Sunday, November 23, 2008

The dance of change— CCK08

Hardly a dancer myself on any traditional dance floor- lacking rhythm and coordination, neither fleet of foot nor graceful--

Yet a sometimes eager, always passioned participant in the dance of change as a catalyst who has attempted to defy resistance and continue to press forward in whatever small corner of the world I happen to inhabit—often without success. Unwilling to date to remain in any way satisfied with the status quo, George Siemens’ comments truly resonate with my experience:
“The dance of change between catalyst and counter pressures, leading ultimately to new affordances, can be difficult. A smoother or more rapid experience in the restructuring of education can hardly be expected.”
A few steps this week in fact—two forward- after co developing materials for a workshop for public school administrators immersing them for just a moment in 21st century tools for learning – and then 3 back -- to learn that the facilitator and participants of the workshop situated in a public school were unable to access more than half the resources provided, and for a time unable to even view the wiki on which the workshop materials were to be accessed. This workshop was an attempt at small scale innovation at an administrative level -- an attempt marred by resistance from IT departments who totally fail to understand the transformative potential of new technologies. This workshop, in its failure, clearly illustrates in its one small example the need for systemic change as George Siemens notes:
“Yet, in spite of small-scale innovation, new methods typically do not result in new spaces and structures of learning. As noted by David (1990), new innovations are adopted in the context of existing physical spaces. Changes of a more significant and profound nature need to be enacted at a system-wide level.”
Frustrating at best, I’ve been dancing in different K12 environments for many years. Most memorable are my early experiences when the large urban district in which I taught determined that pulling down a filter (that blocked sites of sports teams used to assist students in learning math and sites with primary source content --interviews with former slaves-- to help students understand the concept of slavery) was the only way to protect students from danger. Lack of access rather than teaching students responsible Internet use became the norm then and as illustrated by my dance with the workshop this week, continues to be the norm to this very day, at least in my part of the world. Consequently, Wendy’s statement resounded with me:
“The sober implication for schools is that existing systems are so entrenched in bureaucracies of current practice that they are not likely to change. Those of us who are trying to innovate from within are basically banging our heads against the wall.”
The dance- it must continue but I think with reasoned passion and suggested models such as that in the reading of George Siemens’ paper. Even though the paper referenced systemic change at the university level, it’s my sense that the ideas can be readily adapted for the k12 environment in which I live, and work, and learn.

George Siemens speaks of the importance of transforming learning spaces:
“Our ability to learn, grow, and adapt to change pressures is directly linked to the nature of our learning environments. Oblinger (2006) addressed the link between space design and opportunities for learning:
"Space - whether physical or virtual - can have an impact on learning. It can bring people together; it can encourage exploration, collaboration, and discussion. Or, space can carry an unspoken message of silence and disconnectedness. More and more we see the power of built pedagogy (the ability of space to define how one teaches) in colleges and universities. (para 1)”
Reconceptualizing learning spaces for k12 students-- designing for learning ecologies that enable networked learning and participatory pedagogies will help to ensure that learners are far better equipped to live and learn in today’s world. Today’s classrooms continue to support and enable delivery of content by the expert. Novice learners require some structure but as Lisa discusses George’s model, the same could apply at the k12 level.
“Structure is seen as necessary for beginners in a subject, to provide foundation, with exploration at the next level for the learner, and room for negotiation. It seems to reflect the approach of the English tutorial system, or graduate study (when grad students aren’t subject to serfdom, that it). This model would bring the perception of universities our culture can reclaim (centers of learning) together with new methods that take advantage of the latest technologies.”
Developmentally appropriate participatory pedagogies could transform learning IF, at least in the United States we can move from the current NCLB model of paper/pencil multiple choice standardized testing. I’d add to George’s statement
“Multiple interacting elements occurring on tension fault lines, such as open versus closed systems, expertise versus amateur content creation, networks and ecologies versus hierarchies and bounded classroom structures, create a climate where it becomes difficult to accurately explore or consider future directions.”
an additional tension fault line of NCLB testing versus authentic assessment for learning, as it seems to me that this systemic change is also critical for any consideration of transformation to learning ecologies that enable participatory learning. In concurring with Janet
“These powerful opportunities risk being trumped by the governance of our infrastructure. There must be a way to move forward with a sense of due care and positive engagement, not just by learners but also by the systems and communities which enable them.”
I’m wondering if one possible way to move forward with due care is to continue our dances in our personal situations and also make sure we broadcast to government agencies such models proposed by George Siemens or Peters?

As Keith noted Peters also proposed a model:
“I want to take a different tack and suggest a form of the university that does not break entirely with the founding historical discourses and their single unifying ideas but preserves them, adapts them to new conditions, reinvents and redefines them as an imaginative basis for resistance against the narrowing of thought (Michael Peters, 2007, p.21).”
Could this also apply to American public education? With the advent of the new technologies and views on social learning, can’t reinventing and redefining public education can only be in the best interests of all our children.

And I’m wondering if we can’t enlist foundations such as MacArthur with resources to sustain the dance as they seem to be moving in a similar direction--
“Rather than thinking of public education as a burden that schools must shoulder on their own, what would it mean to think of public education as a responsibility of a more distributed network of people and institutions? And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement? And finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from an engaged and diverse set of publics that are broader than what we tradition¬ally think of as educational and civic institutions?”
What type of marathon is needed to effect this change with models and supporting research? What will it take to reach the point where we are four steps forward and meeting minimal resistance? I sure would like the opportunity to kick off my shoes—or do I need some endurance training?

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