Nothing really earth-shattering from my end for this post, as I’ve been very busy lately, and can barely keep up with news from the blogosphere, let alone write about it. Instead, I will talk about a combination of blog posts that I’ve recently read that made me think a little more about the fact that as busy as we all are, and as important as we all think we are, we all need perspective, both in life and education.
With regards to life, I read two beautiful posts in the last few days that really made me think about my own perspective on life. I really couldn’t have said it any better, so I’m letting the posts speak for themselves:
Cool Cat Teacher’s post called “Perspective” talks about how sometimes we lose sight of the most important things in life, and when we do, we always end up losing something important. I was going to put an excerpt here, but you really need to read the entire post.
I ran across another great entry a little while back on the Creating Passionate Users blog, posted by Kathy Sierra, and entitled “You won’t regret it“.
Opportunities are not unlimited. There are only so many scenic routes we can take. Only so many sunsets. Only so many chances at love or business. Only so many possibilities to send our lives in new directions. Only so many places to explore. Only so many ways to see someone else light up when you help them learn or do something they didn’t think they could do. Only so many live concerts. Only so many moments to talk to your significant other or kids without keeping one eye on the television. Only so many dog walks. Only so many new things to learn, and fewer to master.
Only so many chances to make a difference.
Which brings me to education, and the call for a perspective or vision there that many have been writing about in recent months. What triggered the writing of this post is this article on 1:1 computing that describes a backlash against 1:1 laptop programs, citing cost, inappropriate use, and a lack of improvement in student learning as the main arguments against these types of initiatives.
Much can be said about this article, and the best commentary I’ve seen so far is Wesley Fryer’s post on a “vision needed“. He argues that schools need:
- Administrative leaders who have instructional vision for teaching and learning that includes INTERACTIVITY and STUDENT CREATION OF AUTHENTIC KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTS.
- Administrators and teachers who insist on not only differentiating learning opportunities for students, but also differentiating the assessment methods they use to measure student learning.
- An understanding by all educational stakeholders that learning is messy. The standardized tests can’t and won’t come close to revealing the complete picture of whether or not authentic engagement is happening in the classroom on a regular basis– and therefore learning experiences that are NOT FAKED are common, rather than rare.
- A “just in time” professional development program that supports continuing learning by teachers in the classroom.
To this I would add that schools need:
- Tech people who believe that technology does not just exist in schools for them. I have seen too many instances in which digital tools in schools are so restricted that it almost makes no sense to have them there, which has led me to conclude that in those cases, the technology has been configured to make the IT person’s job as easy as possible, and its use for learning nearly impossible (don’t get me wrong here, there are many great technology and support personnel in schools, but it’s frustrating to see how many of them don’t have the VISION that technology should support teaching and learning).
- An understanding by all educational stakeholders that learning does not begin and end when the school bell rings, and that technology can and will remove the barrier between school and the world. Therefore, mobile technology, like laptops and handhelds, as well as the Internet can be great tools for teaching and learning as they have the potential to make learning seamless. This also means (as Wesley has said) that learning should be measured by MUCH more than standardized tests, and administrators are finally starting to realize that (see e.g. this example from Laredo, TX). Unfortunately, the backlash from the passing of DOPA is already raising its ugly head, with the banning of all blogging in schools in Alabama.
- Finally, and most importantly, stakeholders need the VISION that teaching and learning with technology is not a privilege, but an essential part of education if we want our kids to succeed in the 21st century. This entails trust in kids on the part of adults. As Judy Breck has said in an interview on Rudy de Waele’s m-trends blog (with regards to the use of mobile devices):
I think it is insulting to kids to give their parents their own PCs at work and make students share at school. Yet we have been doing that for years! And now that the kids mostly have a computer of their own (a mobile) I also think it insults youngsters not to trust them to use their mobiles for learning. My view is that the mobile should become the new device used in education for delivering knowledge. Let’s scrap the shared PCs at school and upgrade the mobiles. Why? Because each student then has his or her own learning device where that student can customize and personalize to have the device integrated with the individual learning process.
On the other hand, there is also a responsibility on the part of schools to teach kids how to use mobile and especially networked technologies in safe, responsible, and ethical ways. Blocking kids from blogging or MySpace in school is not going to solve anything, as kids will just access these types of sites more outside of school, and become more frustrated and tuned out in school. As Cool Cat Teacher said:
Only so many chances to make a difference …