Suggestions for School Board Members

I’ve been asked to speak for about 30 minutes to a group of school board members in Texas, who are finishing up a special extended institute provided by the Texas Association of School Boards.  You know the story.  Ask me to do a three-day workshop and I can do it now.  One day, and I can be ready tomorrow.  One hour and give me a week to prepare.  A half-hour?  We’ll it’s never ready.  But I know what I want to say.

They want big picture ideas and some specific recommendations.  My big picture is always three bullet points, and I’ve talked about it here before.  Tonight, however, I’m going to tell some stories to make my points.

First will be my 9th grade civics teacher who predicted that by the year 2000, we would each have our own personal computer.  It will be small enough to fit in our shirt pocket, and it will be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. ..and we didn’t believe such an outrageous idea.  It’s an indication of how rapidly change has occurred.  I solicited help from the smarter part of my mind, tweeting, “What have you seen lately that would have ASTONISHED you 30 years ago?”  Here are the answers that I got.  There is a lot of duplication, but I thought I’d give you all of them.

Bottom line?  We’re preparing our children for a future we can not clearly describe.

I won’t write the whole thing down here, but the next story describes how I learned that technology isn’t all that special.  It’s the information.  It’s the communication.  In 2002, we generated 5 exabytes of information.  In 2006, it was 161 exabytes (a million libraries of congress).  Projections are that 2010 will see 998 exabytes.  That information is suddenly growing at such an incredible and exponential rate tells us something about how it has changed.  NBC, CBS, and McGraw-Hill didn’t grow all of that information.  It happened because the landscape has changed.  We’re participants now. 

Bottom line? The information environment has changed.  Teaching, learning, and schooling must adapt.

Finally, it’s the story of arranging to meet for pizza with some folks I met in a chat room (channel), just days after IRC was announced on a newsgroup — only to learn then that my new friends were in Reykyavik, Iceland.  It was weeks later that I speculated that this experience might be a model for the world that our students will be growing into.  But I could never have predicted how quickly this would happen.

Bottom line? Our children are entering our classrooms from an information experiences that we do not understand.  It is rich, deep, and personal — and more than we can duplicate in most of our classrooms.

I close with some suggestions, that education leaders:

  • Respect & pay attention to the kids
  • Give learners a voice
  • Hire learners to teach
  • Seize “almost” every opportunity to replace books with digital content (ouch)
  • Pursue 1:1 carefully, but urgently
  • Support the infrastructure
  • Make sure that the tech staff works for the teachers
  • The best thing we can teach our children today, is how to teach themselves
  • When you visit the school, be happy when you see learning.  Be suspicious when you see too much teaching.

Do you have more suggestions.  Please post them as comments here.

Reform Panel at Educon 2.1

Photo taken above my head…

[Live blogged!  Please forgive spelling and awkward wording]

The question to the panel has changed to what does education reform look like, in light of a new president.

Lehmann says that accountability has to be a richer more complext conversation.  Should be less conformist in nature.

Marc Mannella (Principal, KIPP Philadelphia).

Betty Manchester, of the Maine Learning Initiative, comes from 1:1 learning environments.  She now manages the Maine International Center for Digital Learning (cool).  She says there are eight things that have to be present for reform to work and support to take place.

  1. Having a moral purpose
  2. Commitment to changing everything
  3. Focus on deep levels of learning
  4. Intelligent accountability (evidence of learning that students bring in)
  5. Assessment for learning
  6. Lateral capacity (building those networks)
  7. Paying attention to the energy
  8. Long level of leadership

Mike Wang, of Teach for America.  They recruit college students to teach for two years.  What nice about today is that, while we use to have to talk about theory, today we have some data on ways of

  1. Human Capital (people)
  2. The use of data
  3. Unyielding exceptions expectations

One thing that is unique thing about the Obama administration is that his administration seems able to dive into contentious issues and find consensus.

David Bromley has been a high school teacher, school founder, director, and district administration.  Now is with the big picture company.  They form forward looking schools.  He is cautiously optimistic.  School is still the only industry that still doesn’t get it.  We have to fundamentally change how we look at kids, or else we are not going to make the change.  We have to change everything.

Gary Stager “I dream of America where the person who is in charge of education is qualified.”  Someone else has changed him immediately about Arne Duncan.  He goes on to say that we know a lot about what works, and we’ve known it for a long time (referring back to Dewey, et al.).  He seem unoptimistic.

But, he believes

  • We must not rank or sort,
  • decisions should be made by teachers and parents,
  • art dram music, thinking, computer science, (We could provide a computer for every kid and a cello)
  • School should represent the best 6 or 7 hours of the child’s day
  • intiteld to a talented passionate teacher.
  • Multi-age homogeneous environments
  • learning is nature
  • always wrong to be mean to children (teacher shouldn’t scream at children — says it seems to happen at testing time)
  • External assessment is aways disruptive to learning.

Considering replicability (?), Lehmann says that processes can be replicable.  But curriculum can not.  It’s about people.

Question: Can we do with with the teachers we have? Gary Bromley says that the are making a change with kids with today’s teachers.  There are a lot of teachers who want to work differently with kids.

Betty speaks as the oldest member of the panel speaks for older teachers, who taught in the 60s and 70s still have the passion and the desire to do it a different way.  But the policy and the message from the top has to change at the national and the state level.  There also has to be a feedback, and open feedback system (pay attention to the teacher).

Mike says, “Are we going to let perfect be the enemy of good?”  I’m not sure a understand what is meant by this, but want to.

How do you deal with administration that just doesn’t get school reform.  We have to show them models of success.  We need more democracy.  Parents can make decisions.  Teachers should be able to work in places where they share in the leadership.  You can ask parents which teachers is the most creative, which teacher uses the most worksheets and they know.  Speaking out against single soslution, one-side-fits-all.

Should NCLB die.  Stager says, yes.  It isn’t that we haven’t fully funded it.  He says, “Thank God!”  We’re beating kids with the buts of rifles because we can’t afford the bullets.”  I love it!

Marc says, “This is a very fun panel.”  Says he agrees with 92% of what’s being said.  Says, “Minimum expectation is our lofty goal, is what’s wrong with NCLB.”  Says that data disaggregation is a major move forward.

Lehmann says that standards-based state testing is not improving education.  Others are saying

I just twittered: “The point of ed reform is having classrooms where it just doesn’t matter if kids are getting tested — to them or the teachers.”

What about diversity in teachers and other educators who are looking to retool teaching and learning.  We look around the room, and the majority is white, though diversity is higher than it usually is in these meetings.  Betty says that it is usually about money.