Just a quick observation in the midst of my blogging hiatus…
I think it’s official. We’ve got the rhetoric for change down. We’re telling the new story…self-directed, multi-skilled kids with devices accessing content and teachers from around the world using a new literacy, all being assessed through a potent mix of traditional and not so traditional tests. All digital, all the time.Â New learners for new times. New schools and classrooms and teachers for new times. It’s all in there. It’s Prego!
That’s at least the impression you get when you read this latest from THE Journal and host of other articles and blog posts and Tech Plans. For example:
The students will lead this revolution if we keep them engaged and give them hope that they can make use of these technologies that they love in their private lives and make use of them for learning. Teachers will come along with that because teachersâ€™ role will change. In my 2020 vision, weâ€™ll have teachers as facilitators and mentors, and the students will be directing, leading, and collaborating, even as early as elementary school. The relationship between students and teachers will be, on a whole, much different and more valuable.
Ah, to dream.
But here is the thing…read between the lines in most of these descriptions and you get the sense that we see it, we want it, but we ain’t gonna get it very soon. Budgets are being cut. The people in charge don’t really see this vision. We haven’t figured out that assessment thing very well. And so on.
Read all together, you get the sense the revolution is coming, just not anytime soon. And even worse, it’s doubtful that when it does come, that schools in general are going to lead it. I know we have pockets of real change, but while the words seem to be scaling (somewhat, at least), the deeds have yet to follow suit.
Karen Szymusiak says
Can a strong sense of urgency overcome the barriers? We can’t give up and wait for it to happen. I understand what your are saying and worry about the roadblocks. But we need a stubborn resolve to keep going. Just thinking….
Will Richardson says
I guess the question I would ask is a stubborn resolve to keep going to achieve what? In other words, what are the mileposts to getting this new story into fruition? Is it a resolve to support teachers, to educate parents, to find new leadership? All of the above?
I think this is the next phase, and that seeing this vision congealing is progress. We’re just moving on to the next “now what?”…just hoping we figure that one out faster than we did the first part.
Frank Braswell says
I agree in that who is the appropriate player who will lead the next phase?
Tony Baldasaro says
I couldn’t agree with you more. I know you are looking at a national level, but it is happening at the local level as well. My kid’s school has not only lost an incredible amount of technology the past few years, but also cut the technology position in the school. All this, despite a staff starving to connect their kids with other learners as evidenced by the work of @jstepheng. It’s time for leaders (both national and local) to stand up and start moving this revolution along instead of blocking it.
Patrick Larkin says
When you say leaders, I assume you are talking about the emergence of grass-roots leaders because I think we both know that the people in charge would have taken the lead a long time ago if they had any thoughts on doing so. The vehicle that we call public education is on cruise control and we dropped below the minimum speed limit a few hundred exits back. We just continue to move forward well below the necessary rate and are quite satisfied because it meets the lowest definition of progress.
David Gohrband says
Perfect analogy! Mind if I borrow it?
Doug Johnson says
It may be wishful thinking, but the “revolution” is coming. It’s just that it’s coming from the bottom up, not the top down as students and parents demand different types of learning experiences. One reason school choice is so important. And this from a longtime public school employee and advocate.
Will Richardson says
I think I agree, but I don’t see those demands from students and parents scaling…not yet. When it comes to other paths to educational success, most parents aren’t willing to experiment on their kids.
Wondering when a viable “no school” choice will arise.
Nancy White says
We have got to get the right people at the table when we share our passionate beliefs about educational reform. I believe we need to do a lot better job of educating our parent community so their voices are as loud as ours. I know within my own school district, the school board really sits up and takes notice when the parents speak in one unified voice. Will, your recent article in District Administration, “For the Love of Learning” (http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=2571) caught some of our teachers by surprise – because they didn’t know you – and thought you were “just” a parent. They couldn’t believe a parent would actually “get” it.
Patrick Larkin says
It is coming, but I agree with the fact that it will be done to us not done by us. It saddens me greatly to see so many good people who care deeply about kids either not see the need for change or to fight against it.
Oh well, we’l just keep plugging along, tweaking at the edges and calling it school improvement.
Will Richardson says
Somewhere in there lies the answer, I think. Not that we start screaming that “the sky is falling” necessarily (although it might be) but that the monied interests that are entering the education game don’t have our kids’ best interests at heart.
Or something like that…
Not sure if I agree with your comments about not getting there… At least due to budgets.
A district next to mine announced next week that they are going 1:1 k-12 over the next few years. They are doing it without grants or extra-budget funding. They are pooling their different tech & instructional materials (textbooks, not supplies) funds and carefully examining “depreciation” (how long before a certain device is obsolete and needs replacement). This is a small district (3700 students), but diverse and high free & reduced lunch. Two other nearby districts have made the decision to go 1:1 and are now in the planning stages for determining platform and timeline. Another district finished wireless in all buildings earlier this fall and are working on the “policy” (and security) needed to allow and encourage students to bring and use their own devices.
Yet two other districts have no “immediate” plans for 1:1, but will have all of their buildings wireless before the start of the next school year. The central admin folks in these districts say that it is too early to discuss 1:1, but also say that building the infrastructure is the first step towards it.
The technology access is coming. However, all of these districts have also expressed concern over the pedagogy. None of them want teachers lecturing while kids pretend to look at the ppt slides on their shiny computers. They realize that the professional development piece is critical and complex.
I don’t think that we will see a massive utopian shift to student-centered inquiry, but I do think we will see a slow evolution.
Scott Merrick says
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking along these lines lately and here’s a rant warning.
Running in the online circles I run in and being charged with helping design online learning options for a large school district in some senses helps and in others hinders. It’s become very clear to me that schools won’t change until our social systems change in significant ways, and that concepts like the “school year,” the “school day,” “standardized” assessment, and even “work” (not to mention “homework”) must undergo significant re-imagining and re-creation before any change can take place in schools. I like the notion that it will happen from the bottom up, but I doubt that it will unless reasonableness can be achieved at the top.
Do our schools need to function on a business model in order to function the way they should? Do they need money? Do they need a creativity injection? What if parents were subsidized for time they spent at home helping facilitate their children’s online learning? What if? What if each professional sports franchise voluntarily donated the equivalent of their top earning athlete to public schooling? What if film studios followed suite, matching the earnings of their top-earning entertainer? What if we assessed by means of authentic “performances of understanding” instead of with bubble tests whose questions get harder as higher percentages of students do well on them? What if the “powers that be” understood that’s the way to do it?
Just thinking out loud here. Sigh indeed.
Sandy Fivecoat says
So sad that in this time of technology revolution (who would have thought we’d already have smart phones with 2 way video chat?) schools still lag. Not only are budgets a problem, our policies are often woefully out of date as well. Heaven forbid we ‘allow’ students to use mobile devices in school (cell phones — gasp!) — even though they represent the fastest path to equitable access for everyone. One reason we started WeAreTeachers (full disclosure: I am a former classroom teacher and founder/ceo of WeAreTeachers.com) is because we believe in grass roots efforts by teachers as the real hope for education change. We find companies willing to support teachers who provide small ‘grants’ to them, so that resources can go directly to those most able to make an immediate impact – versus resources at the top of the administration of districts, where change is so slow to impact real children.
Will, good to hear from you again, must be a good book on the way. I think there are two main hindrances to this dream coming true. The first is that currently, affluent parents send kids to traditional schools, where the students score well on standardized tests, get lots of homework and parents see no real reason to change. Their kids are on top and they there is no catalyst for change.
I am at a community school and am trying to make change happen. I believe it is easier here in many ways. My “dream” is that my kids succeed and our success is an example for all other schools. Perhaps the way kids are tested will have to change if this dream ever is to come true?
The second relates to the purpose of school. My son is in a classroom with 32 other kids. One of the main objectives of teachers in such classrooms is to have a class that behaves. Lectures and assignments accomplish this very well. Not to mention that many teachers have no clue of how to change their classrooms for the 21st century anyway!
It is not an easy thing to be a facilitator for 33 kids. Professional development, PLC’s, blogging are definately part of the prescription.
Brittany Schneider says
My name is Brittany Schneider and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Al. I enjoyed reading your blog post. While in this class, I have been able to learn about new technology available to teachers and more importantly, how to properly use it. As a future teacher, I am looking forward to being able to implement these practices in my classroom. But you are correct in your comments. While most people are excited about the future of teaching, the reality is with the economy in the shape it is in and with budget cuts nationwide, it will be hard to implement. I honestly even have the fear that the career I am looking so forward to having will be impossible to enter, due to cuts. There are so many advantages to having technology in the classroom and unfortunately, it seems that the schools are suffering the most. I am keeping hope that there will be a change and the revolution will be sooner rather than later. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Brittany
Hi Mr. Richardson,
My name is Ashley Goodwin and I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 CLASS. I couldn’t agree with you more. I do think technology is very important for learning and teaching, but I don’t believe the education system sees the overall benefits and product. I know we didn’t have a lot of technology in my elementary-high school grade levels and I do believe it’s getting cut at the moment. It’s a great idea, but it will take awhile to achieve in my opinion.
Deb Schoman says
Whether you teach at an independent school or a public high school, we are all being driven by the college entry demands. Collegeboard (AP and Subject area tests), state testing drive many of our curricular decisions currently. Independent of the economic issues, our schools are reluctant to make significant (deep) changes as they are concerned about “tipping the cart”, altering the tried and true programs, potentially causing students not to have the best opportunity to be considered for the top universities. We are very interested in further expanding our integration of technology into the curriculum, and I am pleased to see this happening at some levels but we are far from the model you are dreaming of… Creative curricular development is being stunted at the high school level by the need for kids to master massive content and demonstrate it on the almighty AP. I hope we have a student revolution! Maybe they can help change this story. They are already creating and using technology in ways that create and enhance their own personal learning! College professors also need to be pulled into this discussion if we are to make real change moving forward.
I look forward to meeting you soon- as you will be visiting our school after Thanksgiving break!
I am not sure technology and creativity are disallowed in AP classes — I did this in my AP United States History class…
Why not, at least at times, allow strong students to demonstrate their learning in such a way? I imagine there is enough time to be able to do “creative” work and standard college-level essays, too…
Hi Mr. Richardson,
I am currently a student in the Faculty of Education in Ontario Canada. Your discussion around “a revolution” correlates with the questions I ask myself around having chosen teaching as a profession. We (prospective teachers) are being told that we are the ones who will lead this change and yet what I have witnessed in schools is so far from where we should be. I feel as though I am being bombarded with all this educational jargon, but have no idea how to make it work in a traditional system. I wish that all stakeholders would take student learning at heart in order for us to have a framework in which we could implement change… Having only been out for four weeks in my practicum, I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me. But I will say that my fellow teacher candidates and I have been provided with the vision to which you have alluded to.
As a student teacher currently taking a tech class, I can see the vision and in theory see the potential technology has to bring in the students lives and our classrooms. For example, google docs is free and it seems this type of digital tool can make the writing process more valuable as teachers could give feedback during the drafting process (during the learning) and not just the final project. For elementary students, I will agree I don’t know how real this could be anytime soon. And what do we do about assessments? But, hopeuflly as we continue with out world trends, make mistakes, and take risks, we will discover the revolution along the way. This is what we ask of our students isn’t it?
Dave Sherman says
For the record, some of us “people in charge” really DO see the vision.
I am currently a public school library media specialist in South Carolina. I work with second and third graders. Over the past few years, I have taken several online courses through PBS Teacherline dealing with technology and its integration into and potential impact on education. These classes have stressed Web 2.0 and the myriad of possibilities that these applications could bring to the classroom. The class I am taking now, Communicate and Collaborate Online has stressed the need for teachers to be members of Professional/Personal Learning Communities and for students to engage in project based learning, facilitated by online collaboration with their peers and experts around the world. We each had to design an online collaborative project that we could then take back and implement with our students. I did a variation of the Flat Stanley project (www.flatstanley.com), incorporating blogging and having students work collaboratively to write an original Flat Stanley adventure through the use of a wiki.
There are 14 students in this online class. We’ve learned a great deal about the possibilities, and steps needed to achieve a model of education such as you have described in your post.
But how many thousands more educators have no idea what a wikis or blogs or RSS Feeds, or Google Docs are, let alone be able to integrate them into their teaching.
I don’t know if change and revolution can come from the ground up. The changes that need to be made are monumental, all-encompassing, requiring a complete shift in philosophy and ideology. I believe it will take some very influential people in powerful positions who truly have the best interest of the nation’s children at heart. Trouble is, the people who have this vision aren’t in the position to effect the changes, and the people with the power to effect the changes, don’t have the vision.
I am one teacher with just a few students, armed with just a little bit of knowledge that might help to prepare the students I interact with for a better future. But I am a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. I firmly believe that if something doesn’t change in our education system, and change drastically, our nation is headed for disaster.
Robb Leone says
I am checking to see if I can poat a comment…