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Monday
Dec242007

RCE 3 and 4: Respect and No Size Fits All

Miles' Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else. - Demotivators

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.

Respect the perspective of the individual.
One of the benefits (or curses) of serving on most district-wide committees is learning about the challenges and goals of a variety of school employees - classroom teachers, students, principals, librarians, maintenance staff, clerks, paras and even parents. What we too often call "turf battles" actually are issues viewed from individual and individual group vantage points - different "frames" to problems, if you will. What make this interesting, is that people of good will can have widely differing perspectives.

  • Budgeting is one area where this is radically apperant. The question of whether more dollars are best spent on library materials, lower class sizes or tuck-pointing brick walls will be answered, legitimately, honestly, and differently, depending on whether it is the librarian, a social studies teacher with classes of 35 kids, or the head of maintenance asked the question.
  • The issues of digital rights management look very different depending on whether one is a producer or consumer of the creative product.
  • Definining "adequate" network security will depend on whether one is a tech whose life will be made miserable by a virus or a classroom teacher who finds multiple log in screens time-consuming and frustrating.

If change is going to happen, the voices of all stakeholders need to be heard. Different doesn't mean right or wrong, it just  means different. (See Carolyn Foote's "Stakeholders" terrific Not So Distant blog entry for an example of how this applies to library facility remodeling.)

Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind singles out empathy as a critical skill for workers. If I could take steroids for any leadership strength, this is where I would like to bulk up. 

 

One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
The goal most requested by parents from our district's 1998 strategic planning was an Individual Education Plan for all students, not just those identified with special needs. How interesting that parents, even more than educators, see each child as an individual.

dandelion.jpgEcologists talk about the advantages of bio-diversity - a wide variety of living things that create a healthier biome. Why do we not talk more about edu-diversity in our classrooms. (And that differentiated instruction means more than just different reading levels of materials.) Too often when the next great thing  - constructivism, technology, whole-language reading instruction, integrated math, data-driven decision-making, professional learning communities, etc. - comes along, it is considered a silver bullet and other methods and philosophies are denigrated and pushed aside, rather than seen as another tool in a big educational utility belt.

There is no educational strategy (unless it involves some sort of cruelty) that does not work for at least some kids under some circumstances. And I would also guess that there is no educational strategy that works with every kid every time. An educational monoculture is no healthier than the golf course's greens.

My kids loved some teachers some of the time. They hated some teachers some of the time. And had they gone to the same schools, I seriously doubt these would have been the same teachers on the love/hate lists. Every teacher doesn't fit every kid. Nor should they.

The "one size does not fit all" principle is something we tech and library folks might keep in mind more often when we get enthusiastic about a particular tool or service and then are disappointed when the teaching staff yawns or even defies us. Try as I might, I simply don't "get" Twitter, yet other folks seem to rely on it heavily. I suppose if I expect you to respect my taste in this matter, it behooves me to respect yours as well. We're all unique, after all. And some more uniquer than others ;-)

This is why the "and" not "or" mindset is so important. Our educational system needs to be as diverse as the kids and teachers in it.

Sunday
Dec232007

A differently moral-ed generation

Update 12/24/07: As several alert readers pointed out, Ian's post was a quote from David Pogue's article in the New York Times. Sorry for the confusion. Good read regardless.

If you haven't done so already, jump over and read Ian Jukes fascinating post, "The Generational Divide of Copyright Morality," on his Committed Sardine blog. He describes an exercise he conducts with younger audiences saying, "I'm going to describe some scenarios to you. Raise your hand if you think what I'm describing is wrong." His scenarios range from:

"I borrow a CD from the library. Who thinks that's wrong?" (No hands go up.)

 to

"O.K., let's try one that's a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You don't want to pay for it. So you download it. ... Who thinks that might be wrong?" Two hands out of 500.

And interesting and informative experiment - one that is probably replicable among "net gen" kids everywhere.

I am not sure that these kids are less moral - only differently moral. A small example:

A few years ago I found the hard drive of my home PC was full. On investigation, I discovered that my teen-age son hadcopyright.gif downloaded a complete, illegal copy of one of the Lord of the Rings movies.

When I asked him if he didn't feel it was wrong to deprive someone of his/her livelihood by denying them payment for their creative property, he replied:

"But Dad, I paid to see the movie in the theater - twice. I will buy the DVD as soon as it comes out. And I will probably buy a deluxe edition when that comes out in a year or so. Just HOW am I not paying for this?"

I am not sure I agreed with his argument, but it was nice to know he was thinking about the ethical implications of his act.

While I have no ethical problems with DRM techniques (to the chagrin of at least a few of my readers, I'm aware), I agree with Ian that copy-protection will not be a long-term viable solution. But I still don't understand any economic model in which creators are compensated for their work when all their songs, books, software, etc., are easily attainable without payment (stolen). 

Saturday
Dec222007

OLPC support

The OLPC blog posts (1, 2, 3, 4) are still racking up comments. A couple notes for Blue Skunk readers/posters:

  1. If you are asking for or giving tech advice about the XO, you will find a more appropriate venue than this blog at the support forums springing up. Among the most active seem to be: http://olpcnews.com/forum/ and http://fyx.us/  And of course the OLPC wiki itself has an ever increasing amount of good info. http://wiki.laptop.org  (I love comments on this blog. I just don't want you all to be frustrated.) Oh, while you are at it, subscribe to Wayan Vota's One Laptop Per Child blog. Good stuff.
  2. I feel sort of bad when folks ask me questions in blog comments but do not provide an e-mail address where I can respond. As I understand it, if you provide your e-mail address in the "optional" blank when adding a post, it won't appear to the general readership, only to me. I do try to respond to all comments, even if only briefly. Everyone likes knowing she/he has at least been heard. And I don't personally know any spammers even if I wanted to sell your e-mail address.

Exciting to see this XO community grow with excitement and frustration in equal measures. As I suppose is true with any truly new thing.

XO Support...xoliquor.jpg