Social Media and Education

Time to move on

Posted on: May 4, 2010

Everywhere I turn, I hear writers, speakers, teachers, and others dry the decades old practice of industrialized education. My heart and my voice has often joined them. Now, it’s time to move on. It’s time to stop complaining and do something about it. It’s time to stop waiting for someone else to take the lead. It’s time to practice what we preach.

I don’t know about you, but I left a pretty good career to become a teacher. I did it because I truly believe I can make a difference in the life of a child. I believe I can teach any child to learn to love learning. I believe I can change lives. I do it every day. I bet you do, too.

Things have been changing, though. I feel that circumstances and politics are threatening my purpose in teaching. I hear that my skill as a teacher will be judged by whether or not my students learn better than their peers across my state. My skill will not be judged by my students’ abilities to make good choices, to act with respect, responsibility, and kindness. My skill will not be judged by their ability to collaborate and problem-solve with global learning partners. My skill will not be judged by my ability to work with parents and guardians to ensure a safe home environment for their kids. My skill will be judged by the scores of 27-30 students and whether or not they had a good day when they took a series of high-stakes tests.

I recoil at the destruction of learning-centered classrooms in the name of efficiency. We know that our students learn in both common and diverse ways. The efficiency model sounds inviting because it tells us a student should be able to go anywhere in a school district or anywhere in the country and be on exactly the same page as every other student of his or her age. Sounds nice, doesn’t it. It’s a crock.

Carry that thought out logically; no more ESL programs to help those kids, no more classes for special needs, no more gifted-talented programs. Oh, but wait, that would only be if we believe ALL children in America should have access to a quality education. The only other way to achieve that efficiency model is to do as China, India, and others do; Kids with particular “deficiencies” are left out. It’s too expensive to provide them with an education. Pass the test and you get to go to middle school. Fail, go to work in a menial, repetitive job if you can find one. Pass of few more high-stakes tests after taking the same courses as others who passed and you can go to the university. There, you can forget about liberal arts and humanities. You will get your engineering degree and design collective work projects to employ those who could not pass the tests.

Sorry. I threw in a couple of rants there – back to the subject. It’s time to move on. We need to take our skills and our credibility and move into the spheres of influence of our district. We must look for opportunities to make our voices heard. Heard not as whiners and complainers, but heard as unified voices of reason and purpose. To be credible to administrators, we must show the evidences of success in classrooms that reach beyond the standardized tests. We must show our students working and learning in social media contexts; video, film, podcasts, blogs, forums, websites, and more. Get your students’ parents on board with you. Parents are voters and voters make or break school board members. Speaking of them, invite them to your classroom. Let them see first hand how you create contexts for student learning. If you have to, let them think your ideas are their own. Few politicos and admins will argue with success.

Create a blog. Join Twitter. Join a Ning in Education group. Look for colleagues on Linkedin. Download an RSS feed reader and begin to aggregate blogs of like-minded educators. Build a Professional Learning Network. Save bookmarks of meaningful sites. Join FaceBook.

Do all of those things and learn from your PLN how to use them effectively as an educator. You need to do this because your students are already doing most of them. Chances are, your administrators know little or nothing of them. Someone has to be able to talk to them intelligently about their possibilities as educational tools. That “someone” needs to be you.

Are you working on making a difference in your school district? Are you one of the one’s who is moving on? I would love to hear your story. Please share it here.

Thanks,
Rick

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The Educator’s PLN

Teaching Tech-Savvy Kids

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