There are times when I think I am really clever. After seeing this, however, I realize that there are many out there who are much further along than I.
This from Canada, where really good things come from.
If you had the gift of foresight, what do you think our profession would look like in five year’s time? Are the powers of change severe enough to move the field of education out of the rut it has settled so comfortably in, regardless of the myriad changes going on in the professional world around us? This post came to mind as I read the following from David Warlick:
I think that it’s part of the job. It is my job, as a teacher, to be able to teach today — to be skilled at using today’s information technologies within today’s information environments and apply pedagogies that reflect today’s information environments. We suffer from the myths of old world education, that you go to school so that you will be prepared for the next 30 or 35 years. But the teacher we are at graduation from college, is not necessarily the teacher we need to be five years later. Those days are long behind us — and I think that the job has become a whole lot more exciting as a result.
Formal staff development is important. We all need new ideas, new energy, new inspiration. Districts and service agencies should continue to make available any kind of professional development opportunities that are successful. But it’s still the job of the teacher to be competent to teach in the classrooms that today’s students need.
Certainly, the situation is far more complex than this. Teachers do not have nearly enough time, nor enough compensation. They do not have the resources, and many resources are actually blocked from access. They are expected to do so much more than teach, and they are held responsible within conditions that are often entirely beyond their control. I’ve often said that the very best thing we could do to improve teaching and learning is to give teachers the time. Every teacher should have one hour of on-the-job professional time for every hour they spend in instructional supervision.
Warlick, whose ideas are championed in many blogs more renowned than this one, had, in the past, spoke of teaching students to teach themselves in a post not too long ago. The generation of students that is graduating college today and will become teachers in the next few years should also not be allowed to escape this responsibility as well. We need learners as much as we need teachers. We need, I should say, those willing to unlearn and relearn much more than we need anything else.
As we move into the throes of another August rush back to school, back to that odd bouquet of spoiled milk that most schools tend to proffer, the preparations begin both on our end and on the end of students and parents everywhere. Never is this more evident than on a trip to Staples.
It’s like Christmas, except the lists aren’t created by the children, but by the teachers and staff in each school, grade and classroom. An odd reversal, if you think about it, as the students then present their bounty for inspection to the teacher as they arrive in school, often for the first grade of the year. Imagine if we did that with Santa? What pressure!
On a recent trip through the office superstore, I came across a kiosk that had supply lists from every school in our surrounding area in neat little piles for the taking. Just for giggles and grins, I took one. This is what was on it:
Grade 6-8 Social studies
- 1 3ring binder
- 1 composition book
- Colored pencils
Grades 6—8 Science
- 1 1-inch three-ring binder and lined paper
- paper reinforcements
Grades 6, 7, 8 Language Arts
- 1 4/6 note card case
- 200 4×6 note cards
- 4 multi-colored highlighters
- Pencil case
- 5 2-pocket folders
- CD’s, floppy discs or flash drives
- 1 5-subject notebook-college ruled
Grade 6 Language Arts
- Pocket folder
- 1 3-ring binder
- 1 3-subject notebook
- 1 set highlighters
- Erasable pens
- Non-erasable pens
- 1 2-packs of 3/5 index cards
- index card box
I began to think immediately of how this looked different in some of the schools I read about, like, perhaps, 1:1 schools. Are the students still required to procure the standard items like binders, or, my favorite on this list: paper reinforcements (we had another creative name for these when I was working as a field archaeologist)? As we are currently rethinking our school philosophies, do these lists change? What would they look like in your “school of the future?” What does yours currently look like?
The last few days of mine have been spent working with a group of teachers in a workshop we called Research 2.0. One of the first discussions we had was about research methods and tools. Eric Hoefler (from whose work I borrowed heavily) had come up with this quote and list initially, and it generated some great discussion among my group on Thursday:
“These tools and approaches are now “dead” or “almost dead.” If your research plan relies on them, you are probably not adequately preparing your students:
- Floppy Disks
- School computers with extreme filtration
- Note Cards (or other pen-and-paper-only note-taking methods)
- Limiting the number of “online resources”
- Outlawing “citation help” from online services (Who memorizes the MLA handbook, anyway?)
- Basic web searches or school-database-only searches
- Completely independent research methods
- Text-only sources
- Text-only reports
With this in mind, is there a marriage between old method and new method that needs to be created? I am having trouble seeing it right now. Any ideas?
Dear Parker and Audrey,
I have been meaning to write to you about your futures, but the pressure has not really mounted, being that neither of you can read just yet. However, the ideas and thoughts I have about your futures are beginning to overwhelm me at this point, and I felt that I should at least commence something in the way of a letter to your future selves.
On the way to school today, you and I were talking, Parker, and you asked where the yellow school bus in front of us was going. My answer, without thinking, was of course, “to school.” But you were quicker than that and immediately asked “why?” My answer was to tell you that it was taking the kids to school so they could learn.
As soon as I said it, something in my head clicked. That was the wrong answer, or at least the wrong syntax. The way I said it to you implied that school is exclusively the place where you go to learn, and that could not be further from the truth. This is true today, and will be increasingly more so as you and your sister get older.
Your future contains aspects that no future has ever contained before, the most key being something we call ubiquitous access. What that means is that you will be able to learn, gain access to, and process information from any location you are in: a school, a city sidewalk, running through the woods with your father. That changes things more than you can imagine. For your mother and me, when we wanted information, or wanted to learn, we had to physically move ourselves to where that information was. In most cases, it was school, and in special cases a library, museum, or artistic event. Your future will give you the opportunity to seize an idea at any moment and go with it, unhindered by physical constraints or the constraints of individuals who might want that information for themselves.
The biggest shift for you in relation to my comment about the children going to school to learn: you will have more teachers than your mother and I did combined. Your teachers will be accessible to you at any time and will come in the form of professionals in the field of study you are interested in, databases and visualizations that people create for you, and yes actual teachers in your school who are connecting to teachers of their own to continue to learn and explore. Your learning cycle will not stop arbitrarily at age 18 or 22, but will be continuous throughout your life and will be filled with several careers combined into one. Where your mother and I were taught to be concerned with facts and linear thinking, you will be taught to find patterns, see bigger pictures, and connect ideas that bear no resemblance to one another on the surface.
I know that it was just a question that you asked, Parker, and in twenty years you will not remember it at all, but to me it signified something larger. Your future is not just my responsibility as a parent, it is also my responsibility as someone in the position to institute real change in the way we understand and execute the processes of learning and teaching.
My real hope for you is that you discover what I have recently discovered about working: it has to be grounded in the same ideas you are using now at your ages. Discovery. Mistake. Attempt. Attempt. Attempt. Failure. BooBoo and ouch. Play. Build. Create. Mix. Smear. Mess.
I love you both.