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Tuesday
Jan012008

RCE 9 and 10: Measurement and values

Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted counts. Einstein

You've Got to Stand For Something (or You'll Fall for Anything) - lyrics by Aaron Tippin 

In a recent blog post, I visited the Radical Center of Education and suggested some principles for achieving this enlightened state of mind and how it will result in a change philosophy that may result in change actually occurring.

  1. Adopt an "and" not "or" mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual.
  4. One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. If you think it will work, it probably will.
  6. The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?
  7. To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others.
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  9. Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.
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Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
Donald Norman in Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine said it well:

The final result is that technology aids our thoughts and civilized lives, but it also provides a mind-set that artificially elevates some aspects of life and ignores others, not based upon their real importance but rather by the arbitrary condition of whether they can be measured scientifically and objectively by today's tools. Consequently, science and technology tend to deal solely with the products of their measurements, they divorce themselves from the real world. The danger is that things that cannot be measured play no role in scientific work and are judged to be of little importance. Science and technology do what they can do and ignore the rest. They are superb at what they do, but what is left out can be of equal or greater importance.

We're certainly focused on "empirical evidence" and "evidence-based practice" and testing, testing, testing in our school district.  We're devoting tremendous resources (including technology and technology staff) to online testing, value-added testing, data warehousing and data analysis. Perhaps we are overdue in public education for such an accounting. Unfortunately, that which we can measure given the limits of current testing is a very, very small subset of those attributes which make people successful. And we are discounting those programs and activities which cannot show a direct bearing on basic, low-level test scores.

Data are good. No question. (I look for numbers that support my point of view all the time.) But we in the Radical Center of Education must remember that "what is left out can be of equal or greater importance" and acknowledge values other than empirical evidence if positive change is to occur. We ought to be giving equal credence to professional experience, anecdotal information, meaningful traditions, and the intrinsic value of activities and programs such as play, sports, the arts, libraries, and storytelling. 

The Radical Center of Education honors multiple kinds of evidence, not just data (or just anecdote or just tradition, etc.), and uses them to direct and make change. 


Know and keep your core values.

RCE theory doesn't work unless the person working for change has deeply held values. While Stephen Colbert makes great sport of the know-nothing philosophy of "truthiness," making RCE change requires both an open mind and values firmly held by both the heart and the head. Without such values, change is simply change for change sake.

I can't recommend a single source of these values, nor should I expect anyone to adopt my list. I will list a few of my own and encourage you to create your own list.

  • The solution to most of the world's problems will rely effective education.
  • My best judgments are made when I think of myself first as a child advocate, second as an educator, and lastly as a technologist.
  • All kids should be treated the way I want my own grandchildren to be treated.
  • Creativity, empathy, and humor are as important to success as reading, writing and numeracy.
(A complete of my biases core beliefs can be found here.)

 

Thanks for sticking with me for the past week or so as I "write out loud" about the Radical Center of Education. It feels cliche-ridden, lacking in focus, and wanting concrete example as it stands now, but will be fun to work on. I hope many readers offer suggestions for improvement.

Change is a tough, especially humane and lasting change. The Radical Center might be a way to help it come about.

Tuesday
Jan012008

New Year's Thought

howwe.jpg
On the way to Phang Ngha Bay, photo by D. Johnson, April 2007

Monday
Dec312007

RCE 7 and 8: Moving with others and admitting ignorance

The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running. Aesop

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument is an exchange of ignorance. Robert Quillan

In a recent blog post, I visited the Radical Center of Education and suggested some principles for achieving this enlightened state of mind and how it will result in a change philosophy that may result in change actually occurring.

  1. Adopt an "and" not "or" mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual.
  4. One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. If you think it will work, it probably will.
  6. The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?
  7. To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others.
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  9. Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.
To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others.

I thought of the African proverb above after three recent blog posts caught my eye:

Miguel Guhlin at Around the Corner in his post "Revisiting Common Computer Activities" wrote that a list including these computer activities - "* Checking Email * Surfing the Internet * Playing Internet based games * Word Processing * Excel Spreadsheets ..." - stuck him as outdated and wrote:

A quick reflection on my computing habits yields these activities...how about you?

  • Twittering
  • Email, Calendar, Documents (Word processing mainly) via Google
  • Blogging and maintaining web sites using content management systems
  • Mild photo editing (built-in Flickr image editor is fine (Picnik)
  • Photo library management using Flickr and Picasa
  • Listening to music on my machine while I work
  • Crafting video intensive presentations, including conversion of videos using a local utility or Zamzar.com

Yes, Miguel, most of the activies on your list would make my list too. And the list of most blog readers probably.

Yet a posting from the downloadsquad (via Stephen's Lighthouse) reports that "73% of Americans have never heard of Google Docs." I wonder what percent of Amercians who have heard of the other applications Miguel lists above? The percentage of teachers who use Twitter, Picasa, or Zamzar? I'll be dollars to doughnuts it wouldn't even be close to 73%.

This disparity between the blogosphere and the average Joe or Jane, leads thoughtful practitioners like International School Bangkok teacher Kim Confino in the always learning blog entry "Few and Far Between" to observe:

We often complain about the “echo chamber” effect out here in the education blogosphere. Sometimes it seems like we’re a group of technology cheerleaders enthusiastically shouting our successes to each other over and over - to the point that I often feel like I don’t have much to add to the conversation because it’s all been said before. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that although we may be a vocal group online, the kinds of experiences we’re cheering about are truly few and far between.

and conclude:

I sometimes need to remind myself that the most critical part of my job to inspire change in the real world, not just within our connected group of educators. The reality is that those of us hoping to be voices of change need to make sure that we’re not speeding ahead on our own, but must always work to bring everyone else in our school environment along with us.

Speeding ahead is easy to do for those of us interested and invested in technology. But if experience has taught me anything, a school district needs to measure its technological achievements by how the majority of its teachers are using technology, not by it's few shining stars. (Every district has some.) The Radical Center emphasises smaller, but deeper, more wide-spread, and lasting change through the use of technology.

The problem with being too far down the road ahead of the pack is turning around to find that everyone else has taken a different path. 

frontrunner.jpg
Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
It's difficult to admit, but there are damn few things I know for absolutely certain, especially when it comes to technology and education. Thankfully, the older I get, the easier it is for me to say, "I don't know, but let's find out." Try it a couple times. It gets easier.

For some reason, our culture has replaced evidence with volume on too many issues. While it's very easy to say to those with whom one does not agree that they lack supporting evidence for their position, The Radical Center of Education believes one need to critically view the amount and validity of both (or all) perspectives. Self-examination of one's own beliefs is necessary for credibility. And to come to consensus on controversial issues, a consensus that vital information is missing (or is unknowable) must be reached.

The "I don't know" factor is a big reason I am boring you poor Blue Skunk readers by writing all this stuff out. Sorry.