This will probably be my last post of 2007, and while I’ve been doing some looking back, my brain has been taking me more into what next year might be like. I know a couple of things already: I’ll be spending more of my time working in long term professional development with groups of teachers which hopefully will mean less traveling, and I’ll be committing as much time as I can to getting someone with some vision and real leadership potential elected to the White House. (The next two weeks are going to be interesting to watch.)
But for the last couple of days, my thinking has been framed by a post by Clay Burrell, a presentation by Doc Searles, and a chat with a friend.
Clay’s post reflects a lot of my own angst:
More and more I wonder: is school a good place for teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of their students, and to the future of the world? Is there a way to leave the daily farce of gradebooks, attendance sheets, tests, corporate and statist curriculum, homework assignments, grade-licking college careerist “students” (and parents), fear of parents and administrators, and fear of inconvenient socio-political truths – and at the same time, to make a far more meaningful impact on the lives of the young?…I’m not sure how much longer I want to work for schools. I’d so much rather teach
I hear this from many of the teachers who I get to meet when I’m traveling around. The feel so constrained by the system, by the very narrow expectations that they have to meet, by the fear of reprisal from any number of constituencies. I’ve been really surprised, in fact, by the number of people who have come up to me after hearing me talk about supplementing my own kids education and say something like “when you start your own school for your kids, let me know.” The dissatisfaction with the education their children are getting is palpable.
Add to this Doc Searles’ presentation for LeWeb3 earlier this month titled “Turning the Tables: What happens when users are really in charge.” The part that resonates the way he talks about the “Live Web” being more important that “Web X.n”, the idea that what we’re moving toward is a world where the network is ever present and interact-able. Makes me think on some level the shift that’s happened this year in terms of on demand learning and interaction. The network feels much more present this New Year. And again, it makes me think of how removed this shift is from what’s happening in schools and classrooms.
Finally, I had a Skype chat with a friend this morning, one who has a young son who is very much into this digital world and virtual environments. We were going back and forth about how frustrating the landscape is, and how the principal at her school told her to “put down her sword” in terms of having conversations with her son’s teacher about how to engage him with technology. In fact, her son is now not allowed to “type” anything, meaning he has to leave his laptop at home and write all of his assignments out. Amazing, isn’t it?
All of which started me thinking, about a different model, one that is built on really small groups of students that meet in physical space studying and learning about the topics they are passionate about and who are also connected to other small groups of students with like minded passions from anywhere in the world via the Live Web, where long term collaborations and research and learning can happen over extended periods, all of it real work for real audiences, published and reviewed by engaged readers participants acting as mentors from global audiences. The adults in the room are co-learners with the students but also educators who can model and navigate the skills and competencies, the “network literacies” (sorry, Tom) that the kids in the room need to have to leverage the connections they help facilitate. And there might be some high-level, virtual administration in there somewhere, to make sure the connections and logistices are working. And there might be parents learning alongside their students, and others who are involved at different levels of the process. Regardless, it’s a place where learning is at the heart of everything. Not grades. Not tests. Not college acceptances.
I know, I know. I’m dreaming here. But heck, it’s the New Year. It’s a time for dreaming…
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