Why is This So Hard?

Why is it that the structure of public education is so divisive a topic? Seems pretty simple and logical when you look at it this way…

Schooling by Branzburg

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the politicians out of the decision-making process and let the educators do what they know how to do to help kids?

Chris Lehman’s Keynote: ISTE 2011

Note: so sorry that this video was made private & can’t be shared anymore, because it is always worthwhile to listen to Chris Lehmann! My observations at the end of this post might give a tiny hint at how amazing a speaker & leader he is.

I am almost never able to listen to a presentation by Chris Lehmann without crying. He is such a powerful speaker and leader, and every time I get to see him–so far only virtually, but one day I’ll make it to a conference–his message touches me. There’s an overpowering sense of optimism in his work, and he always makes me think, plus, I come away feeling encouraged and energized.

Below is Lehmann’s Closing Keynote at ISTE was posted yesterday, and I just spent an hour enjoying it, taking it in. He is preceded by his school’s Slam Poets (at about 31 min) , and, as he said in his blog post yesterday, they were breath-taking too. They–the kids–are really what this is all about, aren’t they? We lose sight of that in most of our schools, in the thick of things. The kids are the reason that I wanted to do this with my life.

Opportunities to hear keynotes like this one, and to take part in discussions on twitter and in web chats, etc. are truly brain-changing! That’s why I value my online network so much–I learn from, and sometimes with, so many people who are so much smarter than I am! 🙂

My notes–nothing particularly deep–just some points that resonated with me:

  • The greatest lie of education: You need to learn this because you will need it some day. Why aren’t we helping kids to think and act relevantly in the world!
  • Must develop kids’ hearts, minds, tools and VOICE.
  • From a student: I don’t need a network. I need a family. I need brothers and fathers and mentors. (how true)
  • A theme that permeates so much of Lehmann’s work: Our goal is not, as so many would have you believe, to create the 21st Century workforce. That is far too low a bar. All of our goals should be to help our students become the 21st Century, and beyond, citizens that we so desperately need.
  • Lehmann wants his kids to come through it all being thoughtful, wise, passionate & kind. A much more worthy goal than most mission statements I’ve seen.
  • Great quote of the day: If the best we can imagine these tools to be is the next greatest flash card, better way to test our children, we will have failed.

Thanks Chris. Amazing as usual.

Cell Phone Usage

Today, the indomitable Angela Maiers posted the following infographic and asked what was most surprising to us. While not exactly surprising to me, I find the stats to be amazing evidence of the fundamental changes that are occurring in society and with the behavior of young people–and people in general. Changes that most schools are not only failing to properly acknowledge, but are in fact denying entirely. Take a look:

Cell Phone Usage
Via: Online IT Degree

If average teens are texting over 3300 messages per month, and are capable of texting blindfolded, probably in their own pockets, then it stands to reason that a considerable percentage of that texting takes place at school–whether we adults like it or not. Whether we’re ready for it or not!

In my experience, with a few notable exceptions (none of them local to me), schools are a) spending a great deal of time and brainpower trying to figure out how to justify and fund the purchase of technology for student use, and b) spending a huge amount of time and effort trying to figure out how to keep kids from using the computers they’re already carrying around in their pockets! The districts in my area confiscate cell phones and then charge parents $15 to pick them up. However, a colleague and friend of mine at a local high school told me that most teachers in her building just try to ignore when students have their phones out because the “problem” is so widespread that there is no way to stem it. She hates cell phones, and thinks we should ban them all and take them away from all her students. No discussion. But her own middle school student has one that is well-used and -loved! Is this not a huge disconnect between school and life?

My question is why are we fighting the wrong fight? If we stopped pretending that students are not going to have cell phones in their pockets and instead, concentrated on harnessing that incredible and ubiquitous power, would we not be serving our students better? Are we not doing them a disservice by failing to help them develop work-appropriate habits and skills for the modern world? Could we not use these devices to the advantage of the school “machine” rather than throwing resources at trying to eliminate them?

And don’t even get me started on luddite faculty members who have no idea what an app even is…that’s another post for another day…::big sigh::

I’d like to know what other people think–especially secondary school faculty. Are your schools doing anything to acknowledge that the world is changing in this way? Am I totally off-base? Is my friend right? Is it just too big a nightmare to deal with cell phones in a huge modern high school?

Heads in the Sand

This afternoon, I sat down to check out my Google Reader, and found that one of my amazing Texas library colleagues, Carolyn Foote, had crafted an excellent and wonderfully thought-provoking blog post entitled No Heads in the Sand Here. It’s a must-read, in my opinion, for teacher librarians—in fact for any librarians—as we face a changing landscape in our profession.

I started writing the following as a comment on Carolyn’s post, but it got longer and longer, so I decided maybe it was really more of a blog post in itself! Thank you Carolyn for so accurately capturing the zeitgeist of the library conversation of late!

I too love Hazen’s wording in the article you cite. Librarians “support and sustain … meaningful inquiry” and through effective collection development, we consciously create a “carefully crafted, deliberately maintained, constrained body of material.” Wow! I love that!

Librarians fill a unique role in the educational framework, in that we have these long-term goals of “meaningful inquiry” and a “deliberately maintained” body of sources uppermost in minds as we work with students. Classroom teachers care about these topics too, of course, but have many other objectives to meet as well. On many school campuses, it is the librarian that focuses student effort and guides them to use authoritative sources effectively. In an age when information of all types is abundant and ubiquitous, critical evaluation is a crucial skill—perhaps the crucial skill—for our students to acquire.

Foote’s words and those of the esteemed professionals cited in her post bolster my resolve as I find myself and many of my colleagues, more and more of the time, having to fight against the perception that librarians are obsolete. This, even as we make enormous, unique contributions to student success–supported by a huge and persuasive body of research, might I add. Thanks, @technolibrarian, for giving me a document to look back at that will help me to clarify my thoughts & words as I have these discussions with others. You’re always giving me great food for thought!

Did You Know 4.0

The latest Did You Know video below. Wow! This is the kind of game-changing information that I don’t think most teachers/administrators “get”. Last week, in a conversation with colleagues, two were shocked when I said that many lower-income families and developing countries have totally skipped the “computer on the desk” model of connecting with the world, and gone directly to a powerful computer in their pocket instead. They were surprised, maybe even a little incredulous, to think of a cell “phone” as a small computer. These were young (30 yrs old or less) teachers, too! I’m obviously out of step w/ my colleagues, because I couldn’t believe that they were surprised! Digital divide, Texas style.

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