I have to say that one of my favorite reads of late is Doug Noon, for a couple of reasons. First, because he writes about things that are admittedly out of my comfort zone in ways that compel me to reach (like all good teachers do) and, second, because he does blogging (the verb) really, really well. I know most people don’t spend a lot of time deconstructing blog posts for style, but at the risk of bringing up a whole slew of old debates from past years (like here, here and here), I am firmly in the camp that blogging (the verb) starts with reading, and that great blogging is using the text to connect ideas and patterns from sometimes disparate sources and experiences in a linked environment that allows the reader to wallow in the context of the ideas being presented. That’s not to say that posts that don’t do that aren’t worth reading. But to me, at least, that’s where the magic of this is, both as writer and as reader.

And so I think Doug does this exceptionally well, as evidenced by his “Like Cranky Talk Show Hosts” post yesterday. In it, he weaves a whole bunch of different sources into a pretty tightly knit piece that pushes back against the standards movement and instructs as to the real motives behind those pushing “reform.” Doug writes:

Consider who profits from education reform. The standards movement is not a national response to a grassroots outcry. It’s a corporate business-initiated movement that has been sold to a fearful middle class worried about economic and social insecurity.

Which made me connect to a post I read by Sylvia Martinez a couple of days ago that reviewed some of the latest educational reform rumblings from the political left.

As educators find themselves re-imagining learning based on their own tech-based awakening, the sense comes quickly that this is not about new technology, access to information, 21st century skills, or even 2.0-goodness, but broader-based education reform. But just as quickly, it starts to feel like there is no hope of changing a lumbering, entrenched educational system with a tiny lever called technology. However, we are not alone, and it would be a win-win for both tech-loving educators and education reformers to join forces. The tools of Web 2.0 could tip the balance in the effort to reshape education “in more productive and democratic fashions.” The virtual voices of students and teachers alike could finally be heard in force.

Which pushed me back to a conversation I had last week with a new physical space connection (what a concept,) someone with a great deal of traditional creds (Stanford Ph.D.) but little facility with technology (or the Read/Write Web), and someone who has been working to bring change to districts for almost 15 years. We were talking about the roles of technology and how they have pushed the conversation in many ways, and how now more than ever, we need to start crafting a compelling vision of what schools can become for our students. After we both agreed that schools in their current structure are not going away any time soon, she point blank challenged me to begin to really fashion a vision for myself of what “reform” looks like, to articulate it, make it real.

Which brought me full circle to Doug again, remembering a post he wrote a couple of weeks ago, a post that “attempt(s) to make sense of what ‘school 2.0’ might mean,” one that has been sticking in my brain ever since. In it, he writes compellingly about the friction point we’re at:

Right now, most of the discussion that I read among teachers on the web assumes that technology will deschool education by subverting institutional norms, and we’ll migrate, somehow, from classrooms to distributed networked learning systems without disturbing the institutional death grip that schools and the economy have on each other. Economic motivations encourage people to see education as a means to acquiring certifications of technical competence. Communications technology can facilitate networking, but the need for technical certifications is still going to ensure the preservation of existing educational structures. Even if the uncoupling of curriculum and certifications happens as an unintended outcome of testing and the standards movement (since testing may make schooling optional) schools in some form will still be needed.

And to this statement in an even earlier post, which I hope he’ll pick up on:

The real issue now is deciding what’s worth keeping and what form that should take.

So that’s a question I’m going to try to focus on more and more in my personal “study” this coming year. Knowing what I know about how my own learning has changed and the influences that these technologies are having, and knowing pretty well what I don’t know about the fundamental educational influences that have gotten us to where we are as a society and a system, I’m going to try to put a curriculum together for myself that can inform an answer. It may not be a compelling answer when all is said and done, but I really do think the time is now to try to make sense of it for myself, if for no other reason than my kids turn 8 and 10 next week. Not a lot of time left…

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