A month ago I blogged about a new initiative, Digital Leadership Daily. So far over 550 people have signed up. Woo hoo!
A month ago I blogged about a new initiative, Digital Leadership Daily. So far over 550 people have signed up. Woo hoo!
Two quotes from today’s article in The Des Moines Register, Iowa Poll: Common Core not so radioactive for Iowans:
Ah, the good old days
When Iowa Poll respondents opposed to Common Core standards were asked about their objections, some lamented the shift from traditional teaching methods such as rote memorization of facts and formulas to a focus on more critical thinking.
Because we’ve learned nothing about teaching math in 50 years
Civil engineer Jack Burnham Jr., a 40-year-old independent voter, also has a “very negative” view. “I’ve got a math primer from the 1960s,” he said. “That math worked just fine.”
Shifting the public’s conceptions about learning and teaching is an ongoing, uphill battle…
David Perkins said:
What did you learn during your first twelve years of education that matters in your life today?
The achievement gap asks, “Are students achieving X?” whereas the relevance gap asks, “Is X going to matter to the lives learners are likely to live?”
If X is good mastery of reading and writing, both questions earn a big yes! Skilled, fluent, and engaged reading and writing marks both a challenging gap and a high-payoff attainment. That knowledge goes somewhere! However, if X is quadratic equations, the answers don’t match. Mastering quadratic equations is challenging, but these equations are not so lifeworthy. Now fill in X with any of the thousands of topics that make up the typical content curriculum. Very often, these topics present significant challenges of achievement but with little return on investment in learners’ lives.
Here’s the problem: the achievement gap is much more concerned with mastering content than with providing lifeworthy content.
The achievement gap is all about doing the same thing better. . . the relevance gap asks us to reconsider deeply what schools teach in the first place.
via Future Wise, Chapters 1 and 2
Hat tip: Mike Crowley
Mike Crowley said:
many of us cling to the certainties of the way we were educated ourselves as “the right way” to do so. Any deviation from the tried and trusted can elicit nervousness and uncertainty, especially – and unsurprisingly – from parents. Our faith in the tried and the trusted is a little bit like holding onto the handrails in the deep end of a swimming pool. When schools suggest that the depth of experience is more vital than just skimming the surface, we are looked at sceptically. The same does not happen with other professions, of which we seem to be far more trusting. I went to my dentist recently in a lot of pain. He suspected my problem was sinusitis and pointed out that he had just invested in a hi-tech system that used a high resonance 3D imaging model to offer a visual understanding of the nature of pain itself. Did I resist this innovation? Question the use of this new technology? Ask if he knew what he was doing? Suggest that this is not what my dentist would have done in 1976? No, of course not. This only happens in schools.
As part of my never-ending quest to help school administrators with the complex transitions and transformations that accompany digital learning tools and environments, I am unveiling a new resource today…
Digital Leadership Daily. One digital school leadership reading or resource per day, tweeted, texted to your phone, and posted to Facebook.
Text @dldaily to 81010 to sign up
Since it’s just one thing per day, hopefully this will be a low-pain entry point for school leaders who want to learn and grow in this area. Thanks to Eric Sheninger for allowing me to riff off the title of his excellent book, Digital Leadership.
Please share with the school leaders in your area. I don’t think it can get any easier to learn than this… Thanks!
Javier Guzman said:
For my students and the thousands like them, the options they are given are inadequate. The bar is set low and little is expected of them. Mostly they are taught to regurgitate information at breakneck speeds under the guise of equity and the achievement gap. We need to move away from that and build schools that consider the whole person, that understand that our students have passions and interests, and that give them the tools to transcend their environments.
It’s about being given the tools to truly reach one’s full potential. . . . as one of my students stated, “It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be.”
I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!
Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces.
Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.
As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.
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?
As Clay Shirky has noted, we currently are living through ‘the largest expansion in expressive capability in human history.’ We no longer live in a world where we passively receive information that is broadcast out to us by large, centralized entities. Instead, we now live within multidirectional conversation spaces in which 12-year-olds can reach audiences at scales that previously were reserved for major media companies, large corporations, and governments. We all now can have a voice. We all now can be publishers. We all now can find each other’s thoughts and ideas and can share, cooperate, collaborate, and take collective action. Time and geography are no longer barriers to communicating and working together.
In this new information landscape, formerly-dominant institutions are being forced to rethink all previously-held assumptions. For example, music companies are struggling to survive in a market where the model of wholesale album purchases and top-down advertising and dissemination is replaced by a granular system of individual song sales and peer-to-peer marketing and distribution. Similarly, the emergence of digital, multimedia, hyperlinked texts – and accompanying e-readers, tablet computers, and smartphones – is challenging our very definition of what constitutes ‘a book’ and is destroying traditional publishers’ and distributors’ revenue streams. Television, radio, magazine, newspaper, and movie/video companies are seeing their market share erode year after year as we increasingly turn to online – and often user-generated – information channels to learn and be entertained. Our entire information landscape – which is what schools are purportedly teaching students to master – has been changed irrevocably.
We also are witnessing the early adolescence of a vastly different global economy. For instance, the rapid growth of the Internet and other communication technologies has accelerated the offshoring of jobs from the developed world. Complex corporate global supply chains locate manufacturing work wherever costs are lowest, expertise is highest, or necessary talent resides. Geographic or product niche monopolies disappear in the face of Internet search engines. Micro-, small-batch, and on-demand manufacturing techniques facilitate personalized and custom-order production. Whatever manufacturing work remains in developed countries is high skill, is high tech, and, more often than not, requires greater education than a secondary diploma. The low-skill industrial system that was the backbone of the developed world’s economies in the previous century is increasingly a bygone memory.
Like manual work that is non-location-dependent, knowledge work also is frequently done cheaper elsewhere. Service jobs are increasingly fungible, able to be located anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. Ongoing workflow and final products are exchanged at the speed of light via e-mail, instant messaging, and other corporate networking tools. The same technologies that facilitate our personal social conversations also facilitate interconnected global commerce. As was done in previous decades for manufacturing work, the next two decades will see many complex service jobs broken up into component parts. Once these tasks are disaggregated, they will be done by lower-skilled workers who can do these discrete components of the overall work, facilitated by software. In other words, many high-paying service jobs will turn into globalized piece work. Since the service professions represent over three-fifths of America’s economy, the impacts of this are going to be quite significant.
We’re also realizing that work that previously required humans now regularly can be done by software. If the Industrial Revolution was about replacing humans’ physical labor with machines, the Information Revolution often is about replacing humans’ cognitive labor with computers. A large number of workers are discovering that their work, their skills, and their jobs are not as indispensable as they thought in a technological, hyperconnected, hypercompetitive global economy. Radical transformations are everywhere we turn.
Of course these changes also have resulted in dramatic impacts on learning. Students and educators now have access to all of the information in their textbooks – and an incredible wealth of primary documents – for free. They have access to robust, low cost or no-cost, and often multimedia and interactive learning resources (texts, images, audio, video, games, simulations) that can supplement, extend, or even replace what is being taught in their classrooms. Via collaborative Internet-based tools such as blogs, wikis, videoconferencing, and social networks, they can learn from and with students and teachers in other states or countries. They also can quickly and easily connect with authors, artists, business professionals, entrepreneurs, physicians, craftsmen, professors, and other experts.
Students and teachers now can more authentically replicate (and actually do) real-world work through the use of the same tools and resources used by engineers, designers, scientists, accountants, and a multitude of other professionals and artisans. They can share their own knowledge, skills, and expertise with people all over the world. They can find or form communities of interest around topics for which they are passionate and they can be active (and valued) contributors to the world’s information commons, both individually and collaboratively with others.
Essentially, we now have the ability to learn about whatever we want, from whomever we want, whenever and wherever we want, and we also can contribute to this learning environment for the benefit of others. The possibilities for learning and teaching in this information space are both amazing and nearly limitless, but right now this learning often is disconnected from our formal education institutions.
If it is difficult to overstate the technological disruptions that are occurring around us, it is equally difficult to understate the lack of progress that most schools have made in response to these overarching societal transformations. The reluctance of school systems to significantly alter existing pedagogical and organizational practices has long been catalogued. Unfortunately, these trends continue today. For instance, while students increasingly are self-directed learners and active technology users outside of school, their learning work inside of school – particularly for independent, technology-suffused, higher-level cognitive activities – has not changed much. As the Consortium for School Networking has noted, “educational mindsets and school cultures do not yet align learning to the realities of the 21st century.”
This is true even in our numerous 1:1 computing environments that now exist. Although we have pockets of success here and there, for the most part we still are implementing a 20th (and sometimes 19th) century model of education despite the demands of our 21st century society. If you look at the basic learning and teaching work that occurs in most of our classrooms, it is still primarily transmissive: students passively receive information from the teacher or textbook or Internet or software and then regurgitate it back to show that they have ‘learned’ (and the teacher has ‘covered’) the required low-level facts or procedures. While this may have been fine for an industrial society, this model of schooling is woefully inadequate to prepare graduates for the more complex demands of our new information and economic landscapes. If every other societal sector is finding that transformative reinvention is necessary in our current climate, schools shouldn’t expect that they somehow will be immune from these changes. We shouldn’t pretend that these revolutions aren’t going to affect us too, in compelling and often as yet unknown ways. And, yet, if you look at what is happening in most classrooms on most days, the learning and teaching work that is occurring looks incredibly similar to that done many decades ago.
All of this has been a long run up to basically say that – if we truly care about preparing kids for life and work success – we need schools to be different. If economic success increasingly means moving away from routine cognitive work, schools need to also move in that direction. If our analog, ink-on-paper information landscapes outside of school have been superseded by environments that are digital and online and hyperconnected and mobile, our information landscapes inside of school also should reflect those shifts. If our students’ extracurricular learning opportunities often are richer and deeper than what they experience in their formal educational settings, it is time for us to catch up. In other words, schools’ knowledge work and workforce preparation should match the needs and demands of our time.
As you can imagine, these changes are incredibly complex and the challenges that face us today as school leaders are tremendous. Somehow we have to reinvent learning and teaching and schooling, often in direct opposition to parent and community mindsets about what school should look like (hint: like it did when they were kids). Somehow we have to shift our schools’ overwhelming emphasis on low-level knowledge work into something that better meets our graduates’ needs to navigate vastly different information and economic spaces. Somehow we have to balance creating schools of the future with policymakers’ attempts to further reify schools of the past. And the toughest part of all of this is that we don’t even know what many of the answers should be. But we at least should be having the right conversations and asking the right questions.
There are a lot of different things going on in schools and they’re all important. But remedying the relevance disconnect between school and society is the most important educational and equity work of all. We have a moral imperative as school leaders and policymakers to face these challenges head-on and try and create new futures and possibilities for the children and adolescents that we serve.
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