I’m waking up to snow this morning, here in Salt Lake City. Schools will be closed. The conference will be canceled. Bread and milk will disappear from the grocery store shelves. The entire city’s going to — Oh Yeah! I’m in Utah! It’s going to be business as usual. They’re going to pick me up at the hotel at 7:00, I’ll deliver my keynote to over a thousand Utah educators (a sizable percentage of this state’s teachers) and deliver workshops about blogging, podcasting, wikis, and harnessing the digital landscape.
It was nice to get to my hotel early yesterday. I’ve redone several of my slide shows, which is not necessarily a good thing. It means that for much of my presentations, I’ll not know what slide is coming up next. A little un-nerving — but heck, it’s snowing out side. I think we’re all going to be up for an adventure.
While at the METC conference, earlier this week, I took some time off and had a conversation with Christina Gordon from the National School Board’s Association. She’s writing an article for one of their publications and asked me a few questions. I spoke at one of their conferences a few weeks ago in Washington, and was evidently in “the zone” that day. In the presentation, I talked about what kids need to know today, what, and how they need to be learning. She asked…
What do school board members need to know today?
I answered with three things:
- They need to know that change is constant today. The market place is changing, our customers (the students) are changing, and the information landscape with which and within which we teach is changing dramatically. All of these drastically challenge the act of schooling.
- Our outcome has not changed. We must continue to have generations of literate, knowledgeable, and inventive citizens. What all of that means is changing, but the outcome is the same.
- All stakeholders in education must understand that teaching the creative arts (music, art, drama) is as critical to our continued prosperity as teaching the practical arts (science, technology, and mathematics)
Another question was about policy, which is a tough one for me since I have never been that much of a policy wonk. But I told her that I believe that No Child Left Behind has done far more harm to education in the U.S. than good. It is an industrial age solution to an information age problem. But NCLB is correct in that schools, teachers, and students must be accountable to their communities.
I think that we need to find new ways of assessing the success of our education endeavors, methods that are more relevant to a changing market place, changing customers, and a rapidly changing information landscape. I found a perfect example this morning when I ran across a podcast program from the Pudong Campus of the Shanghai American School. One of their tech people, Mr. Torris simply walked into grade 5 classrooms and started interviewing teachers and kids about what they were learning.
What’s different here is that rather than relying on numbers that describe learners as products, the community is almost literally invited into the classrooms to learn what and how their children are learning and what they are doing with it. This is what I would like to have known about my children’s schools. I’d like to have been part of it — not just an outside inspector.