(All definitions from dictionary.com)
Is a school “an institution where instruction is given,”or is it a place where we come together to create and share knowledge?
Is a classroom “aÂ room, as in a school or college, in which classes are held,” or is it any place we can learn with others or on our own?
Is learning “knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application,” or is it knowledge created through exploration, inquiry and construction for our own application?
Is a teacher “a person who instructs,” or is it a person who “models and demonstrates” learning?
Is curriculum “a particular course of study in a school, college” that is delivered to the student, or is it more about a particular passion, around which a student constructs her own study?
Is assessment “the evaluation of a student’s achievement on a course,” or is it about the student reflecting deeply on the process?
Is a credential “evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like, usually in written form,” or is it a peer-reviewed collection of artifacts, acts and shared learning?
Marian Royal-Vigil says
I think the answer to all of these questions is, both! Where I think we go wrong in education is clinging tightly to the old, traditional definitions without realizing we need to also incorporate newer, fresher perspectives.
Russ Goerend says
I feel like I’ve been seeing a bunch of false dichotomies lately in the ol’ edubloggertwittersphere. It could just be me, though.
As Marian said, “both” seems to be the best answer for all of the questions.
Now, how do we bridge the gap without burning the bridge?
Will Richardson says
Hey Russ and Marian,
Thanks for stopping by.
I’m wondering, if it’s really both, why aren’t more schools living the “revised” definition? I know some are, but many? Are “both” ok? As a parent, I don’t want those traditional definitions any longer, but I seem to be in the minority.
Could be just me, though. ;0)
Russ Goerend says
As far as not wanting any hint of the traditional definitions (putting a few words on your mouth, obviously) I think younare in the minority. Probably not the minority of readers of your blog, but of all the teachers, parents, and administrators out there today, yes, I think the minority.
To answer your questions, it possibly goes back to a post you wrote a bit ago about the new stories. Who is telling the stories of the schools that are living in the new definitions? If I remember correctly, the 3 schools you listed in your “new stories” post are tech-centric. If not, that’s a perception that should change. So who’s writing those stories? I want to hear about the schools that run with the latter definitions and make AYP and all those other acronyms we’re put up to.
Why aren’t they? What do the policy makers say when you bring posts like this to them? It’s not a straw man to say that there are requirements put on schools that make it easy to stay in the traditional definitions. As a classroom teacher I’m evaluated by certain measures. I know what will help my students show positive results on those measures. The stuff I want to do (many of the latter definitions) I don’t know of that will show up on the tests. That is not to say that I don’t do those things, but it takes a leap of faith.
I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll just hit submit.
Will Richardson says
Oh I know I’m in the minority. Parents look at me funny when I say this stuff.
I’m not sure we can separate change from technology any longer, so it’s no surprise that those schools have embraced technology as a way to redefine things. And you’re right, there aren’t many schools to point to right now that are redefining, really redefining education mainly because of they don’t yet see what the technology means. They still see it as a teaching device, not as an exploding the walls learning device. That’s too disruptive a vision for most.
Policy makers don’t want change. They want the status quo, or something near to it. (Though it looked like their may be some shifting going on at the personlized learning conference this week, at least in the rhetoric.) And I totally get the stresses on classroom teachers to live up to the traditional expectations. I think what I’m saying, Russ, is that we need more teachers like you who are willing to do both, even if it’s just on faith at this point.
Thanks for pushing.
Russ Goerend says
I think what Iâ€™m saying, Russ, is that we need more teachers like you who are willing to do both, even if itâ€™s just on faith at this point.
While I appreciate the pat on the back, it seems like that’s pushing for more “pockets of excellence” (not that what I do is by any means excellent).
Call me naive, but I don’t accept “Policy makers donâ€™t want change.” Too bad. They need to change. And a few teachers doing things differently — even a few schools doing things differently — aren’t going to get them to change.
So where are the education leaders?
I asked a specific question at the beginning of the last #edopenmic night: In education, when we say “leaders” do we mean administrators or people who lead? I was told we mean administrators when we say leaders, yet we spent most of that #edopenmic conversation talking about how teachers and students can be leaders. Now, you’re telling teachers to lead by example in their classroom. I’m not arguing that’s a bad thing, merely pointing out what I see as inconsistency.
I’ve been pestering Scott Mcleod to do more DABA (deserves a bigger audience) entries on his blog and I’ll challenge you to do the same. Give us models. Force administrators to shine a spotlight on their teachers who are taking that leap of faith. Interview (and post) administrators who are pushing their teachers to take those leaps of faith.
So what — exactly — is it that “the good ones” do to address the latter definitions? Show us. Tell us. Show us again. Tell us again.
I follow a lot of education chatter on the net and I haven’t come across a wealth of these models. It is very possible that I’ve just missed it, at which point I will happily consume those models with my tail between my legs.
Will Richardson says
I don’t think you’ve missed them. Certainly, there are a lot more today than when I started blogging about this nine years ago. And Twitter has been an amazing tool for speeding the connections up; there are new leaders who are popping up all the time and getting their voices in the mix after just a few months of participating. (It took me three or four years to get consistent comments on my blog.) It’s all good.
But having said that, let’s do the math. There are over 100,000 public schools and about 15,000 districts in the US alone. Let’s say that means about 100,000 superintendents and principals (assuming some combined services.) How many are being transparent about their thinking around change using Twitter, blogs, etc? Let’s be generous and say 1,000 (though that feels high.) Heck, let’s say 5,000 just for kicks. That’s 5%. And that’s just principals and superintendents. I’d be surprised if that was any higher for administrators as a whole. Factor teachers in the mix and…well, you get the picture (in my mind at least.)
Now, can leaders create change without participating in all of this? Sure. The superintendent in my district here is leading what I think is pretty transformative change (moving to 1-1, inquiry based curriculum using social learning tools.) She’s not, however, participating much at all in the “network.” So I’m not sure how many like her there are kind of flying under the radar.
Having said all that, though, I guess it comes back to the same question: where is the real impetus for change? My opinion? We’re not there yet, and we’re not going to be until two things happen, imho. First, parents are going to have to demand something more in terms of technology in schools. They are going to have to see it as important, as oxygen, as Chris says. As something that their kids cannot be as successful learners without. And just for the record, I believe that wholeheartedly as a parent myself. The chicken/egg problem here is that we’re going to have to educate parents around that, but most leaders won’t or can’t because it’s too disruptive and too risky. Which leads to the second part.
We all want leadership, but, I’ve become convinced that until we get some real national leadership around this shift, we’re going to be mired in the status quo tinkering on the edges practice that we’re in now. And let’s face it, most of the folks that are in the “network” don’t face the really dire problems that a huge number of teachers face: kids in poverty, kids without access, kids who can’t read or write. I look at the national statistics of kids who are reading way below grade level and I ask where are they or their teachers showing up in this “conversation” we’re all having about change. I understand the cries for “accountability” and “higher student achievement” coming from our national leaders. It’s the easy way to see where progress is (or isn’t) being made. And let’s take a look at how all of these old white men use technology in their own lives. Pretty distressing.
So, yeah, we keep building islands and we build bridges between them and we make as much change as we can, and we keep pushing and pulling to move the needle “forward” but at the end of the day, we’re at least 5-10 years away a whole bunch of people standing up and going “you know what? We need to get technology into every teacher’s and every student’s hands, and we need to make sure they know how to use it, we need to give them access to the Internet, and we need to change the way we think about what we value in the education process.” And more, but you get the idea.
And now that I’ve ticked off my wife and kids who want to go out to Sunday breakfast…
Thanks for the back and forth Russ, and thanks for the suggestions. It’s all good stuff. And as negative as this sounds, I really don’t mean it to be. There is a lot of work to be done…and we’ll get there. I don’t think at the end of the day, we have a choice. But the barriers are still pretty huge right now.
paul shircliff says
both (and more), in layers.
the revised definitions are difficult.
difficult to envision, difficult to create, difficult to perform, difficult to judge, difficult to evaluate, difficult to succeed on top of the traditional framework
learning is always changing, so how do we know we are changing for the better. is the moving target always moving forward. does it need to always move forward every step of the way?
Joanne Hopper says
When I ask groups of educators to identify their most memorable learning experiences, they never say a class where a lecture is delivered or a worksheet completed. They talk about field trips, hands-on activities, group presentations, and other similar experiences. They admit that learning in such environments or through such activities is richer, deeper, and more long-lasting.
The comments that Russ shares about being constrained by expectations, assessments and evaluations are echoed by others. I, too, would encourage those who really believe another way is better to take the risk to design authentic learning experiences, that incorporate required outcomes. Most districts identify the “what” as opposed to the “how” which is still the creative license of teachers. It is doable. In fact, Stephen Heppell suggests the “most risky” thing is to maintain the status quo.
monika hardy says
i believe it’s the second in all accounts.
and i believe the masses can’t believe that yet – because we keep validating learning (represented by the second of each of your questions) with means we really don’t believe in.
ayp, required outcomes, etc … we’re just compromising what we’re after.
it’s like – here’s the best way to learn – but those of you giving it a go (meaning the students)… please work double time.
and i’m all for working double time – for things that matter. but i believe there is enough evidence suggesting that the way we assess now is not producing indispensable citizens. so to me that doesn’t matter. and it’s taxing any efforts that could actually redefine school.
people look at me funny too… but i swear – in each one of them – i see this longing in their eyes…i believe their souls crave the second.
we need to be about removing roadblocks. that’s all.
hey Will – have you read James Bach’s Buccaneer-Scholar?
Sean Grainger says
Yes, false dichotomies… all of these. There’s so much semantics swirling around the issue of what high quality ed is all about. To me its simple.
If we who do things “differently” achieve equal or higher results in learning than those that think “traditionally”, who can argue with that? Just do it and let the results, not the actions, speak for themselves.
I continue to be alarmed by the perspective that tech integration is at the forefront of educational change. Really? There are SO many variables to change… if positive changes in ed were dependent primarily on this one, I would be alarmed to say the least.
Authentic learning is not defined by the tools with which we choose to produce it, its defined by the state of mind of the learner, and tech (although a welcome and fascinating tool for those with access to it) is not the only way to effect a state of mind that proves authentic learning ahs taken place- a satisfied, unstressed, inquisitive and eager learner who remembers what’s been taught and is engaged without requiring motivation beyond the lesson.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for this Sean, but let me press you just a bit to define what achieving “equal or higher results in learning.” Can you expand on that? (Since we’re in the process of redefinition and all.) ;0)
No question that the tools don’t define the learning, nor is it the only way. I don’t think I or anyone else is arguing that. But it is one way that we ignore at our peril. And, yes, I would argue, that in my childrens’ lives, it will in many ways be the main vehicle though which they experience those ah hah moments, through which they become inquisitive and eager learners.
Sean Grainger says
Ahh, equal or higher results in learning…
To me, how much one has “learned” is dependent on three variables:
-Degree to which student is engaged in the inquiry process within area of study
-Degree to which student can display knowledge/ understanding within area of study
-Degree to which student is motivated to continue learning in area of study
I measure learning in these domains. If the tool/strategy/approach I choose results in equal measurements of learning, I have done no harm and can continue to expand possibilities. If it results in higher measurements of learning, then pedagogcally speaking, I have made an advance and would manipulate it accordingly.
There are so many variables to successful learning as we all know- there is much trial and error in each learning context, and I think thats a good thing. Even within the tech integration routine, we must evaluate and re-evaluate perpetually to target those “aha” moments you refer to.
Toby Holman says
As a teacher of ICT, I’m very wary of the fact that much of what I have learnt has been through investigation, through playing with the software rather than by textbook or instruction.
Should we, as teachers, by allowing pupils this investigation time?
There is a 10 minute period when help from the teacher can not be asked for
At the beginning of the lesson, pupils know to come in and log on and monitors off. The register is taken and pupils move to see the screen better.
The problem for the lesson is placed on the whiteboard. Three slides normally. The first with the overall problem and slides two and three detail the problem in more detail.
If a hand is raised within ten minutes, then no help is given. Pupils may, however, seek help from their colleague.
Key message: Encourage investigative learning through timed sessions
Phil Grim says
Honestly to me it seems like the second definition fits my preconceived notions of what education should be. I believe that overall these definitions express a more realistic view of what education should be.
You left out parents. The one factor we have no control over, but have more impact than we ever can. Where do they fit into this this new education definition?
Policy makers don’t want change. As a policy maker we want to ride it out. I know this sounds bad but most policy makers are 50+ and can’t tweet or post or blog or anything. If we don’t understand it…we don’t want it. It is up to you to kick us all out and take over.
Having graduated from college 3 years ago I have seen a change in education. I now teach in an IB program where inquiry is the basis in all the classes. It really pushes the students to become self thinkers which is what we want in citizens. Preparing students to succeed in the future (whatever that is for them) is what needs to be done.
Sean Grainger says
Katie, I admire your zeal for inquiry, but your statements re. citizenship and success are vague. Prepare for success,” and “what we want in citizens” are lofty statements (can you say moving targets?)
You included a “whatever success is for them” caveat, and I agree, but how do we as teachers prepare students for such an intangible aspiration? How also do we define the “citizens we want?” Is there consensus on this? I would assert no unless we’re referring to the generic qualities of a democratic state where everyone behaves and displays good character w/o affecting anyone else negatively, (the basis of character and citizenship canned programs everywhere in education.)
I’d like to nudge your thinking on this a bit- what type of citizens do we want, and how do we prepare kids for the moving target that is their future?
And – in the Orwell department: Does educational reform imply change for the better?
Not sure it can – or should be – both anymore Will. I agree with your thoughts…thank you for continuing to put them out there and pushing this conversation. I enjoyed reading the accompanying thoughts/comments, as well.
This post reminds me of the excellent animation on the Schlechty Center’s website, “The Way Things Are, The Way They Should Be” http://www.schlechtycenter.org/.
Terri T. says
I agree with Marian (from 8-6-10), the answer is YES. If instruction is not also ‘sharing knowledge’, systematic study does not include ‘exploration’, or if we do not seek to model as we teach then we have accomplished neither.