Once society valued our public school educational Institution. It prepared our children for the future. Respect of the institution was translated into students and parents who supported high standards and valued behavior that was conducive to learning. This is no longer true. Schools with metal detectors at the entrance, cameras monitoring corridors, security personnel, teaching to the test, administrators micro-managing teachers, union busting, disruptive students, and politicized school systems is the norm.

The privatization of public schools is the direction we are moving. The standardized tests that determine a school's status and whether it will receive funding or require probationary intervention, only measure one or two of the multiple intelligences necessary for success. Certainly our graduates need to be able to communicate with people from diverse cultures, be capable of solving problems, and be technologically proficient. What standardized test reflects success at this? And since none do, schools are forced to focus less time and energy on these skills than on the skills measured by the standardized tests.

Educators who have returned to the classroom in the past decade for an advanced degree know that the teacher is no longer the center of the classroom, and owner of the information. The teacher is a facilitator of information that is readily available through the Internet. Learning must include more than absorbing information; it must reflect using the information in practical ways, ways that standardized tests do not measure. And this does not require a walled-in room, a 45 minute period every day, nor a factory model of teaching to develop life-long learners. The conundrum is what do we do with the Institution, which is outmoded and how do we reshape it to reflect not just the anticipated future, but the present?

Raise your hands if you think the answer lies in creating more charter schools.

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Free Appropriate Public Education is our hope for social justice in America. I will work for public school until my last breath, and thereafter if I find that I am able.

'Just say no' to the already failed business model in education.

Sure, we have problems in public ed, big ones. We also have some brilliant and creative teachers who have returned to the classroom and can see the future.

Deborah Kerwood
My hand is firmly being sat upon!

What we need to do is develop the Internet to its potential. Online courses can replace or supplement f2f classes. A class can take a mini-course online for a few weeks while the teacher teachers a mini-course on another topic online. Instead of having lots of people with broad expertise teaching, capture the true expertise of those teachers, and use other, more generalized teachers for the general material and the warm fuzzies. And, believe you me, if those schools that HAVE to have metal detecters and armed security, are terribly lacking in warm fuzzies!

Online courses can be either synchronous or asynchronous (or both). The synchronous ones need the expert online during the strict classs time. Asynchronous and classes that are both, can be prepared by the experts who may be doing something else when many students are accessing the course, then daily catch up with what went down online. BTW, a cadre of retired or semi-retired teachers are a good source both of expertise, and being onhand durng synchronous classes. That gives the classroom teachers time to create their own online classes. (It is a fair degreee of work to prepare an online course - there is absolutely no way to "just wing it" for a day.... it must all be planned out, resources coordinated, all the best you want teacher to do and never allow enough time for!)
Anne, I agree that online classes could be a great help and in theory be the answer but not the only one---the reality of giving a kid what he needs in a digital format seems almost impossible. I've seen programs touted as self directed with 'real' teacher at the ready but in reality the kid (especially through 8th grade) really needs a person who can help them when he needs it not at a certain hour of the day. I do think stay-at-home teachers would be a great resource but who's going to pay them? I'd do it for $3000.00 a month, but what school district is going to pay me that for a couple of kids who need my service?

I know hundreds of teachers and I can't think of one that would WRITE an online class (given the time or not)...dream on. I honestly haven't given this a lot of thought so I'm just rambling but I don't think technology is the solution to what ails education, it's just a tool not a magic bullet.
Indigo--Funny story, about 7-8 years ago I won a year's subscription to Blackboard at NECC. I thought about it over the summer and came up with a great idea for an online curriculum. I spent 100+ hours in late July and August writing the curriculum called Exploring Leonardo D'Vinci. My 5th and 6th grade students did the curriculum the next semester and it was a curricular success (if there is such a thing). My district was just getting into online classes and I got a call from the principal who was in charge of the e-school. She had seen the curriculum I wrote and asked if I'd be interested in having it on the e-school website. I said "Sure, I will sell it to the district for $2000.00." She hemmed and hawed and said--"we didn't plan to pay you for it." I said "then I'm not interested in letting the district benefit from it". I posted it to my website after I stopped using Blackboard and now anyone in the world can use it for FREE. Here's pics of the presentation night--it was great seeing the kids dressed in period costumes standing in front of the multimedia presentations.

Several years before that I bought a domain and put all my workshops and curriculum on it. I knew anything I put on the district site potentially belonged to them.

Sadly it is true that there is money to be made in education for everyone but teachers!

I just put the link to Exploring Leonardo DaVinci in a few places on my FREE website. Like you, I offer it to anyone who wants it. I offered it once to the district I was working on, but when they found out how large it was already (it was only a year old, much smaller than now), they decided they couldn't afford to host it.

I agree that technology is "just a tool not a magic bullet", but integrating technology (not just using it), balanced by excellent knowledge of content and the ability to transfer that knowledge to the students, along with excellent classroom management, and technology becomes the magic bullet. It certainly is the hook to grab this generation's attention.

I remember when we began using videos to augment our lessons. But these were often not used as part of the instruction; they became rewards or an alternative way of presenting information for the reluctant and lazy student. Too often, the entire period was given over to "watching the movie" without any interaction between students and students and students and instructor. When used to assist the visual learner and generate discussion, it was a successful tool.

The computer and its numerous applications and web sites present an opportunity to engage today's learners on very many levels, but I find very little dialogue and/or professional development within each school about "best educational practices" for the use of technology. We've already spent billions of dollars wiring our schools and adding the hardware to our budgets, but why do we pre-suppose that every instructor knows how to drive it in the fast lane. Even newbies coming into the field are not adequately trained.
Agree with what you are saying but what I see here and from some edubloggers is the touting of the tool that is 'the next best thing' without mention of content, thinking, learning, reflecting, teaching, discussing etc. Machines are only as smart as the people who use them. I heard Carol Tomlinson say once in regards to meeting the needs in the classroom for all learners "You can't differentiate FOG". That's how I feel about technology--if the content is not real, relavent and rich with authentic learning going on then it doesn't matter how much you mash it, twitter it, d/l it, or mix it it's still FOG.

That is why I advocate having specialists and experts, perhaps in conjuction with tech specialists, develop the courses, probably mini-courses, that can be intersperced with other mini-courses or f2f sessions, to develop the next level of instructional technology. The tech person, perhaps a generalist teacher, could do the work of making the course equally useful for the widest types of students, but the subject expert needs to direct the subject content.

It is probably not a good idea for all teachers to develop their courses into technology format. Just some, who are very good at it, and prouce stuff that can be used by other teachers. As for having the students create technology projects and products, I think many more teachers should more toward having students do that. But again, as you say, if the instruction is FOG, you will get FOG for products.

Anne, The point is well taken about copyright and intellectual property (from Indigo)when it comes to writing stuff for your school district. A school district would NEVER give you enough time to write good curriculum ON the clock and NEVER pay you enough to do it OFF the clock. Whatever you pieced together would be theirs not yours. Then there is the problem with scope and sequence (is that a dead term?) How would you know where to start and stop, ah you would collaborate with others??? Yikes when would you do that?

What you want, it sounds like, is enrichment (or remediation) for individual students on topics of their interest. It sounds like a great idea and I've actually given it a lot of thought but you will never make money doing it and most people don't have the time of the technology skills to do an online class which may benefit only a few students each week.

I gave serious thought at one time of doing an online school for gifted kids K-8, years ago there was one in Australia that charged $350.00 AU for each course. Basically school districts could buy it to provide enrichment (and put teachers out of work) or parents could purchase courses in the summer for their kids to do instead on DS or Nintendo. Topics could literally include anything, Civil War, Dinosaurs, Art History, whatever---BUT it would take hundreds of hours to write good units that could be done independently and were self directed and advance technology skills to include interactive capabilities like video, messaging or chat, uploading etc. I'm getting old, I didn't want to work that hard!!! I know your heart is in the right place but realistically IMHO, it ain't gonna happen.

I'm not one to put my mouth where I won't put my money. I've been doing the ES website for some five years now, since I retired. I got a few bucks last year when there was some interest in putting ads on the site. No interest this year, but it could be the recession.

We've added a moodle to the website, along with a drupal forum (which has not caught on yet). I hope to add some mini-courses, aimed at elementary and middle school by September. I will be taking Tammy Moore's class on using Moodle to address the wide variety of learning styles. She does it, free for donationa, for homeschoolers. So, I'm headed in that directions, not expecting to make any money at it, but just for the sheer pleasure of continuing to pioneer in education on the Internet.

I am hoping to draw in some "experts" in various subjects, to get their input, and maybe their involvement. I am forever the optimist!
Good luck, I just think when one tries to compete with the flash and dash of video games kids are not going to be interested in looking at a list of links and answering a question (which is what some see as online learning). I'd think you'd need some of the quality of the Dohistory project or some other phenomenally rich sites using java, flash, whatever. I certainly don't have those skills.

Homeschoolers would definately be a huge market for any good online opportunities. I appreciate your desire to do something productive, I'll retire in a year or two--I wonder what that will look like for me.
Nancy, I have made Flash programs, games, and quizzes. I have just gotten the new Flash for a 30 day trial, and look forward to doing some of what Flash can do more easily. I can also use JavaScript which makes some nice interactive pages. But, to be honest, the most frequently used on my website are the Famous Americans pages with pictures, summaries, and links to more information on something close to 200 people. Those pages are pretty plain, but I do try to put more than one picture of the person, and keep the summary simple enough for the younger grades. The older kids can get more informaiton on the links. Next in popularity and use are the personalized stories in which the child's name is inserted (via JavaScript) into a story, and they have an adventure with someone in history, like joining George Washington at the battle of Trenton. Putting the child's name into the story seems to draw them in and help concentration. I designed them originally for my autistic nephew, and then a bunch of grandmothers wanted them to print and use as gifts for the grandkiddies.

Anyway, it is all a fun way to spend one's retirement. It isn't for everyone, but if you are aleady somewhat into technology, and don't want to give up the opportunity to educate, even from a distance, you can do it.



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