Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Take responsibility not tests!

Lots happening in teaching today and I'll comment on three:

1) Bill Gates and Charlotte Danielson agree with teachers that bubble tests are not the answer to whatever the educational question happens to be. Nonetheless, nobody suggests getting rid of them altogether; just use them sanely (don't, e.g. release teachers' scores to the public) AND keep trying to construct assessments that are both authentic and do-able. Check out http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2012/03/20/gates.html?tkn=YYOFvJReWV7OELHkPh1bCubdpGAVRhUGbVE%2F&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1.

So if the big money (Gates) and the big expertise (Danielson) on the side of angels, why aren't those angels pushing back big time and mounting resistance to the continued foregrounding of standardized tests in educational policy decisions. Barack and Arne, get a grip!

2) Kids in blended schools (on-line plus face to face) like the individualization and autonomy BUT criticize the blended format because they have to take more responsibility for their own learning. YES! I am laughing myself silly and I think Dewey might be chuckling too. Apparently in at least some places blended settings are getting it right and developing kids who are both smart and good (even if they are a little resistant to it at first). But I have to say that I doubt it's "blended learning" per se that is making the difference but an educational approach using digital tools combined with that focus on autonomy and responsibility. And that's been happening in some kinds of alternative schools for a long time. (I'll haul out my oft-used example of Central Park East High School in the early 90s -- but we could go back much further than that).

3) Emily Douglas who was talked out of being a teacher by her teachers who told her they weren't paid enough and they were not respected found her way back to education with Batelle for Kids after a career in human resources. But she's paying attention to the buzz of teachers now and is worried that we are heading for a teacher shortage. And a recent Met Life survey supports that buzz, suggesting that good folks are getting fed up, losing their heart for this critical work, becoming literally "de-moralized" as my friend Doris Santoro points out.

The second story looks to me to be very good news, that in some places at least, technology is being used in just the educational ways we want and need. But the first and third stories are looking like potential opportunities missed unless educators -- and parents -- everywhere stand up and speak differently. Current policy that leads with weak and indefensible forms of standardized testing resulting in high stakes decisions is driving teachers away and we know it doesn't represent the goals that anybody has for any real kids. Forget parent-trigger laws (another of today's stories) and advocate for and help to create educational spaces where the only thing kids can complain about is that they have to take responsibility for their own learning! I love it ....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John Dewey Society annual meeting information

The John Dewey Society will be having its annual meeting in Vancouver, BC, in conjunction with AERA. A full program of Dewey Society events is available by clicking here. The inaugural School and Society Forum is of particular interest; the theme is "Teachers' Unions Build Trust in Teachers" and panel topics include professional autonomy, advocacy for teachers, and parent and community support.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Minecraft in education?

I recently saw this video of a multi-day collaborative building project in Minecraft, which is a sort of game/online sandbox environment. All of the little whirling dervishes are avatars of users who are working together to assemble the building blocks that will eventually form the train station.

My intuition is that the educational possibilities of a sandbox environments like this could be interesting, but I can't yet work out what sorts of tasks classroom teachers could get kids to do in Minecraft. Any thoughts?

Monday, March 5, 2012

In the Chronicle of Higher Ed...

Last week, Goldie Blumenstyk, a reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education, called me to discuss University of Phoenix's alternative graduation rates. As we've pointed out in previous posts, University of Phoenix's numbers are grim.

Ms. Blumenstyk's article on alternative graduation rates is here.