A quest for learning, unlearning and relearning…

Archive for the ‘failure’

Federal Doublespeak

Race to the Top, data-driven teacher incentives and accountability, high-stakes assessment, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) above all else (meaning the arts), common national standards, global competition and ranking (be sure to read Yong Zhao’s post, The Mismeasure of Education: Worthy Knowledge in the Age of Globalization), schools run as businesses, Schools run by businesspeople, … (If you have not read Deborah Meier’s post, “Why Business Leaders Should Not Be in the Driver’s Seat“, you should.)

And then there is this: “But today is great day… a day to celebrate… the perfect storm for reform… We have the resources at the federal level to drive reform… and reach the educational equivalent of landing on the moon…

Then I hear this:

“Tools to capture their imagination…” Tools and opportunities to engage and empower students – to make learning meaningful, relevant,… to encourage creativity, joy, problem-solving,… Thinking differently and bringing out the best in every student [and teacher]…

With all due respect, Secretary Duncan, the only Top that we are racing to is the Big Top… the federal circus that you are orchestrating – a circus that many cannot even afford admission to. I guess those that can’t make it under the Big Top will be left to wither and die, just like the schools in our nation’s capital that have been closed down to be sold to charter operating companies or to condo/hotel developers…

As Klonsky says in his blog post, “the real losers are kids, parents and communities…”


Progressive Education

I’m curious as to what emotions and thoughts are stirred up in you as you watch this video. What progress have we made in this regard? Where are we yet struggling to see this realized? What remains impractical in public education? Why?

Epilogue to Playing the Grade Game

This video, titled “What I Want for My Children”,  is a good follow-up to my last post. I think it speaks for itself. So much gets in the way of this message becoming a ubiquitous reality in U.S. schools.

The answer isn’t PowerPoint, digital whiteboards, blogs, wikis, PRS systems, high-speed Internet, Web2.0, … But, they can be part of a solution. [Generalization coming…] Why are we not pushing many of these attributes presented in the video with the same passion that we are pushing (and adopting) new technologies? As a geek-at-heart, it sure is much easier to get excited about “potential” or promise of new technologies rather than focus what we already have that is not working. Much of the time, things are not “working” because of much bigger issues than old technologies or technical support (don’t get me wrong… technical support is crucial). So, if your students are not excited about your language arts (math, science, social studies…) program, ask yourself “Why?”. My guess is that it’s not mostly because they are not using the aforementioned technologies.

I would encourage you to read one of David Warlick‘s recent posts titled, “If it’s not about technology, then what is it about?“. Be sure to have a look through the comments as well. Lots of food for thought. (It’s where I discovered this video, too.)

Ouch! More of the Same

Edweek discusses a  June report released by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers that surveyed close to 2,000 K-12 public school educators from across the US. It finds that although there have been increases in technology in schools overall, there are still “significant disparities” when it comes to access to computer tools and networks. It also reportst that while many schools have computers, they are often out of date and unreliable. Here are some more statistics that are reported:

  • 83% of educators report having 5 or fewer computers in the classroom; > than half report no more than 2.
  • > half surveyed use computers for daily administrative tasks
  • about half use them to daily communicate with other educators (communicate what?)
  • about 40% use technology to monitor student progress (electronic gradebook?)
  • about 37% use technology for research and information gathering
  • about 32%  use it to teach lessons
  • < a fifth of teachers surveyed use technology daily to post student and class information online or to communicate with parents electronically.
  • a majority feel that professional development that they received was most effective for noninstructional tasks (hence, the second bullet point here)
  • a majority were “highly optimistic about the impact of technology on their jobs and on their students” and that technology positively impacted student motivation


  • 89% said they view technology as essential to teaching and learning.

What’s missing here?

  • No mention of teacher personal learning networks to share and collaborate
  • No mention of teachers using technology to further their own professional development
  • No mention of students using computers for learning in powerful ways
  • No mention of students using networks for collaborative learning

What I find most curious is that the survey itself is so minimalistic in terms of what technology can bring to the teacher-learner. If focuses on access and administrative tool use, research, and teachnolgy as a teaching tool. It does not see the larger picture of the need for systemic change, the need for lifelong teacher learning and growth, and the full potential of networks and computer technologies. What is sad is that it would appear that we, in general, are failing at such a basic level. Although there are certainly pockets of innovation and change, they are not sweeping in scope. Here is a quotation from the report’s executive summary:

“The findings of this study reveal that although all educators and students in public schools
have some access to computers and the Internet, we have few assurances that they are able to
use technology effectively for teaching and learning.”

Well, that’s certainly less than encouragine, isn’t it.

So, we have schools lacking in current tools, lacking in networked access, lacking in professional development, lacking in vision, lacking in systemic change, and overwhelmed with the incredibly diverse burdents placed upon them. What do we need then? Leaders. We need leaders who are willing to put their necks and reputations on the line district by district, building by building. We need leaders who have a powerful vision of what learning can and should be and who can effectively communicate it to others. We need leaders who can inspire by example. We need leaders who reward risk-taking. We need leaders who understand the learning potential afforded by new tools and learning networks. We need leaders who understand what meaningful learning is and looks like. We need leaders (at all levels, including governmental) who value all forms of assessment – not just formal standardized assessments. We need leaders to support urban schools. We need leaders who understand the value all pedagogies. We need leaders who help their teachers be all that they can be.

We need LEADERSHIP. Without it, we will continue fulfilling this report’s outlook – “The findings of this study reveal that although all educators and students in public schools have some access to computers and the Internet, we have few assurances that they are able to use technology effectively for teaching and learning.”

Standing Up for Kids, Teachers, and Education

A few weeks back teacher, Carl Chew, made the headlines for receiving a 2 week without pay suspension for refusing to give the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) standardized test in his Washington State classroom. Here is a reposting of his response explaining his actions. It is a MUST READ!! I am going to continue to process his detailed, response. It is not a political response. It is not a research-based or scholarly response. It is a response grounded in reality, in the personal, social, emotional, and physical learning environment.