I love a good discussion

I love a good discussion

My daughter is away on a school trip and I have taken to leaving iChat open in case she wants to chat. Doing so led to a spontaneous conversation with an educator I have not talked to in a long time. I respect this person greatly and love the freedom to discuss all kinds topics without fear of where they lead.  To play devils advocate, to stir the pot of thought, and just talk for the joy of it is such a privilege.

One of the many topics we discussed was change or lack of change in schools, learning and education. Though we discussed many ideas these are two thoughts that have stuck with me. I am not sure where I stand on these but love the thinking process.  Below is a summary of some of the ideas we were bouncing around.

We can not change if we do not know what we are changing into.
Are we addressing the wrong audience to bring about change?

We cannot change if we do not know what we are changing into.

I read books and blogs, attend conferences and webinars, and chat with educators on twitter and plurk.  The focus of much of this is the need for change.  I think we agree formal schooling is not working as it is, it is not meeting all of our children’s needs, we are letting our students down. But that is about all we agree on.  The rest is quite varied and up for discussion.  Some want to do away with schools as they are, others want them to be technology driven, some want to have more control on curriculum, revamp testing, still others to abolish state testing all together. Where we are going is undecided?
Is the reason schools are not changing? Is it that we do not have a common goal, purpose and as such push and pull in so many directions that we end up standing still?

Are we addressing the wrong audience to bring about change?
Once upon a time a community got together to educate their children. Teachers lived in the community, and the community had great control over how schools were run and what was taught. Things have changed greatly over the decades.  Curriculum and policy is mandated from state and federal levels, families and teachers no longer have real influence on what is taught. One of the constant complaints I hear from educators is that tests drive what they teach.  In this day and age curriculum, standards and testing seem to be developed by political and business interest from outside the local community. My colleague asked “how many educators sit on your state board of education? How many have actually worked in schools, and taught in a classroom?” * Control for what happens at schools comes from a distance yet accountably is still at the local level.

One audience we (the collected eduverse) address our calls for change is to teachers, trying to get them to adapt collaboration, communication and content creation tools to their teaching.  We ask them to change how they teach, though they must teach within policy and mandates they have little control over.  School administrators are also those who much of the conversation is addressed.  We hope they will lead the way with change and give their staffs the freedom to change how they teach and interact with students and information.  Our conversation then turned to parents.  Maybe the target audience should be parents? Many feel helpless about what happens at schools, and do not understand how schools work today and how technology can influence learning. Informed parents maybe able to influence change where those of us within the system cannot.  I have not really given this much thought before, but certainly will now.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  I love a good discussion.

*I actually did not know.  Here is the list of my state board members.

10 thoughts on “I love a good discussion

  1. Hi ! I am new to teaching. But I do believe that we have to find a better way of doing things and technology is the way to go. Its a great idea to involve parents and make them aware of what problems the school system and teacher are encountering. As you said, so many things have changes and teachers have to worry about curriculum the state standards and state test. Some teachers are struggling on how to balance everything. It’s very diffucuilt but i believe that by using technology, they would be able to manage things better.

  2. I agree that technology is key, especially fostering lifelong personal learning environments. Web 2.0 is a big enabler, and they need time enough to explore and discover, and express and choose direction. Too much of their school time is mandated and useless to them (and to us who need a critical thinking generation or two to save our sorry asses). Standardized testing is counter-productive to the needs of nation and community.

    I insisted on (brief) lesson plans that were student accessible in a browser, devoid of meta data and standards drivel. The mini plan could be used by students to access collateral, or by teachers to access delivery material, lots of hyperlinks, mostly fitting on a page or two. The school wanted Word documents, with lots of tables and redundant junk that no one was going to read, just an admin checkmark that Rocky was following the proscribed template…..

    Change could be accelerated by diversity within the school staffing. There is too much blind acceptance of what the teacher prep establishment is providing and a lot of it strikes me as inside trade talk that is mostly rubbish. Coming from high tech, the quality and professionalism of discussion was a big culture shock for me.

    Diversify the teaching talent in the schools by taking advantage of all the highly qualified people who have been laid off from industry but who have teaching talents and can fill the technology gaps in schools. Licensure and certification do not equate to qualification.
    Bring them in as aids, facilitators, mentors, tutors or whatever and listen to them when they bring you anther perspective.

    I think that there must be a lot of experimentation at this stage (charter, private, and the like) and that the risks to public education and teacher protection are a tradeoff that we simply have to accept and hope it yields improvement.

    I have had a lot of success with Logo, Ruby and HTML with young people, demystifying programing, math and turning them on to taking charge of their own development. When they can publish to the web they often pull parents in and become teachers themselves. Most of the resources needed are freely available and quite easy to mobilize and manage. Making software choices that favor free and open source, improves the chances of viral propagation of skills and

    I don’t agree that we have to know what we are changing into , it is enough to know that we are in deep doo and need to move on from here. Community control on small scale would be a good thing , I think , but if the external forces are going to define success there will always be conflict over what can’t be measured. We KNOW what good learning looks like and feels like and success is only measurable by life success, not some test of facts in the 1oth grade that are forgotten before graduation.

  3. I am a student accomplishing my Masters in Education. I have worked at schools in the IT department, and want to be a Tech Coordinator.

    I never would have thought of such a question as Beth asked, “We cannot change if we do not know what we are changing into. Are we addressing the wrong audience to bring about change?”

    We all have our own ideas on how schools should be…….

    I being a computer nerd, would like to see technology integrated more. Studies from scholar sources that I have researched, concluded that students using technology in the classroom are very engaged in what they are learning, BUT the students grades and test scores stayed the same. So, then I sit back and think, maybe this will not help, or is the intergration NOT being done correctly. If the teachers are not taught properly, then how can we expect them to be able to teach the students properly.

    When I worked for a school technology department the teachers would often come to me and not be able to understand a computer funtion or program. Training for them was not available, except from me or another tech on a one-on-one basis. I might be getting off track, but I am trying to show a point, or an example. Training should be accessible for the teachers, and the teachers and staff should have the drive to be able to change. Change is inevitable, and there needs to more comfort related to this. WE ARE ALL afraid of the unknown.

    Still the remaining question, is what is the best way, if any for education to transform? This might be answered by creating a study that includes different types of curriculum integration; in which a sample size of students and teachers with a broad spectrum are selected from various schools and moitored to establish an answer.

  4. We are changing into a society that relies more and more on computers and technology everyday. Nearly every student we teach is able to use technology adeptly and competently. It is easier to reach a student through technology today than through any other method. Even if we do not know where out final destination is, we can certainly see that technology is the means that will get us there. Part of the problem with education today is that we get caught up in thinking we should know what the end result should be. We have traded the spirit of adventure and the joy of discovery for the certainty of benchmarks and the stability of end of course testing, when in fact, there is no real certainty or stability in either of those things.

    Professional educators of all levels, from the state departments on down, are who we should be addressing. To truly integrate technology into the schools, we have to first make sure that the people on the front lines of education are capable and up to speed on how to utilize the technology. If there are teachers elsewhere like there are in my school, who cannot even send an e-mail themselves, then bringing more technology into the school is a pointless. Parents who do not understand technology at the same level their children do are less likely to impede their children’s adoption of technology, so while parents certainly have to be involved, much less time would need to be spent convincing them of the merits of this course of action.

    Changing the course of education will always be met with resistance. The key for change to take hold, however, is to make sure that you have dotted your “i’s” and crossed your “t’s” and be able to explain and demonstrate why the change is needed and why it is beneficial.

  5. I’m currently taking a technology class for my master’s degree, and over the past few days I too have been wondering about whether we’re asking the right questions when it comes to education. When we consider what we should be changing into, we need to look at what our students will be asked to do when they leave school to enter the workplace. The recognition of the 21st century skills our students need for success indicates that we need a drastic shift in our attitude toward technology into the classroom. This is educational reform on a grand scale, much like the change in thinking that allowed the old “sage on the stage” model to give way to the constructivist classroom. Technology can no longer be considered an option, something to address once we’ve covered the objectives of our curriculum. It needs to become an integral part of how we teach.

    This presents a number of difficulties, however. Funding is one. We can’t integrate technology we don’t have, but computers, smart boards, and software don’t come cheap. Another issue is the fact that technology is constantly (and rapidly) changing, and it can be difficult to stay abreast of the latest findings and how they pertain to the classroom. Teachers who have not had adequate training feel that they are getting further and further behind their seemingly tech-savvy students. In addition, in our efforts to secure our children’s safety and remain in compliance with the Child Internet Protection Act, we often limit the tools students need to explore in order to become responsible digital citizens. Blogs and wikis are seen as elements that are hard to control and have the potential to endanger our children. Yet these are the very tools children are using on their own time (how many adolescents do you know who don’t have a FaceBook page?). We need the opportunity to model how to use these tools responsibly.

    Where do we begin, then to encourage this shift in thinking? Teacher education is a realistic starting place, but this would require sustained, supported training (not a one-time “How to Integrate Technology into the Classroom” seminar). Teachers need opportunities to collaborate with and observe those who are using technology successfully in order to increase their comfort level. Pressure from informed parents would assist in securing funding to increase student access to technology, but how do we educate parents in the importance of their role as advocates for changing education?

    Perhaps the powers that be in education need a wake-up call from business and industry: students are graduating without the requisite skills for entry level jobs. Technological literacy and informational literacy are increasingly cited as critical components of career success, yet to what degree are we providing “real world” applications that prepare our students for these expectations? Could partnerships between business and education encourage the development of these skills?

  6. I too am taking a technology course for my teaching certificate. It appears that several people that have responded to this question are in fact taking a technology course for some type of degree or certification. I think that this shows that the methods of using technology in the classroom are changing and educators see that the future requires that we as educators require an advanced form of technology training. I currently work as a teacher’s assistant with Autistic children in a middle school setting. May of the teachers I see are very uncomfortable with basic programs like Word or Excel but many of the newer teachers are being exposed to it in college. Although this is a slow process, it is evident that higher level administrators are seeing that this type of knowledge is important and relevant to future teaching methods. I think that it may take several years for these teachers to fill the schools but we are headed in the right direction.

  7. Are we addressing the wrong audience to bring about change?

    I thought I would address your two questions on separate posts since they are slightly different topics. I have to agree with the fact that is is going to take informed parents to help drive the mechanism of change. Without their support and involvement things just aren’t going to happen. Not only is it going to take informed parents, but I also think it will take informed legislators. Without sufficient funds it is virtually impossible to bring technology into the classroom. I just read an interesting article entitled Digital Discussion: Take Your Class to the Internet by Helena Echlin. It discusses using blogs to for such things as listing homework assignments and listing class discussions, etc. It is an informative well written article but I had to step back and think about the fact that many of the families in my classroom do not even own computers and we only have one in our room. With funds limited like they are how can we expect our children to use the technology when they don’t have access to it? In this regard I think it will take more than parents to get the funds appropriated for the hardware to make this successful.

  8. Hi Beth, I am adapting or trying to adapt to this new technology. I am an online doctoral student at Walden University. I teach at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. My major for my doctorate is in education but my bachelors and masters was communications. My how technology has changed over the years. I am focusing my thesis on new technology among teachers and how costly and time consuming it is. If you have any suggestions or improvements or suggestions, Please feel free to share.

  9. Hi John,

    I wish you well in your studies. I never defended my dissertation from years back. It is a long story and one of my regrets. I do hope you see it through. I work with teachers to assist them in learning new technologies and how to use them to support student learning and by extension the teacher’s learning as well. Often people talk about the cost of acquiring and maintaining the technology and the training of teachers to use it. Too often this is the focus and many see them as stumbling blocks. But I have to say the teachers who use it well and are making an impact on student learning and the acquisition of information literacy skills are those that focus on students. They use what they have, learn on their own and work with their students to make a rich and dynamic learning environment. In my own little mini research project I have been interested in the path these teachers took to get there. What are the strategies and habits of learning that influenced them? Are their certain characteristics these teachers hold in common? I do think your research topic will be useful as often administrators do not take into account the total cost of ownership of bringing technology into schools. Our district Ed Tech director often says “buying the technology is the easy part” what you do once it is there is the challenge. I do hope you share your results when you are done I would love to know what you discover.

  10. Hi Beth,

    I plan on doing a qualitative case study for my dissertation on new technology. You are quite right that it isn’t so much the cost but the training and acquisition of new knowledge about this new technology. I think a lot of the problem is fear and lack of motivation to explore the new technology. I bought a Verizon droid phone a couple of months ago and returned it because it was so much more complicated to use than my old phone. I attend Walden University and you may want to look into their doctoral programs. It is wonderful and the staff is so helpful. I am in my 3rd year and have a little more than a year to go. I teach in Grand Rapids, Mich.. Where do you teach? Have a great week and hope you had a wonderful memorial day weekend.

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