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Should our first goal really be to preserve the structure?

Justin Schwamm said:

Two decades ago, before the great push for higher standards and more accountability, there was a tacit agreement in most factory-model schools: “Just close my door,” said Ms. X, “and let me teach, and don’t bother me because I’m busy.” “Just keep them busy and quiet,” responded her Powers That Be, “and show up for the Special Training and the Scheduled Meeting, and make sure the Relevant Paperwork is in the file.” Within that tacit agreement lay a great deal of freedom and opportunity … for innovation or for more of the Same Old Same Old. As the Relevant Paperwork was complete and the busy, quiet students weren’t roaming the hallways, teachers and students could be as innovative and creative as they wanted.

But then came higher standards and more accountability … and in themselves, those aren’t bad things. But if you operate from a hierarchical individual point of view about leadership and learning, the only logical pathway to higher standards is to command and control them into existence … and the only way to achieve accountability is to ramp up the inspection and testing. I was intrigued to see an article from EdSurge about how and why Rocketship Education moved away from an experiment they’d tried this year … an experiment that seemed to produce positive results of various kinds. The problem? “The lack of a formal structure made it difficult for Rocketship to replicate and control quality,” especially with younger teachers who “rely on pre-determined schedules and procedures, with clearly defined expectations about their work, in order to focus on building basic teaching skills.”

In other words, the promising innovation didn’t fit the existing institutional structure. If you’ve ever worked in a hierarchical structure, you know how important it is to preserve the structure. It takes a great deal of work by Relevant Powers to make anything else as important as preserving the structure.

via https://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/where-and-how

What we permit, we promote [SLIDE]

What we permit, we promote.

A great reminder for school leaders: What we permit, we promote.

Download this file: png pptx

See also my other slides, my Pinterest collection, and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.

Inspired by: A post from Spike Cook (@drspikecook)

Filtering social media in schools because it’s a ‘distraction’

Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul said:

according to the [American Association of School Librarians], schools’ top three filtered content areas are social networking sites, instant messaging and online chatting, and games. Such activities aren’t (necessarily) inappropriate or illegal, but they are big honking distractions, and if we want our young people to learn anything during the school day, they must be kept away from these sites.

A growing body of evidence from cognitive science and psychology shows that the divided attention typical of people engaging in “media multitasking” – the attempt to pay attention to two or more streams of information at once – produces shallower, less permanent learning. And let’s not kid ourselves: when students are free to roam the Internet in class or in study periods, divided attention is the result.

Is it possible to use Facebook and Twitter in educationally appropriate ways? Sure – but as technology and education specialist Michael Trucano points out, tech enthusiasts often focus on what’s possible to the exclusion of what’s predictable and what’s practical. What is predictable is that young people, given the chance, will use the web for social and entertainment purposes; what’s practical is to remove that temptation during the school day.

via http://hechingerreport.org/content/schools-efforts-block-internet-laughably-lame_16588

This article misses the point. It’s fearmongering and control-driven and feeds the misbegotten ‘kids these days are bad’ narratives that are so prevalent in older generations. It’s yet another example of ‘we’re not knowledgeable enough to think of any useful ways to utilize these tools so let’s just block them.’

The myth of ‘digital natives’ has been busted time and time again. Research is very clear that while our students are increasingly savvy at using technology for gaming and social purposes, they’re much less proficient at using technology for academic and other productive work purposes. Of course they will not get good at using technology in these ways if we simply block the technologies instead of using them more productively.

Unlike what is stated elsewhere in this article, the ‘real world’ is digital. The real world is technology-suffused. People everywhere use social media and other online tools all the time to accomplish their work. How are educators supposed to prepare students for our new technology-infused information, economic, and learning landscapes in analog school environments?

As my supervising principal said every day of my administrative internship, ‘Classroom management stems from good instruction.’ The issue here is not the technology but rather our unwillingness as educators and citizens (and pundits) to rethink learning, teaching, and schooling.

UPDATE

Here are some tweets that Annie Murphy Paul and I exchanged today. As I read these (and her article), she believes that students simply can’t be trusted or empowered to use social media in class without being distracted. Although she nominally concedes that schools might be able to use social media in productive ways with students, she quickly reiterates that is only ‘possible’ and that it is much more ‘practical’ to simply block these powerful tools for connecting and learning. I disagree with both (and, of course, many of us can point to countless examples all around the world where these are low-level or nonexistent concerns, thus disproving her broad generalizations about students and classrooms). However, when I stated her ideas back to her, she denied them. I don’t know how to otherwise interpret what she said and she won’t clarify. I did invite her to please continue the dialogue in the comment area of either her post or mine. Your thoughts?

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Pushing ourselves into the rotting institutions we want to reinvent

David Brooks said:

Some monads withdraw back into the purity of their own subcultures. But others push themselves into the rotting institutions they want to reinvent. If you are looking for people who are going to be creative in the current climate, I’d look for people who are disillusioned with politics even as they go into it; who are disenchanted with contemporary worship, even as they join the church; who are disgusted by finance even as they work in finance. These people believe in the goals of their systems but detest how they function. They contain the anxious contradictions between disillusionment and hope.

in every dialectic, there is a search for creative synthesis. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”

via http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/opinion/david-brooks-the-creative-climate.html

When it comes to technology, schools like to buy stuff

Gary Stager said:

They say change in schools is geologically slow, but not when it comes to buying stuff.  Look at the exhibit hall here [at ISTE].

via http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2014/06/popular_maker_movement_incompa.html

Does your educational organization believe in redemption?

I saw this poster recently in a middle school. And I confess it struck me the wrong way…

Redemption

Do we really want to send the message to young adolescents that character is nonrecoverable, lost with a single mistake? Or do we want to send messages about learning from mistakes – even really bad ones – and personal growth? I think the latter…

Is your school a place that believes in student redemption? Do your youth have some leeway to make academic, behavioral, and ethical mistakes and then grow and recover from them? If so, how much? Where do you draw the line between ‘once labeled, always labeled’ and an opportunity for redemption? How do you decide that they made some mistakes but that they still are worth the effort?

How about for employees? Do your educators have some leeway to make professional, behavioral, and ethical mistakes and then grow and recover from them? If so, how much? Where do you draw the line between a firing / non-hiring offense and an opportunity for redemption? How do you decide that they made some mistakes but that they still have worthwhile value to contribute?

How forgiving are our educational systems, for either students or staff? Your thoughts?

Ed tech behaviorism

Audrey Watters said:

I look around technology today (tech and ed-tech) and I see an incredible reverberation of the work of the behaviorist BF Skinner, for example. Now if you turn to “education theory programs” in “academia,” you’ll find that Skinner isn’t so “hot.” He hasn’t been for decades. He was resoundingly dismissed in tech circles too via Noam Chomsky. And yet, all around me, I see Skinnerism – click-for-immediate-feedback. People as pigeons. Zynga. Farmville. Gamification. But without the language and the theory and the history to say, “hey we recognized in the mid-1960s that this was a wretched path, one with all sorts of anti-democratic repercussions,” we’re not just making the same mistakes again, we’re actually engaging in reactionary practices – politically, pedagogically.

It matters what we know about the history of education. It matters what we know about the history of technology.

via http://www.hackeducation.com/2014/06/07/what-should-technologists-know-about-education

Take the state assessment seriously or …

Thoughts on the message below? Motivating or punitive? Celebratory or disenfranchising? Meaningful choice or duress? What do you think?

As a celebration for students working hard on Iowa Assessments, we are taking all 6-8 graders who showed improvement or evidence of effort to Perfect Games.

The schedule is listed below. All students will start their day at the middle school and either go to Perfect Games from 10-12 or 12:30-2:30. They will be able to bowl or play laser tag and relax and interact with their friends. We will return to the school to eat school lunch. Students may bring extra money to purchase snacks or play additional games, however this is not necessary, and large amounts of money should NOT be brought.

Those who attend Perfect Games in the morning will have classes/support/work time in the afternoon. Those who go to Perfect Games in the afternoon will have that structured time in the morning. (It is not a half day off and attendance will be counted.)

The vast majority of our students did as we expected, putting effort into assessments and showing growth. The very small number of students who didn’t take the test seriously have been notified or will be notified by this Wednesday that they won’t be attending. Parents will also be contacted if their child has not earned this privilege.

Please let the main office know if you do not want your child to participate in this activity.

Thursday, May 8: 8th grade Perfect Games day

Monday, May 12: 7th grade Perfect Games day

Tuesday, May 13: 6th grade Perfect Games day

Which vision are you selling?

Blindfold

Are you selling a vision of student empowerment? Of kids as autonomous, self-directed learners who are thinking deeply, collaborating to make societal contributions, and using digital technologies to do powerful, meaningful, and authentic work?

Or are you selling a vision of recall and regurgitation? Of kids as passive listeners, masters of basic skills, and completers of worksheets, end-of-chapter review questions, and bubble tests?

Or maybe you’re selling a vision of fear? Of students as untrustworthy, of the Internet as dangerous, and of technology as a nuisance, a distraction, and the cause of numerous social evils?

Or perhaps you’re selling a vision of compliance? Of policy mandates and directives, of educators and schools as helpless victims, of students as voiceless, powerless recipients of “do what we tell you or else” educational systems?

Which vision is more in line with the realities of today and tomorrow? Which vision – future-oriented or nostalgic, progressive or replicative, brave or fearful, innovative or compliant – better meets the needs of kids and society?

Which vision are you selling? (and which one do your kids and community deserve?)

Image credit: Blindfold game 1, Lee Carson

Replication or empowerment?

Let go

We’ve got to decide if our vision for educational technology is around replication or empowerment. And if it’s about empowerment, then guess what? We’ve got to give up the things that we do that feed replication. We can’t hang on to all of those and get to where we’re trying to go.

What are we going to give up? 

Image credit: Let go, Andrew Mitchell

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