedicated electronic book readers such as the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader make any sense for K-12 schools? Thoughts?
The Des Moines Register reported today that the St. Ansgar (IA) Schools have given up on their proposal to purchase a device that would jam mobile phone signals after confirming that such equipment only can be used by federal agencies. The district had looked into the possibility of buying a jammer because it was struggling with inappropriate student mobile phone usage. One of the school board members said:
I don't think they have a place in the educational environment. The educational environment is supposed to be about students learning and teachers teaching and teachers can't teach over a cell phone. If a student is busy on the cell phone they aren't learning. It's a distraction ... and we need to minimize the distraction.
The interim superintendent also noted that he was concerned about students using mobile phones for cheating.
I e-mailed the interim superintendent a couple of days ago and asked him to consider a different, less hard-line approach, noting schools’ responsibility to prepare students for a digital, global era and that other districts have had success with more-accommodating strategies. Maybe I’ll hear from him sometime.
One of the comments to the Register’s article cracked me up:
Oh, For Crying-out-load. Just hang one of those shoe orginizers next to the door and require each student to check in thier phones on entering the classroom, then they can retrieve them after class. Just drop your phone in your slot and pick it up on the way out. Hey look, I solved the problem for less than $5.00
I don’t know if this is a fantastic idea or not, but it sure made me laugh. Sometimes easy solutions to our problems are staring us in the face if only we have the courage to think creatively. As we head into the new school year, who thinks their local school has an effective solution for inappropriate student use of mobile phones?
Since my preview of Conspiracy Code: U.S. History at NECC, I’ve been thinking again about educational games…
Here are a bunch of screen shots of different online games for learning. I found them by typing into Google variations of learning games, educational games, learning games high school, educational games middle school, and so on. Most of these appear to be aimed at kids of middle or high school age.
UPDATE: The creator of this would like me to note that Math TV is a 'learning activity' rather than an educational 'game.' See the comments below for more on this.
Just from a graphics standpoint, I have to wonder how interesting these games are to preteens and teens when the games below are more along the lines of what they see at home.
So I’ve got some questions…
And Barry Dahl replied:
Barry’s right and I’m wrong. I failed my own information literacy test. Why? Because even though I had access to (and linked to) the original report, I didn’t critically consume it the way I should have. Instead I relied on this report from CNN:
And because I did, I made an incorrect statement that then got retweeted by others. Shame on CNN for being misleading and/or inaccurate, but shame on me too for not doing my homework the way I should have. Just because CNN is a traditional, reputable news organization doesn’t mean that I don’t need to be a critical consumer of the information it provides.
A few days before NECC I was invited by a publicist to interview Julie Young, the Executive Director of the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), and also speak with the folks from Achieve3000. I accepted because I’ve always wanted the chance to talk with Julie. I had no idea in advance that I would end up having a Notting Hill Horse & Hound magazine-type experience (and, yes, I was Hugh Grant).
Florida Virtual School
I knock on a door and am quickly ushered into a hotel suite. I meet and shake hands with Ben Noel, CEO of 360Ed, as he walks out the door. Then I am offered a beverage, plunked onto a couch, handed a packet of publicity materials, and given 30 minutes to talk with Julie and Andy Ross, VP of Global Services for FLVS. The topic: FLVS’ new online video game / American History course, Conspiracy Code. I’m a little bit disoriented but gamely dive in…
Conspiracy Code runs on a custom gaming engine designed specifically for FLVS by 360Ed. It cost $1.5 million to develop; costs were shared equally by FLVS and 360Ed and spread over three years ($250K per partner per year). Two hundred FLVS students are in the game now. Several other districts are piloting it. Conspiracy Code is designed to be an integrated, full-year course / gaming experience. Students take about 90 to 100 hours to complete the game. They dip in and out of the gaming engine throughout the year, assembling clues and completing missions. The game includes 51 assessments (both oral and written), 270 mini-games, numerous interrogations, 30 ‘agent eliminations,’ and 371 clues. Teachers monitor student progress; each of the 10 missions takes 2 to 3 weeks. Most students spend about an hour a day working for the class, some of which is in the game environment. Historical facts are interwoven throughout the gaming experience and student-teacher discussion. Sometimes the game requires students to do outside research to complete assignments and proceed forward.
Throughout our conversation, people are coming in and out of a door to another room in the suite (reporters? other bloggers?). When my 30 minutes with Julie and Andy are up, I’m swooped into that room, replaced by someone else who gets my spot on the FLVS couch. I’m handed another publicity packet, do the quick meet-and-greet, and away we go…
Achieve3000 is a ‘differentiated instruction solution.’ In essence, students are given an article to read on the computer that’s aligned with their reading level. The company recommends a minimum of 1 or 2 articles a week but there are articles available every day if desired. Great care has been taken to avoid stigmatization of low-level readers. For example, even though the article text and corresponding assignments are geared to students’ individual reading level, the overall layout of the article, font size, graphics, etc. all are extremely similar to what other higher-level readers in the class are experiencing. There is little to no difference in reading experience; it’s actually fairly difficult to tell at a glance at what level another student is working. The student reading at first-grade level also is reading the same content as her peer at the ninth-grade level. This allows low-level readers to still contribute to class discussions. All of this is in contrast to schools’ typical practice of having separate books or textbooks – often on separate topics – or pullout programs for struggling readers.
Results so far seem to be impressive. Expected student growth in a year is 46 lexile points. Students who read one article a week average 102 lexile point gains; students who read two articles per week average 124. The program accommodates Spanish-speaking students (and, soon, those that speak Haitian Creole). The New York City and Miami-Dade school districts (as well as the State of Hawaii) are using Achieve3000. Average gains in one year for ESL/ELL students are 166 lexile points (compared to 27 points expected). Good results also are being seen with students with special needs (see, e.g., the Arrowhead (WI) Schools).
Achieve3000 is working with the Associated Press and now has an archive of over 16,000 nonfiction articles. Next steps for the company are to 1) create a number of specific science units, and 2) identify and/or write articles that target specific career clusters and can be aligned with the WorkKeys job skill assessment program.
My time is up. I’m whisked out of the back room toward the hotel suite door. Julie and Andy are talking with someone new on the couch and I’m soon in the hallway, left at last to collect my thoughts. As I walk toward the elevator to return to my own hotel room, I’m left with one thought: Man, was that strange. Quite informative, but strange nonetheless. Who knows what else goes on in the back hallways, hotel suites, and meeting rooms of NECC?!
Disclosure: I received no incentives from either organization (other than a thumb drive from FLVS that contained the above Conspiracy Code materials) and was not pressured to cover them in any particular way. In short, I believe I was treated much like any media representative, despite being ‘just a blogger.’
Melinda (Lindy) Kolk
Peter Reynolds (author of The Dot and Ish)
I’ve been reading Jeff Jarvis’ superb book, What Would Google Do? (which I’ll be writing more about soon). Over and over again, he stresses the importance of openness, transparency, collaboration, collective action, co-learning, co-creation of knowledge, and giving up control in this new Internet era.
So what would that look like in a graduate-level course? I’m not quite sure but I want to find out. I’m taking my two most popular educational leadership courses - School Law & Data-Driven Decision-Making - and offering them online to anyone, anywhere who wants to take them.
I’m looking for teachers and administrators who want to dive in deep, wrestle with thorny problems, and challenge their thinking regarding these two important school leadership topics. I don’t know yet what directions we’ll go; we’ll determine that together. I don’t know yet what topics we’ll cover; we’ll determine that together. I don’t know yet how we’ll demonstrate our learning; we’ll determine that together. The point of this is that I’m not going to be the omniscient, omnipotent faculty member dictating course structure, sequence, assessment, etc. This is a joint exercise in learning and I need participants who are willing to be active co-learners.
I’ve taught these classes online before with great success. I’ve prided myself on being a student-centered instructor. But it’s time to take my teaching to the next level. Am I a little uncertain about this? Absolutely. But a little healthy instructional tension will be good for me and my students both.
More information on the two courses - including tuition costs and how to register - is here. Both classes should be excellent options for educators who need relicensure credits, are exploring the idea of graduate-level coursework, or need to take an outside course for an existing graduate program.
Hope some of you will join me; please feel free to also pass this along. We start at the end of August!
A two-part tale of higher education and online instruction…
“Students demand free beer too”
A May 29 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reads as follows:
Opponents of online instruction believe that traditional, face-to-face teaching is always better. A colleague of mine, wary of caving in to students’ demands for online courses, remarked recently that “students demand free beer, too; that doesn’t mean we should give it to them.”
What her academic colleague somehow, incredibly, fails to realize, of course, is that students don’t have to attend his institution. Since postsecondary students vote with their feet and their pocketbooks, the institution does indeed have to give students online courses if that’s what they want. Otherwise, the university literally won’t have any tuition revenue because its potential students went elsewhere instead.
I can’t wait to see what happens over the next couple of decades. As online courses become even more prevalent than they are now, colleges and universities either will have to get in the game or be left behind. There are too many options available to students for anything else to occur. Some postsecondary institutions are going to realize that they must become more responsive to student needs and desires in order to survive; others won’t realize it until it’s too late and will disappear altogether. It should make for interesting times.
In the meantime, all I can say is… stupid faculty.
“I’ll never do it again”
Another article in the same issue of The Chronicle describes one faculty member’s woeful experience teaching online. The author goes into detail regarding all of the problems that she had with the course, including (but not limited to):
This faculty member obviously has no idea that 1, 3, and 5 are dependent on how the course and the technology were structured. Setting up the course in a different way might have alleviated many of her concerns. Issues 2 and 6 seem to be the result of her own decision-making, not any inherent flaw in online instruction. Issue 4 doesn’t make any sense to me; didn’t she have the same number of weeks as for her other courses? It’s hard for me to be sympathetic regarding Issue 7: My students contacted me too much and asked me too many questions! Waaahh! I guess she prefers it when her students stay out of touch and don’t try to get their questions answered. Finally, can she really blame Issue 8 on the fact that the instruction was ‘online?’ There sure are a lot of faculty who teach online and also have students who like them.
Again, my main thought on this is… stupid faculty.
Whether we want it to or not, the paradigm shift is occurring around us every day. As postsecondary faculty members, it behooves us to learn about it and adjust rather than dismissively rejecting the new learning landscape and stubbornly trying to stick to the status quo.
[Okay, calling these faculty members stupid probably is a little harsh. But I think clueless fits quite nicely…]
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to do another online summer book club. I’m supposed to be taking the summer off but last year’s discussion of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything was so much fun that I can’t resist doing it again…
This year’s reading for the CASTLE summer book club will be Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for Your Classroom. The author is Dr. Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at The University of Virginia.
This offer is open to all leaders and change agents, at whatever level they’re operating (hint: this might be a good summer activity for some of your local principals or superintendents!).
I’m looking forward to some interesting discussions. Hope some of you will join me this summer!
A learning institute in Manchester, New Hampshire in July. Well, Manchester routinely appears on lists of best places to live. It’s in New England, which will be all green and lovely that time of year. AWESOME.
And the conference is hosted by Dr. Gary Stager, so I know it will be thought-provoking and brain-stimulating. DOUBLY AWESOME.
And the featured faculty will include Deborah Meier, Herb Kohl, Sylvia Martinez, John Stetson, and others. And attendees get a free copy of Kohl’s new book if they sign up by June 5. And there will be an evening reception at the famed FableVision Studios as well as a night out in Boston. TRIPLY, QUADRUPLY, and QUINTUPLY AWESOME.
Yep, sounds like a winner to me!
I often hear educators say...
We could be teaching differently if it weren't for ‘the tests.’
We could do a better job of meeting our students’ needs if it weren't for ‘the tests.’
I emphatically dispute these assertions. We must take ownership of our own culpability.
Our prevalent instructional model that emphasizes low-level, decontextualized, factual recall was dominant long before ‘the tests.’ Our challenges of providing higher-order thinking experiences, opportunities for authentic collaboration, and real-world connectedness existed long before the No Child Left Behind Act. Our inability to effectively facilitate empowered technology usage, true cultural/global awareness, and other necessary skills for a digital, global, information age is a byproduct of long-held, deeply-rooted cultural and pedagogical norms, not recently-acquired beliefs and behaviors.
Is anyone willing to argue that achievement gaps were smaller before evil NCLB came along and messed us all up? Does anyone think that we were doing a fine job of meeting the needs of underserved populations before ‘the tests?’ Have we all forgotten that school has been boring for generations?
It's not ‘the tests.’ It's our unwillingness and/or inability to do something different, something better.
It's not ‘the tests.’ It's us.
UPDATE: There are some phenomenal comments below. I hope you'll take a few moments to read them. Be sure to also read Greg Thompson's reaction to this post.
Here’s how we’re doing at collectively creating a list of model 21st century schools that are doing a nice job of infusing 21st century skills, digital technologies, problem- or inquiry-based learning, and other innovative practices into their school organization:
Those 59 United States schools represent 26 states. The International schools are in 10 different countries.
So we’re making GREAT progress. However, we still have a number of states (and countries) that don’t have a single school organization listed. I know that there are schools in every state that are doing wonderful things in the areas of problem-based learning, 21st century skills, or technology integration. Would you help us identify more model schools, either by adding them yourself or passing this quest along to others? We are in desperate need of good models that educators can learn from and visit. Thanks!
Here’s a 2–minute video about 21st century schooling and curricula that was created by one of our Educational Administration Master’s students, Steven Hopper, here at Iowa State University. I can take no credit for this – it’s all his – but I sure think it came out nicely!
I think this is a new arena for Steven, so I’m sure he’d appreciate any comments, suggestions, or other feedback you have for him. Happy viewing!
We’ve been discussing teacher quality for decades. Everyone is rightfully concerned about making sure that good teachers are in front of students. Thus the teacher quality provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the calls for performance or merit pay, the concerns about alternative licensure, the quests for better teacher evaluation systems, the gnashing of teeth over ‘obstructionist unions that get in the way of firing bad teachers,’ and so on…
For the purposes of discussion, here’s a modest proposal:
"You should take the top 20 percent of your employees and make them feel loved," Welch advised. "Take the middle 70 percent and tell them what they need to do to get into the top 20 percent." Managing out the bottom 10 percent of performers is necessary not only for the organization's continued success but also for the sake of employees affected by the rigorous appraisal system. "People need to know where they stand," Welch said. "Failing to differentiate among employees – and holding on to bottom-tier performers – is actually the cruelest form of management there is."
A week ago I asked for your help identifying model 21st century schools. Although I knew of a few schools or districts that were good models of what the new learning paradigm might look like, I was sure that there were many more schools out there that were doing great things when it came to project- or inquiry-based learning, technology integration, and so on.
Here’s what we have so far:
So, as you can see, we have a long way to go toward meeting my goal of at least 2 schools in each state and at least 50 in other countries.
Why don’t we have more? Several reasons, I’m guessing:
While #3 is probably true to a certain extent, I’m guessing (hoping?) that each state has at least 2 schools that can serve as models for others. And I’m positive that some states, like California or Texas, have many more than 2. So I’m asking for your help again. Please go to the United States or International wiki pages and enter schools in your state/country that you know about. Also pass this quest along to others who may have knowledge in this area. We’re in desperate need of models of 21st century schooling. Help me create a shared resource that will be of value to everyone?
From Mike Sansone:
I once asked a teacher what would happen if they treated their students like customers, with a design philosophy of customer experience in mind. The teacher was taken aback. She said the day she treats her students like customers is the day she would lose control of the room.
At that moment, I knew she was standing on the line of irrelevancy -- and about to cross over. The reality is, she should have been looking for ways to share control rather than try to own it alone.
Hmmm… reminds me a bit of this Robert Fried quote.
In other news, student enrollments in more-personalized choice options such as charter schools, virtual schools, alternative schools, and home schooling continue to rise…
Yesterday was Episode 4 of 4 Guys Talking, the new ‘talk radio’ podcast series from CASTLE. We spent the entire time talking about 1:1 laptop programs. Our first 50 minutes was spent with Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the State of Maine. Among other things, Jeff talked about funding models, professional development for teachers and administrators, pedagogical frameworks, challenges faced by the state over the past few years, and, perhaps surprisingly, the relative lack of emphasis on standardized test scores as measurable outcomes for the initiative. He also shared his strong feelings about laptops v. netbooks for 1:1 programs. After Jeff left us, we spent the last 10 minutes debriefing, sharing thoughts, and raising further questions.
You can download the podcast or listen to a Web-streamed version here:
Thanks to those of you who joined us live yesterday, either by calling in or listening over the Web. Future dates/times are as follows (all times Central):
[Yes, I'm still reworking CASTLE Conversations, the old CASTLE podcast channel, which will include all previous and podcasts (including 4 Guys Talking). I'll post about it when it's ready (probably not until summer).]
Photo credit: An Apple in the dark 2
This is the #1 question I get asked when I work with K-12 educators. I know a few, but I’m guessing that you know more. So I’m on a quest…
By Monday, April 27, I’m hoping that together we can identify at least 150 model school organizations, including at least 2 in every state and at least 50 overseas. I will be reporting out daily on our progress both here and via Twitter.
Please pass along this quest. The more model 21st century schools we get, the better resources these two pages will be for everyone. Feel free to use the logo as desired. Thank you!
I was disappointed to read recently in the Des Moines Register that Kalona Elementary School here in Iowa is discontinuing its Arabic language program due to lack of funding. Not only is it wonderful when school systems teach languages to kids at the elementary rather than secondary level, this country benefits from having more people who know how to speak Arabic.
In 2006 the United States government established the National Strategic Language Initiative (NSLI), “an inter-agency effort … to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages.” Languages targeted by the NSLI include Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Darwazi, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Russian, and Turkish. The NSLI has a number of programs for K-12 schools. Its August 2008 report noted that nearly 47,000 elementary and secondary students had been served to date.
Finding qualified instructors to teach these languages often is difficult for school systems. Finding initial or ongoing funding is a challenge as well. As a society, however, we need to figure out how to make this happen. French, German, and Spanish – the holy trinity of school language instruction – still are important languages but the growing ascendancy of non-Western countries on the global stage also makes other languages important for both economic and cultural reasons.
Photo credit: EidMubarak
This seems like a seemingly simple question for teachers:
Could you identify 10 excellent web sites for your grade level / subject area?
Ideally, of course, teachers would know 10 or so excellent sites for each unit, not just for the overall course that they’re teaching. After all, the Internet has been around for most people for at least a decade now and there are an incredible number of valuable resources on almost any topic.
And yet I’m guessing that many (most?) teachers would have trouble answering even the simple question above.
I found out recently that my local school district now allows students to bring their own laptops from home. I think that this is GREAT (even while simultaneously understanding the digital divide issues that accompany this policy).
Imagine that your local district allows the same. Would you send your children to school with a laptop/netbook? If so, would your children take one (or would they be too worried about standing out because other students weren’t also bringing computers to school)? This latter question’s of particular interest to me since my tech-savvy daughter starts middle school next year…
Photo credit: Netbook Skin using Wordle.net (Lenovo S10) [cool use of adhesive photo paper!]
What Carr describes and is most worried about, how we "skim" and "bounce" around in our reading, is actually akind of new orality: We are reading as we speak when we are in a group. We "listen" to one statement, then another and another in quick succession: Our reading on the Web is like listening to a bunch of people talking. It's hybrid orality. We find ourselves once again the naturally gregarious humans we always were. We find ourselves creating knowledge continually and rapidly as our social contacts on the Web expand. We have re-discovered new ways to enjoy learning in a social setting.
No, Google is not making us stupid. What Google and the Web are doing is helping us re-claim our human legacy of learning through a rapid exchange of ideas in a social setting. Google is, indeed, making us smarter as we re-discover new ways to learn.
Hybrid orality. That’s pretty heady stuff. Thoughts?