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Friday
Feb042011

A real revolution

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right  - John Lennon

How do those who advocate for junking education as we know it for some new system guarantee more children will be well-served as a result? I don't have the self-assurance (ego?, arrogance?) to make such promises.

And I'm pretty tired of pundits pointing to little "pockets of wow" and then extrapolating that such efforts when replacing traditional educational practices can improve education without any research supporting the change.

Let's all lead the revolution by suggesting less "wow" and more realistic, proven strategies in the classroom that all teachers can and should be expected to use. I've gotten pretty much zip in the way of responses to the tech additions to the traditional Danielson model over the first few days. Nor was I expecting much - the work is not really sexy, stirring or revolutionary. But consider this...

What if the real educational revolution was every teacher (and I mean every teacher) each year using technology in small but significant ways to improve learning?

What if next year, EVERY teacher, not just the technophiles, did just one of these things:

  • Opened an electronic commucation channel with their students?
  • Regularly posted all assignments, assessments and student progress online for both parents and students to access in real time?
  • Implemented good design and presentation practices when using a slideshow?
  • Used online collaboration tools like GoogleDocs to help kids do peer editing?
  • Created a list of online games for students to use that reinforce classroom instruction?
  • Encouraged the productive use of student-owned technologies in the their classrooms?

or how about ...

  • Begin each week by challenging the class with one genuine question or problem that asks for a little research 

Imagine selecting just one of these practices and working to make sure EVERY teacher adopts it? Now that's a revolution.

Real revolutions are a crap shoot. You don't know if you'll wind up with a Washington or with a Robespierre. A Gandhi or an Kohmeini. 

Remember - it's the education on MY grandsons your messing with. 

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Reader Comments (5)

I really agree with this! To my mind, just having every teacher blog would do the trick: if everybody were sharing ideas and materials on a regular basis, our own profession would be transformed. Every teacher has LOTS of value to share, so why not use free blogging software, so readily and easily available, to do that...? I've been hashing out my philosophy of teaching over the past couple of weeks and the value of blogging a little bit every day is one of the topics I covered! :-)
Nulla dies sine linea. "No day without a line.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Gibbs

This is a very interesting suggestion. It provides a more realistic solution to what I see as the bigger problem of teachers who are losing students because they refuse to evolve. Many teachers at my school, and in my department, are still saying (even after all of our training to the contrary) that they just can't get information to the students if they don't lecture. In my opinion, these are the teachers that need to wake up and smell the roses. There are those of us who are trying to start the revolution with, as the author says, "wow" strategies. We are changing our entire game plan, and planning for change, and we are ready to adapt and grow, but so many see it as overwhelming, and they just give up before they've even left the start line. These suggestions give them a more manageable goal, and eventually they may begin to see the value of more hands on learning along with utilizing technology. It's funny to me that many of my colleagues are baffled by how I get everything in when I spend so much time doing "projects." I am still not quite sure how to explain that the learning process is still happening even though I don't see the need to lecture every day. The most interesting thing about the suggestions above is that they all emphasize communication, which in my book is more like a conversation and less like a lecture environment. They open the lines of communication and allow for responses from the students and parents. This in itself fosters learning, and I believe it makes the process more meaningful to the students. From my experience, if the students care about the class/subject, it is usually because they know that the teacher cares, not only about the subject, but also about the students and their real learning.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMBiello

Hi MBiello, I've also switched to a project-based learning approach which is very different from what most of my university colleagues do (the standard two-midterms-plus-final approach to life still reigns supreme at the university, esp. in traditional academic departments). Plus, since that is how most faculty were taught, of course they are going to tend to teach that way. If change is going to happen, we need a lot more transparent pedagogy, so people can learn from each other. As long as the privacy of the classroom walls and the closed door stand in the way, a lot of faculty members at my school aren't really even going to envision alternatives. Blogging is one way people can share the day to day in their work as teachers, and the day to day is a big part of the success of teaching - people cannot just look at my syllabus and appreciate how my class works; it's really in the nitty-gritty of each day's effort that the benefits of some learning strategies emerge really clearly.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Gibbs

I absolutely agree that sustainable change will likely happen incrementally. Also, some people say we need to completely abandon the "old model". In some respects they are right, but oftentimes the "new model" leave just as many students uncomfortable as the old one. Instead, we need to create flexibility within our classes.

Now, on to your "tech suggestions". None of those things actually leads to increased thinking except the last one that has nothing to do with technology. Really? powerpoint? Opened online communication channels? How about in-class communication channels? The way you've made your suggestions makes clear that you believe technology use is the answer. Unfortunately, technology can be used to reinforce old ways of doing anything. Actually, technology usually does so - google is a trivia engine. Why? Because our schools have valued trivia for so long. Instead of focusing on technology, focus on student thinking. Where we focus is what we value. Too many people value technology and implicitly devalue student thinking.

Now, i know you're going to say "Oh, but the technology can be used to get students' thinking". No, give a kid a laptop and they go to facebook and chat with friends. Teachers need to inspire, encourage, and facilitate. A computer won't do that. And if you wanted to focus on student thinking, you should have.

Now, your last suggestion: "Begin each week by challenging the class with one genuine question or problem that asks for a little research". Hell YES!!! But I'd be ok with requiring a little thinking as well as a little research. Oh, and there is no requirement for technology to achieve this goal. Sure tech would be nice, but it is NOT required.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJerrid Kruse

Hi Megan,

I do believe we will have more impact if we take small, but required steps in the productive use of technology. Will any single thing result in dramatic changes? probably not, but building and internalizing one new thing a year will!

Thanks for the thoughtful comment,

Doug

Hi Laura,

Interesting first step. I think it may matter less what the step is, but that EVERYONE does it!

Doug

Hi Jerrid,

I don't know - asking kids to think instead of regurgitate might be far too "out there." Let's start slowly ;-)

Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed it.

Doug

February 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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