Sunday, March 25, 2007

More musings on the state of our program…Reflecting on a media meeting last week, I ascertained that we media specialists need an appropriate platform to communicate, share ideas, commiserate, pose questions, explore ideas, etc. Given the time demands on all our schedules, I have been thinking that the best way to achieve this would be in the creation of a Wiki. I would at the very least love to explore this tool. I like it because it enables us all to contribute to the communication and individuals can work on it or access it on their own time. With that in mind, I am going to explore creating a RCS Media Wiki. I’ll keep you posted!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MACUL thoughts

I can’t sleep. I’ve been awake for over an hour (granted a crying child with a bad earache caused my slumber to end) mulling over all kinds of thoughts regarding education, the future of education, my role in education, my experience with education; as a teacher and as a current student. I attended the MACUL conference and had the opportunity to listen to experts in the field and educators working to connect 21st century technology tools to authentic learning. I loved Peter Reynolds (author and illustrator) message; “make your mark and see where it takes you”. That is both an exciting and scary proposition. I got jazzed up with the iPod presentation and decided I needed to upgrade my mini and collect some more peripheral devices to use with my students. (iTalk) I made sure to visit Will Richardson’s presentation. I share his concern over the current framework for educating our students. Our current educational system is not doing an adequate job of preparing our children for 21st century; and why? Well, I have some thoughts…at least for Michigan; no one in public education can afford to take the risk on changing how we teach and assess students because our funding is tied to student performance on standardized tests. Will has a plan to save every piece of paper generated by his children at school this year and to dump the stack on the superintendent’s desk in June with the statement; Here is a year’s worth of work my children have generated that they have absolutely no vested interest or attachment. I thought that was a brilliant plan! I applauded this move. I was the only one clapping in the room. Which led me to wonder…

Why am I the only one clapping?

Could it be too painful for us as educators to be introspective and ask why we require so much “busywork” under the guise of teaching? Or realize that our teaching practices and approaches are not truly “authentic”. Was everyone sitting there glassy-eyed thinking, yeah, but how am I going to achieve AYP and meet my GLCE’s for the year and get good MEAP scores? Heads roll in our business if the percentages are poor and there is an absence of hard physical evidence that our students are doing something during the school day, aka paperwork. Let’s face it, a worksheet is tangible and parents can understand it. As a parent, I am outraged at the lack of learning opportunities within my children’s schools and at the amount of time they spend on repetitive paper and pencil tasks. And the homework…I am waiting for something to show up that motivates my daughters to extend their learning in the classroom at home. So far, homework has been nothing but a painful regurgitation of the day. They have already been sitting pushing a pencil for 6.5 hours…now they come home and have to do it some more? But you know what, I feel like I am one of the only parents who feel this way. Everyone else is demanding that they bring home papers and have hours of homework because this proves that they are working and learning in school.

I think we are missing the boat by not educating the parents and getting them on board with best practices.

I had the unexpected opportunity to catch up with Will in between sessions and spoke with him briefly. (That was exciting…as I told my husband; Will is the Brad Pitt of technology and educational reform…stop my beating heart) We chatted about his paperwork plan. I know from reading his blog that he is passionate about the need to change our PEDAGOGY and getting students prepared for life and that he also understands that the changes don’t happen overnight. He understands that school districts are scared to open the filters to allow students to access to all the information that exists in cyberspace. But he is frustrated at the slowness and seemingly lack of enthusiasm for these changes. Let’s pause for a minute and consider his conference call with the senator; yikes! Great point or not, that scared the crap out of me; don’t get me started with the politics. Just follow the link and read for yourself. And I have to agree with his disappointment; sitting in that huge banquet room with all those educators listening and seeing how far he was able to “teach” his students when his role was a facilitator and understanding the need for authentic learning as well as having a method for assessment…and they were like brain dead. All I could think about was John Belushi in Animal House when he first tried to get the boys in the frat to follow him and gave a rousing speech and charged out of the room and no one followed. It was kind of like that. Will expressed feeling a little negative about the current situation and the need for a little break, I can appreciate that. What I wish I would have added to our conversation was to not give up hope. People are listening and reading. He has started off as one voice and by his own admission, thousands of people are listening. Others are starting to add their own voice in their own space because of him starting the conversation, so to speak. Others will start as well. I am not a blogger (yet…I’m waiting for my workplace to unlock the sites). I do have a voice. My personal challenge is to start using my voice to a wider audience. I have started some conversations in my district. I see others are doing in their district what I want to implement in mine. I attended a session with two third grade teachers dabbling with blogs and wikis with their students. They made an excellent point; social networking is a reality in our society. How awesome is it that these students have the opportunity to work on these types of written expression pieces and get their feet wet with the guidance of adults prior to them opening a My Space account? These teachers are modeling such great things for the students; they are learning along with them, they are teaching them to edit, to clarify their thoughts, the importance of an audience, etc. The usual questions were asked about danger and inappropriate comments and weirdoes contacting students. They reported no problems. I think if they did have a problem it would be a wonderful way to teach the students how to handle it so when they were faced with an issue in the future they would know what to do.

I do applaud you, Will, and the others like you who are out there, making their mark and seeing where it leads them.