Education, Technology and Obama’s Imagination. . .

So in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably start by saying that I’m a bit of a left-leaner when it comes to politics.

Working in classrooms for over a decade gives you a real sense for the disparity between the haves and have-nots in our country—and you tend to want to find ways to stick up for the little guy. In that sense, I’ve been Obama-fied over the last year.

His recent comments on technology in education—spotlighted in this eSchool News article—have left me nothing short of gobsmacked, though!  Here’s the entire quote:

“Imagine a future where our children are more motivated because they aren’t just learning on blackboards, but on new whiteboards with digital touch screens; where every student in a classroom has a laptop at [his or her] desk; where [students] don’t just do book reports but design PowerPoint presentations; where they don’t just write papers, but they build web sites; where research isn’t done just by taking a book out of the library, but by eMailing experts in the field; and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it and obtain knowledge. By fostering innovation, we can help make sure every school in America is a school of the future.

“And that’s what we’re going to do when I’m president. We will help schools integrate technology into their curriculum, so we can make sure public school students are fluent in the digital language of the 21st-century economy. We’ll teach our students not only math and science, but teamwork and critical thinking and communication skills, because that’s how we’ll make sure they’re prepared for today’s workplace.”

Let’s tackle a few bits of Obama’s imagination one at a time:

“Imagine a future where our children are more motivated because they aren’t just learning on blackboards, but on new whiteboards with digital touch screens; where every student in a classroom has a laptop at [his or her] desk;

This one almost cost Obama my vote in and of itself!  You see, he’s making the same mistake that nearly every decision-maker in the past ten years has made when talking about educational technology:  He’s believing that nifty tools are needed to increase student motivation.

I used to be a nifty-tools guy, too.  Ask my friend Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  I’d drive her crazy with my commitment to gadgets.

Then I started paying pretty careful attention to the kinds of work being done in the loaded classroom (think cheese fries), and what I found was shocking:  Rooms kitted out with thousands and thousands of dollars of technology are often no different than the nun-and-ruler-driven classrooms of old.  Dropping technology into a classroom rarely changes instruction in meaningful ways.

Whiteboards are easily the best example because those digital touch screens that Obama is dreaming of are rarely even touched by students in most loaded classrooms!  Instead, they become a new-and-improved way for teachers to do what they’ve always done:  Drone from the board in a one-way broadcast model of classroom instruction.

Are we really reforming education by introducing teachers to electronic chalk?

The Senator drove the knife even deeper with this one:

where [students] don’t just do book reports but design PowerPoint presentations; where they don’t just write papers, but they build web sites; where research isn’t done just by taking a book out of the library, but by eMailing experts in the field;

Tell me that we aren’t really going to argue that PowerPoint and email are innovations?

That’s got to be a joke, right?

Ask any kid today what they think of PowerPoint and they’ll tell you they’re completely fed up with it.  Again, does it really change instruction—or is it just another fancy tool for teachers to deliver notes to kids?  Maybe it’s a nice replacement for color Vis a Vis overhead projector pens, but it ain’t much beyond that!

And Barack—-you’ve got kids, right?

Do they email anyone?

Chances are they don’t!

Today’s generation instant messages and texts.  They Skype and video-chat.  Synchronous communication defines the work that they do with peers away from school.  Why should we believe they’re actually going to sit and wait for days for a reply from an expert when they’re used to getting answers NOW?  Email might feel good to most of us—at least everyone outside of Senator McCain—but it’s nearly pointless to our students.

Now, Obama gets a bit closer to the kinds of conversations we should be having when he wrote:

and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it and obtain knowledge. By fostering innovation, we can help make sure every school in America is a school of the future…

We’ll teach our students not only math and science, but teamwork and critical thinking and communication skills, because that’s how we’ll make sure they’re prepared for today’s workplace.”

We really do need to foster innovation in our classrooms and to redefine teachers as knowledge coaches.  After all, the majority of today’s students have figured out that school actually hinders their ability to learn.  With a couple of mouse clicks, they can stumble upon information for any topic that they’re interested in mastering—and chances are, that content will be far more varied and aligned with different learning styles than what they get in most classrooms.

Showing students how to access and manage this information is nothing short of an essential first step towards developing the oft-cliched “life-long learners” that we profess constant commitment to.

Teamwork, critical thinking and communication are EXACTLY the kinds of skills that we need to emphasize in order to prepare children for the workplaces of tomorrow.  Read Daniel Pink’s Whole New Mind someday.  He makes a pretty good case for the fact that we live in a world where design and innovation are becoming the “new normal.”

The functionality epitomized by the right-brained generation of the ’70s and ’80s is a basic expectation today…businesses need creativity to excel, and the most successful workers in this new economy will be those who can cross boundaries between topics—-making connections and innovations that join seemingly diverse fields.

But my question, Senator Obama, is simple:  How can you honestly expect this kind of creative thinking to define classrooms when the sole indicators of success are multiple choice tests in reading and mathematics?

I’ve written pretty extensively about what standardized tests have done to my classroom.  Every year, team work, critical thinking and communication are pushed out of my lessons—replaced by multiple choice quizzes and questions that are designed to prepare my kids for the end of grade exams.

If you’re serious about making the kinds of skills that you describe as essential for preparing kids for tomorrow’s workplace an important part of today’s classrooms, you’d better start talking about ditching accountability systems that place no emphasis on anything other than Scantron bubble sheets when measuring “results,” because instruction will never change until you do.

As unfortunate as it may seem, what’s tested is definitely what’s taught.

Now, maybe I’m being a bit unfair here—after all, I’m drawing conclusions about Senator Obama’s entire educational platform from a two-paragraph quote in an article I stumbled across in my feed reader the other day.  I’m also smart enough to recognize that the president, Congress and the Department of Education have far less control over school decisions than policy makers at the state level.

I just cringe every time I see someone as influential as a presidential candidate “imagining a future” where email, PowerPoints and whiteboards are the keys to redefining education.

Redefining education begins by asking ourselves a simple question that my buddy Adam Garry asks his clients all the time:  What do we want to see students doing in our classrooms?  Are creation, communication and collaboration the keys to tomorrow’s kingdom?  What sorts of instructional practices support the development and mastery of these skills and behaviors?

Are today’s schools effective at developing new learners?  Why?

Once we have the answers to these kinds of questions, we can begin to choose digital tools responsibly—rather than throwing any more money on misdirected tools like whiteboards and student responders!

36 thoughts on “Education, Technology and Obama’s Imagination. . .

  1. חדרי מלח

    Well…! According to Education and Technology of “Obama’s” Imagination, I agree about the Team work, critical thinking and communication are exactly the kinds of skills that we need to emphasize in order to prepare children for the workplaces of tomorrow.
    But for this I think that there is no need of changing the present standards of educational intuitions.

  2. חדרי מלח

    Well…! According to Education and Technology of “Obama’s” Imagination, I agree about the Team work, critical thinking and communication are exactly the kinds of skills that we need to emphasize in order to prepare children for the workplaces of tomorrow.
    But for this I think that there is no need of changing the present standards of educational intuitions.

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  4. Pete M

    Interesting post. I’m currently a college student about to enter the “real world” and as I look back on all the standardized testing that was to supposedly help me I see the flaw in the educational system. I was the age where standardized testing was done every year starting since 3rd grade. I read Daniel Pink’s book believe we need a change away from the emphasis on logical and analytical testing.

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    IWB works a lot in classroom. I think putting them in a classroom is the better idea in attracting students towards studies and their classes. The points you have shared here Bill are very insightful and it is necessary that we have to think on to them seriously.

  8. kahlua42

    Districts don’t do enough ROI analysis on their tech expenditures. So, it’s not surprising that they keep spending more and more on tech. The best solutions tend to be free and lightweight and they must relate to the way a student likes to learn, not the way a district wants to instruct.
    The web and its content… explore it with your students. Not as the ultimate answer, but at least as something that can bring enthusiasm to a classroom.
    Here is a technology that I believe can help:
    http://www.simplybox.com

  9. Renee Moore

    This is a great discussion, and I’m sorry to plug into it so late. You are absolutely right in your point, that dropping technology into a classroom of itself does not transform the quality of education there. However, I feel compelled to point out a faulty assumption that you make in your original post, Bill.
    You said, “Today’s generation instant messages and texts. They Skype and video-chat. Synchronous communication defines the work that they do with peers away from school. Why should we believe they’re actually going to sit and wait for days for a reply from an expert when they’re used to getting answers NOW? Email might feel good to most of us—at least everyone outside of Senator McCain—but it’s nearly pointless to our students.”
    While this may be true in some places, and appear to be true in many others, it is not the reality for many of the young people with whom I work daily. From preteens through college sophomores, I’m working with young people who don’t text, IM, Skype, or even email. Many of my college students love PowerPoint because no one has ever shown them how to use it; others are still trying to figure out how to do basic word processing. Some are in this condition because they have limited or no access (we’re still talking dial-up and no bars in some places). There are still some glaring gaps in what young people know or don’t know about the technology, in access to it, and in comfort level with it.
    That’s why I agree with your general point that its not just about the tools we put in their hands, but helping them become skillful, thoughtful users of those tools in the pursuit of real knowledge.
    I’m not big on this idea that all students will be able to reach out to experts and access new information or answers at will. (And will the “experts” take time to answer them?) That won’t occur spontaneously for all students, particularly those who don’t know they have that as a learning option.
    I suspect the role of teachers in opening this brave new world of education to everyone’s children will be one of the greatest teaching challenges of this century.

  10. K. Borden

    “You should also certainly understand that teachers will never be a true profession because they do not set their entrance requirements, ethical standards, do not police themselves, and surely will never set their own compensation. ”
    That would be a good place to start with some change!
    “the public establishes high standards for expertise, education and professional conduct for teachers. Recognize that and do what’s logical: Listen to those who know.”
    The “we know trust us, you don’t, your just a parent” attitude is not winning the debate. Mr. Obama is calling for greater accountability and I doubt this is what he has in mind. It certainly isn’t the level of faith that lead to the enactment of NCLB.

  11. Mike

    My Dear K. Borden:
    Having been in law enforcement for nearly two decades, I’m quite familiar with the legal profession, and the fact remains that attorneys essentially police themselves. Attorneys set the entrance requirements to their profession. They establish ethical standards and set the level of their own compensation (yes, I know that market forces have some bearing on this). Attorneys on state review boards judge other attorneys on matters of ethical lapses, and attorneys (many, if not most state legislators are attorneys, are they not?) zealously guard these prerogatives. Yes, attorneys can be sued for malpractice (so can teachers), but as you well know, most attorneys are loath to press such claims against their fellows. It is indeed hard to find such an insular, protective group as attorneys. That said, I have no doubt that the legal profession is necessary as well as, in the main, beneficial to society.
    You should also certainly understand that teachers will never be a true profession because they do not set their entrance requirements, ethical standards, do not police themselves, and surely will never set their own compensation.
    Why don’t people listen to teachers in setting educational policy? Politics, my dear K. Borden, politics. We demand that teachers have a professional level of education and training, and then ignore–or never seek–their counsel on matters directly relating to their profession (so to speak). Would any attorney stand for that? Surely not, if for no other reason that it would be foolish to hire professionals only to ignore them. But attorneys have the advantage of being able to directly influence the law to protect themselves and to essentially force the public to pay homage to their experience. Understand, I don’t wish to get into a lawyer/teacher debate here, I’m just addressing your points.
    It is the nature of education that most Americans, having been in the public schools for 12 years, believe that they know a great deal about it and are very willing to ignore teachers and impose their own beliefs, factually based or otherwise. When money in large amounts is involved, and when political philosophy holds sway over what works, we end up with high stakes testing and a variety of other mandates that, at best, do not help students and burden teachers and students, and at worst, harm everyone involved.
    Give credence to calls for accountability? Indeed I do and will, but I’ll expect those making such calls to know what they are talking about and to actually learn, one more time, from those who taught them in the first place. When one is trying to defuse a nuclear device, it’s best to speak with a nuclear physicist, not a state legislator. The same is true of education issues. the public establishes high standards for expertise, education and professional conduct for teachers. Recognize that and do what’s logical: Listen to those who know. Unless, of course, knowing the reality of education issues is of secondary importance to other, more pressing, concerns.

  12. K. Borden

    One other thing, you said…
    “We’d love to work on the kinds of issues you suggest. The problem is that virtually no one is listening to teachers these days.”
    Might it be wise to ask why? Why is no one listening?
    The reason I take time to read this blog is because I see in Mr. Ferriter a refreshing bit of reflection and willingness to tackle the issues.
    I don’t agree with all he types, but I see potential for a dialouge. If enough of those with stakes in the education of our children get busy working on the issues candidly, we have hope.
    Again, NCLB was a wake up call. Teachers can argue endlessly that standardized tests are _____ (insert your negative here). Bottom line, failing to recognize how immense the movement that brought us NCLB was and the merits in it will lead to teachers talking past the public. I urge you not to become irrelevant to the discussion by failing to give credence to the concerns that gave rise to the call for accountability.
    To read a teacher say we talk but no one listens or “virtually no one listens to teachers these days” …yikes what does that say?

  13. K. Borden

    Mike:
    “I’m not saying that accountability standards are self imposed (but that’s exactly what lawyers do, isn’t it? Police themselves and set their own standards?).”
    Actually NO! Lawyers are subject to malpractice claims. One of the costs of practicing law is the insurance for these claims. Lawyers have ethical standards which are enforced by ethics boards in each state. Furthermore, they are subject to the free market and incompetence where they reap what they sow.
    One of the reasons the legal community establishes and strives to maintain multiple accountability measures and enforcement mechanisms is to earn the respect for the profession that comes from accountability and transparency in practice.
    When I was practicing I was well aware my license is a privilege granted by the state and readily accepted the duties and obligations associated with the privilege. I also was well aware that my competency or lack thereof had the potential to impact lives for better or worse and felt it was entirely appropriate that the privelege I had been granted to be subject to strict review from formal agencies, peers and the public.
    Teachers want to be treated as professionals. How many times have I heard or read that teachers believe the public fails to honor them appropriately as such? Many. Teachers are granted a great privilege. We entrust them daily with control, care and instruction of our children. We deserve to hold them to a very high standard.
    You say, “My point is that every accountability measure that we reasonably need is already in place in every school district in America,” and “I answer to the public through my principals, who answer to the superintendent, who answers to the school board.” How often do I read or hear teachers complain of the incompetency of administrators? Often. And what you describe is a self policing system, a closed community of layers of bureaucracy. You do not describe a transparent system in which parents and taxpayers can have faith in the results. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for a parent or student with legitimate concerns to have those concerns addressed? Example, suing a school system for the most meritorious of claims is incedibly expensive and difficult. The systems have legal insurance and teams of government paid attorneys to muster against a citizen or group of citizens who might dare challenge them. It is a daunting exercise at best.
    Mr. Obama is saying he favors greater accountability than exists in exchange for higher pay. What that accountability will be is the issue teachers would be wisely advised to embrace as a challenge and engage in determining.
    The deference once awarded teachers and education professionals has been eroded. The bi-partisan passage of NCLB was a wake up call. The public simply isn’t willing to trust and have faith in the system without some form of measure of effectiveness beyond the opinions of the education bureaucracy. You can continue to argue that all is well and there is no need for something more, but you risk not being in on the call.

  14. Mike

    Dear K. Borden:
    My point is that every accountability measure that we reasonably need is already in place in every school district in America. That some districts are dysfunctional, or do not work to maximum efficiency does not change the fact that what we need is already in place.
    How can the public tell that I’m a good teacher and one of my fellows is not? Because they hire professionals, people who have training, knowledge and skills that they lack, to make those determinations. How can we know the potential of a given student? Because we hire professionals to make those determinations, and indeed, who is better qualified to make such determinations? All of a student’s teachers who work with them daily, who review hundreds of their assignments, or the scores of even four or five tests, no matter how brilliant conceived and written? Which is the better, more reliable measure?
    I’m not saying that accountability standards are self imposed (but that’s exactly what lawyers do, isn’t it? Police themselves and set their own standards?). Rather, I answer to the public through my principals, who answer to the superintendent, who answers to the school board. Those standards are hardly self imposed, in fact, teachers have so little power over what they do it would surprise most to learn of it.
    Recognize the best teachers? Absolutely. But that’s quite a different matter than the kind of illusory accountability imposed by mandatory, high stakes testing and the silliness surrounding it.
    And regarding ACT and SAT tests, a growing number of colleges have begun to shun such measures, some doing away with them entirely, because they are far less accurately predictive of academic success for larger and larger numbers of non-traditional students.
    We’d love to work on the kinds of issues you suggest. The problem is that virtually no one is listening to teachers these days.

  15. K. Borden

    Mike,
    “Bold new accountability measures? None are required”
    I am afraid we disagree. We likely agree that standardized testing should not be the sole method of determining accountability. But being very involved in my child’s education and volunteering with children throughout my life has convinced me we need a way to reward the best teachers generously. We need to encourage,provide support and provide incentives for those who show potential to be great. Some need to find other fields of employment.
    I would think the group best equipped to design accountability standards would be those in the trenches teaching. Your answer that these standards are self imposed and thus any formal assessment is not needed requires too great a leap of faith on the part of taxpayers and parents.
    “A standardized test score ultimately tells you only how your child did on a single test on a single day.” My profession (law) required a single test for several days as part of the licensure requirement. SAT’s and ACT’s are rather important in determining a student’s opportunities. None of those alone determine the success of the student or applicant, but they do offer a factor to consider. Hopefully, the teaching community will help to develop the other factors to consider for accountability.

  16. Mike

    Dear K. Borden:
    In all my years as a teacher before the advent of high stakes, mandatory testing, I never, for a moment, believed in my wildest dreams that I was unaccountable for my work, nor did I believe that my students were unaccountable to me. Indeed, I had no reason to believe otherwise as I–and all my fellows–saw the evidence that convinced us that incompetent work, shoddy ethics or poor practices of any kind would be swiftly corrected or, if necessary, punished. This is still the case in my school, and I suspect, in most. And yes, I’ve seen many, many teachers fired. The idea that this isimpossible is simply false.
    Bold new accountability measures? None are required. Get into your child’s classrooms and regularly review their work. Is their writing steadily improving? Their reasoning ability? Their reading and comprehension? Do they understand and can they explain basic concepts of science, government, human relations? You need not have a master’s in education to deal with such issues. Speak with their teachers. Are they feel good, new acronym of the week, self esteem enhancing boneheads who desperately want their students to like them, or caring, professional adults who demand real progress and results and care only about genuinely earned self respect?
    A standardized test score ultimately tells you only how your child did on a single test on a single day. Understanding what your child is actually learning, how their brain is growing and improving (or not) takes a bit of effort over time on your part, but it’s the same effort intelligent parents have expended for thousands of years, for times and technology change, but human nature, and the way we learn, does not. We do not continue to each as Socrates did because we can’t think of better ways to do it, but because we know that when something works, we shouldn’t try to fix it. How much grief have we endured because we forgot, over and over again, that simple maxim?

  17. K. Borden

    Mr. Ferriter:
    Thank you for your honest response to what I confess was a question based largely on frustration. Your writings have long impressed me as a those of a reflective teacher who is trying very hard to reach your students where they are and guide them where they can be.
    Your experience exemplifies the quandry I as a parent struggle to resolve. I want for my daughter to have as part of her education teachers who are extending the instruction and opportunities they offer beyond course content. On the other hand I want measures of accountability for my child and her teachers I can have some degree of faith are not subjective.
    When Mr. Obama says he would promote greater pay for teachers with greater accountability, I read or listen further. Then I hear him say he would change the way accountability is done. That causes pause. What are those alternatives?
    What I can’t seem to find is the concrete suggested alternate accountability methods.
    If I remember correctly you teach 6th grade. By the time students reach you they have six years of previous experience as students (good, bad or mixed). They have been tested in our system for three of those years. At the end of the year ideally the “test” would be an indicator of where they have been lead from where you found them. A failing in practice with NCLB appears to be the weight given that progress annually. If you make leaps but those leaps fall just shy of the goal and fail to cross the finish line consequences follow and those gains are neglected.
    We stand on common ground exasperated by suggestions that costly “technology” drops will magically transform the lot of students. We agree that the standardized tests alone (without other measures) are inadequate to fully measure teacher or student performance.
    The rub is, what other measures? This is where I as a parent look to you the teaching community to offer answers. I want to learn and hopefully be able to advocate with you for acceptable, reliable accountability. I want to know that you as a community of teachers recognize some in your profession are failing and some are blazing trails we all may be wise to follow.
    When Mr. McCain says we should find the teachers who are failing students and help them find other jobs, that also makes me listen and read further.
    Summary: Standardized tests are faulty measures of student and teacher accountability. So how do we refine measures, adopt new additional one? I am looking to you the teaching community to bring your experience to the table to lead to some answers.

  18. Bill Ferriter

    K Borden asked:
    I have to ask….why as you said in your linked blog are you giving hundreds of multiple choice questions? Do you believe that strongly the format of multiple choice is so perplexing as to require that emphasis?
    This is an easy one to answer, K—
    I spend this time on multiple choice questions because that’s what I’m held accountable for—and as sad as it may seem, the higher level lessons that I once believed would translate into increased performance on end of grade exams just didn’t do the job.
    How do I know?
    My test results didn’t come close to matching the results of the “drill and killers” on my hallway!
    Why do I care?
    Because each year, I get called into the office for a conversation about my “effectiveness index,” a measure of my worth as an educator that is derived solely from the numbers my kids put up on our standardized test.
    If we want teachers to spend time on developing creative thinkers and collaborative partners, we need to reward teachers who effectively develop those skills in students.
    Right now, the only measures that count are end of grade test scores—which are limited to basic bits of content from a ridiculously large curriculum.
    Does this make sense?
    Bill

  19. K. Borden

    Mr. Ferriter:
    Allow me to quote to you from the “Connections for School Success” we received a couple of weeks ago at meet the teacher night for fifth grade.
    Under the heading “Developmental Characteristics”:
    “May lose some creativity as pressure to conform increases”
    As a parent reading this publication by the school system you work for I cringed. I know at home we relish creativity, innovation, and teamwork. I know that she spends her free time in a variety of creative endeavors (dance, drama, robotics, writing, piano) So where is my daughter going to be pressured to conform in a way that we should expect her developmentally to “lose some creativity”?
    SCHOOL!!!!!????
    That is frightening, and frankly an issue that our family is seriously concerned about as we decide what path to take for her after elementary ends this year.
    Mr. Obama worries me as I face these decisions. He supports increased public charter schools but what about other options for choice?
    I read teacher after teacher complain that standardized testing has crowded out their ability to teach “teamwork, communication and critical thinking”. Perhaps I am far too dense to “get it”, but why exactly is it so impossible to coach those skills while actually instructing students on a pool of curriculum objectives? Yes it takes more time to cover an objective as a small group, but not every objective needs to be covered in small groups (13 years of small groups a few times a year should add up to something, it doesn’t have to happen all in one class in one year) The same is true with communication skills and their use in varied mediums.
    I have to ask….why as you said in your linked blog are you giving hundreds of multiple choice questions? Do you believe that strongly the format of multiple choice is so perplexing as to require that emphasis?
    What sometimes frightens me as I consume information on “21st century learning” is the emphasis on form versus substance, process versus content.

  20. Mike

    Actually, I’m a surprised that The One could take time from making the seas recede and healing the planet to discourse on education. I think we might be hard pressed to find many folks in education who believe that the daily presence of the Federal Government in our classrooms has been anything other than an unwanted intrusion that has imposed myriad unfunded mandates primarily aimed at generating data for Federal and state educrats used to justify the continued intrusion of said educrats.
    You are correct, Bill, in asserting that amazing new innovations like Powerpoint(?!), laptops(??!!), e-mail(???!!!) and other technological marvels are hardly the point. One would hope that you recognize that Obama is nothing more than an unusually glib (when using a teleprompter only) Chicago machine politician with virtually no accomplishments, and a record of doing everything he can to avoid leaving a record. This is a model for educational reform and salvation?
    And we ought to be very cautious when we talk about 21st century learning as though it is some amazing new invention requiring massive change rather than mere learning taking place because the calendar has advanced past the 20th century. I was hired because I am a good teacher. Because I know how to impart not only my particular academic discipline, but because I understand human beings, particularly of high school age. I know that times change but people done. We learn in exactly the same ways that Aristotle’s students learned, through well guided, correct practice over time. Those who, in a kind of “happy, happy, everyone is brilliant and endlessly creative” rapture suggest that teachers should be mere facilitators allowing the unlimited brilliance of each student to magically bubble to the surface, are the kind of people like Obama who make such mindless pronouncements that sound ground breaking, but in reality, reveal a stunning dearth of knowledge about human nature.
    Twenty first century learning? Here’s a radical, Earth-shaking prescription: Good teachers, in a disciplined environment, high standards, the removal of high stakes, mandatory testing (sew the ground with salt after burning everything and everyone involved in that industry) backed by engaged parents who take responsibility for seeing that their students take full advantage of their learning opportunities, and every day, teach. Oh yes, and in every discipline, read, read, read.
    Good, dedicated teachers are a joy and a treasure. Facilitators are a dime a dozen. Do we want to give the public the idea that all they want and need are facilitators? I know many educational publishers who would be delighted with that idea, and would be equally delighted to sell “THE CURRICULUM” that, with the help of facilitators, would revolutionize education, perhaps even taking us into…wait for it…THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY OF LEARNING! Do we really want to go there? Is that really education? And ultimately, why do we want Federal politicians in our classrooms in the first place?

  21. Bill Ferriter

    Lisa wrote:
    Could this be why Obama used PowerPoint? Was this example chosen to speak to the masses? Or does he really not have an understanding of the skills our students need to be taught to be successful in the 21st Century.
    I’m sure you’ve talk to just as many educators as I have that don’t know what a wiki, blog or even a Google Doc is. Imagine if Obama mentioned those in his speech.
    You know, Lisa—you could definitely be on to something here. Speaking to the masses is important, and the masses wouldn’t understand much beyond Powerpoint and email.
    But wouldn’t it be nice if we saw leaders beginning to leave tools and software applications completely OUT of conversations about 21st Century learning?
    I’d like to see more attention paid to the kinds of skills necessary for success in the future because I think it will make people realize that change means a heck of a lot more than just dropping new technology into classrooms.
    Does this make sense?
    Bill

  22. Lisa Thumann

    Bill,
    Your concern that when “someone as important as Obama uses Powerpoint and email as examples of 21st Century learning” is going to give schools the impression that they are on the right track is something that I have been wrestling with.
    There is a huge learning curve right now. Those immersed in 21st Century Learning skills, those familiar with the terminology and then those in education that do-not-know-what-they-don’t-know.
    Could this be why Obama used PowerPoint? Was this example chosen to speak to the masses? Or does he really not have an understanding of the skills our students need to be taught to be successful in the 21st Century.
    I’m sure you’ve talk to just as many educators as I have that don’t know what a wiki, blog or even a Google Doc is. Imagine if Obama mentioned those in his speech.
    Lisa

  23. Adam

    Paul,
    You should check out what the state of Wyoming is doing. They don’t accept federal funds and they are using product-based assessments for students.

  24. Bill Ferriter

    Paul wrote:
    Oh, and give those willing to show that they will change and improve their practice the kind of pay that they deserve. I can’t buy bread with pride in my job.
    Hey Paul…this is a GREAT quote!
    And in this case, I think Obama’s got it spot on. Have you read what he’s written about paying teachers differently?
    He’s got some progressive thoughts that I think you’d embrace.
    BTW: I realized—in the shower, actually—-that my post gave the impression that I believed the President could change education on his own!
    Just added a line to clarify that—although you nailed it pretty well in your comment too.
    Bill

  25. Bill Ferriter

    @budtheteacher wrote:
    We could argue over e-mail as a valuable tool for students (I don’t think it’s dead just yet.), but I’d bet we’d agree that spending time communicating with experts is a shift of classroom thinking about “research” that would be worth making.
    First, thanks for stopping by, Bud—you’ve challenged my thinking dozens of times in the past year whether you realize it or not.
    Second, we definitely agree on this point: It’s nice to see Obama making a case for classrooms that reach out to experts.
    That’s the kind of interactive education that our kids have grown to expect—everything is participatory to them. My students don’t think twice about trying to reach out to others, no matter who they are!
    I just worry that when someone as important as Obama uses Powerpoint and email as examples of 21st Century learning, principals and school leaders are going to be convinced that their building is on the right track.
    Do you think that the shift Obama mentions—to a classroom where students reach out to experts—will be noticed by most school leaders?
    Rock on,
    Bill

  26. Paul Cancellieri

    Bill,
    I would like to ask (with tremendous respect and admiration for you) that while I am optimistic about a presidential candidate who puts out statements that match what informed experts have been saying for years, can a person like Barack Obama really make a difference in our educational system?
    I have resigned myself to the fact that I have to make these changes in my own classroom while I wait for those in power to take the necessary steps. I don’t believe that our new President will have that power. Bush may have spearheaded NCLB, but Congress passed it. And Congress is dragging its feet in making changes to NCLB 2.0. Leadership from the White House may put pressure on those in the Capitol, especially if the majority shares his party philosophy, but this is a HUGE ship that has been on the wrong course for a very long time. Changing its direction is better achieved from the bottom up. (That’s where the rudder in my metaphor lives, anyway)
    I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I think that a school system somewhere in this country must take a stand, reject Fed money, and show that a system based on more comprehensive (and more formative) assessment will improve education. Oh, and give those willing to show that they will change and improve their practice the kind of pay that they deserve. I can’t buy bread with pride in my job.

  27. Bud Hunt

    I’d recommend a look at the entire speech. While I grated at the mention of PowerPoint, I think there’s much more substance in the entire address. Also, I wonder if you aren’t still a bit hung up on tools, at least as the senator discussed them. We could argue over e-mail as a valuable tool for students (I don’t think it’s dead just yet.), but I’d bet we’d agree that spending time communicating with experts is a shift of classroom thinking about “research” that would be worth making.

  28. Lisa Thumann

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I agree with you. Unfortunately, many school administrators are on the same page as Obama. They still think that putting an IWB in a classroom is the solution. They still offer PD in PowerPoint. What we need to do is help teachers (who need help) create more student-centered, student-directed classrooms. This way the students are creating and the teachers are just the guide.

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