Time to Rethink

original post here

For the last two weeks educators from all over the world participated in a unique online conference. While the event is now over, all 40 sessions of the K12 Online Conference are still available online. These 20 minute sessions as well as several longer keynotes challenged my thinking in several areas. In the same time frame, an interesting forum entitled Brave New Classrooms 2.0 featured a series of posts that generated an active comment discussion about education today. Participants included notable edubloggers and authors of texts that have been embraced by educators. The forum paired bloggers in an embracing versus banning technology format.

I really enjoy consuming material that makes me think deeply about what I believe with respect to what is best for today’s students and both of these events did just that. The k12 conference really challenged my thinking on classroom instruction and pedagogy and offered possibilities that can be attained if we embrace change. The opposing viewpoints expressed in the Britanica Series point me to a few essential truths that should be used to force and propagate change.

One: We can’t role back or control changes in culture, regardless of whether we think the change is an enhancement or a detriment to quality of life. Technology has impacted daily interactions and changed the way we do things. It has permeated nearly every aspect of life and in so doing, it has gotten easier to use. Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody,describes this phenomenon well:

Communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.

For education, that means we have a responsibility to harness and leverage technology’s power, to use it to engage students and to teach them the responsibility that goes with employing it wisely. To do anything else results in a futile exercise of trying to control or even ban technology when, at best, you can manage and attempt to marginalize its invasiveness while doing a serious disservice to our students.

Two. Too many of our students hate school but love learning; and if they do like school, they point to social reasons as the part they like. Michael Wesch’s post frames this concept well. His post also points out my next truth.

Three. Too many of our students are just “getting by”, working to the least common denominator (LCD) for performance instead of being motivated to push themselves. Wesch explains how and why students “get by”

Studying, taking notes, reading the textbook, and coming to class topped the list. It wasn’t the list that impressed me. It was the unquestioned assumption that “getting by” is the name of the game. Our students are so alienated by education that they are trying to sneak right past it.

This translates into:

We can’t stop change.

We owe it to kids who love learning to change.

We are failing them with LCD acceptance.

It makes you ask: How do we systemically change? It’s a big question even if scaled down so systemically is confined to the single institution of which you are a part. It is a difficult question but not to tackle it is to acknowledge and accept failing our students. For me it means rethinking several key areas. In some cases it may even mean unlearning and re-inventing.

This week join me in rethinking things. Wednesday, we will rethink assessment. Thursday, we will rethink content and skills in a way that embraces 21st century literacies. On Friday, we will rethink classroom boundaries, both time and space. This weekend, we will rethink faculty professional development.

Before we start the conversation, I’m assigning a little homework. Choose a session that interests you from K12online, read a pair of posts from Britannica, or read through an ebook that was posted on this site in this same time frame. Leave a reflective comment. Only rule, you own your words and must act and assume good intent.

Isn’t that part of being a 21st century learner? If we aren’t willing as educators to be learners first, should we rethink career choice as well?

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