“Education without Indoctrination”
In my classroom this week, relevant education, aligned with purposeful connection, occurred while unpacking culture and discussing beliefs as an element of identity; as we were navigating the waters of belief as a personal part of who we are, acknowledging that many people hold different views and beliefs, I had one girl raise her hand to suggest: "it's like how my family and I don't believe in God.” Addressing the gasps of disbelief resonating from her statement around the room, I immediately responded, "...and some people do believe in God; we simply have to remember that they have their own beliefs and you have your own beliefs, and the best part is: we are all right because beliefs are personal and belong to each of us. The very nature of our culture is that we CAN be different from one another, which is what makes us who we are."
According to James Paul Gee, education in the 21st century will need to incorporate technological as well as critical methods to prepare the new thinkers of tomorrow with the skills necessary to produce rather than merely consume, participate not just spectate and be an agent for change verses a victim of circumstance. Gee’s proposals that “we need to find the seeking of evidence as sexy as the trading of ideology” and his assertion that “much of formal schooling is devoted to listening to and reading language, not to taking actions in the world that are relevant to that language” are just a few compelling arguments for the shape in which education needs to be molded if we are to escape the mire of willful human stupidity being perpetuated through our current educational paradigms.
But how do we, as educators, balance the relevance of the many contemporary concerns presented within the preliminary discourse of Gee’s text, "The Anti-Education Era," while maintaining the appropriate façade of non-partisan positionality? How will today’s teachers fill the roles of (1) student mentor, (2) experience provider, (3) empathy instiller, (4) goal-creator and (5) meaningfully reflective opportunist all the while engaging students to utilize the technological advancements and critical thinking skills essential to solving relevant real world issues and defining 21st century education?
Lindsey, your little people are lucky to have someone who listens to them and takes seriously the ideas they express (both verbally--the girl whose family doesn't believe in God) and non-verbally (the gasps in response).
I also loved your response: "we simply have to remember that they have their own beliefs and you have your own beliefs, and the best part is: we are all right because beliefs are personal and belong to each of us. The very nature of our culture is that we CAN be different from one another, which is what makes us who we are."
Tying this back to Gee's notion of "education without indoctrination," how do we as teachers balance youth expression of their beliefs and ideas with their need (and HS students have told me in a study I did that this is true) to hear and consider--and to feel free to differ from--the hopefully well-considered thoughts of the adult in the room (i.e., the teacher) who cares for them like you do? It is possible to express our beliefs without being "pushers" of our beliefs? Is this a way of acting as "mentors," "experience providers," and "empathy instillers"? What does "education without indoctrination" look like in practice?
I realize these questions may sound rhetorical, as if I've already answered inside my own head, but they aren't. And I think they're super important to consider as we think about how to help students critique the endless wash of information they encounter every day from some form of technology, be it the TV, the talk radio their parents may listen to (and yes, NPR counts :), and the Internet (and yes, Facebook counts).
Yesterday, I read a 2013 publication by Michael Fullan (a big name in educational innovation) and Katelyn Donnelly called _Alive in the Swamp: Assessing Digital Innovations in Education_. They make the case that while we live in a time when there is "an exciting but undisciplined explosion of innovations and opportunities;" we essentially dwell in a swamp, where the *impact* of technology on education and learning is "murky."
They include a chart that depicts the amount of information created and shared in a five-year span from about 2005-10-; it multiplied almost 9 times to 8,000 zettabyte's worth! (Do you know what a "zettabye "is? I didn't. It's 1 trillion gigabytes.I kinda sorta know what a gigabyte is, but the point is it's A LOT!) It blows my mind.
Again, I'm curious about what you and others in the class think about our responsibility in helping students develop skills that will them to critically determine how they will receive, interpret, and act on all this information. How do we help them become agents of their own learning in these exciting, but murky times?
That was a pretty good response to your student who mentioned not believing in God, for a situation I assume was not anticipated. Curious how the response would have differed if this was a classroom in your native South (though I can probably imagine...). This is going to sound so simplistic (as well it should, since I'm not a teacher), but perhaps modeling empathy is the best way to teach empathy? As well as leadership, the willingness to ask questions?
This is a wonderfully difficult question for me to think about, and I’ve tried many ways in my head, and on this screen to answer it. The part that I’ve been struggling with is the part of the question that mentions our “façade of non-partiality” that we are to maintain in the classroom. The reason that I struggle with this one part of the question is due to this idea: that our education system is set in stone; the way that it functions is the only way, and we must abide by this; that we must keep this façade and pretend that we are not what we are: human. Gee seems to be advocating that the way we are progressing, as society, is counterproductive and we are becoming dumber. It seems that he will be telling us a way in which to help correct this deficiency. I can’t help but wonder as I try to answer this question, and I as think about the current state of education and our society: What is wrong with changing the system?
When I am frustrated with what I read, hear, and/or experience in the American education system, I like to imagine my own school that I would create. A school that is not, does not, nor will be judged and evaluated by a standardized test, assessment sheet, rubric, or any “one-size-fits-all” form of evaluation. It is a school that is free from the political influences of a group of individuals that do not understand the learning process, or how authentic learning occurs; the school and all those who dwell within will not be looked at mere numbers, dollar signs, agendas, or platforms for re-election. It will incorporate all viewpoints, good or bad, and will be discussed upon at length because that’s where that day’s learning took us in class. It will not have a cadre of teachers that are brought down by teacher evaluations set out by these same individuals who are ignorant to who teaching/learning occurs. They won’t be made to feel inadequate as educators because they weren’t able to get each and every student to a level of “proficiently.” It will have teachers who are as passionate about teaching on their last day their as they were on their first day. The factory Carnegie model will not be found at this school. Instead, it would be more of an exploratory kind of thing. It will be a school of learners, who seek out more than what a prescribed curriculum says they must learn. This school will look for the inequalities of the world, seek a solution, and attempt to implement it. It will be a school in which a student will be able to pose a question that they have that they want to know more about, and along with their teacher(s), will be able to explore it thoroughly through any technological means necessary.
I recognize that this an extreme, with many holes in it: where would the money come from to fund this? Right now, the best I could say is a billionaire with no agendas of their own who simply wanted to give me a ton of their money for this school because they weren’t going to do anything else with those billions. I also understand that this is a vision of grandeur and way out there. I’m sure there are few in education that want to keep the system exactly how it is now, and probably have their own ideas on what could be done better. I guess at times I find it hard to think about how we can do certain things within this system now as best as we can. It feels like we are trying to put duct tape around the leaking plumbing, and using a system of wrenches and pliers to make the microwave run at the same time the dishwasher is going; as if we are making it by in this slumlord’s apartment hoping one day we win the lottery to move out of this broken place.
This is a great question that I am struggling to answer right now because of my frustration when I think of why the education system has to be what it is now, who says it has to be this way, and why do we have to accept the way that it is. Why can’t it be changed to something else? For the sake of getting a post in on time, I am submitting this rant of mine in lieu of answering your question. I think I will need some more time to think about this question as you have posed it and then I can answer it better. Also, Lindsey, I hope that you don’t take my rant the wrong way. In no way am I making a comment on you, you questions, or how you posed it. It truly is a great question that got me thinking, which in turn got me fired up. So, thank you for posting such a thought provoking question for me to think about.
Sorry for the rant earlier. I was in a mood and a little peeved at the different forms of inequality that I am now becoming aware of, even in a town like Fort Collins. It stems from a conversation I had earlier with my girlfriend, Brooke, who is studying to be a dietician and is taking a community nutrition class, and she is doing a group project in this class at the Mathews House. It is a non-profit that serves as an after-school program for low-income/underserved children around different locations in Fort Collins. Brooke was telling me about how some of these parents are not able to provide healthy quality food for their children either due to lack of funds or lack of access, and how sometimes Slim Jims are “what’s for dinner.” It got me thinking how the systems that are in place now create a privileged class of citizens that can have access to quality food that is good for them without them understanding that there are others who simply cannot eat organic, free-trade squash that they bought at the farmer’s market. They don’t understand that they have the privilege to read a nutrition label and make the conscious choice to eat it or not it while others have to choose milk or eggs, but not both because they don’t have enough money or they can’t carry it all. It was a little disheartening to think that even food can be a privilege in this day and age.
So, I thought about these inequalities, and I thought on the book that I am reading for my book club Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap by Carrie James in which she explores how tweens, teens, and young adults interact on the Internet, social media, and with technology, and what factors influence them to act/interact in this way. One thing that she discovered is that there is some disparity in empathy for others when this group makes the choices they do with technology. At times, they don’t have the other people that might be affected by their choices online in mind and this lack of empathy stems from no one teaching them to be empathic. So, when I saw the prompt for our forum mention that we have to keep up with appearances of non-partiality, I couldn’t help but let all that I have been thinking about take over in my first post. I felt that maybe the established system is creating these inequalities because we as educators can’t interject overtly our desire for equality, because even though it’s heard all the time that education is the great equalizer, it just feels and looks like education as an equalizer is being stunted. There doesn’t seem to be a possibility to actually allow education to help fix inequalities when evaluation and assessments are more of priority. When rankings on global scales of how proficient we are in certain tasks and subjects aren’t balanced out with how well are we teaching our future citizens to be equitable, ethical, and empathetic citizens. We spend billions to incarcerate and protect this country, but we cut down how we educate this same country. That’s why I needed the time to let the ranting subside to think clearly about Lindsey’s great question.
So, my response for this week’s post is that teachers need to buck the system where they can, and how they can. It reminds me of Jane’s dilemma that we talked briefly about before class: how does she take the student’s interest and get them to incorporate social action into their project, with social activism being one of Jane’s goals to teach her students. Here is a great example of working within the system that she is placed in and still finding ways to not fall into what tests and assessments “say” that students should know. She is trying to instill into her student’s the awareness that there are others out there that are not afforded the same opportunities in life as they have, and they need to think about how they can improve those individuals’ lives with their passion. She is being the student’s mentor, experience provider, empathy instiller, goal creator, and meaningful reflexive opportunist while using technology in the classroom to do it with this one goal/project, and it sounds like she’s doing a hell of job at it too.
The education system, along with society’s mentality about American education are due for a change, but there are still ways and individuals that operate very well within this system with the resources that are given to them. I need to simply get off the soapbox from time to time and think about how do the same, and follow the examples of great educators like Jane.
You make so many good points, especially when you mentioned the fact "...rankings on global scales of how proficient we are in certain tasks and subjects aren’t balanced out with how well are we teaching our future citizens to be equitable, ethical, and empathetic citizens." YES. YES. YES.
When I think about the inequalities in education, I am currently operating within teaching a privileged classroom--and I don't mean the population, I mean the content. You see, an education in the arts is what I consider an equalizer in education because it gives students a space to find where they are successful and cultivate those talents. Will all students have talents to cultivate? Likely not, but those who typically tend to struggle with the "core" of school subjects often find proficiency in some capacity within the "arts" and sadly, these fringe subjects--or what a strictly business-minded friend of mine once referred to as "fluff"--are typically the FIRST programs cut in schools, to accommodate the academic rigor that so many believe is necessary for improving test scores. Your (rather productive and insightful) rant brought to mind my students in Mississippi.
When I came to McCoy Elementary, they were just celebrating being elevated from a level 2 to a level 3 school (a ranking based on--you guessed it: test scores). Because funding of schools in MS is based on performance of the student body and not need, they were likely celebrating being one step closer to financial independence. See, when a school isn't funded, it has to outsource those funds, and that typically comes at a cost. Case in point, the students of McCoy were under strict guidelines for their academic day--90 min uninterrupted reading blocks, skill and drill phonics and math curriculums, and when they were lucky...maybe...MAYBE science or social studies.
My 2nd graders didn't have recess at all during the day, and any student needing intensive reading support was pulled from the "extracurricular" classes for intervention--so no Music, PE or computer. My students had no access to art, an marginal access to music and movement throughout their time at school. Was it any wonder they were low-performing? What was there to engage them? What hope did they have to build passion or purpose outside of passing tests? And how did I respond? I bucked the system.
If I had a penny for every time I have been questioned or had a concern raised about my methods of education, I would have many pennies. The perceptions people with agendas, or those with a general lack of knowledge about what genuine education entails can be a huge driving force in the system, but the value of teaching a student how to think, explore, question, create, and act are the foundations of how we create these citizens you speak of.
I guess my next question is this: how do we get THIS mentality out of the school? How can we--dare I say INDOCTRINATE these people who simply don't see what we are trying to accomplish?
No apologies necessary! I enjoyed reading about this utopian school you suggested should exist. I would dare to suggest that while you think there would be a wealth of educators tired of the status quo, sadly, there exists a generation of educators that simply aren't. Your thoughts made me wonder about the necessity of evaluation and while I am positive the way to evaluate a teacher shouldn't be a blanket model of standardization, how do you truly assess which teachers are actually doing an effective job? Equally, how do we measure student learning and subsequent success? There is so much muck to filter through, I do wonder how this system even CAN change...
I have thought about this as well on how to effectively ensure that teachers are teaching to the best of their ability and that students are learning to the best that they can. One idea that I've read about is a school, and forgive me for not giving the exact specifics of what I'm about to say, in upstate New York that does not do standardized testing, graduation paper exams, or anything that the "traditional" model has students do. Instead, they follow more of a research/thesis project that starts when they are freshman. These students throughout their high school tenure are learning the necessary skills to critically think about a topic of their interest (usually a problem in the world that could use a solution) and they must research, synthesize, come up with a solution, and then present in a thesis defense like presentation. The students have committee members, advisors, and peer groups that they work with on this project. It is a way to assess whether or not that the student has learned the necessary skills to be successful in college, their future career, and in the world.
I feel that is could be a way to replace what we are doing now. I mean, are we not told that we are preparing our students to be successful in "College and Career Readiness"? This is what colleges and careers have individuals do. They don't completely make them sit down at a desk and take just paper tests (especially when I think about a business pitch). Could you imagine a business pitch in which the person simply fills in bubbles based on an exam that the business created for them? Or that someone could have a professional job in which they take tests all day? That's the only job we are preparing for when we test to death. There's no point for the student, and there's no point in my eyes either.
What baffles me is that we place our children in this vacuum that is k-12 education. We make them follow this factory model of learning and participation in school, assess/evaluate on this model, and assume that this will translate successfully in college or their career. Is that why, as an intro course, a lot of the time composition classes are going over how to write for college? Should they not be "ready for college"? At least according to how we have to "teach" in public schooling. I see a disconnect between what the discourse is saying we should be teaching and the actual results that occur from how we have to teach.
I always think back to that school I mentioned earlier and wonder why all public schooling can't be like that as assessment. They are performing in a way that will be required of them once they graduate and we can tell if they might need more help before we send them out there. Assessing to death can only give you stats, graphs, percentages and charts. It can't tell if this student knows how to write for a college class effectively because we never gave them a real, meaningful chance to show their abilities. Testing now never tells us truly if the student can articulate in writing and by speaking that they understood the problem, found a viable solution, and discovered a way to implement it in the "real world."
This could be one way to start making a change in the public school system. We might be able to explain (or indoctrinate, as you suggest Lindsey) on why this change should be made. If you want a "college and career ready" student, then we should give them what will be asked of them to accomplish in "college and careers."
In Response to James' response below - I am equally concerned about how teachers are evaluated - how can we determine if a student is really successful until they can show their success in a real world setting? How can we assume that standardized tests show what our students have learned? In thinking about technology, I wonder what tools are out there to bring our students into the real world...if we can have students use the "skills" (writing, math, critical thinking, problem solving, etc) in a live way, through the internet, or a community project, with a wider audience, if that is, in fact, a better way to show what students have learned, and how innovative techniques may work better than has been widely accepted. One project I'm thinking about is done through a community partnership between Loveland High and Habitat for Humanity. Students who have taken math and geometry classes can elect to take a specialized class in construction math, and the end result of their year - they way they show what they have learned - exists in the actual construction of a house the students have designed and built by themselves, using the skills they have learned in class. This home is moved and given to a family (or purchased by a family) and the proof that the students performed well is evident when the roof doesn't fall in. How more real world can we get? And why isn't something like this happening in other schools?
(also, can I please be a teacher--or better yet a student--in this school?)
((also, how can we make our class right now this kind of space to the extent that this is possible?)
I agree, James, that this is a difficult set of questions to answer, especially in a short comment on a blog! I think that these questions are something that new teachers are grappling with along side the one that you pose, with the ultimate goal in mind: what is best for our students?
I love Gee's chapter explaining the Human Reflective Action cycle, and it got me thinking about the Quest to Learn schools from NYC that we discussed a few class periods ago. This school seems to be enacting just those things that Gee is advocating - hands on, real-world, problem solving skills that involve teacher mentoring and student exploration of many real-world issues. The teachers provide the background experience and mentoring to help guide students, and the students (who are able to take control of their own learning in Boss Levels) have a stake in seeing their given 'problem' solved. Amazing stuff, and I think a lot of us were happy to see a system like this being explored, and a lot of us were disappointed to see it forced to take a back burner to standardized testing issues and parental concerns.
So, as James asks - why can't we change the system? Just as Gee says, we experiment and assess and re-experiment to get it right. But that experimentation needs to be supported, not just by teachers, but by a whole political system of government, boards, parents, students - the public on the whole. How do we convince everyone else that the way our schools work is wrong and that this new way (whatever way that may be) is right?
That support you mentioned is a critical piece of the puzzle; it starts locally. I think we have to start small--our school, our district, our state...and build out. Who is to say that WE in Fort Collins can't be the progressive model of 21st century education? It comes down to US making that difference.
Starting locally makes complete sense. I'm wary, though, about the reception of the public to changing the system radically. Like I mentioned from Gee's map of how we think and learn - developing a new school, a new curriculum, and new way of teaching would take experimentation to get right. We can present preliminary evidence about how such and such works better than this and that, but how would we actually convince our audience? Parents won't necessarily want their students to be the guinea pigs for an experimental education - what if it fails? (Although I volunteer my children if anyone wants to experiment with them!) Tax payers won't necessarily want to pay for an experimental education - its too expensive. I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but in reality this is the mentality surrounding education.
I too agree that individual teachers alone will not be able to make such a radical change, which I think we'd all agree is much needed. And I think starting with what you know (as in, this local community) is a great idea but one question keeps arising in my head: How?
How can you implement something that will induce great change. I agree with the perspectives that Sarah presents, especially in regards to parental outcry. So I keep cycling through that question of how it could work and ensure that everyone is still happy.
I think it would be very interesting to have a discussion about this in class (but perhaps that's for another class entirely?!). Although, I predict that it could be rather time consuming since in all reality, we each would have different opinions of how exactly that could occur and most likely would not be able to come to an agreement. But I wouldn't expect us to. Multiple perspectives and inputs are needed in order to implement, reflect and revise such a large task at hand.
Sarah, I was thinking exactly of the Quest to Learn school! For those of you who might not recall, this school is mentioned in the Connected Learning research report we read. Here's the school website if you want to take a look: http://q2l.org/.
Tying this back to last week's reading of _Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom_, did you see any evidence of that kind of teaching taking place, even in some highly constrained contexts?
The more we go along with this line of thinking the more I keep looking for different albeit small examples of something that is not the "norm" of traditional schooling as it is now. I ran across this article http://ow.ly/Smsyy about an new Aurora school that is teaching something other than to a test. They are teaching their students on how to be resilient in their academic studies and to not give up on their own schooling, AND they are coupling this with writing instruction. They are taking their time out of the day to not follow the formulaic writing structure with an article that might not have anything to do with their lives, and they are allowing the students to explore different ways to keep going in school and it helps the students to have a bit of self-discovery.
I feel that it is the small things that schools are doing now that are helping society and policymakers to understand that the system as it is now doesn't have to remain as it is now and non-traditional things like resiliency in life can explicitly be taught with traditional academic subjects like writing can be the implicit thing that is being taught.
I'm reading a different James Paul Gee book about situated literacies, and he would describe this form of learning as an embodied form of learning where students are putting to practice their literacy skills in a relevant, contextualized activity. It might have to be subtle things that help to change the system, along with not so subtle exposure, much like this article for society to understand the change that needs to happen.
Lindsey, this is a really important question, though I admit I’m a bit overwhelmed! As someone who does not have a great deal of teaching experience, I am truly at a loss for how to respond, but I will bumble through just the same. Hopefully by the end of this semester (or at least by the end of "The Anti-Education Era!) I can give you a more informed answer. I do wonder, as a teacher, do we have to fill all those roles for each of our students? Is that possible? Looking back at my most influential educators, I’m not entirely sure they provided these roles for each of their students. Maybe my lack of experience is showing, but it seems to me that we should always strive to fill as many of these roles as possible (Gee selected these roles because they are necessary for true, twenty-first century learning) while also relying on others to help us. This is why connected learning is so important and why digital media provide such an amazing opportunity for learning, I think. We can provide students with as many of these roles as possible in the classroom, while also encouraging their personal interests and guiding them to avenues of learning outside of the classroom.
I want to direct back to Sarah’s question “How do we convince everyone else that the way our schools work is wrong and that this new way (whatever way that may be) is right?” Gee does a good job calling attention to a major problem in the way our society thinks. We are unable to look past our moral, political, ideological biases (what he refers to as "stupidity"), and this makes it impossible to solve our twenty-first century problems (equity gap in education being one of them!). Knowing this makes answering Sarah’s question all the more difficult because we can’t just use solid evidence to prove our point. Changing the way schools operate can’t be easy because there are millions of emotions, politics, and beliefs to which reformers must answer. First, we need a major ideological shift in the way we understand education and in our discourse about what an educated person should know.
Even with 11 years experience in the classroom, I still struggle with the load of managing being the sort of teacher Gee outlines and balancing the many hats we are called to wear simultaneously, and I do what I do with a deep passion for building community and without many of the personal commitments that most in the profession have. It is a wonder everyday how educators manage the lives of their children at home with those at school, and do an effective job in both spaces.
I almost wonder if the response to these tasks IS connected learning...
I think we are both onto something with the great potential in connected learning for us as teachers. I came into this class hesitant of technology. I'm realizing that technology is maybe going to be our saving grace as teachers. Not only are our students worlds more and more connected, but I think there are growing resources for teachers to build communities and rely on one another.
Hannah, these are such great questions. How are they unfolding in your CO150 right now?
I've been reading some work by Michael Pollan, whose a big name in education innovation (see my response to Lindsey's post above), and he presents the idea that the key to true systemic change like all of you are talking about above, we must have "a relentless focus on a small number of ambitious goals."
That sounds more manageable to me. Now, what are your (and our collective) ambitious goals? How can technology tools support you and your students to enact them?
I agree that it is a very hard question to answer. I’m not sure many of us have that answer and the political and ideological ideas and emotions seem to always get in the way. My question to you is can you define “we need a major ideological shift in the way we understand education and in our discourse about what an educated person should know” or what your thoughts might be? I’m very interested in that statement and what you think an educated person should know and in what context?
I think you kind of answered this in the discussions, but I will ask you at break. Good thinking and thoughts and you will do be a great Educator.
This reminded me and got me thinking back to some reading I did in my first MA in Reading over 5 years ago. If you have not heard or read this piece I recommend it. This topic bring me back to the study of Trackton, Roadville, and Maintown students by Shirley Brice Heath’s “What no bedtime story means” (1982); here is the PDF http://www.shirleybriceheath.net/pdfs/LANGLRN_WhtNoBedtimeStryMns.pdf and it’s not a bad read.
Teachers need to be observant of students when choosing books and activities for their classroom, and educators have to keep the child’s feelings and background knowledge in mind when instructing. I think this is an important issue, and teachers need to be aware of their kids when they come to school. I recently read an article called, “Shut My Mouth Wide Open” by Cynthia Tyson, that was a year long study done by a teacher who met with seven African-American, fifth grade males that attended an urban mid-western elementary school. This study was comparable to Heath’s study, and literacy growth. Tyson’s study and point of her research was to engage her readers into realistic fiction that each of them had encountered throughout their lives. The technique of this study could be classified as a Socio-Cultural Perspective in literature because the point was to engage them in various discussions of books that would draw from their familiarity and social class.
The teacher from the article used books that were fictionalized narratives based on socially significant events. The classification of realistic fiction is given to stories that are true to life and that help children see their own lives, empathize with other people, and see the complexity of human interaction. Many of the books she used were about events and characters that each of her students could relate to in some way. She lists a couple of the books that have a lot to do with social justice, racism, and current events that have occurred in the past thirty years. I’ve also used this method when teaching reading and writing in my classes. I make sure I understand what my students are interested in, and try to pick out materials that are relate somehow to their interests, career fields, and lives.
We have to be cautious as teachers when choosing types of literature and texts for our students. Teachers have to attempt to make literacy fun, but also keep the child’s feelings and points of views in mind. Children and parents need to be involved when choosing certain books or novels. Realistic Fiction can be beneficial and a valuable tool to use in our classroom, but we must be aware and utilize good practice before implementing any kind of literature in our classrooms.
Again, teaching kids at an early age how to use technology and offering them resources is just the start. Of course we need to reach out to parents and guardians, but I believe that Universities need to be help responsible as well; Higher Ed Institutions need to reach out and collaborate with K-12 teachers, educators, and anybody at the state and local levels and identify what kids need before they are passed along through the system. I here often from Instructors and Professors at the post-secondary levels asking and saying, "Why are kids not prepared for college? What are they doing in high school or elementary or what are they teaching?"
My response to that is what are you doing about it? Do you have any idea the pressure on a teacher who is not tenured or has a job? DO you understand that when you are told to teach to the curriculum that the school has adopted or chosen, the teacher is held accountable for the students who do not produce efficiently on the assessment that gets the school money? If you have students who are lower income, ESL/ELL, have a hard time attending for numerous barriers they face outside of the classroom, or have some sort of disability, do you understand the teacher is responsible for them producing grade level work? Why do Universities not collaborate with K-12 teachers and educators? Why do Universities not go out and talk with various teachers and educators about goals and objectives, and what kids need before they get past the second grade? Why can't higher ed assist teachers and educators in all schools that are responsible for today's youth? And I'm saying "all" schools because there are many schools that are left in the dust based upon their location or population they serve.
We talk about STEM and by 2020 what we want student to be able to do and be able to compete with other countries, but our Universities nationally will only take the "best" student based upon how they did on the ACT/SAT, state assessments, or grade point average. What about the students who cannot afford college or do not know about the two year programs where you can be a welder, mechanic, landscaper, or Interior Designer. A lot of students do not even know that these exist because
Man, you're citing some powerful research here, Seth. (And incidentally, Gee is also all about it. He cites these people, too, and vice versa.) I love the question you pose here:
"I here often from Instructors and Professors at the post-secondary levels asking and saying, 'Why are kids not prepared for college? What are they doing in high school or elementary or what are they teaching?'
My response to that is what are you doing about it?"
I'm reading a book right now called _Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice_ by Mary Rose O'Reilly. Her central argument is that, much as you suggest, ***we need to listen*** to one another. At the beginning of one chapter, she quotes Henri Nouwen, who poses the question, "We speak about the vents of the world, but how often do we really change them for the better?" (p. 16).
You propose a powerful strategy: the people whose vocation is education need to seek one another out and speak and listen to one another. Now, how can technology help us fulfill the roles Gee mentions (that Lindsey points out in her post above) and those you imply?
Seth, you are asking some really great question, which ask universities and colleges to be accountable. You are suggesting elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational institutions should be working together for a more streamline education. This keeps us from pointing fingers. Do you think Gee would call universities "stupid"? Why do you think educational institutions are not as collaborative as these should be? Why is there this displaced blame?
After reading this question, all I can help but to think is: Teachers are expected to be superheros. Seriously. How often do you hear of job qualifications that have such a high criteria, and at such high-stakes on someone else's life? Not many come to mind. If you truly break that question down, I count about eight to nine components that we as teachers are striving to fill per student. So, that means if you have 20-30 students in your classroom, you are potentially trying to fill possibly ~160 roles for all students. Is this possible? Or even realistic?
Referring to James’ post, probably not, unless the education system that we currently live in changes.
When I finished reading Gee’s description of our school system and how it doesn’t set a student up to change these real-world problems, my mind, like Sarah’s, turned to the thought of the Quest to Learn school that we read about. This, along with James’ description, seems like the only kind of viable options that we could have if we were truly going to try to implement these roles.
It seems as though through connected learning, teachers are able to fulfill most (if not all) of the criteria proposed by Gee.
I'm so glad you brought up connected learning, Kathleen! Can you say more about the overlap you're seeing? I'm speculating--though I don't want to put words in your mouth--that you think that technology can be a tool mindful teachers can use as a "helpmate" so that we aren't trying to be everything to everybody ourselves. But what do you think?
Yes, I completely agree that technology allows itself to be a tool, or 'help-mate' as you describe, in some of the aspects that Lindsey was listing off. Ones that particularly stick out to me, from making connections from the readings on connected learning, are (2) experience provider, (4) goal-creator, and (5) meaningfully reflective opportunist.
All of these aspects that I listed were seen again and again through all the examples provided in 'Teaching Connected Learning.' Through using connected learning, it allows us at teachers to be able to focus on the things that is not under the connected learning 'umbrella.'
The expectations that are held of teachers are extremely high, but the regard to respect is interestingly low; what a paradox! When you consider how much we are called to do for the people we encounter in our rooms, yet factor in the burdens we equally carry, teachers aren't expected to be superheroes, teachers ARE superheroes.
And I agree, connected learning is a viable teaching strategy that can be implemented to help create the space where genuine learning and teaching can occur.
I have to say that I love the author’s introduction about humans being extremely smart and also extremely stupid – it’s the exact kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to draw me in and keep me interested, and I completely agree with him. It’s been a long belief of mine that technology may be a gift in many ways (for me it’s an introvert dream come true, to be able to meet people with similar interests without having to leave my apartment), but I also think it’s making us “dumber” in that it allows for laziness like never before. Fact-checking in particular has become increasingly difficult despite having access to an infinite number of informational outlets, because we can only access biased resources that only affirm what we already believe rather than challenge our critical thinking skills. So how will teachers go about teaching what counts as an unbiased resource, with students from numerous backgrounds and cultures? I love Kathleen's comment about teachers having to be superheroes, because it's so true. They are more than just teachers, but surrogate parents, motivational coaches, therapists...definitely not my calling, since it's the kind of position that requires a patience I just don't have.
Beth, you're anticipating some of Gee's ideas in chapters to come that the seeming affordances of technology can actually limit our exposure to views that might expand our perspectives IF we consider those views critically.
A very unacademic case in point: I was shopping for some Toms shoes online, and I was very happy with their filtering feature that would allow me to select from a progressively more specific dropdown menu the "gender" of shoes I was looking for (i.e., women's), the size, the color, the style, and then voila! Out popped the shoes that I supposedly wanted. The trouble was I only really liked some of them, and it was only by going back to surfing sans filters that I saw both shoes I hadn't actually considered AND the ones I wanted to buy. My point is, if I'd stayed in the "siloed" space the filtering tool provided, I would have limited my choices in ways that were actually unproductive in the end.
How can we move beyond this? How can we help students understand how technology can be both--and often simultaneously--a tool and a hindrance if we don't use it critically?
I have a lot of the same feelings about finding resources through technology (and some that are complicated, too about the possibility of biased and unbiased, but I won't get into those). When I taught CO150 I had to be really intentional about how I taught research. I made sure to tell my students that they could never fully trust sources and that they always needed to have some degree of skepticism when looking at a source. Because I taught rhetorical concepts, there were some easier ways for me to do this. If you frame a source in terms of rhetorical concepts--the purpose of the piece, the author, the text, and the context--it gets a little easier to see how it might or might not be trustworthy. Even then, thought, sometimes you just don't know. You can dig and dig, but you might not always know everything about the author or the context in which it was written. In cases like that, it is worthwhile to try and find other sources that support the one you are looking at in order to find more evidence. In any case, you are right--finding sources in this digital age is a lot trickier than it used to be. But I think I disagree with you that it makes us "dumber." It might in some cases, especially if you never question what you read and find on the internet. But I think that there are great chances for teaching critical thinking to students. Whereas in the times before technology students would find information in books and encyclopedias that they felt they could automatically trust, now they have a wealth of information to choose from and I think that makes them think more about it. There are always going to be those students that choose not to do that, but I think the opportunities are amazing.
Well, I say "dumber" in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way :) But I also admit to being cynical. I can't help it - as a writer of books, it makes me sad to see technology take over literally everything in our world, including literacy, when paper books are so much prettier than on-screen covers! And from there it's just easier to gripe about other flaws in this new system. But yes, this is a great opportunity to teach critical thinking, and that it's okay - even encouraged - to ask questions about what we're reading.
Sometimes after reading posts and discussions from my peers in the education program or in other education related classes via blogs and forums, I think that I would have a well-rounded group of people to create my own school (much like James mentioned). How do these Quest to Learn schools begin and what is the actual process in developing these schools? I think these are what we need more of in order to accomplish what Gee is talking about in his beginning chapters.
An entire shift in how we teach, where we teach, what we teach is needed, but there are far too many logistics that are running through my brain to even fathom this being a possibility. As a new teacher, I have that fresh optimism and "I wanna change the world" attitude that so often is demolished by the oppressive systematic nature of our schools today. I want to hold on to that feeling, but does that mean I should only teach in an environment that is similar to a Quest to Learn school?
First, that is just not feasible-- when I graduate the oppression of my student loans is going to rule my life, so I must find a job quickly.
Second, I do think there are ways we can approach teaching to meet the goals that Gee lays out for us, while still teaching in a public school that meets the norm for a modern school. I don't have any fresh ideas besides ACTUALLY wanting to start up a Quest to Learn school that aren't already mentioned above.
I vote yes on starting locally, and yes on doing what Jane has mentioned she is doing in her classroom. How we move forward in spreading these ideas or sharing ideas seems to be moving toward more PLNs and spaces to express the ideas. I mean we are learning about connected learning because of what other teachers shared. It's like a ripple effect. We start local (in our own classrooms/schools) and then expand via technology. It sounds all too simple, so why are the ideas and goals not spreading with more haste? Do we really have that many teachers who are not willing to innovate, improve, and enhance the learning of their students? I guess I am ending up with way more questions than answers here, but it's not something that one person can take on by themselves. Even going into student teaching with this same mentality a year ago, I was pushed to teach in a way that wasn't me, all because I lacked the support I needed. Positive mentorship could be a starting point for change in our schools. First year teachers need that support and that eagerness for change to feel comfortable trying new things or implementing connected learning in their classrooms. I'm not saying new teachers are easy to sway, but it would certainly make things easier if their mentors acknowledged and accepted connected learning techniques and methods and encouraged teachers to apply them.
I am done. No more ranting. I just feel even more lost in all of this than I did when I began.
Geez--I hear you, sister. There are all these lofty ideas that brought us into teaching in the first place, and then there's the reality of "annual yearly progress." I also hear you saying that there has to be some place we can meet in the middle, and it's probably outside of those constraints imposed by others. You've suggested so many good ideas:
* using PLNs to connect us with other educators who are being innovative
* finding an experienced mentor who's INTERESTED in innovating in the classroom far beyond the "innovations" those outside of education say need to be in place if educational "reform" is to occur
* locating a SPACE where our practice--especially as young, idealistic teachers--can be supported (and incidentally, old, idealistic teachers need these spaces, too :)
I just listened to a 20-minute talk by Teresa Amibile, who actually consults in the field of business management, and is most well-known for her research around a concept she calls the Progress Principle. A key element of her findings researching people who are most innovative, creative, and happy in their work is that they recognize what she calls "small wins."
"Small wins" are these seemingly insignificant daily moments and strategies that can eventually allow us to progress toward larger wins that tie into our lofty goals. Here's the URL for the talk:
She's done a TED talk, too, but I haven't watched it yet. Anyway, my point is that you are doing a great job of identifying some strategies toward achieving "small wins" that will allow you to reach goals that can be overwhelming a lot of the time, like the goals Lindsey identifies in her post
Talk to me about a "small-win" strategy we're using in the CSU Writing Project to mentor new teachers in precisely the ways you describe in your post. Keep the faith, sister!
I was also struck by the preface, I have to say I was hooked straight away. As both an English and social studies teacher, I chuckled at the historical and societal examples of both human stupidity and intelligence. While reading I highlighted and underlined as if I was one of my own eighth grade students, I would give myself an A for annotation. Gee's call," To make more people count and let more people participates," harkens to my own thinking, one of the foremost goals of education in a democracy must be an informed and participatory citizenry. But not just that -as you said James... we want our citizens to strive to be equitable, ethical and empathetic. This is a tall order, but one as educators we must embrace. Working within an imperfect system to make that system a place where kids can be smarter is nothing short of impossible. When teaching argumentative writing, we start by building a shared definition. Being on the same page, talking about the same thing helps us be smarter in ways we never could with out that process and definition. Gee included us in his definition making process setting forth his own definition of smart. The process of building simulations based on experience to think before acting, acting( we have to actually play a part in the world), assessing the outcome based on a goal, choosing a new action or adjusting old action, and then acting again. Do we as teachers guide students towards the tools they need to problem solve and reflect, so that they can become part of this" circuit of reflective action"?
...and to add to your set of really great questions, what role can technology play in meeting those goals? (Notice that I said "role." I don't believe technology is THE answer.) You're using tech in some pretty awesome ways in your classroom, but it's always undergirded with the extraordinary face-to-face support you proved. Technology can be cold an isolating. Only teachers can provide the warm relational connections that students need, even if they don't know it.
How can they work hand-in-hand to achieve the goals Gee identifies to make us smarter?
Of course I want to say yes, but I when I think deeply about your ending question, it's hard for me to completely say yes. It's a goal I want to have for myself in my own classroom with my own students one day, but.... it's also a tall order. It's more of a question of "how" do we as teacher guide students to those tools for success. I certainly do not have an answer. However, I think Cindy does bring up a good point in mentioning how technology could be one of those pathways. Above I mentioned the following as ways that could help us achieve what Gee is asking of us:
"*using PLNs to connect us with other educators who are being innovative
* finding an experienced mentor who's INTERESTED in innovating in the classroom far beyond the "innovations" those outside of education say need to be in place if educational "reform" is to occur
* locating a SPACE where our practice--especially as young, idealistic teachers--can be supported (and incidentally, old, idealistic teachers need these spaces, too :)"
(Quoted from Cindy's response to my comment)
Hopefully this is helpful?
I hear you. I said I would never teach in a traditional public school. I also said I would never teach in a private school, but I have now done both. For years, I taught at an experiential school where there were no tests, students choose a path and teachers guided them along it. At least that was the plan. For the last two years, I have taught in a middle school in PSD. Although there is a ponderance on testing, I am pretty much left to my own devices. There are some guidelines: picking some anchor texts off an official list, following standards (which are really not all that bad),and putting a daily learning target and success criteria up somewhere in the classroom. When you shut the door you can encourage your kids towards action, I am sure you will.