Axiom Number 3

Last night, Beth Still announced via twitter that her daughter was thinking about writing a post on her own blog about the state of her own high school education.  Emily Still, a ninth-grader, wanted to think aloud about what she felt was an injustice.  She felt that she was not being prepared for her future by the classes she currently takes, and worse, by the teachers she currently has.

How can we be productive in this society, if our school system does not teach us how to use the tools we will need to be successful?
It seems like all the school system has done to get into technology is get a couple Promethean Smart Boards and hope the teachers figure out how to use them. How much training have our teachers received on how to use and teach the tools we need? Are we taught about blogging? How about using things like Google Docs to create, store and share files online? The answer would be no.

I commented to Emily the following:

Well done, and well put. You’ve stated your case, identified areas that need to be improved, and broadcast your message to the listening public.

You’ve done the first part, what a some would call the “what” part of the discussion. What will you do for the remaining two parts:
So What?
What Now?
I don’t know if you plan on sharing this with the faculty of your school, or at least with one you feel might be open to it, but I think you should. Once you do that, though, there is no turning back in this process. While you may not feel it is your role, you will play a huge part in their transformation as educators.
What can you do to help the administration and staff see that there are elements of your learning that are essential to your future success that are being largely ignored? You have a wealth of resources at your disposal from some very highly intelligent and prolific people in these networks. Use the work that others have done to show your teachers, and most importantly their administrators that this is relevant and necessary to your future.

In thinking a little longer on it today, and after reading Jim Burke’s short piece on the immediacy of Yelp and the effect it could have on teaching and learning shortly, I think we will see more and more letters like this one in the very near future.  If we do not, then our problem in public education is bigger than we thought.  If students do not care enough, like Emily does, about their futures, it is bleak indeed.

Emily struck a familiar chord with me here, one that Barry Bachenheimer so clearly pointed out to me a few years back.  It’s something I like to call the Broccoli Rule:  school does not exist to provide students with everything they like, nor should we kowtow to any choice they make in their own learning.  That would be akin to allowing toddlers to choose their foods of choice.  As their guides and teachers, we need to steer them toward choices that are going to make them stronger, and sometimes that means throwing in some broccoli when they do not want to eat it.

Our job as teachers is to help people reach their full potential–to aid them in the realization of a goal they previously thought was unattainable.  We can do this through the a fine balance of choice, suggestion, and at times, mandate.  In the case of Emily, I sincerely hope she takes the next steps and begins to change how her teachers and school approach the problems she has identified.  She mentions a few products by name in her post, but you can clearly hear that she is not talking about solely using computers for learning, but rather she wants to engage in something meaningful that will require her to collaborate with her fellow students.  The technology will serve the pedagogy, if those in charge will let it.

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