In Defense of Education Blogs

A MeetingA number of people, including Matthew Tabor, have taken exception with a blog post that I wrote last week, Another Question for Interviewers.  To be fair, my article was not as clearly written as it should have been.  I have done some editing of the post, but have not removed any of the original text.  In a way, I am apologizing but in a way I am not.  The ambiguity of the article gave Matthew and others an opportunity to share some ideas that were important and that I agree with.  Tabor is an excellent writer and good thinker with a perspective that is quite useful to educators.  There is very little in his three part article (Part I, Part II, Part III) that I disagree with.  But I feel a need to defend the value of blogging in education.

The program director for my graduate degree was brilliant.  She was a mathematician.  Although she had never taught in a K-12 classroom, she had a fair handle on our challenges.  However, she taught entirely from the writings of great education thinkers and from juried journals.  I learned a great deal from her.  I respect and revere her.  But I have to say that what I learned during those years from the listservs and newgroups I was reading at the time, written to by other practitioners like me, was AT LEAST as valuable to me and my work as what I learned in the data-oriented writings that we read and were tested on in graduate classes.

“You see, I was a real teacher.” 

“I taught real 7th and 8th graders in a real classroom.” 

“I taught in a real community and I taught real curriculum.” 

Each of my students was different.  There was no other classroom exactly like mine.  The community that I taught in was unique and back then I determined the curriculum that I taught.  Real teachers face new situations every day.  Every child has a different story, a different frame of reference to build on.  Every classroom has its own tools to use, or lack of tools.  A real teacher has to be resourceful, inventive, tenacious, and absolutely critical to success is a community of other real teachers and conversations.

I know that conversation is a vague term, but the conditions that real teachers work in are shapeless and unpredictable.  I recently had a conversation with Francis Bradburn, Director of the Instructional Technology Division at the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction.  We were talking about their IMPACT Model, and how the pilot schools had been studied, the data analyzed by a partnership of universities in NC, and one of the most interesting findings (more on other findings later) concerned their staff development procedures.

The schools brought in professional staff developers from across the country.  A few even brought me in, from just down the road.  But the professional development that seemed to have the greatest impact was a practice that they developed, where grade level or subject area teachers met with their school’s media specialist (librarian) and tech facilitator (integrationist) for extended self-development.  They casually talked about what was being taught, challenges, and history, and they all worked together to identify media that might be used, technology applications, and engaged in the training that was needed to implement those resources in their instruction.  They were unscripted conversations between professional educators — practitioners.  They pushed and pulled and through collegial conversation, they worked through it — and student performance improved.

Again, rigorous evidence-based education literature is essential to teaching today.  But in the real world of schools, no classroom is a laboratory.  No student is a specimen.  ..and the idea that scientifically tested and prescribed best practices alone will help children be prepared for their future —

Well that’s the fallacy!

Image Attribution:
Novák, Vlastimil. “LISSTEN Board Meeting Feb07 4.” Vlasta2’s Photostream. 11 Feb 2007. 25 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/bluefootedbooby/387444919/>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.