As Chris Sessums so ably summarizes, he and Steve Hargadon and I had a pretty amazing discussion at the FETC blogger meetup last night which was attended by about 10 people or so at some time or another. I won’t even begin to try to articulate the details…suffice to say it was, as Chris says, “seriously heady and perplexing.” The bottom line is that we all seemed to feel that there is a moment at hand that requires the consideration (if not the action) of this community. That it may be time to make a statement in some more formal way about the potential of Read/Write Web tools to transform education. That we attempt to find a way to begin these conversations on a national level, perhaps through political action. As Chris wrote:
We need to tap into the collective social capital of edubloggers and the overall blogging community to articulate this issue clearly so that it becomes a manifest political priority.
On various levels, we’ve been moving toward this already, I think. But we’ve been aiming primarily at a small audience. Now, with 20 months or so to another crucially important election, might it be time to gather our collective capital and see how we can spend it in a more far-reaching way?
To me, there are three questions. First, what, exactly, does this community as a whole believe about these changes and these tools and their impact on teaching and learning? Second, how do we cogently communicate that belief in a way that educates and moves others to action? Is it to create “An Inconvenient Truth” of our own, perhaps? (I’m serious.) Something that contextualizes and makes plain the complexity and the urgency of the moment? And finally, who are the various decision makers, candidates, business people and others who need to hear this message to most effectively move it forward? (Anyone know anyone in any of the nascent presidential campaign machines?)
It’s clear, to me at least, that bloggers are having a substantial impact in politics and business and journalism. It feels like, at least to me, that the gains they have made in moving those traditional structures have been far greater than what’s happened in the education sphere. I may be wrong. But I’ve wondered why those A-List bloggers haven’t lit on the implications for traditional education with more fire. Surely, their own learning has been transformed. Surely, the power of the networks they have built have transformed the way they themselves learn. Might they be amenable to assisting in this cause?
The feeling of the three of us what that this might be something we think about as a focus for the edubloggercon we’ve started planning for June. This feels pretty huge, and it might be a whole bunch of pipe-dreaming. But I wonder…
Technorati Tags: change education learning
Dean Shareski says
First of all Will I regret not having been at FETC this year if only to be a part of these type of f2f discussions as we had last year.
But secondly I’m curious to look back one year and reflect on how this conversation may be different. I recall you writing about an objection you had to Ken Kay and Willard Daggett’s gloom and doom scare tactics.
Would an “inconvenient truth” type approach be the same thing? Have you changed your position or am I missing the point somewhat? Maybe one year later the world looks different.
Wish I would have been there.
James Farmer says
I’m in – just posted a brief comment on Christopher’s blog. We’re facing exactly the same issues in Oz.
Will Richardson says
That’s a great question, and you have a great memory. Funny, but I never thought of making this case in the gloom and doom way. I still don’t think that’s the way to convince anyone of this. During this entire conversation and in thinking about it after, I was imagining what it would be like if Barak Obama or Rudy Guliani or Hillary Clinton or John McCain could experience the transformation that I have or that many of us in this community have in terms of how we learn. If they could, this wouldn’t need to be gloom and doom at all, but instead be “look what we can bring to our kids, to prepeare them better for their futures” type of thing. Fear is a great motivator, but ultimately, I think, is a cop out. Passion is a tougher sell, but it most often comes from having experience.
Jenine Wech says
You are right on Will. This effort is still very much “underground”. The TerraNova test results arrived in my son’s takehome folder yesterday. Now, I consider that I one of the more confident believers that we need to change schooling and measurement of student achievement. Yet, I still found myself worrying about the percentile in which he fell. We are so conditioned to look at the results of the standardized tests that the only way reform is going to occur is to reformulate the measurement (and documentation/communication) of student achievement. The discussion needs to be brought into the mainstream. I agree that part of the positioning is “look what we can bring to our kids, to prepare them better for their futures”. The other part of it is the human side of “Look what we are doing to the hearts and souls of our children by measuring and educating them this way.” The struggle is the prevelant errant view of learning where “fair” is synonomous with “equal”. What’s worse, Parental drive to “Keep up with the Jones’ test scores” is warping the reform movement. While basline knowledge is essential, soft skills are not considered at this point because they cannot be measured with multiple choice bubble forms and low-level writing tasks. In order to break the confines of traditional education, we need to break the confines of how we determine success. The current education system squeezes educators, students and parents, between top-down approval and the bottom-up demand. These two opposing forces need to combine. I can’t think of any revolution that has ever succeeded by staying politely behind closed doors. What I am saying is…count me in.
Mary Jo Dudek says
It appears to me that the three of you agree that there is currently no candidate that completely understands the impact that you are describing.
My idea may seem quite simplistic, but I would like to offer it just the same. Over the past several months I have witnessed a network of educators that continues to grow. How many have gone onto the blog sites of these candidates? How many have blogged to the news sites? If you could get a “grass roots” movement to begin this process, I believe that over time it would be noticed. [Just remember John Kerry and his medals.
Senator Chuck Schummer (D-NY) has said it himself that the Democratic party lacks focus on what they believe. Maybe for once, the public [edubloggers] can lend some help.
In a quick review, both John Edwards and Hilary Clinton have blogs running on their election sites. Neither Barak Obama, Rudy Guiliani or John McCain have one as yet.
Carolyn Foote says
It has often seemed to me lately that there are two educational conversations going on in this country–and one is about the future and how schools are being really transformed or will be soon by technology, and one is about testing and accountability, but it is measured in very traditional ways. It seems like the conversation out in the “field” so to speak, is far outstripping the current policies.
I was thinking about a podcast I heard on Business Week about Best Buy’s transformation of their corporate workday, due to technology advances. But the other reason they could transform their workplace is because they did have the “metrics” in place to make sure it was working.
Now I don’t think standardized testing as it exists now is a great metric necessarily, but my point is that isn’t there a way to achieve great change, but still see how it is working over the long haul?
Another point that story brought to mind is that many/most businesses get it. They know their survival depends on being “with it” and web friendly. So maybe that is another place to start–with the business world.
Silicon Valley visionaries most definitely get it. Bill Gates is already donating large amounts of money to transform education. George Lucas has Edutopia. But I believe, by and large, that many businesses across the country do get it.
And parents work in those businesses, of course.
Whatever one’s opinion about the World is Flat, it did speed up this conversation nationally, and has been widely read and talked about.
I think using springboards like that book and Daniel Pink’s book could be helpful too. At our school, we’re considering a schoolwide read-aloud for students and parents of Whole New Mind, as a way to get our community united in this conversation.
I do think it’s important we raise our voices and get the conversation out there.
I also think–this whole transformation is at a fledgling point in schools themselves. Teachers are aware of these changes, but are still in very traditional classroom mode, probably at the majority of schools.
Maybe a “manifesto” of best practices would be a good thing to develop for sharing with candidates?
For example, one huge need I see is time for teachers to learn and plan. One part of my manifesto would be adopting a more college-like model for schools, or regular early release days for training and learning time. Model classrooms in every school. E-learning…and on and on.
I was also thinking about what Dangerously Irrelevant(Scott Mcleod) posted about having a BHAG. http://scottmcleod.typepad.com/dangerouslyirrelevant/2007/01/do_you_have_a_b.html
This sort of movement would need a Big,Hairy, Audacious (and I might add, easy to understand and remember) type of catch phrase.
I applaud this conversation because it feels like while the world is whizzing by, the national and state policies are mired in the slow moving thinking of the past, and that schools are just going to pass them all by as irrelevant before too long.
Thanks for the thoughts.
Bill Fitzgerald says
In thinking about this quickly, I’d say starting with best practices has some potential.
This is an educational argument first, and a political argument second. If we make a case grounded in sound pedagogy, it will make the subsequent discussions (ie, political, technological, and economic) easier.
We’re not in this to win political battles, but to educate more effectively. However, in this case, it’s clearly necessary to wage a political discussion in order to be able to teach and learn more effectively.
So, let’s get this done.
Bill Kerr says
“First, what, exactly, does this community as a whole believe about these changes and these tools and their impact on teaching and learning?”
The framing doesn’t seem quite right to me. Why do some people regard their blogs as being confined to education only in the first place? There has been political activity in the blogosphere happening for some time that is connected to education – censorware in schools, creative commons, copyright law issues, DOPA, net neutrality, free software movement, pirate party. If “edubloggers” are already involved in these issues (many are) then they are already being political.
It’s a different framing IMO. I think what’s needed is for net savvy people to recognise (if they don’t already) that politicians will only take notice when a movement has political clout, ie. numbers that vote or take to the streets. Then political groups like the pirate party, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Party#Political_impact , perhaps with a broader platform that includes educational issues directly are formed on that basis. Then when you get x% of the vote the normal pollies will take up the issues too because their future will depend on it.
Alice Mercer says
My other online life is on political/policy blogs. I think going to those places, not just to the candidates, would be a good idea. Netroots are seen as shifting the discussion about policy, why not education policy too? That’s the beauty of the net, you don’t have to go to the candidates at the top, you can push your message in other places and still be effective. The most important thing would be to have a brief, cohesive message. So, what are our talking points?
Jeff Utecht says
Right on Will!
I think this community has a real opportunity. As James Farmer said above. This is a global concern not just a US/North America concern, but one that can be/needs to be far reaching, much like ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. We have edubloggers around the world that could be callled into action in key places like Canada, Oz, UK, US, Europe, and Internationally. What we are looking at is a fundamental change in the belief of education and education theory. Count me in!
Scott Elias says
I like your thinking on this, Will. I think we are just beginning to gather enough momentum to really make a difference. I agree that it would be beneficial to simplify and contextualize as much as possible so that the message gets through to as many people as possible.
Answering a question with a question here…
Q: Why is education resistant to change?
Q: For what does NEA stand?