Which vision are you selling?


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

9 Responses to “Which vision are you selling?”

  1. This post is very thought-provoking! I think that too many teachers forget that we have the power to tailor what we are selling to help our students succeed in the current environment. While it is true that we may feel frustrated by policies and mandates that are imposed on us from outside sources, that does not mean that we need to impose those mandates/feelings on our students. It is up to us to find a way to sell a vision of lifelong learning, inquiry, and curiosity to our students within this environment. Students take the lead from what we do, how we view things, and that is why it is so important to constantly reflect on the view that we are selling to our students.

    Thanks for this timely post, it reminds us of what we are capable of!

  2. An interesting post – I’m going to be on the fence though because although against fear, for the most part, I’m not against rote learning. At the same time I am all for independent learning. The more you think about education the more questions there are… it’s why it’s so interesting.

  3. Sadly, Scott, in my interviews with administrators and seeing teachers and students interact, I would say that most people are still back in the 19th Century. Fear is a very real vibe that I get from others. Fearful of doing what they know is right for kids. Most adults are going to put lip service to the idea of students first, so long as they are safely entrenched in a school system. People are very afraid right now, especially administrators, because they don’t want anyone to rock the boat. CCSS, data, standards, and new teacher evaluation systems has everone gripped in fear.

    But we should never ignore the fact that we should do what’s best for kids. Do we want a nation of regurgitators? if so, just build more robots. Do we want a nation of creative, life-long learners where problem solving is done collaborativly across the globe? If so, then we truly have to put students first and help them learn how to navigate oon their own for today and the future!

  4. Is “all of the above” an answer? Or at least three of the four? No, seriously. I wonder whether there isn’t room for (or a need for) more than one vision.

    I want my students to think critically and deeply and create things of value for an authentic audience (higher order Bloom’s taxonomy stuff). I want them to be able to skillfully use technology to access information, to communicate and collaborate, and to produce. In my opinion (well, more than just mine), these abilities are important for employment, citizenship, and personal fulfillment both during and long after school.

    I also want students to have some mastery of basic knowledge and skills. To be clear, I hate worksheets and bubble tests and don’t think they’re very useful from either a learning or a student engagement perspective. But I wonder whether some basic knowledge and basic skills are necessary to support and enable higher-level work. “Know” and “understand” are at the base of Bloom’s taxonomy for a reason I think. I don’t think students have to master basic skills and knowledge in boring, meaningless ways, though.

    And I think appreciating the reality of living in a society with established rules and norms for acceptable behavior is also important. A degree of compliance is necessary for society (and schools) to function. I don’t know which would be worse – a society where everyone blindly follows the rules or a society where nobody follows rules. I don’t want either. I want students to generally respect authority (laws, police, government, employers, teachers, parents) without blindly conforming. I want them to recognize that many times following the rules is the best course of action, and I want them to learn to decide for themselves when challenging authority is the right thing to do. I want them to consider the possible consequences of their decisions. I want them to voice dissent in ways, times, and places that are appropriate and respectful (well, usually, and I recognize that what is appropriate or respectful is a matter of opinion). And while that there’s nothing special about me that necessarily entities me to hear their explanation or justification, I still want them to have a reason for what they choose to do.

    The only vision I don’t want to sell is one of fear. Given a choice between fear and hope, trust and mistrust, I’ve had much better results with a vision of hope and trust. That’s not to say that technology is always used for good, that people are always trustworthy, or that society is all sunshine and roses. That would be a very naïve view. And to be clear, I believe it’s my professional responsibility to exercise prudent judgment and a justifiable level of risk management. My number one job is to ensure as much as possible that students are safe. That doesn’t translate into them being constantly afraid, or for that matter to me being constantly afraid. An awful lot of fear comes from lack of information. Add information, make decisions based on fact, and that goes a long way towards dispelling fear.

    A very thought-provoking post on an important topic. Certainly got me thinking, and I’m interested in what others have to say too.

  5. Richard and Trev,

    I guess I see a difference between what our VISION is for our students – the driving ideals that move our learning, teaching, and schooling forward – versus a simple recognition that getting along with others, following some rules, there’s value in some rote learning, etc.

    Children learn what they do…

  6. Fair enough – a vision for moving forward. I will quite willingly (though sadly) agree that schools do far too much rote, fear, and compliance and far too little collaboration, meaningful creation, and student directed/owned learning. I think we agree on this.

  7. I believe students need to create their vision. Working with them I should be encouraging them and empowering them with the skills and confidence to form their own vision and chase after it. I call it “Chasing Awesome”

  8. I was asked by a friend of mine who read your post, which vision I was selling. My response was, “one where all kids are empowered to believe that they truly have a shot at reaching their potential, a shot at achieving their own individual version of greatness.”

    I believe our kids and our community deserve to have educators who are focused on creating super-students, and if not super-students, than at least students who have the potential to do amazing things someday; not just students who need to be force-fed educational content so that they can one day graduate and end up getting a job to support “the system”.

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