cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by umjanedoan
Reading a USA Today article on social media in schools followed by Eric Sheninger’s post, I was not surprised by reading some of the comments Eric listed on his post such as this:
More evidence of the “dumbing-down” of society. Stupid media like USA To-shmay buying into it, of course. Put the cell phones and calculators aways, stay off the waste-o-time websites and GET TO LEARNIN’!
The idea of appealing to the general public on school reform through the media is extremely tough, especially when reporters have narrow views of education, character limits, and are probably wanting a little controversy to push the envelope and draw an audience. Something similar happened when Chris Wejr and I were discussed in an article regarding award ceremonies. I thought that this was an interesting response on that article:
We already pamper our kids too much. Few of them even do chores around the house or learn to cook and do their laundry. They are chauffeured everywhere and constantly praised for their burps and farts.
Although our stance was not in any way about pampering kids (both Chris and I have extremely high standards for what we expect from students), based on the article and limited amount of information, it could have been easily misconstrued.
We all have heard arguments from those that are not educators such as, “It was like that when I was in school and I turned out just fine.” It is really easy to assume that when we as educators blog, that the majority of our readers agree with us, yet we often forget that the majority of our readers are educators. This would not be the case for a publication like USA Today though.
For example, the quote by Chris Lehmann in the USA Today article, “Being literate in 2011 means being digitally literate”, probably means little to the many. The thought of literacy to most is being able to read and write. Although reading and writing are the cornerstone of literacy, to many educators there is more to it.
Now I am not saying that we should not put ourselves out there and push for improvements to the education system (although in Canada I would say that there are a lot of things that are right as well). It is imperative that we continue to be serious about getting education into the conversation and we can see that many educators out there are getting frustrated with the feeling that we are always taking steps backwards in the area of public relations. The conversation and theory though is not enough. There are many schools out there that are doing amazing things with their learning and are sharing it with the world. Using terms like “collaboration” may be cool, but what does it mean in a school setting? More importantly, what does it look like in action?
Last night working with my brother on a Google Doc (his favourite thing ever), he marvelled at how amazing and easy it was to just work together either in synchronous or asynchronous time. Now does that story move education forward? Probably not, but showing a simple video that applies to both business and education about Google Docs might help others see how what we are doing in school is really connecting to what a lot of the business world is doing, or sometimes even, we are a step ahead. How do we do this though?
Watching stories like Chris Kennedy’s Ted Talk on how students used technology to become journalists (not like journalists but actual journalists) for the Vancouver Olympics was an absolutely amazing way to show how students were not only engaged, but doing very meaningful work. Watch any of the PS22 Chorus videos (awesome version of “Rolling in the Deep” here) with anyone and see the emotion these young students invoke in anyone, whether they are educators or not. No one would have heard of them if their teacher did not share the work of these amazing kids.
This does not only show what we are doing in technology, but how we are changing the way we think of leadership. Yesterday on Connected Principals, Bo Adams shared an email that he sent to staff to truly collaborate and get their feedback. He could have simply talked about it, but he actually posted the email. It is examples like this, that others take and build upon, that will first and foremost help schools move forward, and then the “public” will see how many educators are really getting it right for the sake of our students, not just looking for an easy way to do things.
I hate to say it, but data and statistics are boring. It definitely has a purpose in moving our schools forward but connecting it with the stories and examples that are shared is what will push things forward. Chip Heath discusses this in “Made to Stick“:
This is the most important thing to remember about using statistics effectively. Statistics are rarely meaningful in and of themselves. Statistics will, and should, almost always be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number. (Heath, 2007)
This post is not a slight in any way to Eric, but more to discuss the frustration that many educators are feeling right now with bad press and public backlash. Eric has shared some amazing examples of learning, such as this project his students did regarding the Holocaust:
Technology now allows the students and staff at NMHS to share in the authentic learning experiences taking place in Europe (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic). Last year, we launched a blog where the students in Europe chronicled and reflected on essential questions, focusing on a dark time in human history. Meanwhile, students and staff back on the campus of NMHS are using the blog as a catalyst for a variety of other learning experiences. Some teachers even have their students respond to the posts each day…Skype has also brought a whole new element to the program. Prior to the trip, students Skyped numerous times with their guide who resides in Israel. This year we even Skyped in a Holocaust survivor to our elective course on the topic.
That is not only engaged learning, but it is learning that is better and different from the way I could have done it when I was in school. We want the statement to move from, ‘That’s how it was when I was a student’ to, ‘I wish I would have done that when I was in school!’
As long as educators keep doing amazing things and sharing those stories of authentic and deep learning, schools, and ultimately public perception, will continue to get better.