The Learning our Children Deserve

Some days I’m tired of “making do.” My school is definitely in the middle. With only 51% Free & Reduced Lunch, we don’t qualify as a Title 1 school. We do not have the highest economical level parent group and community support. Many federal programs are not available to us because we are in the middle. We write grants, beg, run bookfairs and fundraisers (including the cookbook I wrote 2 years ago), and hope we can meet everyone’s needs. Our equipment is bare bones. Our iMacs are 6-7 years old and running MacOS9.2.2 since we don’t have enough RAM to host OS X.

Deep Thinking :: Making Do :: November :: 2006

Be assured that these are not the words of a whiner.  Diane Chen is one of the most dedicated, accomplished, and articulate librarians I know.  I met her and watched her describe her vision a few weeks ago at the SLJ Leadership Summit, and I was entirely impressed.  I must say that I am surprised that she has cultivated her reputation with such a school in need.

But, of course, this is not an uncommon story: schools with six-year-old technology, little or no staff development, tragically too little time for planning, reflection, and retooling in a time of such rapid change, over worked technical staff (if any), rising expectations and demands for accountability, and a workforce, a large percentage of which will be retiring in only a hand full of years.

I come off harsh sometimes, demanding that teachers self-develop (when there’s no time), integrate digital, networked information into their teaching (when they have only one or two old computers and no classroom display), with reliable and abundant technology (when tech staffs are overworked and dwindling in numbers), so that students can attain a higher order of literacy and a richer understanding of their world (when they are being measured on how many of their students can read and do math at grade level).

I sound like I’m blaming teachers and tech directors.  I am not.  There are some teachers who want things to stay the same that they were in the 1950s, and there are some tech directors who care more about protecting bandwidth than seeing information-rich schools — and there is no excuse for either.  But most teachers and those who support them and their classrooms care about their students and their future, and they understand what and how kids need to be learning.  It’s just that we seldom ask for it.

I had a conversation at NCETC with a woman I have a great deal of respect for.  We got to talking about 1:1 initiatives, which she said we didn’t need.  She mentioned handhelds, probes, and a whole string of other technologies that can be brought into classrooms to accomplish the learning.  She said something like, “We can provide the technologies that are best for the learning at hand, without putting a laptop on every desk.” 

My objection?  This is scarcity-based education planning.  It is an education technology vision based on the constraints that come not from some weather pattern we have no control over, but from the decisions of men and women who are not citizens of the digital nation.  They are immigrants.  We must start talking about education from the perspective of digital citizens, our children, and the learning experiences that they need right now, to be ready to succeed and prosper in a world that is changing so fast that we can’t even describe it.

This is why I keep talking about teachers who should be retooling their classrooms every day, and students who should be learning to teach themselves within rich and practically unlimited information environments, and tech folks who should be resourcefully providing that practically unrestrained access to information.  We want get there unless we talk about the education environment that our children need, not just the one we can afford to provide.  We have to tell a new story and tell it loudly and at every opportunity.

There are a lot of teachers out there who are blogging.  They should be picturing their students leaving their classrooms at the end of the year as more curious, more energetic, more knowledgeable, smarter, and more skilled at learning than when they came in; picture the classroom, technologies, and learning experiences that would result in these eager to learn students, and talk about that classroom, its teachers, and the support that makes it happen reliably.  Talk about the learning your students deserve — in your blogs.

2¢ Worth!

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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.