Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making an Educational Statement!

Many individuals in and outside the educational profession are aware of the rising drop-out rate of students. We have heard and discussed educational reform, but do we really "see" the importance/need for finding ways to reach students in our ever-changing society? One such organization, SS&K, has taken the initiative to visually demonstrate what 857 students dropping out of high school every single hour, every single school day in the United States looks like. As Adam Hollander, the person responsible for the desk display stated, "We now live in a very visual culture. Now, you have to see it to believe it. Everybody hears that 857 number, but it doesn't really mean anything until you're able to see it." The visual statement was made with the goal of calling attention to the urgency for educational change in our society. Will 857 desks on the National Mall make a difference? Yes, no, maybe so . . . While such a demonstration may not give steps/directions for movement, it definitely calls attention to how fast our high school students are fleeing classrooms.  

857 Empty Desks

What’s in a Zero? Policy-Borrowing and Bad Ideas?

The 'no-zero' policy - the idea that teacher's cannot assign students a zero for incomplete assignments - has just celebrated it's first anniversary in Newfoundland and Labrador's Eastern School District. Along with some recent controversies in Western Canada over the suspension of teachers that have allegedly refuse to follow a similar policy has come some renewed media attention on the policy.

You can hear a short audio report of how the policy has been received in Newfoundland by students, teachers and parents here. Some think that the policy ensures that the assessment of learning is treated separately from discipline. Other feels that the policy teaches children that there are few consequences for not meeting deadlines.

The topic is an interesting one in it's own right, but as a recent editorial in the Evening Telegram points out, this is also a good example of ‘policy-borrowing’ or policy-exporting - the spread of educational polices from large centers to small ones. The no-zero policy in the Eastern School District is thought to be at least partly inspired by an Ontario policy directive that “teachers separate their evaluation of students’ work from their evaluation of students’ behaviour“. Smaller school districts do not have the same resources as larger centers. Perhaps policy-borrowing represent an attempt to 'keep-up' or appear 'cutting edge'?

I’m sure there are other influences. But it’s worth wondering about how districts decide what polices are worth importing, and equally, what assumptions about teaching and learning are underwriting the policies that are brought in. Like introducing and foreign species, or bad fashion trends, policy-borrowing can have unintended consequences.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What was he thinking?! Montreal teacher shows murder video to his students

Some of you may have heard that Montreal was recently gripped by the horrifying killing of a Chinese student, Jun Lin. This person, the notoriety of whom we do not need to increase by mentionning his name, filmed the whole thing, and the video somehow became available on the web.

Normally, I wouldn't write about this, since it has nothing to do with education. But in a bizarre development, a Montreal 10th grade History and Citizenship teacher apparently decided to show this murder video to his students! He was, not surprisingly, suspended on the spot. Patrick Lagace has broken the story in La Presse, and CBC now has the full story (in English) here.

Interestingly, CBC tells us that the teacher asked the students to vote on whether they wanted to see the video, and they decided (via secret ballot) that they wanted to see it. This was, to say the least, a major error in classroom democracy.

This is probably the strangest education story that I've come upon in a long time. Right now, we have few details, but I will keep you updated as it develops.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Check out this special issue dedicated to the Québec protests...

One of my colleagues at Concordia, Kim Sawchuk, edits Wi, a journal of mobile media. The journal has just published a special issue on the Québec protests (and the repressive Bill 78) that can be found here. There are a number of interesting contributions by students and faculty from Concordia, Mcgill, and Université de Montréal--check them out!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Make them wallow in their grief!" More tales from the for-profit college wasteland

It's time for yet another round with one of my personal bete noires, for-profit colleges.

In a previous post, I explained one of the softer sides of the for-profit sales pitch, which is basically "Go to college the EZ way." Go to school in your PJs, in your house, on your computer, in your car (this is America, after all)--anywhere but in the good ol' classroom. Education Connection, a sales lead generating agency for the for-profit colleges, has enlisted Shannen Doherty to make this pitch, but unknown fluorescently-white-toothed American actresses are on the payroll as well (see video below).

Yet beyond the twilit realm of pyjamas advertising, there is a mean, sharp edge to the sales pitch, and we have found out a bit more about it thanks to a recent lawsuit against Everest College, one of Corinthian Colleges' (a giant for-profit university chain) outlets in Utah.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Advertising in Schools to a Poor and Captive Audience

I was struck this week by the juxtaposition of reading a recent news story about the growth of advertising in large and impoverished school districts who are desperate for funding (USA today) and an article from February about districts near Santa Monica where wealthy parents are lavishing private donations on their schools to provide for extra resources and enrichment activities (LA Times). Not long ago I also read a news story about one of the many creative spaces proposed for advertising in some large districts in Florida (and already in place elsewhere) which were identified for their great potential as a massive and untapped market: school buses (Orlando). This reminded me of other reports I’ve read of advertising on grade cards and in bathroom stalls—a place I’ve always thought of as a private refuge from the world. When I talk with my college students in my preservice teacher education course about school advertising they are often quick to say that advertising is no big deal and it’s everywhere. But it’s not everywhere equally. And that fact may be part of the reason why it’s a big deal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Molleindustria: radical video games you can play in your browser

As some regular readers of this blog already know, I have an interest in using video games as civic education tools. One especially radical and interesting possibility in this regard is to use video games to highlight critical social questions, and this has been the path taken by Molleindustria, an Italian collective that "aims to reappropriate video games as a popular form of mass communication."

Molleindustria has released two flash-based games that I think you should go play RIGHT NOW (video gaming in the office is legit if it is for academic purposes, and I'm giving you a free pass)! The games are free to play, and you can run them in your internet browser.