Seth Godin and Tom Peters on blogging. Yeah, this is pretty much why I blog (and maybe why you should too)…
Our new information landscape is digital bits in the ether instead of ink dots on paper. There is no foreseeable future in which we go back to analog. One of schools’ primary tasks is to help students master the dominant information landscape of their time. Schools are knowledge institutions preparing students to do knowledge work. So let’s be clear about what our new information landscape looks like:
The characteristics of our new information landscape listed on the right side have seismic implications for how we communicate, collaborate, connect, and create. These new characteristics are transforming every single information-oriented industry, upending business models, and destroying traditionally-dominant enterprises. Our new information landscape requires citizens and workers who are fluent with technology tools and online environments and is reshaping how we learn, interact, gain the attention of others, and engage in civic togetherness.
The schools that are doing a good job of preparing students for the right side of this chart are few and far between. Many are still arguing whether technology should even be in schools and/or are trying their best to lock down students’ access to digital environments as tightly as possible. We are hobbling our own children’s life success.
What are we waiting for? How many more children will we disadvantage? How many more generations of students are we going to turn out who are primarily prepared for the world of yesterday?
Folks say that when you haven’t been blogging for a while, you shouldn’t explain or apologize, you should just get back at it. So I’ll do just that, beginning tomorrow. I could make lots of excuses related to our move from Iowa to Colorado: a new home, a new community, new schools, a new job, and a new educational policy environment. But the bottom line is that I’ve dropped the ball. Instead of blogging nearly every single day, I’ve only posted 10 times in the last 5 months and that’s not okay with me. I didn’t start this blog and maintain it for 10 years just to let it fizzle out. If I’m going to shut this thing down, you’ll know!
So get ready. I’m back…
I typically try to stay out of politics on this blog, given that I’m trying to work with a wide variety of teachers, administrators, policymakers, and community members to transform learning environments for students. But I also know that many educators woke up Wednesday morning in disbelief about the previous night’s election results. Somehow we elected a racist, xenophobic, conspiracist, serial groper of women to be the next leader of the world’s most powerful nation. Apparently it didn’t matter to enough voters that he has – among other things – mocked people with disabilities, celebrated the use of torture, used coded anti-Semitic language, insulted the parents of deceased soldiers, denied basic science when it comes to climate change, ruminated about the casual use of nuclear weapons, and praised one of the most reviled dictators in the world.
As someone who cares deeply about social justice issues, I was dismayed yesterday to hear a man behind me on the airplane say that he was ‘incredibly pumped about the GOP clean sweep – President, Senate, House, and Supreme Court – game, set, and match’ and that he was looking forward to rolling back ‘all of the BS that’s happened over the past 8 years.’ ‘Game, set, and match’: those are not words of unity and togetherness. Those are words of anger and power and revenge, words that I’m sure are frightening to women, persons of color, immigrants, and people of other faiths (just to name a few). Let’s be clear: this may be the reality in our country but the vitriolic hate and utter dismissal of basic human dignities that have been major political themes during this election represent the worst of human nature and American society. It shouldn’t be surprising that anyone who is not a conservative white male might be a little worried right now. When someone preaches so much hate for so many months, it’s an uphill road to now be a unifier.
Many educators are trying to figure out how to respond and what to say to students who are concerned and afraid. Or what to do when the hate comes into the school. Two thoughts come to me during these first days after the election…
First, we must continue to model the kindness, empathy, civility, acceptance, and inclusiveness that are the hallmarks of most schooling environments. Educators know how important it is to honor each and every child, regardless of skin color, religious faith, or family background. The hateful statements and physical violence that have sprouted during the past year are antithetical in every school and classroom that I know. We must continue to explicitly and visibly model for our communities (and the nation at large) how to treat each other with grace, respect, and dignity, particularly when we disagree with each other.
Second, one of the key themes of the election was the insurgence of non-college-educated white voters who feel that they are being left behind by our economy. ‘It’s about jobs’ has been a key mantra. But job growth since the recession has been quite steady:
The challenge is that many (most?) of those new jobs are either very low-paying or in sectors for which a college degree is a foundational requirement. The job prospects for employees who aren’t able to engage in higher-level, non-routine mental work have been declining for decades now:
We also have to pay attention to college attendance and persistence. The majority of American workers do not have a college degree, and even younger graduates are not making it through college. For instance, here are the numbers from Colorado, despite our desire that high school graduates “demonstrate the knowledge and skills (competencies) needed to succeed in postsecondary settings”:
74.6% Colorado high school graduation rate, Class of 2009
52.6% acquired some kind of postsecondary credential by 2015 (page 22)
64% their credential was a 4-year diploma
(approximately; it’s probably a little lower than the 2011 rate; page 22)
25% of the Colorado High School Class of 2009 has a 4-year degree by 2015
Schools are complicit with other societal institutions when it comes to individuals’ economic malaise and the inadequate preparation of our workforce. Research studies consistently show that most students spend about 80% to 85% of their school day doing routine mental work, despite the fact that the only substantive, long-term job growth in America is in professions that require non-routine mental work. Our dogged perpetuation of low-level learning environments helps foster economic insecurity and political revolts. While we continue to emphasize in our classrooms the kind of stuff that can be done in 3 seconds with voice-activated apps, search engines, or software like PhotoMath, our graduates are suffering. Schools are not just about preparing worker bees but they are necessary and vitally important components of our country’s workforce preparation pipeline. We have to own this as educators. And we must do better or we will continue to doom millions of graduates to prolonged economic hardship because they don’t have the preparation and the skills to do something different.
Why would anyone who wishes to actually reach educators and hopefully influence change in schools not be blogging?
Also… why haven’t more faculty caught on to this?
Eight years later, I thought that I would share a couple of recent tables that I made in order to illustrate this point further. The first table is the number of academic citations that I have received on the top 20 things that I have written or created (according to Google Scholar). My citation numbers are decent if not spectacular; they’ve been enough to get me tenure at several of our nation’s top research institutions.
The second table shows the number of page views and comments that I have received on my top 20 blog posts.
No comparison in terms of reach, visibility, interaction, and (hopefully) impact. The percentage of university faculty members who are blogging – although better than it was 8 years ago – is still incredibly low. We pay the price in terms of public and policymaker awareness of and attention to our work.
Steve Leinwand and Steve Fleischmann said:
In mathematics instruction, a chasm exists between research and practice. For evidence of this gap, look no further than the mismatch between what research says about developing students’ conceptual mathematics understanding and what we actually do. An example is the way we teach math content in elementary and middle schools. A growing body of promising research shows that if initial instruction focuses exclusively on procedural skills, then students may have difficulty developing an understanding of math concepts.
On post-tests, the students who received only meaningful, or relational, instruction performed better in applying the procedure and solving the equations. In contrast, the students who first received procedural instruction on how to solve an equation tended to resist new ideas and appeared to apply procedures without understanding. [emphasis added]
the form of instruction humorously but accurately characterized as yours is not to reason why, just invert and multiply may not enhance the performance of many students. Alternatively, instruction that places a premium from the start on meaning and conceptual understanding may improve classroom productivity.
And yet, despite Common Core and other efforts, our procedural emphases still persist in many, many math classrooms. And parents clamor for them.
FYI, this is from twelve (12!) years ago…
I’ve written about Iowa BIG before. What I love about the school is that you can’t tell the 4.0 student from the student who was struggling academically back at his ‘mothership’ high school because at Iowa BIG they’re both doing amazing work. Joziah Grimm shares his story below. Happy viewing!
David Brooks said over at the New York Times:
The crucial social divide today is between those who feel the core trends of the global, information-age economy as tailwinds at their backs and those who feel them as headwinds in their face.
And that’s really it, isn’t it?
We have a majority of schools and leaders and educators and policymakers for whom the rapid changes around us feel like strong headwinds, negative forces that continually buffet them in the face. Technology that expands access to others… An ever-shifting, complex, hyperconnected information landscape… The ability to learn whatever we want at any time, in any place, on any path, at any pace… Global economic competition and cooperation… These are all seen as dilemmas. As problems that must be managed and minimized. As destructive challenges to retreat from, often because of a deep longing for a nostalgic yesteryear that was simpler, easier, and allegedly ‘better.’
And then we have the minority of schools and leaders and educators and policymakers for whom the rapid changes around us feel like tailwinds at their back, propelling them forward into unique opportunities to rethink education and do better by kids. These are places that are diving into the constructive complexities and emerging with new beliefs and new mindsets and new practices. They are finding ways to enable deeper thinking and greater student agency and more authentic work – and utilizing digital technologies all along the way to help facilitate and enhance these new forms of learning and teaching.
The headwinds people could learn a lot from the tailwinds people. They could garner ideas about how to pilot new initiatives. How to plant seeds of innovation and grow them in productive ways. How to move more quickly in order to be more relevant. How to empower children and youth and teachers in ways that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. And so on…
Likewise, the tailwinds people could learn from the headwinds people. How to proceed thoughtfully. How to recognize the potential negatives and address rather than ignore them. How to validate the felt needs of communities without being dismissive. How not to get too far ahead of others who just aren’t there yet. And so on…
Ultimately the future lies with the tailwinds people, of course. ‘The future’ always wins. Whether we embrace the world around us or resist it with both heels dug in, the forces of technology, globalization, and learning possibility inevitably will carry the day. As I said in a long ago blog post,
I think it is becoming increasingly clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it to continue to exist in its current form.
The only question, then, is: How long are we going to thrash around before we die?
Where do you fall? How do you and your educators and your schools and your communities view the changes around us? As headwinds or tailwinds? Or something else?
Here are some questions that you could discuss with students during a 20- to 25-minute advisory period. These might be particularly apt for middle and high schoolers. If each advisory took notes and then you compiled the responses at the school level, I bet that you would learn some interesting things about the youth that you serve and spark some useful conversations with your teachers and administrators.
- What are some interesting or surprising ways in which you use technology at home to connect, share, and/or learn? (examples might include making videos on x topic, participating in a learner community around y topic, posting stop motion films, hacking their Minecraft server code, setting up and selling items in their own online shop, sharing their original artwork or music or writing or photography, participating in community or charity or political work, highlighting their athletic or crafting skills, gaining skills in a new area of interest, or…)
- How is your technology use at home different than your technology use at school? Which seems more empowering to you and why?
- How is your technology use different than that of the adults around you?
- How can we close whatever gaps exist between home uses of technology and school uses of technology?
What would you add? Let me know if you do this!
Today is the 10th birthday of Dangerously Irrelevant. I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for an entire decade. It seems like just yesterday that I was at the University of Minnesota and considering whether a blog might be a good idea (it was). Although I still feel young (‘I’m not dead yet!’), I believe that a decade of continuous blogging may make me one of the elders of the edublogosphere (for example, using the word ‘edublogosphere’ most definitely dates me!).
A huge thank you to everyone who is a loyal reader and to all of you who have been willing to engage with what I share. I have learned an incredible amount due to your willingness to leave comments, extend conversations, suggest resources, connect me with others, tell me that what I just wrote was stupid, and so on. Together we are amazingly powerful. I am greatly appreciative of my last ten years of learning with you.
Although it’s been a quiet summer here as I have navigated selling a home, buying a home, relocating my family, starting a new job, and sending my oldest child off to her first year at college, you better believe that I will be ramping up here again in the next week or so. Looking forward to the next decade of blogging!