Wanting the education world to change faster -- we're in a funk

Many in the edublogger community are in a funk this summer. The enumerated reasons vary, but for many, it seems to have to do with trying to change the world and then watching it pretty much stay the same.

After NECC, I personally am left with a strong sense of “preaching to the choir.” The vast majority of people who go to ed tech conferences believe that technology combined with nontraditional pedagogy has the power to transform education. We see how project-based learning can engage students. We know how writing for a real purpose and a real audience can turn reluctant learners into brilliant authors. We believe that the real world interactions are the way to develop 21st Century skills that our kids need to succeed in the world.

Each year, we gather at various places across the country to talk to each other about this, and sometimes those conversations are energizing. Other times, they fall flat, and we wonder what difference this is all making in educating our students.

Perhaps we are talking to the wrong people. Instead of talking to other proponents of these methods, perhaps we should be talking to people who don’t espouse our views: the teachers who don’t have or want computers in their rooms, principals who don’t embrace technology or don’t think curriculum is “their thing,” district staff members in the curriculum and assessment departments, federal and state department of education staff members, and legislatures. These are the people who need to get the message that there are different ways to do things in the classroom that may benefit more of our students.

The educational-industrial complex is a huge, well-entrenched, and slow-moving beast. For the last several years, this bureaucracy has focused its attention on assessment. For even more years, textbooks have been the central instructional tool.

An opportunity for real change may be in the wind though. At the federal level, a new administration will be coming on board next year and with it will come the reauthorization of the ESEA and the reconsideration of NCLB. At the grass roots level, most teachers are convinced that the focus on AYP and assessment has done more harm than good.

As the opportunity for change grows, what are the best ways to move this education establishment toward more openness, more creativity, and more genuine learning in our classrooms?

Here are some ideas to consider and discuss:

* Preach to someone other than the choir. Reallocate time from the normal ed tech conferences to more curriculum-oriented gatherings.
* Work with leadership. If the leadership doesn’t get it, it isn’t likely to happen on a broad scale.
* Be bold. Throw out the textbooks. Reject pacing plans. Engage students. Have high expectations.
* Think of creative ways to make this a reality. Money is often given as an excuse for why change doesn’t happen, but lack of commitment or conviction is more often the obstacle.

Do these ideas make sense? What other ways can we as a community get out of our funk and bring about more substantive change in education?

And as I'm putting together my own conference schedule for the next year, what curriculum shows do you think would be the most important to attend and present at?

Views: 25

Comment by Lisa Burden on July 10, 2008 at 10:32pm
You've made a very good point! I didn't get to go as planned, but in a surprise move I had the opportunity to teach summer school instead, teaching kids who had failed the Texas Assessment (TAKS) for the second time who would not be going to 9th grade without passing or making some progress on the math section.

After the class was finished and they had taken their test, we had two days to fill with something less stressful. So I taught them how to build a Wiki and use it as a social networking site. The other teachers on my team and even the campus technologist were able to observe the tools and learn how to use them. That helped the adults to see the engagement level of the kids rise, and sparked an interests in them to further their own learning about the wonderful web 2.0 tools and try it on their own.

Earlier this year I presented our class wiki and my students' wikis to a member of the school board and while it was beyond what he is comfortable with, but he could see the great potential.
For me it was very gratifying... as you said, much more so than if I were just 'preaching to the choir'. I suppose i didn't even realize it, but nowthat you have brought it up, it strikes a chord... And I teach new teacher induction to World Language teachers, so I already had planned to teach them how to teach foreign languages with wikis and blogging.

But now I am inspired...
I'll be going to a content area (foreign languages) conference and intead of merely attending, I believe I am even going to prepare and submit a proposal for a presentation if it's not too late!

That's the answer!! ...To get out there and teach others to do what we are doing. Even if we don't get them all to join us, we can at least open their minds to it. But I will say that whether it is here in these forums or at NECC or at any ed tech con where we all gather, we do accomplish this much: to sharpen each other, to spur each other on, to further our own knowledge and to teach others who are there to learn, and ultimately, to inspire each other. The rub lies herein: we cannot leave it at that. Or we have not effected change. We must get out there and spread the word and the knowledge.

I join you in challenging each of us to present to our school boards, professional development departments, content area conferences, and anywhere else we can spread our message!

Best and kindest regards,

Lisa Burden


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