My favorite conference of the year, Educon 2.2, is only a few weeks away, and I wanted to post my “conversation” here to see if there might be some…um…conversation about how to best make the, ah, conversation valuable at the conference. (NOTE: I had originally intended to lead a conversation on “Greening Education” but I’m switching this new topic in.) So if you have any thoughts about the topic or about how to add value to the live session (which will be streamed), please let me know.
Title: The “Decoupling” of Education and School: Where do We Begin?
“If educators cannot successfully integrate new technologies into what it means to be a school, then the long identification of schooling with education, developed over the past 150 years, will dissolve into a world where the students with the means and the ability will pursue their learning outside of public school.”
“Schools were prevalent in the era of apprenticeship, and they will be prevalent in whatever new system of education comes into being. But the seeds of a new system are beginning to emerge, and they are already beginning to erode the identification of learning and schooling. As these new technologically driven seeds germinate, education will occur in many different, more adaptive venues, and schools will have a narrower role in learning.”
“Our generation faces a…radically new, design challenge. We are dealing with a mature, stable system of education designed to adapt to gradual change, but ill-suited to embrace radical change. The pace of technological change has outstripped the ability or school systems to adapt essential practices. Schools have fiddled with learning technologies on the margins of the system, in boutique innovations that leave core practices untouched. The emergence of new forms of teaching and learning outside of school threaten the identification of learning with formal schooling forged in the 19th Century.”
What does this new design look like? What are the big questions regarding learning, teaching and schooling that we need to begin to address? How will the roles of elementary schools and high schools begin to evolve? How will we address the divide issues that these opportunities outside of school create? And how do we personally plan for these changes as learners, parents and teachers? If we agree, perhaps we can create a concrete list of starting points for these conversations to begin and continue in schools.
Leslie Maniotes says
Thanks for suggesting this timely and VERY useful topic for me… and all of education right now. We need to talk about this on a grand scale. this IS the conversation I am in every day of my professional career.
I believe that authentic inquiries, investigations into student’s questions about the world is the way to go. through inquiry they use technology tools to do something, share something, create something…just like in the real world. how to make that paradigm shift is a whole ‘nuther beast, but I think it originates in the culture of the school as a questioning wondering place. Students must be immersed in the culture of inquiry from the moment they get off the bus. Come to school to swim in it.
Chuck Poole says
Thank you for bringing this topic up! I will be at the conference and I was truly hoping for a topic like this to come up! Students must be immersed in the shifts that are occurring. I think the most difficult thing is changing the thinking of teachers, administrators, and school districts. When will we all wake up and realize that the world is changing, students (and the way they learn) is changing, and avenues in which to learn are changing but we as educators are not? I think some of the big questions regarding learning, teaching, and learning that we need to begin to address would be the changes/shifts that are occurring, the stubborn view of “if it isn’t broken why fix it,” how to address how students think, and what students really need when it comes to 21st century literacy skills… we need to prepare them for the future! They want to be prepared for the future and if we do not teach them these skills and ideas in school, than they will simply find another avenue in which to learn!
I am so excited to discuss this topic at the conference and talk/address the questions you spoke of…
John Carver says
Many thoughts come to mind. The Van Meter team is dedicated and focused on a new design of teaching and learning. There are several emerging themes:
1. Thinking needs to change and new definitions created. (example: community may not be a physical place, but an electronic or virtual place)
2. We as a Nation, have yet to clearly define what is the task/mission of education is. Until there is clear focus, there will be confusion and false starts. Deming #1 Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
3. We need to look at systems and come to the realization that current structure does not work. Emerging Van Meter design is based on file share â€œNapsterâ€ structure. Design model components identified thus far: Student at the center learning holistically seeking knowledge and building new knowledge, not a frame moving down the conveyer belt (subject taught in isolation with segmented instruction, linked to â€œtime on taskâ€ seat time.) , blended instruction (electronic and â€œface to faceâ€)
4. Use of laptop computers and social networking tools to connect (locally, nationally, and globally) supports/enable new thinking.
5. Newly created knowledge (Intellectual property) by students/teacher has worth. (a new â€œcurrencyâ€ emerging?)
Thomas O'Brien says
As we move into the next decade of change for education, we need reference points in history to understand how important todayâ€™s technology is in education tomorrowâ€™s leaders.
Education and the methods of delivery, as we knew it, are old and out-dated. However, many educators are uncomfortable to transition to something unfamiliar to them. Many would rather wait for retirement and/or allow the next generation to deal with innovation. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
Being a part of the solution would mean we, as educational leaders, need to be role model learners. We need to work with our schools to provide new and innovative ways to educate. We need to be the educational leaders the public has hired us to be.
Hmmmm,Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology is not available digitally. Kind of ironic!
Mike Barger says
With our changing society and all of the new technologies students have teachers have to be willing to make change. We have all heard about teachers being “one day ahead of the kids” but the emerging technologies are too much for some teachers to keep up with. With cuts in funding and no hope in the foreseable future teachers will have to turn to one another for help with new technology. Schools are not seeing as many technological improvements because of these cuts. Our technologies are quickly outdated and schools cannot afford to keep up with everything.
Students thrive on technology, it’s the first thing they think about when they wake up and the last thing they do before going to sleep. Whether on the computer, using their cell phone, whatever – today’s children are being raised with these technologies. We, as teachers will have to adapt to them and not be so hard-headed as to think our “comfortable” way of teaching is the only way.
John Carver says
additional design elements from Van Meter Secondary Prinicpal Deron Durflinger 🙂
6. Flexible use of time- The school day/period may vary for each student or teacher. Learning can happen anyplace anytime.
7. Leadership is the key. The instructional leaders must embed themselves in this new way of doing business. Leaders must practice what they preach. It is difficult for the system to transform if its leaders do business the same as they always have.
8. The system needs to focus on finding students passions and provide them learning opportunities within that passion to develop global citizens that THINK, LEAD & SERVE.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for these John. Lots to think about in your process. Looking forward to speaking more about how this all turns out.
Carole Trone says
This topic is certainly a worthy one to focus on. I agree that how schools use technology will create greater differences between schools and greater inequalities between the quality of education that different students receive. Already I see huge differences among districts I work with–both in what resources they have, but more importantly in how dedicated they are to integrating the technology.
Recent examples of technology that have disrupted major institutions in the past decade—Craigslist disrupting the newspaper industry, iTunes disrupting the music industry, and so forth–happened because they responded to an immediate, marketable need in a way that was simple to use. Our need to make learning modern and relevant is a much more complex process.
We have to remember that schools are for learning, but the most basic need they serve is to have a place for kids to go while their parents work. For example, four-year old kindergarten becomes very popular when the alternative is expensive and scarce childcare. And it’s much easier to think about how a flexible technology-based education might work for a 15 year old than for a squirmy 5 year old.
So, what we NEED as a nation and for the future may not be the pragmatic NEED that schools serve, especially when cash-strapped school boards need to balance their budgets now and not just in the future. I believe that some schools with the leadership, the resources, (and the discipline) WILL begin to look and operate very differently in creating learning opportunities for their students because I see some signs of it now. But there are many, many schools where minimal learning happens now but they plod on without much meaningful change because of their warehousing role.
Steve Ransom says
I wonder how this notion will play out in relation to Larry Cuban’s 2020 forecast.
Will Richardson says
I think I agree that schools will still be clearly recognizable. But I do think that the idea of education will have shifted more away from what happens in those school buildings. The key, to me at least, is how do we credentialize those new opportunities. Right now, all online learning means is taking traditional credits in online spaces. That’s not a shift. Will there be more “certifications” as the authors suggest? Will there be more in terms of expectations for portfolios? This might be a part of what we talk about as well.
Todd Wandio says
Your comments are sending the educators scurrying to their camps: Agents of Change v.s. If It Was Good Enough For Pa, It’s Good Enough For Me. I think the vast majority of educators are in the third camp, however, the Fence Sitters.
Working in an Outreach School, in a non-traditional setting, I am certainly seeing that more and more students are demanding approaches to learning that fit with a 21st Century mindset. Flexibility will be the key, I think. And the more proactive we are at addressing student needs, the more successful our students will be as they move along.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for stopping by Todd. I’d love to hear more about what those student demands look like. What are they expecting today that students a few years ago weren’t?
Mary Ann Reilly says
I was fascinated by the quotes you provided and ordered the book. It arrives Friday! I couldn’t agree more with the authors that many innovations have been “boutique innovations that leave core practices untouched.” I have recently had some experiences teaching in a multi-user classroom. Nothing alters ‘core’ practices quicker than when everyone in the room has choices about what technologies they need/don’t need to assist their thinking.
I have been researching virtual high schools lately and wonder about how pure and hybrid virtual schools might come into play as we think about the design of schools.
Finally, last thought for now: what happens to a democracy if its public schooling becomes defunct?
Looking forward to the conference.
Jane Eidson says
I have just begun reading your book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. I can honestly say that I had no idea of the vast chasm that had grown between todayâ€™s students and our current educational system. I am enrolled in classes that incorporate literacy and technology into the classroom, but I find myself a little overwhelmed. Your comments about our students learning in a different manner, not by linear progression, opened my eyes to the vast differences between education fifteen or twenty years ago, and education today. While it was a little frightening and thought provoking, it also gave me a reinforced appreciation for what I am currently studying. Having grown up in the 70â€™s, I was not raised on technology and everything I know (which is very little) has been from trial and error and playing around. I am fearful that I will never be as technologically savvy as I need to be to be as fully effective as possible in the classroom. I want to become proficient enough to utilize all the tools you speak of in your book. While I see very little use of these tools in my school, perhaps I can be at the forefront of their integration. I look forward to completing your book and implementing your suggestions.
Laura Blankenship says
Jane, don’t be afraid! We all learned from trial and error. Your students learned from trial and error. And remember, while they may be on Facebook every day or playing video games, they don’t all have a blog or know how to use a wiki. And they certainly need guidance in using all of these tools in their learning. You don’t have to be the technical expert, but the learning expert, the content-area expert. You need to know enough about the technology to feel comfortable using it, but your students will probably go beyond your knowledge at some point–and that’s okay! You can learn from it.
To Will’s larger point, I see a lot of divides opening up. Even before technology, kids in affluent families had access to museum visits, trips to cultural centers around the world, academic camps, and probably more parental attention than kids in homes where those thing weren’t affordable. Technology makes that gap wider. In our home, we have three computers and, of course, internet access. Plus they have educators as parents. My kids have access to all the world’s information and access to guidance. That needs to be taking place in school, too. I’d actually like to see the possibility for my high schooler to do some classes online at his own pace. I think he easily gets bored. He still needs the socializing in school and his face-to-face classes are small and they’re great for him, but I can tell he wants to do more, but needs a structure put on that. He’d be willing, I think, to take a class online if he got credit for it. Right now, we have an all or nothing option. Everything is either face-to-face or online. Individual classes could be hybridized or the school could be. Perhaps every semester, students take a course online.
Also, I know this gets said over and over and over again, but teachers need time and support to keep up. My son’s teachers can’t even keep their web sites up to date with assignments, much less build a course that can be taught partially online or taken at a student’s own pace.
Looking forward to participating in this conversation at the conference. It’s a good topic!
Will Richardson says
Thanks for reading Jane. It is overwhelming in many ways, but it’s also a great, exciting, fun place to be. Take your time with it, look to your students for context and guidance. Get your own practice around it all first, and look to your online network for help.
Just out of curiosity…does your new book that you speak of “Greening Education” have to do with things such as getting away from textbooks, etc., as we know them and going to material on-line? What about using something like a Kindle in the classrooms? I will read this one next, but until them, was just wondering.
Dqvid Walker says
It’s an exciting…uh…conversation! Ideas about practice, plans, platforms, and possibilities are. I would love to hear more about what students are demanding too because I struggle to find students who have the bug. Their indiscriminate exposure to technology, their narrow and often compulsive use of it, and their fundamental misunderstanding of much of are cultural barriers we have to work hard to breach. What is more, there is a lot of research that points to the ways students/kids use hand held devices, social networking, and gaming inhibit their socialization. None of this is to say that technology is “bad” but that there are sociocultural forces at work here that we in educational communities must be aware of and educate for as we explore what new schools and new learning will be. How will we draw students and parents to education, which so many feel is sterile, at the very least? How do we motivate them to explore, to be curious, to ask questions when learning is a struggle to be circumvented. How will we help to listen to each other, to value each others’ learning, to work together when there are so few models for this kind of scholarship? I guess what I am trying to say (clearly with some frustration at the end of a challenging day) is that we have to be acutely aware of our audience as we move forward with this conversation. How will we meet kids where they are, hook them, and bring them along with us? We have to provide them with compelling reasons for wanting to use the technology more broadly than they do.
I found your comments interesting in regards to the students’ relationships with today’s technology. They have been exposed to it their whole lives, so are they blase about it? They can pick and choose which parts they want to explore or utilize, so why would it be in relation to learning? I guess it’s easy to say that we, as educators, should be tech-savvy and incorporate it in the classroom and our curriculum, but if the student is still not motivated to learn, or does not care, will it make a difference? I know it will to some…I’m just thinking out loud!
HÃ©lÃ¨ne James says
Like Jane, I am learning about how to integrate new technology in my classroom. I am well equipped in the classroom (smart board, Elmo, internet accessâ€¦), I just do not really know what to do to integrate the technology. Our school district offers training classes, which is great but not enough. I did not grow up with the technology so it takes me time and many tries before I master new activities. As a new teacher, it is difficult to find the time to integrate the new technology in an efficient way. So far, I have been using technology to â€œdo things differentlyâ€ and not â€œto do different thingsâ€.
The technology changes so fast that it s difficult to keep up with it. I also see how difficult it is to change teachersâ€™ way of teaching. I am willing to try new strategies as long as I understand where I am going but others teachers barely knows how to use a computer. Another obstacle to changes is money, so many districts are struggling with their budget and cannot afford new technology which I agree with Carole Trone increases inequalities between schools.
I want each student to be able to have access to the technology I just donâ€™t see how it is going to happen in the near future. I hope that with time more changes will occur, which will allow public education to catch up with our society.
Thornburg, D. (2004). Technology and education: Expectations, not options. (Executive Briefing No. 401). Retrieved January 4, 2010 from http://www.tcpdpodcast.org/briefings/expectations.pdf
Chad Evans says
I know it’s rather simplistic, but I think schools need to define what their purpose is, and work towards that end. They continue to be jack of all trades, master of none type places where occasionally something spectacular catches on. It’s not that the bar keeps getting raised, it’s that while the bar gets raised, four more bars pop up and then are raised. What is a genuine and realistic expectation for what our schools should be able to provide for our students?
I think another conversation needs to be about collaboration and the role that it plays in the effectiveness of schools. It seems to me that its counter-intuitive to have struggling teachers in front of students without providing MORE support. In some Asian schools, teachers spend as much time during a day collaborating- designing quality lessons and helping all teachers to be effective- as they do in front of kids. What would American schools look like if the average teacher was given time to truly collaborate? ( I realize that this can also be done in plc’s outside of school, and many times more effectively)
Another conversation should be about authentic assessment. Many teachers are frustrated with standardized testing, yet the only means of assessment they use is pencil and paper. There seems to be a huge disconnect here. They argue that they have to prepare kids for a test, so they give more tests. And these tests rarely hit upon true critical thinking skills or analysis and focus mostly on arbitrary information that could be googled in miliseconds. I do believe that conversations about authentic assessment could also drag the frustrations of “standards” and defined curriculum into the mix as well. Who determines what kids should know and can do?
Other conversations to be had could include:
-Interdisciplinary Approaches to learning, as opposed to defined “subjects”
-Teacher issues like lack of autonomy, lack of trust between administration and teachers, teacher willingness to try new things without penalty
– The lack of transparency in classrooms and schools (and how technology can change that)
– Focus on student learning instead of teaching. When we do this, we refocus what is best for kids.
– We have to look at “policy” regarding access to emerging technologies.
Sorry for the long list, but I think there is tremendous potential in schools if we were willing to ask that simple question “What do we want our schools to look like and be?”
John Carver says
Chad I am right with you. We need to have a “laser” sharp focus as to what the mission of US education is to be. US News and World Report January 2010 cover: “Will School Reform Fail?” does not paint a pleasant picture. In reading this, it appears that our Nation’s education system priority is on “college prep.” Is this the mission, to get kids to college? I am not convinced Colleges and Universities have it all figured out. If the mission of US Education is college, what about the trades? What is wrong with being a plumber, welder, or mechanic? Why do we honor these vocational choices?
We believe at Van Meter that the purpose of an educational system is to find the students passions and strengths, then “coach” them (and their parents) in that direction. We honor all student choices and strive to develop their â€œpassionsâ€ and prepare them with skill sets for a â€œprofessionâ€. We work to emphasize service to other and the importance and responsibilities of our freedoms. You may want to read blogs posted by Van Meter Principal Deron Durflinger http://derondurflinger.blogspot.com/ or mine at http://johnccarver.blogspot.com/
Dave Waltman says
Some first thoughts…
1. There will always be school. Remember this is a nation with 2 income parents and parents are incapable or unwilling to be in charge of their kids education….kids gotta go somewhere. What goes on inside these physical buildings? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.
2. There will always be teachers. The role might be drastically different. The environment might be drastically different. In the end, children and young adults will need some guidance on how to be in charge of their own learning.
3. Contact time will decrease. This country assumes contact time will increase learning (increase the school day, summer school, Saturday school). This assumption will be blown up as multiple avenues to learning open up.
4. High school and college will blend for many students.
Ok…that’s off the top of my head. More thoughts but not enough time to articulate right now.
John Carver says
Dave you have many good points and great thinking! I have seen the skill sets needed for teachers of the future (today). Observing the Central Iowa Bloggers (CIB) event recently convinced me that there are â€œoff the shelfâ€ people who could step and hit the ground running, networking and facilitating learning. My thinking/task now is to get them into classrooms.
Time? If we connect kids to their passion, my hypothesis is they will spend more time. Being a 1:1 school in grades 7-12, what we are finding is that learning continues beyond the classroom. Conversations and interaction via iChat go on non-stop. (We had 2 snow days last week. Teacher and students continued to connect via iChatted and e-mail. VERY COOL!)