Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Educational Vision Debate

Recently I have noticed a flurry of negative posts concerning Obama's choice of Arne Duncan to be his Secretary of Education (see below for links to a range of views on this pick). This choice has certainly hit a raw nerve with many progressive educators who hoped Obama's Secretary of Education choice would signal a move away from the status quo of testing, testing, testing, toward an educational environment that values creativity over standardization.

Certainly, Duncan's choice does seem to signal that the pendulum has not hit the standardization overkill wall quite yet, and that change has not come to America's public schools.

Of course, the pick may be more about friendship. The fact that Duncan studied at the University of Chicago Laboratory School does hint at a more progressive leaning than his record suggests. Only time will tell.

Here is a sampling of the online debate over Duncan's announcement:

In this corner--Change
Will Richardson
Alfie Kohn
David Warlick

and, in this corner--Arne Duncan
The New York Times
Joanne Jacobs

Monday, December 15, 2008

Breaking Down the Classroom Walls--From Technology to Attitude

My hiatus from American Cultures 2.0 has not meant that I have been inactive. On the contrary, I have been in the process of the most transformational shift in my teaching career that involves empowering my students to look beyond their grades, and the friendly confines of Hershey Middle School, and to consider their citizenship in the larger world. This transformational shift in how we do things in my classroom has been made possible by two changes--technology and attitude.

Due to the changes that have taken place in my classroom since mid-October the classroom walls no longer isolate my students from the world. We now have a WordPress MU class blog entitled Viva la Historia, a laptop for every student everyday, and access to the School District's Google Apps slate of tools, including Google Docs--ALL IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS.

These tools have allowed us to:
  • Have contact with classes in Connecticut and New Zealand
  • Have nearly unlimited information at our fingertips everyday
  • Have the ability to write, collaborate and problem solve issues related to self publishing a book on for anyone to purchase with proceeds going to charity
  • Have students manage their own WordPress blog to challenge their writing, thinking, and creativity (this will actually happen in 2009 after some training)
If I kept teaching in the same way I have always taught prior to the transformation to a one-to-one classroom then I would be neglecting my duties as a teacher. Will I make mistakes on this new journey--Yep! I already can speak from experience how not to set up one Google Doc for an entire class to contribute to and expect them to do so in class--DUH!!! Without the attitude that it is o.k. to make mistakes then change is impossible.

Another attitude shift is one from being the main authority in the classroom to one as a guiding authority who is willing to become a student when the opportunity arises. This openness to learning and sharing is a necessary attitude if we want our technology to truly be transformative.

The ability to think big has been made a lot easier with technology. Or has technology created the opportunity to think big? All I know is that before the addition of blogging, laptops, and online collaborative tools I felt very traditional and in a way hemmed in by the classroom walls.

I can't wait to see what 2009 holds in store for my students!

Upcoming Blog Posts:
Digital Cultures Moodle Course to teach students Digital Citizenship
W4H--Our Writing for History self publishing book project
Ideas???--I welcome ideas to write about