Connecting ed-tech to ed-reform

The design of American education is obsolete, not meeting the needs of our students and our society, and ignores most of what we have learned about education and learning in the past century. This panel will explore a new paradigm, including some specific examples, of how education in America can be reshaped in more productive and democratic fashions. YEARLYKOS: Education Uprising / Educating for Democracy

At the annual Yearlykos 2007 conference, a group of educators, including teacherken from The Daily Kos, will discuss a year-long project to implement education reform in America. The opening paragraph above is followed by an essay on education reform and links to support resources.

What does this have to do with technology?
As educators find themselves re-imagining learning based on their own tech-based awakening, the sense comes quickly that this is not about new technology, access to information, 21st century skills, or even 2.0-goodness, but broader-based education reform. But just as quickly, it starts to feel like there is no hope of changing a lumbering, entrenched educational system with a tiny lever called technology.

However, we are not alone, and it would be a win-win for both tech-loving educators and education reformers to join forces. The tools of Web 2.0 could tip the balance in the effort to reshape education “in more productive and democratic fashions.” The virtual voices of students and teachers alike could finally be heard in force.

Roadmap for education reform
The online handout from this session is a roadmap of current education reform efforts focusing on teacher autonomy, authentic student work, and educator-driven reforms.

Just a few gems:

Forum for Education and Democracy, founded by a group of prominent thinkers in education, including Deborah Meier, Angela Valenzuela, Pedro Noguera, Linda Darling-Hammond, Ted and Nancy Sizer, and others: http://www.forumforeducation.org/

The Education Policy Blog
http://educationpolicyblog.blogspot.com/ is group blog in which both Sherman Dorn and Ken Bernstein participate. It has the purpose of examining education from a social foundations perspective, and many of the participants teach social foundations of education in teacher training programs.

Educators Roundtable http://www.educatorroundtable.org is the product a group of educators who came together to attempt to stop reauthorization of NCLB in anything like its current format.

Coalition of Essential Schools, based on the thinking of Ted Sizer: http://www.essentialschools.org/

And wait, there’s more… This is not just whining about how bad things are, it’s a positive call to action. Be sure to read all the way to bottom of the page for a manifesto of how to change the teaching profession, not from the top down, but by leveraging (and listening to) teachers themselves.

Teachers and Teaching: Prospects for High Leverage Reform
Peter Henry (aka Mi Corazon) http://www.newteachernetwork.net

Wedged between two Byzantine bureaucracies—unions and school districts, constrained by unreasonable public expectations, hammered by ideologues, criticized by the media, saddled with policies shaped by non-educators, America’s teachers have almost no room to maneuver. Their training, workplace, schedule, and assignment are mostly determined by others, and their curriculum arrives “canned” in the form of textbooks from large, well-connected corporations. In some schools, extreme instructional strategies tell them what words to say, when, and how, as if teaching can be reduced to a standard script.

There is, however, reason for hope: If teachers are liberated from these structural limitations, they have tremendous potential as “high leverage” reform agents. As Peter Senge maintains in his thoughtful classic, The Fifth Discipline, small, subtle modifications of a key organizational element can have a major systemic impact.

It goes on to call for two fundamental reforms:

  1. Giving teachers autonomy, power, control and authority
  2. Ending teacher isolation

And ends on this uplifting note:

A great and resilient society, capable of successful adaptation and change, cannot thrive with an educational system built in the 19th century—managed by top-down hierarchies, one-size-fits-all models and ruled by the cudgel of fear. Excellence is achieved through individual mastery, a collegial network awash with inquiry and creativity, undergirded by trust and tangible support from the larger community. If we want teaching excellence and the resultant development of full student potential, teachers must be lifted up, given the responsibility, authority and training which enhance their natural human abilities, and then respected for taking on this most crucial and challenging work.

Educators inspired by technology and looking to create their ideal of authentic learning will see parallels in these resources with many of the thoughts expressed daily in the ed-tech segment of the edublosphere. There is much to learn and much to do.

But finally, at this time in history, we have to tools to actually make this happen. Ed-tech reformers have an important part to play… and we are not alone.

Sylvia

5 Replies to “Connecting ed-tech to ed-reform”

  1. Not alone as reformers, but lacking power to change a whole culture, as you’ve quoted above, that is managed by an outdated hierarchy that is perpetuated by a generation that is out of touch and controlled by gov’t and economics. A major paradigm shift must take place from the highest levels and teacher training has to fundamentally shift with it. We also are faced with an aging teacher population that is not capable of embracing such a shift…overwhelmed by the incredible advances in technology and how information is communicated. The generation gap has nver been so profound. Perhaps in 10-20 years, we’ll see “digital natives” grow the seeds of change we’re planting now as they take leadership roles in education. One can only hope. The U.S. is being left in the dust by India, China, and other countries who have already embraced a different approach to technology and education.

  2. Hi, out there.

    I was on the panel that you quote above and wrote some of the material. And yes, I am specifically talking about using new technologies to fundamentally change and “reculture” public schools. I myself offer graduate level courses online and have completely rethought how I teach based on using the Web as a learning tool.

    In fact, my site, http://www.newteachernetwork.net, is dedicated to the proposition that “new teachers” (the new generation, mainly) collaborate, share and team much more regularly and effectively than do previous generations.

    The goal is to build a learning community online that is dedicated to using technology and the ethos of open source learning to bond new teachers together, wherever they may be.

    And, frankly, I need help. I need members, I need content, I need web designers. This is an open call to the community. If you want to move toward democracy, incorporating new technologies and building networks of like-minded people, please contribute what you can, when you can and spread the word far and wide.

    It is a new day, a new dawn really, and we are on the cusp of something really special here but like any incipient community, we need the founding members to come forward, stake a claim and build something tangible so that others can see the dream actually going up.

  3. “However, we are not alone, and it would be a win-win for both tech-loving educators and education reformers to join forces. ”

    I find it interesting that you are calling for two groups to cooperate. Our current system was created when reformers and industrialists cooperated (for quite divergent purposes) to create the industrial school system. Reformers & technologists can do the same, but I hope that technology does not trump reform, or we will end up with another flawed system.

  4. Hi Harold,
    I think the two groups I mentioned are a lot more similar than your example. I think it’s more a case of just looking up a bit to see the ed-reform forest instead the techie-trees, of educators looking beyond their own narrow field of expertise to find support and community with like-minded educators who have similar goals.

    In fact, this seems much preferable to joining forces with business leaders, global futurists, or best-selling authors to craft a new vision of education. One of the problems with the reforms of past centuries was that the industrial vision trumped the educational one.

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