OK . . . Quick post today. A young man (at least I assume both attributes, based on the fact that his name is Brad Carr and he is applying for an entry-level job) posted a job questionnaire to a bulletin board site and requested assistance with the answers. His prospective boss was tipped off and left a post of his own. Check out the thread here.
While the young man was told he could use resources available to him--some feel that his action was akin to copying someone else's answers off of a worksheet. I am inclined to agree with the interviewer that this attempt to tap others' brainpower violates the spirit of the exercise--but quite a few people are saying this is an acceptable, even intelligent, way to seek information.
At any rate, I have seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of similar bulletin posts by students seeking content area information. The debate seems extremely pertinent to public education. Thoughts?
A short post today to express my horror at the following school policy (approved July 7TH), from Mississippi's Lamar County School District: no social network communication (or texting!) between teachers and students. According to the article, several other districts are considering a similar policy.
I understand that the Internet, especially content-authoring tools and social network sites, open up a heated discussion about the safety of our students and our responsibility as educators to ensure that safety, but that conversation aside, to what extent does this district's policy say emphatically that teachers are not trusted as professionals to make these determinations? Some of the very best, most effective teachers I know communicate with their students through social network sites. While I currently choose blogs and texting, it seems these connections could be in danger, as well.
The Lamar board commented that this move was not in response to any misuse--that it was a pre-emptive decision to keep problems from occurring. In what world would we be told not to contact a student by telephone because the contact is too personal? But this is essentially what this policy does to student-teacher communication. Kids do not email--if you ask them--they'll tell you that their PARENTS do that. Instead, they IM, text, etc. So communication is curtailed, and once again school is relegated to the dark ages. It reminds me of a quote from Prensky in the March 2008 Ed Leadership: " 'Whenever I go to school,' says one student I know, 'I have to power down.' He's not just talking about his devices—he's talking about his brain. Schools, despite our best intentions, are leading kids away from the light."
As teachers, do we want to be protected by policies, or do we want to risk incredible learning for, and connection with, our kids?
Ahhh . . . summer. I have really enjoyed my break during July--in fact--I think I checked my email only once (!), and while this was rejuvenating, I've been missing my electronic connections. Some say that educators never truly vacation; we are always engaged in rejuvenating and improving the classroom for our students. For me, this week, personal improvement/rejuvenation has taken the form of following these stories:
The expected, but sad, death of educator Randy Pausch, who unexpectedly found himself appointed a national voice for following our dreams (or enabling the dreams of others). His 'last lecture' resonated for so many people--but Randy himself referred to it as a 'bottle' cast into the water that would, in time, wash up on the shore for his three young children. If you haven't watched his lecture, here is the link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5700431505846055184
The NEA and AFT's May 2008 report on technology and education was the focus of a July 25th article by Michelle R. Davis titled, "NEA, AFT Report Outlines Ed-Tech Problems" http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2008/06/25/01report_web.h02.html?qs=nea%20aft%20survey. In general, the article highlights the study's identification of the gap between teacher perception of technology as a valuable instructional tool and the lack of teacher training for, and integration of, technology used in meaningful ways in the classroom.
Just as this study was getting me down, I came across the following press release: WASHINGTON, D.C. — July 17, 2008 – "The 21st Century Skills and Social Studies Map, the first of its kind to be released, demonstrates how the integration of 21st century skills into the social studies supports teaching and prepares students to become effective and productive citizens in the 21st century."
So I found the newly released map--linked here--and reviewed it. The first page comments that the map is the product of hundreds of hours of collaboration between the National Council for the Social Studies, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and feedback from educators and business leaders.
It links 21st Century skills to content-connected themes, student outcomes, and project examples. This map will not, alone, revolutionize education or fix the problem before us--how to TRULY integrate 21st Century skills into our classrooms--but it is movement in the right direction.
Everyone is attempting to define the 21st century . . . student . . . teacher . . . classroom, etc., but too few are seeking to truly concretize the concepts. As a teacher, I want specifics that I can implement in the fall. If we can't find them, then we need to create them ourselves. Here, at least, is a start.
P.S.--Janet Hyde, University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher, led a rather exciting study, released this week, showing that girls perform as well as boys in math at every level, from second to 11th grade. The study, based on standardized test scores of seven million children, reverse the findings of a 20 year old study that showed while girls performed similarly on math test in elementary grades, their scores in high school did not keep pace. One article about the study: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jGCXFmKVOXRYn17PlW7j72F2SqOgD924C9481also discussed researchers' side observation that many standardized tests fail to assess critical thinking skills and that the traditional gender gap noted in SAT and ACT test results might be attributable to the larger numbers of females taking the test and entering college.
A short post to highlight a video that documents a class project by a local fifth grade. It underscores a conversation that Nicole (other blogger and co-creator of this web site) and I have been having. Technology use does not necessarily equal 21st century learning. For me, it is more about a collaborative culture and putting kids in a situation of uncertainty (with support, of course) in order to create something new. This project clearly achieves both of those objectives. http://www.spokaneschools.org/MediaRoot/VideoResources/The_Difference.wmv
I have been intending to start blogging for some time now, but you know how it goes in the day-to-day life of teacher. One more paper to grade, one more parent to email, one more . . . something. But it is summer. No more excuses.
I am not sure exactly what this blog will be about, but I know I will discuss my twin interests--writing and curriculum design. When I stumble on a great teaching tip, I'll share that, too. Here's one from Imelda and Rosa, two great teachers I worked with this week in Fresno, CA. Need white boards for your classroom formative assessment / diagnostic checks? So do I--but I don't want to spend the money. Try white card stock in a sturdy (clear, of course) page protector. Simple and cost-effective!
In keeping with the theme of our web site, Nicole and I will discuss the concept of the '21st century learner'--and perhaps even more importantly--the 21st century teacher. I think we have some catching up to do with our 'digital natives.'