Monday, November 30, 2009

Missing, Celebrating, and Wondering

Thinking about blogging –

Seriously and thus this subsequent post--

Prompted by a gnawing emptiness— missing opportunities to have windows on the classrooms of two accomplished teachers and their students through their blogs.

Finding real value in returning here to think “out loud”— to create some record of my continued journey into learning— continuing attempts at articulating a lifelong passion for learning and education--

As Anne Davis and Darren Kuropatwa found new directions in their lives, I celebrated with them; and selfishly regretted the loss of the opportunity to connect and develop relationships with their students. And just as great the loss of their transparency in their practice surrounding blogging which was and continues to be a beacon -shining on the potential for making student thinking transparent, for building communities of learners and bloggers, for enabling student ownership of learning, for extending learning through audience participation , for collaborating and reflecting, and for promoting learning in which mistakes become avenues for continued learning.

On Darren’s class blogs, student authors composed daily scribe posts and expert voices projects which not only made their understanding of the concepts of the day transparent but also helped deepen their learning as they taught others through their blogging. Classmates helped with understanding by noting and suggesting in the comments. Excellence was expected; mistakes were viewed as a part of learning. I shall forever be eternally grateful to Darren for accepting me as a mentor for a number of years, trusting me to comment to his students. His transparency in describing his ever evolving and ever more accomplished practice was a source of great joy and learning for me.

As well, the years that I had the enormous privilege to be a commenter for Anne’s 5th graders and learn from Anne and her students profoundly touched me. I learned so much more about joy in learning --particularly blogging, and reflecting. Anne’s process of developing an understanding of blogging for her students seems to me to be exemplary as they examine and explore the concept of blogging framed by the traits of writing plus linking and gradually move from commenting on other blogs to designing and writing their very own posts. Anne always recognized the importance of audience for student voices and consequently Harley and I were delighted to become 2 of many who were contacted in advance and invited to become a part of the group of commenters. Posts were never reviewed by her prior to publishing; commenters often provided pointers for improvement. Anne often asked them to “bump” their writing later in the year by going back to a post and revising and she developed a process for proof revising with podcasting which was very effective. Her kids truly enjoyed collaborating and connecting with Darren’s high school and Clarence’s middle school students. I’m really looking forward to the chapter publication of her work on building a community of bloggers that describes the complexities and nuances of blogging with young people.

Involved as a mentor with Darren’s students and as a commenter with Anne’s, I had the sense that something pretty special was occurring. Now, upon lots of reflection and collecting all these resources (and I’m missing many) I’m wondering if they don’t they point to pedagogies that epitomize the potential of and the reasons for blogging? What keeps us from offering such incredible opportunities for joyous, authentic, collaborative, student owned learning for all our students? Don’t all our children deserve these kinds of opportunities?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

At a crossroads--

"...what America needs is an education system that cultivates a diversity of talents and develops “unique niche talents” that are not available at a cheaper price elsewhere in the world or that cannot be replaced by machines." --source

Yong Zhao

Sees American education at a crossroads—

Zhao’s perspective truly resonates with me both on his blog and in his recent book, Catching Up or Leading the Way

On national standards and NCLB--

As a result of adopting national standards, schools will produce a homogenous group of individuals with the same abilities, skills, and knowledge. Such a result will be disastrous to America and Americans because as globalization and technology continue to change the world,

America needs a citizenry of creative individuals with a wide range of talents to sustain its tradition of innovation. Americans need talents and abilities that are not available at a lower price elsewhere on earth. American education, despite its many problems, has at least the basics that support the production of a more diverse pool of talents. However these basics are being discarded by NCLB and similarly spirited reform efforts.

In a way, the reforms that aim to save America are actually putting America in danger. NCLB is sending American education into deeper crisis because it is likely to lead increasing distrust of educators, disregard of students’ individual interests, destruction of local autonomy and capacity for innovation, and disrespect for human values. --source

On our country failing to compete with other countries, particularly in math and science--

Last week, a comprehensive study based on analysis of major longitudinal datasets found “U.S. colleges and universities are graduating as many scientists and engineers as ever before.” The study was conducted by a group of researchers at Georgetown University, Rutgers University, and the Urban Institute. “Our findings indicate that STEM retention along the pipeline shows strong and even increasing rates of retention from the 1970s to the late 1990s,” says the report. However, not all STEM graduates enter the STEM field. They are attracted to other areas. --source

From Education Week Curriculum Matters on the need for niche talents, and passionate people:

"The American education system now is driven ... to push us toward standardization, centralization, and embodying test scores, which actually I think is moving American education away from the future," he says in the video, produced by the Mobile Learning Institute and sponsored by the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the publishing giant. "The global economy requires niche talents, requires people to become artists, become creators, become musicians, become innovators, become people who are passionate about their work."

From Teacher Magazine Living in Dialogue on testing and monolithic thinking--

Zhao makes a strong case that uniform tests result in monolithic thinking. In the modern global economy, the passion that results when people are allowed to develop along diverse paths is far more precious than the large scale mediocrity that results from national standards and a test-centered (or "data-driven") school culture.

Most pointedly, he questions the contradiction between President Obama's condemnation of the emphasis on tests, and his embrace of "tougher, clearer standards" as the key to reform.

From his book—on the strengths of American education and suggested changes--

The traditional strengths of American education—respect for individual talents and differences, a broad curriculum oriented to educating the whole child, and a decentralized system that embraces diversity—should be further expanded. Page 182

Offering suggested changes--

expand the definition of success, personalize education and view schools as global enterprises. P 182

And in his book, he concludes--

American education is at a crossroads. Two paths lie in front of us: one in which we destroy our strengths in order to catch up with others on test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity. The current push for more standardization, centralization, high stakes testing, and test-based accountability is rushing us down the first path, while what will keep America truly strong and American prosperous should be the latter, the one that cherishes individual talents, cultivates creativity, celebrates diversity, and inspires curiosity. As we enter a new world rapidly changed by globalization and technology, we need to change course. Instead of instilling fear in the public about the rise of other countries, bureaucratizing education with bean-counting policies, demoralizing educators through dubious accountability measures, homogenizing school curriculum, and turning children into test takers, we should inform the public about the possibilities brought about by globalization, encourage education innovations, inspire educators with genuine support, diversify and decentralize curriculum, and educate children as confident, unique, and well-rounded human beings. From page 198 also quoted here

So much more in his book, documented— with suggestions for global and digital competencies-

Isn’t this powerful, good thinking? How can we persuade policymakers to read and listen?