First of all, I am thrilled that 2? Worth is back in living color, after having been attacked at the beginning of NECC and, consequently, quarantined by Google. I fixed the problem, with the help of tech folks at Rackspace (who hosts my servers) and Google did another sweep, pronouncing my blog cured!
I’d fully intended to post a NECC reflection piece today, but almost without intent, found myself reading a thoughtful and considerate entry (America …. You’ve Got Trouble) from Clarence Fisher sharing his concerns for American schools. His ideas, seemed to run through a lot of the oral conversations I was a part of among attendees from outside the U.S. He says,
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the most innovative, inventive people involved with your education system America. They are kind, bright, and open people. willing to share and willing to think in new ways; you should be very proud of them. But I don’t think you’re getting it. … But I don’t hear many people talking about classrooms, or about how these concerns and worries about a changing world look like in practice. Many of your educational thought leaders are frustrated by a system that doesn’t seem to honour them and their creativity. They are hampered by the complete dominance of artificial testing and by corporations who are controlling the debates that surround change. Many of them have unfortunately been driven out of your classrooms, right where you need them the most.
One commenter said, in explanation of a Twitter post she’d made during the conference, “I wonder if Canadian schools really get it.” And I’d have to agree that I’ve met teachers in Canada who are stuburnly holding to the methods of the past. But I’ve worked in Canada, and the U.K., and New Zealand, and Scotland, and what I see there are national efforts to retool education by treating their students as customers — and in some cases these are the terms they are using.
These are not efforts, however, to please the students. It’s a growing believe that to prepare our children for their future, we have to understand them and to teach from their perspective, through their lenses, as they look to their future. I’ve written before about the incridible things I’ve seen in each of these countries, practices that would be labeled as “risk-taking” and even “counter-productive” in mine.
I think fondly of the early days of educational technology — when we were finding uses for the earliest personal computers, TRS-80s, Apple IIs, Ataris, and the amazingly powerful Amigas. We were still working under the radars of our bosses, and we were inventing new ways for our students to see their world, not through an Internet, but through the experiences of working information and ideas in empowering and seductive ways.
The problem, in my opinion, began when we started to consider and to treat our students as our future workforce. When it became our industries that were at stake, rather than democracy, then we had no choice but to mechanize education, to turn it into an assembly line, where we install math, and install reading, and install science, and then measure each product at the end to make sure that they all meet the standards — that they all know the same things and think the same ways.
The sad part is that this theme of class as future work force is just about too firmly entrenched to turn around in the short months and years we have, before it’s too late. I’m finding myself promoting the creative arts skills for the sake of the economy, rather than a richer life for our children. But even within that story, I think that we can retool our classrooms in a way that does help our children inside and outside their work experiences.
I agree with Clarence. We are spending our time and energies hammering at the walls, rather than reinventing what’s happening in our classrooms. It’s my one complaint about EduBloggerCon and it’s something I’ve thought about during and immediately after NECC. I’m continuing to think about what I’m going to do about it.
Thanks Clarence and to all of the educators who came to the U.S. and graciously shared with us at NECC — a true festival of learning.
Oh! and I’m so sorry, Clarence, we didn’t get a chance to sit and talk. I’d love to have discussed Herman Hesse with you!