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EdTech Update

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Sunday
Jan082006

Lobbying for spare change - or real change?

I was delighted to read the following from "My 'wish list' for ed-tech policy in 2006" by Don Knezek, ISTE CEO, in eSchool News:

(2) Let's align NCLB's accountability mechanisms with the skills necessary for future success in the emerging workplace and society, and then both support and measure progress with those. Employers and civic life in this new century require nimble, critical thinkers at ease with technology and with the fact of change itself. We need citizens and workers who can access and analyze information from any media--whether it's text, image, sound, numbers, or other kinds of data.

A reauthorized NCLB should assess learners' progress on the array of essential 21st-century literacies. It should hold schools accountable for how well they help students achieve the skills that maximize future opportunity. Let's measure what's real and meaningful as we prepare students to meet the world they will face. I look forward in 2006 to a lively and systematic debate about how we can improve NCLB and make it more relevant for today's students. 

I am no great fan of mandates. Local control, I've always felt, is the best control. NCLB is more about discrediting public schools than about educating kids. But I am behind Don's "wish" 100%. It's the smart thing to do.

Federal legislative initiatives related to technology and/or school libraries have not been of much interest to me in the past. Most grants are targeted at school districts serving high poverty populations. Many federal dollars go to fund projects that are very local, very limited in scope, nonsustainable, and have no broad impact on education. Funding for E2T2 could double next year and I sincerely don't believe my Mankato kids would be better off because of it. E-rate accounts for less than .05% of our district's technology budget - nice to have, but not exactly critical. Federal programs directed at school libraries are funded at a piddly level.

Reflecting this past week on our school district's past and future, I'm beginning to believe my professional organizations, ALA/AASL, ISTE and MEMO, have approached legislative lobbying the wrong way - focusing on the means to accomplish a goal (mo' money), when we should have been asking for the goal itself (required 21st century skills for which schools should be held accountable). 

We need to change our lobbying strategies for a number of reasons:

  1. Dollars follow requirements. If there is a lesson to be learned from NCLB, schools WILL fund educational efforts when there is the force of law behind them. While only partially funded at best, schools have ante-ed up for the planning, testing, materials, and staff development needed to meet the requirements of making sure all children can read, write and compute on at least a minimal basis. Should, as Don suggests above, NCLB also require that the 4th 'R - information and technology literacy - be recognized as so vital to our children's success that schools be held accountable for all students' mastery of it, the funds for the planning, testing, materials, and staff development needed to make it happen WILL follow. And in all schools across the country. (I could not find in EdWeek's Quality Counts at 10, any mention of how states are doing teaching kids information/tech literacy. If I am not looking carefully enough, please let me know where to find this information.)
  2. Puts the organization higher moral ground. Our professional organizations too often are seen as self-serving, self-promoting. We "advocate" for technology use, for libraries, for schools. We should be advocating the students and the benefits that they will receive as a result of better technologies, better libraries, better schools. Period.
  3. May encourage more educators to get involved, both in politically and professionally. We've got a whole blogosphere who pisses and moans about the sad state of education, reactionary teachers, need for 21st century skills, etc. But are these smart, committed people DOING anything legislatively about their concerns - such as working with professional organizations who hire lobbyists. It might be easier to get these folks to join ISTE, ALA, state organizations if there were well-publicized legislative platforms in which THEY could believe. This is particularly true for our younger members. Read this (and weep) from a library science grad student's blog

ALA gets nothing from me. Not membership money, not time and effort, not publication, not conference attendance, certainly not conference participation. Not now, not ever. That’s what happens when you royally hack off the newbies, guys. I have thirty-some-odd years of career left to go, and ALA won’t benefit from a single solitary second of it.

If ALA had a whisker’s worth of relevance, mind you, that decision would hurt me too. Guess what. I don’t think it’s gonna.

I suppose some radical reinvention of the association might catch my interest again. Guess how likely I think that is.

And I don't think we ISTE leaders should be so smug as to think there aren't young ed tech turks out there thinking the same about our organization.

 
I have little hope that most states and individual districts will seriously address the need for students to have 21st century skills (beginning with Information/Tech literacy) while completely focused on meeting the current NCLB standards. This would change if NCLB took these skills as seriously as it does reading, writing and math. We must lobby for the 4th 'R - now!

Saturday
Jan072006

Odds and Ends - the old

Part two of cleaning the closet and getting interesting things into my blog scrapbook. Here are some of the things I've felt are worth saving in my Bloglines account.

To all those bloggers who delight and inspire me on a daily basis - thanks! 

 

Saturday
Jan072006

Odds and Ends - the new

Once again, John Pederson of pedersondesigns blog, has been an inspiration. I like his Best of the Week posting. It's time to clean out the little shoeboxes of interesting bits, and paste them into the blog scrapbook. A bit of the  new here. Next blog entry, the old.

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Good to see "thought leader" in the library field, Jacquie Henry, start her Wanderings blog.

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I hear rumors that AASL presidential candidate, Sara Kelly Johns, may be starting a blog as well. I have great respect for both AASL presidential candidates, Sara and Cassandra Barnett. And this is a problem. The biggest reason for apathy among AASL member who do NOT vote in large numbers is that there is too often too little known by the membership that separates the candidates in philosophy or goals. AASL tends to make very good choices of candidates. A blog by BOTH candidates might end voter apathy by helping we in the rank and file find a few differences.

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 The First Class Education's 65% solution (requiring that 65% of all education dollars be spent on classroom instruction) has been getting a good deal of attention lately. (See Governor Perry's 65% delusion and the NYT's Here's An Idea) This proposal is just plain bad for both librarians and technologists. It is heartening to hear that ALA/AASL and ISTE may join forces to lobby against this proposal. I hope it is start of a beautiful and continuing relationship between these two organizations that are both near and dear to my heart.

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Want to stir up a little discussion on your district's mailing list? Send Kenneth Goodman on DIBELS (via Stephen Krashen) out to your reading and assessment folks. This past president of the IRA writes: What makes DIBELS the perfect literacy test is that it takes total control of the academic  futures and school lives of the children it reaches from the first day they enter kindergarten when they are barely five years old. It keeps control of their literacy development and indeed their whole school experience for four years from kindergarten through third grade. And the more poorly the children respond to DIBELS the more they experience it. Hey, I've got a grandson starting kindergarten in Fargo next year. Any Fargo folks who read this blog,  please forward the article to your assessment folks. Thanks.

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From the ASCD SmartBrief (still the best educational newsletter going) Opinion: Boom times ahead for Indian e-tutoring firms In a commentary, Shantanu Prakash, the managing director of Educomp Solutions, predicts Indian online tutoring firms will see big opportunities, due to America's $2.7 billion fund for supplemental services, its lack of qualified math teachers and the pressure on schools to raise scores. Prakash says India's strong math curriculum at the bachelors and master's level produces highly competent Indian tutors who can easily help American children.  Financial Express (India)

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 Read Education infused with technology from the Philadephia Inquirer about San Diego's "High Tech High" school. See if this summary list is telling:

How is High Tech High Different?

  • Design principles: "Personalization, adult-world connection, common intellectual mission."
  • Technology is not a subject, it is the primary mode of learning.
  • All students have access to a laptop computer for at least half a day.
  • No more than 450 students in any school.
  • Assessment is through presentation and performance, not tests.
  • Final senior projects are graded by committees of adults from the school and community.
  • No formal sports, arts or music, although there are student-run activities in these areas.
  • There is no tracking. Students of all abilities learn together and are often on the same project teams.
  • Admission is by lottery.
  • Student-teacher ratio is 20:1. Each student has the same adviser for all four years.
  • Less than 1 percent of students are suspended. While some students transfer to different schools, the dropout rate is negligible.
  • All graduates have been admitted to college; 58 percent of those are the first in their families to go.
  • It is a charter school. In addition to taxpayer dollars, it is supported by grants from corporations and foundations.
I only count or or at best two of the 13 bullets that are technology-dependent. What really makes this school successful?

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A spyware remover for the Mac OS? Please someone, tell me this isn't needed! Has spyware come to the Light Side of the Force? I sent this question to the folks at the Spyware Daily blog with, as yet, no response.

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Some of you may know that I am a hound for any advice and methods for improving one's presentation and workshop skills, so I was delighted to find and add to my Bloglines account Create Your Communications Experience and  Presentation Zen. These look promising. Interesting to read Decker's Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators for 2005.

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Another e-book device sighting at if:books. YES!!!

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Be careful what you wish for - at least on Amazon.com. I did not know one's "wish list" was public and could be mined. Last time I store a request for a book about inter-species dating.

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Been a pretty interesting week! 

(Entry edited  Jan 9.)