Friday, November 19, 2010

A reader sends along this insight into today's public education

And asks that I post it on the blog.  Being one of my legions of fans, how could I refuse?  Read and enjoy:

“The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities.   Our goal is to help you make connections with other educators and students”Apprently it's a teacher or educational professional reflecting on a conference about improving our schools. Some food for thought, and a glance into the ideas being tossed about in the hopes of pulling America out of its downward spiral.  I have my own ideas about these things, but will hold off for now.  Any other observations? 
The world of today is not the world of yesterday, but it is also not the world of tomorrow. Yesterday I took part in the Global Education Conference.

What this means is turning students toward being more globally minded, globally interactive learners who not only think about other countries and learn about their histories etc., but they are encouraged to reach across the oceans using technology (like blogs) to do projects and interact socially and educationally with students in another part of the world.

The subjects of the sessions for this conference are very broad. Some focus on infusing 21st Century skills into the classroom- or other learning environments. Some focus on different aspects of teaching. Each one has a unique take on Education.

The ones I have attended so far are more focused on 21st Century skills and teaching in different ways.

Inviting Authentic Student Question: If you ask them to question - sooner or later they will question you
The title was interesting but not exactly what the focus of the session ended up being. The presenters began with asking those who were attending the session to give reasons that students do not ask questions in class. The responses that they received I don’t think were the ones that they were expecting. This being an all American crowd they focused on the social interaction aspects.
Responses like – not wanted to be wrong, being made fun of, feeling dumb if they asked a question, bullies etc.
This was clearly not where the mindset of the presenters was at. The focus was supposed to be on the teacher not being open to questions. And telling them about how they can make their students more willing to ask questions- “outside the box” to discover what they really want to learn about. Or “Learner centered education”.
There were some great ideas, innovative thinking as teachers to move from book learning to applied learning. But they really missed the issues that are affecting classes today. The ideas they spoke of would never be able to happen in many schools due to funds, overcrowding, lack of time, and behavioral issues. As a teacher I did employ similar tactics in my classroom. From having small centers where the 2-3 students in each group could discuss openly the ideas that they had about the subject at hand and could say to this small group- I don’t get it and not feel threatened; to removing all the desks from the classroom and taping off sections on the floor to represent the amount of space the pilgrims had coming over on the Mayflower. The students then had to stay in their space each day until we reached the “New World” – or were able to go outside and explore.  This was in a classroom of less than a dozen kids however so it was unfeasible to do. I cannot imagine going to a classroom full of 28 kids and trying that same project. It would not work. For one thing the space in itself would not exist. Kids are crowded in their desk areas probably with less space than the Pilgrims had. They would probably not take the same away that my other class did.
If teachers are to be able to do innovative things to help students go beyond the normal learning we may want to reconsider how schools are set up.
Assessing your Innovation Capabilities
Speaking of reevaluating how schools are set up, the next session I attended was focused entirely on how schools would rate on a rubric that the presenters had created and been using to see the innovation capabilities of schools around the country. The first thing they pointed out made me think they were actually trying to go about things in the right way. They said that only schools that are able to teach the curriculum fully and are succeeding at this aspect of education could move forward and be innovative.
There were many criteria that schools had to meet to move up the ratings on this rubric. It was nice to see that even though they were looking to move from basic skills to applications of learning and student centered learning that they saw it as a process to not jump into until your school was ready.

My take on so much of these types of 21st century thinking and ideas is that we as a country are not there yet. Our schools are still living in the 20th century and not doing very good at that. Too much focus on the latest agenda they are supposed to make sure gets taught, too little money and too many demands on teachers. Give the teachers a chance to have a classroom where they can truly take the reigns and not be called out for any number of things like “racism, censorship, bigotry, etc” just for trying to control the classroom that probably does not have the proper equipment, is over crowded, and has students in the class that continually cause problems but they are not allowed to deal with them in a way that would right the situation. In the perfect environment, in the perfect world the teacher could help students progress in learning beyond the basics. But since we do not live in a perfect world and they do not have the perfect set up for their classes be happy when they are able to teach the students the basics successfully. Then we can move forward and try to find ways to help teachers move out of the box and innovate.


  1. Ok so I just finished another session. It was about video conferencing to do test prep. It sounds good on idea side, but with time zone differences may not be as feezible and these teacher would like to think.

  2. I'm not sure I get the point. The conference seems to be for educators, and there are some particular ideas being suggested. But the summary is a generic appraisal of our public education. Are things looking better, looking worse, what?

  3. Mostly different looking. It all depends on what happens next. Trying to reach out to students across the globe seems like a good idea. In reality we may just have to see how it plays out. In some ways there is a charging ahead to try and bring new and innovative ideas to the table (nothing wrong with that) but then they forget that the most important point in education is learning the material. Most of the world of education is actually focus on State standards and making good grades on the state test (that means money) So if innovation can happen and the grades are still able to be made it is a good thing. But if learning is sacrificed on the alter of 21st century ideas- that is a problem.


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