While running through my Google Reader feeds today, I ran across this post by Terry Heick at teachthought.com, and it made me want to try my own Google searches to see what came up in the instant list. The results are below in screenshots.
Today, an asteroid will zoom past the earth, narrowly avoiding a collision course that would take out an area roughly the size of the New York Metropolitan area. We got lucky.
We actually got REALLY lucky. The fact is, we only knew about asteroid 2012 DA14 (click here to find out how to watch it) a year ago. Scarier still, it is part of the mere 1% of objects that scientists think could potentially end life on earth. If it were headed straight for us, we wouldn't have had time to prepare. The best we could have done would have been to get out of the way and wait for the dust to settle.
I bring this up because eventually, it just might be our fate. At least, if education has anything to do with it.
From my perspective, educational change is coming so slowly that it is going to take years before we catch up to where we should be today, and by then, we will be another couple of decades behind.
What will it take to get things moving? What will light a fire hot enough, bright enough, and smoky enough to signal the attention of those with the power to change things?
It takes an event like Sandy Hook just to get people talking about serious gun control. Even then, not much has happened. The real changes that would need to take place to ensure kids are safe from being gunned down in their classrooms will not come anytime soon. People would rather have high capacity murder machines than save one innocent life. What kind of catastrophe will it take to motivate the United States to update its Industrial Revolution model school system?
Shocking reports of failing national scores do little more than make people debate the validity of the tests and what the data means. Comparisons to other countries that show us lagging behind only make people shout about different demographics as the cause. A tanking economy - with businesses who want to hire but who can't find Americans with the skills they need - only gets people riled up about the manufacturing and factory jobs that have gone overseas that these graduates used to be qualified for. No one seems to realize that we need to prepare students today for different jobs. Or, more accurately, no one is doing anything about that fact in our schools.
Do we really want those factory jobs back? Or, would we rather forge ahead and continue leading the world in innovation? Apparently, neither.
Instead, we keep right on churning out the "widgets" that are your children and mine. We treat them like factory products. We group them by age, run their lives with a bell schedule, give them mind-numbing busy work of repeated problems, and teach them to sit still and follow directions. This was great when what we needed were obedient factory workers who didn't have to creatively solve problems, only do what they were told.
But it isn't what we need today.
Today, we need classrooms to be dynamic, social, interdisciplinary, multi-age, creative hubs outfitted with the digital tools that people actually use today to get their work done. A modern classroom should involve real problems that students work together to solve. They need to learn how to research, find things that will get the job done, and do it. Kids should be able to go where they fit, not where they are surrounded by others who were born at approximately the same time.
We need students who are willing and capable of working together to solve really big problems; like climate change, global poverty, population explosion and the ensuing fresh water shortage, terrible violence, and yes, even asteroids on a collision course with our home.
Do you have a worksheet for that?
So what will it take to get there? What will it take before people realize that education is the only way to craft our future intentionally? When will people finally wake up and realize that investing in children, although a long term investment, yields better results than anything else we could do for America?
Do we want to make our future, or wait until an asteroid wakes us up?
Never mind, I doubt even that would convince everyone that the education they received in 1950 isn't good enough for today's students.
"In 2010, Project RED conducted the first large-scale national study to identify and prioritize the factors that make some U.S. K-12 technology implementations perform dramatically better than others."
From our own district analysis the same year, with more than 97% if teachers responding to the question: "How often are your students using digital tools and resources during the instructional day?"
Multiple times per day: 0%
Once per week-once per day: 38%
Once a month, once a year, and never: 55%
Can we finally get some discussion going on this blog? You can even post anonymously.
Recently, Janell Burley Hofmann published a contract for her son, Gregory, on her blog. You can read the original here. It went viral, garnering attention from major news outlets all over the country for its straightforward, common sense approach and expectations. Here is a revised edition, for students:
Oh, Happy Day! You are now the proud user of an iOS device. Wohoo! You are a good & responsible student and you deserve this opportunity. But with the acceptance of this opportunity comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is our job to educate you into a well rounded, healthy young person that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iOS usage.
We love teaching madly & look forward to sharing several million teachable moments with you in the days to come.
1. It is the district's device. Taxpayers bought it. They paid for it. We are loaning it to you. Aren’t we the greatest?
2. We will always know the password.
3. Hand the device to your teacher promptly whenever they should ask for it.
4. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
5. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.
6. Do not text, email, post, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
7. Do not text, email, post, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
8. Nothing inappropriate. Search the web for information you would openly share with your teachers. If you have a question about anything, ask a person.
9. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow any device to change that.
10. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is impossible to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
11. Take a zillion pictures and videos. Document everything. Live your experiences, and learn the power of storytelling. That is part of the reason why we are giving you this device to use. You have a voice, learn to use it. Memories will be stored in your mind for eternity, but your work can live in the minds of others.
12. Leave your device home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
13. Download media that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to, read, watch, and play the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to information and media like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
14. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
15. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling. If you are curious enough to google it later, go ahead. Just remember what made you wonder in the first place, and give it some more thought.
16. You will probably mess up. Your device might be taken. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.
It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the device, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. We hope you enjoy your awesome new device. Have a great school year!
This is the first in a series of posts titled "Why Should I?". Each post will look at one reason why it is worth the time and effort to improve your 21st Century teaching skills.
It used to be that information was hard to come by. In the last couple of decades, the amount of information has exploded, and the access people have to it has grown dramatically as well. The Internet quickly evolved into a vast repository of nearly everything known to humankind. Anyone with access can publish to it, adding to the amount of information out there. Not all of it is accurate or even worthy of publication, but as the content grew, the tools we use to find what we are looking for have also improved dramatically.
I remember driving to my grandparents' house in western Kansas with my family. My older sister and I, who argued incessantly about anything and everything, would be in the very back area of the station wagon. When (not if) we got into an argument, it might be a week before we could settle it. We would have to go to the school's library, look it up, and prove our point. That could take a while. Summers were filled with unsettled disagreements, with each of us claiming rights to several wins in our column. It still amazes me when I push a button and simply ask Siri to confirm that Bangkok is in fact the capital of Thailand.
With what we have in our rooms today, we can access nearly every single bit on information known to man. Any time something comes up that the collective intelligence in the room doesn't know, the answer is right at your fingertips. Why would you deny your students access to that?
Even if it is something that you can't find the answer to readily, or those really sticky topics, the Internet and the ability we have with current technologies make it possible for you to find and ask the person or people who can help. Again, why wouldn't you want to model this for students?
If "the real world" is what we claim to be preparing students for, then why do we make our classrooms the only place in the country where students cannot seek and find information in the way that the rest of our society does? It doesn't make much sense when you think about it: virtually anywhere in the country, a kid can whip out a smart phone and ask questions, talk to experts, connect with others in an online community dedicated to specific skills and work, etc. But not in their places of "learning".
Does anyone else see the huge disconnect there?
I remember a grade level meeting at my former elementary school where the topic of Internet in school came up. At the time, our district was rolling out a bunch of new technology, so that every classroom would have 5 desktop computers for students to use any time. One of my colleagues said that they didn't want students to have access to the Internet, because they could just Google all the answers to her questions. My principal replied, simply, "Well then it sounds like you need to ask better questions."
That is at least a good part of the point. We need to be engaging students in the kind of critical thinking and problem solving activities that can't simply be Googled. They need the Internet to seek information, gather ideas, talk with experts, find tutorials and examples, and publish their work. They need to be able to see what a setting looks like when they read a book that takes place in an unfamiliar place. They need to be able to look up data to use in their arguments, to find out about current events as they unfold, and to access the vast amount of tools available online for them to accomplish their work.
In essence, allowing the use and proliferation of technology in your classroom opens the entire world, and its experts, to your class. It takes down the physical limitations of the space, and knocks down your classroom walls. It opens your students up to the rest of the world, the one we say we are preparing them for.