I am not sure why I always wake up early when I’m presenting at a conference or for a school. Today, it’s the James River School in Lynchburg. I’ll be talking about literacy and professional literacy as a way of refining our lifelong learning skills. But that’s not the reason I woke, other than thinking that Phrase Net would be a fantastic addition to my basic literacy presentation.
Nope, this morning it was the Living and Learning with New Media report that was published back in November, and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation — which I reviewed yesterday for a presentation later on tonight for parents and school community.
One of the stated implications of the report was that the peer-based and interest-driven learning that our students do through their new media (not new to them) is highly personal. The report said that this was partly due to the diversity of media tools and their constant evolutions and refinements. I think that it is also the nature of the learning that it is largely self-directed, personal in its intended outcomes, and it doesn’t look like learning as they usually think of it.
The report states that this diversity makes it,
..problematic to develop a standardized set of benchmarks against which to measure young people’s technical and new media literacy.
Personally, I do not see this as a problem, which shouldn’t surprise many of my readers. But I have to confess some surprise at how much momentum has built up around standardized testing and the whole standards movement. They have become a defining element of the American education industry, and this disappoints me, disturbs me, and this is problematic.
In so much that I hear today in conversations about new information and communication technologies in our school, it seems to be about improving the business of education, rather than making our children better prepared for their future. Our business is about improving data. To quote an article forwarded to me by a Facebook friend (Tina Steele), in one of those Celestine moments,
..we now talk about “performance indicators” as a substitute for assessing the quality of teaching. Learning has to be measured by an “audit” of the qualifications achieved rather than a more qualitative judgement of what students have learned. (( Baker, Mike. ” Lesson one: no Orwellian language.” BBC News 16 Feb 2008 Web.20 Apr 2009. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7247160.stm>. ))
I’ve used this analogy before, though not in a long time. I think that we have come (or been made) to think of ourselves as teacher-technicians. The job involves our managing our classrooms with white lab jackets on, ticking off indicators and benchmarks, molding our students learning to government-mapped blueprints.
We’re trying to restructure education to improve the job, when teaching is not a job in the traditional sense. Teaching is a mission to make the world a better place, by making our students the best people they can be. Rather than teacher-technicians, we should be teacher-philosophers.