Education Experiment Ends

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Reading the #edchat summary by Sarah Fudin this morning before work--Can educators in the 21st Century be content experts, but media illiterate  and still be relevant?--made me sit up and take notice at the conversations happening on the sidelines. #EDCHAT is a conversation I've lurked but seldom participated in.  You may have noticed, as I have, that some Twitter conversations involve someone making a pithy remark that gets retweeted ad nauseum. That's not a bad thing, but it reminds me of a movie where one bird clucks and the others take up the call.

One of the clucks, or valuable tweets, that was oft-repeated in the EDCHAT Sarah refers to is this one that appears to have originated with Cybraryman:
RT @cybraryman1: The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. #edchat
Isn't that a great quote to pass along? But not much discussion about the how of accomplishing these various stages of teachers engaging students. In considering the EDCHAT, I notice this summary statement:
Content experts are a necessity, but there is no excuse to be media illiterate
What!? This is an ongoing debate that's been around for years. Even as content continues to be King, the question is, with content changing so rapidly and embedded in new media, aren't we as educators foolish to disregard media? It's obvious that educators who are content experts, technology illiterate ARE relevant in today's schools. The medium is the continues to be irrelevant to how we learn in schools today because learning happens in spite of its presence. But is it the learning that our students need and they wake up every morning with breathless expectation to grasp? Some might answer that with a simple, "Who cares?" Who cares if children or learners want to learn something or not, they must adapt to how the learning is doled out.

It seems such an old argument but it's playing out again and again as veteran educators and those on the sidelines are having to re-evaluate what they think. And, if you take a look at the whining about Facebook's changes, we can see that the reality is many folks just don't want change.

The Internet, an ever-changing tool molding itself to the mind of its users, now forces reading, writing and communication to be as changeable as the technology it is dependent upon.

The connection between reading, writing, communication and new literacies is multi-modal, engaging everyone as learners as a result of its constant, transformative nature. Multiple modalities go beyond traditional ways of communicating—such as pen and paper, keyboard and mouse—to combine old literacies with new ones. This results in increased usability, increased experience that engages learners (Source). 

We disregard this, or forget this, at our peril. When I read about the conversation in #edchat, I wonder if we have forgotten it. Tom Whitby reminds us, though:
RT @tomwhitby: How we teach often reflects how we learn. New learners have new tools. Many teachers learned & teach with old tools. #edchat
But what media tools do you focus on? And, should we be experimenting with these new technologies in schools at a time when the world perceives American education to be in peril, even if that perception may be a construct by those seeking to negate America's social contract? I still remember Doug Johnson's question from 2006 (wow!), Is Experimentation Ethical?:
Should a teacher experiment rather using established best practices? (A medical doctor who "experiments" on his patients would be considered unethical - that job is for specially trained research scientists.) 
In the face of compelling research and best practices, should educational technologists capitulate? We don't have enough money to equip every child with technology. Only the elite few will have that opportunity. Not every teacher can buy their own equipment and stay in touch with a global network of educators who tweet, facebook, and google+ into the wee hours. For fun, some questions to ponder:
  • Do we really need to focus on teaching students how to communicate a la current approach and make them experts in that, or focus attention on content acquisition? 
  • Are we simply trying to satisfy our need to reinvent the work we do to make it more exciting and fun?
  • Is our experiment, our pilot use of technology in schools, an education experiment that has come to an end?
Consider Mark Ahlness' response to Doug's question back in 2006...has anything changed in this discussion?
why should teachers be allowed to experiment rather using established best practices?This one I love. Because established best practices are not getting us anywhere right now. Because established best practices are dated, are dead in the water right now, are slow to develop and spread, are built on tools and methods of instruction dating back at least a century. 
If I teach my current third graders using established best practices, then I am not preparing them for the future, I am teaching them information and skills they may never use, and I am wasting their time. If I experiment, communicate with others around the world, collaborate on developing new approaches, and pass this on to my kids - well then, I might be making a difference for them.

Any educational technologist has hundreds of tools at his or her disposal, between web-based and free open source tools (as well as commercial ones). As a young writing teacher, I would have killed to have access to the tools I now use every day to facilitate writing and reading instruction. But when I look at the lock-step curriculums, a part of me swears--and I don't swear--that I will never go into a classroom today that does this. If teachers lack the freedom to experiment, to facilitate student-powered communications and collaborations using technology, then public education is a fly-encrusted corpse. And, you know what that makes the education reformers, right?

As Walter McKenzie points out in this entry, That's Why They Play the Game, there is pointed discussion about what is happening in schools today...but it is often irrelevant to what actually happens in that classroom.
So…stop listening to the pundits. Get your game on, get back out there and give it everything you’ve got. Don’t let the voices on the sidelines get in your head. Sure they can have their say. But in the end, it’s up to you. You own the endgame.
Walter's advice, quoted above, invites us to forget the blather of education reformers, political pundits, Arne Duncan, the President, and many others who have sought to destroy public schools, raise up private schools. I couldn't agree with him more. 

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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