It was one of those days.
I had tired of the regular, beginning of the month department meeting (this was the 7th in 8 days) and for some reason, I felt the need to have one of those meetings where you check in with why you are doing what you are doing. Whether it be a few parent concerns that have arisen, or questions from other departments, I can’t say exactly, but some of the resources that have been coming through my filters lately have really made me look closely at what we do here. What follows are the notes from the meeting that I sent out to our Connections teachers on their Google Group.
As you all know, we just completed the QSAC process here, and with that we went through every shred of curriculum we have in the district (including those old PBL’s) to make sure we met the standards. In doing that, so many thoughts about the next steps we need to take kept coming to me. We are at the precipice of some very big change in the field of education, and at times I feel as if we are so far behind the steps that the rest of the world has taken in this regard. However, as Dr. Richard Miller from Rutgers says in his address “when Gutenberg invented the printing press, we didn’t have Europe plus books, we had a whole new Europe.” Well, when I look at what we are trying to do here, it’s not like this is teaching learning plus cool new tools, but rather whole new teaching and learning. (I used from 3:22 on)
The nature of composition is really changing. My own two kids will not only have to know how to write, and write well, but they will also have to understand how to compose their message in ways that capture the visual nature of our society today. That’s not only everything we had to learn growing up, but it’s also a whole range of design skills that we were never asked to put to use. Here’s one of the graphics I used to start the meeting:
Looking at how we consume words now, can we legitimately give our students a print-dominated reading and writing experience? I don’t think we can anymore. Yes, they will have to know the parameters of how to construct good writing, but the finished product is going to look so much different from a term paper or an essay. Composition is now beyond the paper.
And when our intake of words is dominated by three other sources before print, can the teaching of critical analysis skills be limited to just one medium? Friends of mine in college used to joke that schools were missing the boat by not teaching kids how to watch television critically. I sloughed them off as being to saturated with it themselves as they were all going into that field upon graduation. Now, here I am almost fifteen years later designing classes in media literacy and connected writing in which that medium is one of the most talked and written about.
Listening to the stories about the projects you have undertaken with the kids, from multi-genre research papers to documentary films, all with an emphasis on providing multiple means of expression while still holding them to design standards, I can’t help but think we are moving a direction that our students will benefit greatly from.
Here are the links to the resources I used so that you may go through them on your own and form your own opinions. Thank you for all the great conversation and the feedback during our meeting. I look forward to hearing more from you regarding the conversation.