Thursday, January 17, 2008

Global Perspectives: Reference Points for a New Generation

During the past two days, students in the Global Communications class have been blogging on the first of the "10 Flatteners" from Thomas Friedman's,"The World Is Flat." In reading their blog posts, I was really struck by the different perspective the students have regarding world wide events.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was definitely an event of huge cultural and political significance to people in my age range (45) because it ended the "Cold War." During my school age years, we were taught to fear the Soviet Union and it permeated the society. Being a history major in college, I learned the genesis of the fear of the Soviet Union, the Kennan 'Long Telegram' and how the United States reacted to it during the 1950's with Dulles' 'Containment Policy.' The Containment Policy became the basis for the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The students in our schools today do not have a frame of reference for events like this. The fall of the Berlin Wall occurred a few years before their birth and the first event they have a collective consciousness about is September 11. I'm sure that people older than I had the same dichotomy when it came to world events and the younger generation, but it seems that the separation has become a chasm. I guess that is part of the reason I feel classes like Global Communications are so important.

What are the goals? Perspective. One of the advantages of a hyper-texted life is that the creator or the reader can add the third dimension, depth to the page. Read a book, watch a movie or television show, look at a painting, what do you get? Height and width... Hyper-texting adds the depth to any medium and this is the bridge across the chasm.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What Defines a School?

Over the past week, there has been quite a spirited discussion about what the future of education should look like and and how best to achieve that vision. David Warlick has posted a diagram about the linkages between School 1.0 and School 2.0 and how to best identify the differences between the two. I commented on the first iteration of the diagram, regarding the perspective and some of the ideas contained within, which I was surprised to see Dave immediately implement. There has been a third iteration of Dave's diagram and I actually added a few extra items, which you can see below. I personally really like what Dave has done with this and the connections he has made, but I felt delineating the connective tissue between School 1.0 and School 2.0 would make it a little easier for most classroom teachers to follow. It also defines which three School 1.0 skills are necessary to move into School 2.o. I referred to these as the 'Three Literacies.'

  • Communications Literacy: The ability to read, write and speak with others. The ability to communicate with others.
  • Computational Literacy: The ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
  • Social Literacy: The ability to behave in a way that is socially acceptable and function as a member of a group.
So, what does this mean for schools? How do schools transition from School 1.0 to School 2.0? What does the final School 2.0 look like? Is it the same four walled classroom that we have now with students moving from class to class like an assembly line during the industrial revolution?

I doubt that the current educational system will be able to transition fast enough for us to know what the final School 2.0 will look like anytime soon. I also know that the very nature of education and information continues to grow and expand, bringing new skills with it. Skills that will, like almost anything else, have to broken down and delineated in a way that can be categorized.

I also read and responded to Will Richardson's post 'Some New Years Dreaming' about how schools need to change and where the change agents are coming from. Will is personally looking at removing himself from the current structure that the educational community has. He and his wife are in the process of home schooling their children and giving them rich educational experiences using the informational tools available to them in their home. One post a few weeks back had Will 'Skyping' Steve Hargdon into his dining room to connect with his children. It's the 'Network not Tools' was another recent post from Will's blog.

I agree with Will's thinking. Schools, right now, are fundamentally flawed. They suffer from a social malaise that hasn't created enough pain for the people in the United States to want to take action on a national scale. Even Will's response back to me talked about the lack of national leadership to make change possible.
Seriously, I do hope you change your system. But “The System” needs some real leadership on a national level to begin to find relevance again. I know that both you and Clay (and I) would love to see the tipping point of teachers doing good work make systemic change happen. But I have no doubt it won’t happen while my own kids are in school and little faith that I’ll see it in my lifetime. Which is why an alternative is sounding better and better.

My response to Will's initial post really spoke about how to best make change possible. Is it from within the current structures or from outside?

So, the question becomes: Are you going to work within the current political reality (Adam Clayton Powell) or are you going to work outside the current structures (Black Panther Party) to change the system?

Personally, I have decided to take the path or working within the current system. I have taken it upon myself to get an administrative credential and I am currently seeking administrative positions to change the current structure of education. I am not saying that one is better than the other, I have just decided to take one path. This does not mean that I have been mute on the other side, I was sending my blog posts out to all 400 teachers until I received a ‘cease and desist’ e-mail from the district administration.

The reality of the situation is that we need both. We need people working within and outside of the current system to make real change happen. Let’s hope that 2008 is the year that the forces inside and outside meet in the middle to make real change happen!

So, how would you move from School 1.0 to School 2.0? From inside or outside? What are the connective tissues between the two? Who needs to take the lead? Teachers, Administrators, State Department of Education or the Federal Department of Education.

I welcome your comments, because I am of the mind that the 'conversation' is the way this issue is going to gain enough critical mass to cause a 'tipping point' in the basic functioning of schools in the United States... I hope that slap in your face realities like '2 Million Minutes' expedite the process.