Tag Archives: nostalgia

Headwinds or tailwinds?

Against the wind | Vinoth Chandar, photographer

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?

Image credit: Against the wind, Vinoth Chandar

Cuneiform, anyone?

Quipu

Louisiana just passed a law mandating that all students learn cursive in grades 3 through 12. That’s right – all the way through high school. Not computer science. Cursive…

Beth Mizell, the state senator who sponsored the bill, said that she wanted people to have a signature. Perhaps she was so busy sealing her scrolls with wax that she missed the signal fire message that electronic signatures are now legally valid, even in Louisiana? Plus, if it takes Louisiana students ten full years to learn how to sign their name in cursive, maybe their education system is in even worse shape than I thought. Education Week gave Louisiana a D+ in overall public education performance in its most recent rankings and that was before the latest educational budget fiasco. I doubt that this law is going to improve that ranking any.

Other legislators supported the bill because documents such as the Constitution are written in cursive. Old documents also are written in Latin and Greek and Sanskrit but I don’t believe that Louisiana has passed laws on those yet. FYI, ardent readers of ye olde Constitution, perhaps this may be of service to you on your way to the pony express station?

Cuneiform as college and career readiness, anyone? Quipu?

Image credit: Quipu, Lynn Dombrowski

Refusing to let children practice agriculture because it might weaken their hunting skills

Doug Johnson said:

If at the end of the last ice age the natives of Minnesota had refused to let their children practice agriculture because it might weaken their hunting skills (although the animals were moving north and it was easier staying fed growing corn), would they have been doing them a service? As information becomes ubiquitous, learning becomes self-motivated, and post-literacy becomes the norm, are we doing our students a service by keeping them from using the tools of the technologic climate change that is on us now?

via http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2015/2/3/adapting-to-technologic-climate-change.html

Avoiding worst-case technology scenarios through mindfulness

Mike Crowley said:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? 

via http://crowleym.com/2014/11/03/rewired-brains-unbalanced-lives

Romanticizing the blackboard

Lewis Buzbee said:

It’s true that in the pods-and-pinwheel design students can more easily work in smaller groups, but such pods, of course, also offer more opportunity for subterfuge and mutiny.

The blackboard-centered classroom offers more than pedagogical efficiency; it also offers an effective set of teaching possibilities. In such a classroom students are focused on the teacher (on a good day), but most importantly, they are focused. The teacher is not the focus of the class but rather a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified. The teacher draws the class toward her, but she projects the lessons onto the blackboard behind her, a blank surface upon which smaller ideas may be gathered into larger ones. The blackboard is the surface of thought.

The physical dramatics of the classroom – all those bodies and brains ritually focused – can create a new and singular mind, and foster in the individual student an urgent hunger to learn. A good teacher … can, with a nod or a wink, or by simply repeating a key phrase slowly and with certain emphasis, maybe leaning toward her student body, deliver a chapter’s worth of information instantly and unforgettably. Otherwise, we might as well stay home and read to ourselves. The teacher commands her audience, conducts them.

via http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/10/a_history_of_the_blackboard_how_the_blackboard_became_an_effective_and_ubiquitous.single.html

So, basically, the blackboard is desirable because it’s an instrument for teacher control over mutinous students…

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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