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Archive for January, 2011

Many folks are reflecting on their #EduCon experience of this past weekend. #EduCon is a unique education conference in that it has no vendor support or “How-To workshops”.  It consists of intellectual conversations dealing with ideas and concerns of that which we call education or learning. It is limited to 300 participants drawing from some of the leading Thought Leaders in education from across the country. The idea of Thought Leader is in fact the focus of this post.

I never knew of the term Thought Leader as it applied to educators. I never heard it over a 34 year career as a secondary English teacher. I did not hear of it when I first entered the Higher Ed arena. I did hear of it as I entered the world of Social Media. I have come to believe that a Thought Leader is one who encourages, promotes, stimulates, or fosters thought in the area of Education. Other areas and industries have their own Thought Leaders.

What set me off on this reflection was a tweet by Ira Socol about EduCon having a hierarchy of attendees, an “A-List” as it were.  I took that to mean a group of people who were above the average attendees, the Educator Elite who others look up to for direction. They would be the recognized Thought Leaders. In fact there was a number of attendees who travel the education circuit as Keynote Speakers and paid consultants. That however, does not diminish their expertise in the area of education. In fact they were not at EduCon as paid Keynotes or paid consultants. They were there as educators and education experts exchanging ideas with other educators. Since many of them have been on the education circuit for quite a while, they are familiar with each other and naturally gravitate together. What separates them from the label of elite is their approachability and openness to sharing. They are there as sources. I will not list names, because I know, I will undoubtedly, leave someone out, and feelings will be hurt. Let us acknowledge that these Thought Leaders were at EduCon to share and offer their expertise as much as any other attendee there. They paid the same fee we all did.

There is also a secondary level of this Hierarchy. These individuals might be thought of as the Nouveau riche amongst educators. They acquired their gravitas through social media. With a combination of education, learning, and experience, they have assembled a number of opinions on various subjects within education and have tweeted them out or blogged to a following. Their opinions have been weighed and measured and by all accounts they are recognized as sound. Others have Re-Tweeted their tweets or recommended their blogs to such an extent that global recognition has been acquired. These are the individuals who made up a bulk of the conversation moderators at EduCon. Again, they were very approachable with sharing and exchanging ideas the focus of their attendance at the conference.They are giving as much as they are taking. That is the theory of sharing.

Now to the point of this post, anyone has the ability to be a Thought Leader. I was taken aback at a comment by one of the attendees at EduCon who said that she would never tweet out a promotion of her Blog post. I immediately pictured an elementary student after being nominated for class president being told that she/he cannot vote for her/himself. If you do not believe you are the best person for the job, why run? If you do not believe your post has value and should be shared for comment and reflection, why write it? How can you test the value of your beliefs? The purpose of your post should be your belief in the value of your opinion. Comments will direct your reflection and possible change in thought. We are not politicians. Educators are expected to be flexible and change when needed.

With the help of Social Media I have been referred to as a Thought Leader. It is not a title I claimed, or gave to myself. It is a title that others have given me and it comes with responsibility. People begin to look to me for thought or even some leadership in thought. It is a title that can be claimed by anyone who comes to the social media table with knowledge, experience, flexibility and small amount of social media savvy along with a few contributions to add to the educational slow pot cooker.

To become a Do It Yourself Thought Leader:

  1. Select your area of expertise.
  2. Use twitter to Micro blog your ideas.
  3. Respond to others on your topic.
  4. Engage educators in discussions of your topic.
  5. Write a blog on your Topic
  6. Promote your posts on Twitter to drive traffic to your Blog
  7. Submit proposals for presentations at Education conferences.

Social Media has offered educators another avenue to become a Thought Leader. It is not an easy road, but it is possible to step up and move forward. It is also a role that needs to be filled in a climate of change and reform. We need more educators to step up and offer guidance through the obstacles to change.

Please, help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

 

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It has been a long day with traveling in the snow and trying to pay attention to my GPS’s voice. I can’t help thinking of HAL the computer from 2001 A Space Odyssey. I wondered if at any time the voice would send me crashing over an embankment at the end of a dead-end road in New Jersey. That sends chills even as I write the words. I must say that the trip was definitely worth the chance I took with the GPS voice and the treacherous weather burdened roads. After four hours of driving, I arrived in Philadelphia for the #EduCon Conference.

For those of you not familiar with this three-year-old conference, here is the description from the official website:

And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.

From the organizers’ description it should be obvious that this isn’t your father’s education conference. It is different for another big reason and that would be Social Media, specifically Twitter.

We have all heard the opinion that Social Media is causing people to be disconnected. It does not allow the same deep relationships as experienced in face to face connections. This conference totally debunks that myth. #EduCon is different in its mission, organization and focus compared to other educational conferences. More than that, many, if not most, of its organizers, presenters, and attendees are connected by Twitter.

Any good educational conference electrifies the participants with a vibrant energy and a need to share what they experienced at the conference with their colleagues. With Twitter the #EduCon electricity and sharing began before the conference even opened. People from all over the country, as well as other countries, have been tweeting the praise of this conference for a year now, since the last #EduCon ended. The twitter community of educators has been buzzing about their plans to attend for months. Excitement started building not just for the content in the conference, but the excitement about meeting Twitter colleagues and sharing ideas in person.

People who have never met in person greet each other with hugs and kisses. I am not the most emotionally outgoing person, so I am not really comfortable with the hugs and kisses, but in meeting many of my Twitter colleagues, even I was engaging in these gregarious greetings. Sharing is the key to this conference and it started before, continues during and will undoubtedly continue after the last session on the last day.

Twitter injects an element of sharing far more than that which has ever been capable before. People shared as they traveled to #EduCon. They used Twitter to meet up with those they knew and those they were about to see for the first time. They will be sharing with thousands as they tweet out ideas from each of the sessions they attend. Take note of all of the tweets with the #EduCon hashtags. They will use Twitter to stay connected and exchange ideas with the #EduCon participants long after the conference ends. This conference is unique in the fact that Twitter enables it to be more akin to a family gathering than an education conference of disconnected strangers. I am having a great time-sharing with all those who I have been connected to for so long. Even as we meet in person for the first time, we experience a sense of deep connection. There is also a connection to #EduCon which seems to bring out the best in educators.

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As an adjunct professor at a local private college, I have the privilege each semester to teach one of several methods courses required for our secondary English education students. In addition, I supervise a group of student teachers in their assignments which requires me to observe each student in each of their teaching assignments, one a middle school and the other a High school placement.  Within my methods course I engage my students in many of the educational topics relevant to educators today. I have them use Social Media to create Personal Learning Networks, and I require these future English teachers to blog and post comments on blogs of others. They do not take tests, but rather are assessed on lessons, projects and Unit plans that they are required to create and develop.

To many of the educators with whom I am in daily digital contact this probably sounds like it should be the way all methods courses should be taught. Anyone familiar with what I have written over the past year on this blog would know that I believe in integrating technology into education. That is an emphasis I use in my class. This too might be praised by the choir of tweeting educators with whom I have come to belong. With all of this support, one would think that I would be convinced and resolute in a mission to put my stamp of relevance on all of my students. Not so fast!

I have a very strong belief in teaching the right thing as I have come to understand it. I also have an obligation to prepare my students to be the best possible candidates for a teaching position. This is the tightrope part. My biggest dilemma is that I can prepare them with what they need, but I can’t hire them. I know that many of the methods I am using and teaching strategies that I promote, may not be the same as those ascribed to by their perspective employers. There are many times when I will give my opinion and tell my students that they may not want to mention that in a job interview.

The other force that pulls my students is that of experience. Most have experienced teachers who demand memorization followed by a test, followed by more memorization and another test. This was their elementary and secondary experience and for many it continues in some classes in their college experience. Professors tell them that there is no need for technology in education and Social Media is trouble to be avoided by educators. I find it difficult to tell them that this is completely wrong, although I believe it. The truth is that this is an attitude of many educators today. These are the very people who will be in a position to hire and work with my students.

It is one thing to know the right thing to do, but it is another to tell someone else that, what they are doing is wrong. How do we teach relevant methods for teaching without selling it as something that must be hidden until it can be determined where the administration or even future colleagues stand on such issues?  Of course this is changing, but it has been changing for 30 years and we are still discussing it. I see the reluctance to change with every school that I enter to do observations. Yes, it is getting better, but if education was really moving forward, the word “reform” would only apply to politicians and business people and not the other way around.

I know that my experience in this is not unique. We need to teach our future teachers relevant methods, techniques and tools, but that is not the only path to reform. We need to continue to engage our colleagues, administrators and Leaders in accepting change. We should not have to qualify or make excuses for being relevant and using technology as a tool for learning. Social Media, like any tool, may be misused, but it has a greater potential to be used as a positive force for change. We need to promote reform within the system for it will be too slow in coming if we wait for the colleges. We need to be the change. I want my students to clearly understand the expectations, so they can focus on their goal. I want to come down from the tightrope.

 

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I recently involved myself in a discussion I have been engaging people in since the mid 1970’s. The Topic: Is it one space or two after a period when word-processing? The topic resurfaced after @smartinez, a highly respected educator and Tweeter, sent out a link to a post explaining the rule. http://www.slate.com/id/2281146/ According to Farhad Manjoo, Old-fashioned typewriters used monospaced type, which produced a lot of white space between characters and words, so using two spaces after a period made the text easier to read, but as of the 1970s, monospaced type went out of style. Electric typewriters and computers now both use proportional fonts, eliminating the need for the extra space. This fact prompted this statement, “Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.”

Now for what happened after I re-tweeted that link to the post that validated the very position I have taken since the 1970’s. A number of people stepped up questioning, if that was important, or if anybody really cared. Some said that they had always done two spaces and will continue to do so. That was the attitude that set me off. I would like to say that it matters not to me whether one uses one or two spaces. Of course my experience and prejudices affect my impressions of things. I guess ultimately it does matter to me, for I will form an opinion of a writer somewhat based on my perception of their punctuation mistakes, however, I do see a larger topic here.

It should be evident to any thinking person that our society, or more accurately, our culture is greatly affected by technology. Tech is developing and moving forward each and every day. At almost any age any person can think back this or her past and recollect some piece of technology that has ceased to exist, or was replaced by another form or piece of technology. That is the way of our world. Technology has changed the way we all deal with information. Consider how we access, create, communicate, and collaborate and ultimately think about information in our culture. There is no going back in the way tech affects everything. The bigger picture however, is not solely the tech itself, but how we interact with that technology.

The reason why we have one space instead of two after a period is because the technology has developed to a point where the two spaces are unnecessary. Some people may want to hang on to the old way as a revolt against the machine, but that makes no sense. In their revolt, do they choose to take a Conestoga wagon to travel across a continent, or do they take a 747? How much rebellion is convenient or comfortable?

Now, I hope to get to my point. At the risk of sounding arrogant myself, I hate the arrogance of some educators, who actually believe that they can teach children today with absolutely no regard for technology, or its influence on our culture. It is true that a good teacher can teach with a dirt floor and a stick with the stick being optional. A good teacher with technology however, can offer more relevance to students in a world that will require them to constantly interact with technology. A good teacher with technology can be better. As our tools change, our methods for teaching need to change accordingly. We cannot ignore the fact that our society will require the use of technology and it is no longer the choice of the educator to teach with it or not. We are moving beyond accepting handwritten or even typewritten reports in our society. Therefore, we need to employ those rules which are required by the tool which we require people to use.

If we as educators are teaching children to function within a technological society that is constantly changing, we must educate our children to use those tools. We must also strive to teach and model the ability to adapt, since those same tools will continue to develop and change. A big problem we as educators, have is that we do not even understand what specific skills are going to be required of our students, because in many cases, the jobs they will have, do not yet exist. Without knowing of the jobs, how do we address the skills needed to fill those jobs? We as educators need to at least be relevant to our students if we stand a chance of giving them what they will need. We have a responsibility to assess what we do and how we do it. We no longer have the luxury of choosing what or how we remain comfortable teaching. We have a greater responsibility to our students that goes beyond our personal comfort level. We need to adapt our teaching skills and methods to address our students’ needs.

We have a responsibility to develop professionally. What we learned before we got our degrees and licenses has changed and continues to do so. We need to stay relevant in order to move our students forward. The amount of information is daunting. Not addressing it and not trying to get a handle on it does not keep technology from moving forward. The longer it takes educators to accept it, the further down the road it will move and the mountain of what we need to know will continue to grow.

In the world of today’s educator, he or she may choose to put two spaces after a period. In the world that will exist for their students however, there will be a different set of rules, determined by technology, requiring one space after a period. We must teach them for their needs and not ours. Yes, every educator has the right to choose to live in a cave. They do not have the right to drag their students in there with them.

Okay educators, your choice, one space or two after a period?

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Once again, I am finding it to my advantage to share my learning experiences on my Blog. I find this helpful because it can be interesting to the reader, but more importantly, it gives me something to write about. This is most helpful when one has a blog that requires occasional posts to keep the site running.

My wife met Larry Jacobs recently at an Education conference and introduced him to me in the belief that we each had something of value to offer the other. Larry is a Talk Radio Education Blogger, which seems to be a growing area in social media. Larry’s “thing” is doing educational interviews. What I like about Larry’s approach to this, is that he has figured out how to make some money at doing it. Doing what you love and getting paid for it is always the ultimate goal. I love what I do, but I depend on my pension to survive.  But alas, if only I could charge for tweets?  I guess however, charging for tweets would greatly reduce the number of people who now at least read what I put out.

Larry and I spoke a few times, and I was able to get him to revisit Twitter after his first foray and eventually dropping off this social media staple. This is a place that many Twitterers have visited in their Personal Learning Network development. After a little guidance and a few introduction tweets, Larry was able to go from 14 to 140 followers in a day. His site began getting more hits, and he began to see the benefits of Twitter and the advantages of a Personal Learning Network. He was then interested in talking about what it was that I did with Social Media in education and wanted to put it on the air.

I visited his site to listen to a number of his interviews. What I found helpful in deciding whether or not to do it was the ease in which Larry made his guests comfortable. He seemed at ease with the subject matter of each of his guests and kept the pace of the discussion flowing. This was done in great part because he actually listened to his guests’ answers. This is a skill not mastered by all interviewers. After I accepted Larry’s invitation, he forwarded a list of Tips to follow as well as a request for six questions to carry us on our journey through the interview.

I was quite calm as I awaited the day and the hour of the air time. About two hours before I was to go on however, I realized that I was on my own with this. In all of the interviews I have done in the past, I had Shelly Terrell, Steve Anderson, or Eric Sheninger at my side to step in to fill the gaps. The worst part is that my wife was away on a business trip leaving only my faithful King Charles spaniel, Louie to guide me through any technical glitches that I might encounter. He has always endured my screen-screaming bouts with my computer in the past. He offers more of a comforting twist of his head as opposed to great technical advice. Nevertheless, he was all I had.

I decided on a Hashtag, #twetr, as if I was going to be able to multi-task and follow a back channel stream of questions. For those who do not know, back channeling allows people on Twitter to comment and question during a presentation. It is actually affecting, in many ways, the way Educational Presentations are being delivered. Who was I kidding?  I could talk the talk, but if I tried the walk, it would somewhat resemble Jackie Gleeson on roller skates during an episode of the Honeymooners, but much less graceful.

I had my laptop, my IPad, and two handsets for my phone, just in case the battery ran out on one. I was set to go with a page of notes and the set of questions that I forwarded Larry. I practiced the phone call at 9 AM to make sure all was good with a sound check. All that was left was to tweet out the time and place of the interview on Twitter. I did that several times to make sure someone would be in the audience. I had everything covered. I then made the final call, and I was connected to Larry live. I was in the Queue, and I coughed. That was my introduction.

The time arrived and the first question was asked. All I could think of was,” what makes up my Personal Learning Network?”  Through my head ran Linkedin, Twitter, Ning, FaceBook, Skype, Blogs, RSS Reader, Tweet Deck, Flashboard, #EDCHAT, edcamps, and Teachmeets. It was all too much for a 43 minute Radio Interview. I had no back up and I could not in good conscience HANG UP, although the thought did cross my mind. Through his vast interviewing experience, Larry Jacobs guided me through. After all was said and done, it was a lightning fast 43 minutes. Larry and I left the audience wanting more and he asked me to come back. The next session however, will be more limited in scope to put a laser focus on the subject. One of the benefits of Radio Blogs is that they are archived. Now you can judge for yourself and consider all that preceded the interview. Here it is: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edutalk/2011/01/18/educators-as-social-networkers

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As a blogger for only a year now, I have tried not to revisit topics and be repetitive. There are some things however, that need to be revisited at certain times of the year. Just as: Thanksgiving brings on articles of thankfulness, Christmas brings on articles of Peace and Love, and New Years brings on articles of recent loss and future resolutions, this time of year brings on articles about Education Conferences. I guess that is because plans are being made to attend the largest conferences of the year. There does seem to be a change in the approach to connections, as well as anticipation and expectations of these conferences much of which may be attributed to Social Media.

As a classroom teacher I was very fortunate to serve for many years on the Board of Directors of NYSCATE, the Educational Technology group for New York educators. For the most part many Professional Education Organizations are run by administrators. I find nothing wrong with that, because running these organizations requires a certain skill set, as well as time commitment that fits the abilities of administrators better than those of classroom teachers. I understand that. I also understand that as much as any of these groups will deny it, there is a perspective or a focus of these conferences that leans more toward administrators than classroom teachers. That is fitting, since a majority of the attendees are administrators. With budgets as they are, it is reasonable that district should get more bang for their buck by sending their technology leaders as opposed to the technology users. This all makes sense in a world of top down management in education.

Of course these organizations will point out that a many of the workshops are done by classroom teachers, and that is true. The workshops and the Keynotes are all selected and approved by the organization leadership. This is not an attack on any organization. This seems to be how it has been done for years and that is the way it worked best. The need for me to explain all of this will enable me to point out the difference that Social Media is making in the process.

The development and broadening effects of Personal Learning Networks are giving educators facts and insights in education that were never before so readily available to them. Twitter, Twitter Chats, Nings, and Blogs are providing teachers with information in greater quantities and personally delivered to them. The direct contact and connections between educators is promoting more awareness, collaboration, and reflection on topics that concern them and their students directly. All of this prepares educators for dealing with conferences as they have not been able to do before.

Ironically, the social aspects of Social Media, in regard to teachers, are often overlooked. I know from experience that I have personal connections with many educators from around the world. When I think of what is meant by “colleagues”, I am no longer limited to the people I work with in a building. These global connections are real and in many instances, very strong connections. If I was traveling, I know I could call upon many of my PLN members for a place to stay if needed. I can’t say that about most people with whom I work.

If I attend a conference, I may very well have had personal contact with many of the attendees, as well as possibly the Keynote Speaker. This is an experience I have had on several occasions at conferences over the past year. At a recent conference, I entered an auditorium to listen to a Keynote speech a few minutes after it began. I entered the auditorium at the back and the seats were all filled to see a great presentation on Blogging as Educators. It was standing room only, and that is what I did at the back of the big room. It was after a minute or so, that the speaker saw me at the back, stopped the speech, and said hello to me. Lisa Nielsen, a great blogger, speaker and wonderful person has been connected with me for quite a while through our PLN’s. Her Blog is The Innovative Educator, http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/ . This never would have happened without the Social Media connection. This is an experience that, to some degree, is common to many Twitter-Using Educators as they attend conferences. This more solid the connection with educators, whose ideas we are familiar with, and whose lives have in some part been shared, make for a more meaningful conference experience.

A greater effect that Social Media is having on Professional Organization Conferences is the whole Edcamp movement. More and more Edcamps, or Teachmeets are cropping up all over the country, or more accurately the world. These conferences are free to participants. Teachers step up and volunteer to present a workshop or a discussion in a certain time slot. Any educator interested in attending all or any part of that workshop may do so. These are organized and publicized using Social Media. I call it a movement because of the number and frequency that I am observing as these pop up around the world. In addition, to Edcamps, we are seeing more and more Free Webinars for teachers being presented through Ning and Wiki sites.

All of this exchange of ideas and collaboration prepares educators to know what they need as individuals from these conferences. It also enables them to knowledgeably tweet out comments from workshops and Keynotes to the twitter stream engaging educators who are unable to personally attend. This ”Backchanneling” holds presenters accountable to be prepared and relevant. All of these factors are enabling Social Media to give a face lift to Professional Organization Conferences.

Finally, I love meeting my PLN members at conferences. I have a problem recognizing them in person and I realize that we all have that problem. I have created my Twitter name tag to address this issue. I used my Twitter Profile Pic, and @tomwhitby on a second name tag that I wear to all conferences. The Hawaiian Shirt may also help identify me.

 

 

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Although I talk about the use of technology in education all of the time, in truth I am far from being a “Techie”. If I have a need to use technology for a specific purpose in teaching or in learning, then I will learn what I need to in order to make that happen. As technology continues to advance at its present rate however, the learning of new technology is less of a choice and more of an attempt to stay relevant. I do not believe any specific application or device is THE essential tool, because my experience with technology is that everything changes, evolves, or disappears. If you believe in the big technology in education picture, you will always find a better tool. It usually takes six months or so.

My latest challenge is learning how to use the IPad. I have found it to be very intuitive as many of the Apple devices. That is a big plus for someone like me with a limited amount of technology intuition to begin with. I think what I like best about the IPad is that many of its applications make me forget I am viewing a computer. One application in particular, Flipboard, lets me view content as if it was in the form of a magazine. An electronic magazine which allows me to read glitzy text and view a related video with the touch of a finger.

The whole idea of using a computer and not seeing it as technology is a big deal. I hesitate to use a butcher analogy, but it serves this idea well.  A butcher has a job that many of us would not be able to do for many reasons. A butcher however, makes food for the meat-eaters among us look appetizing. It is actually presented in a form that enables us to separate what we are seeing, from where we know it really came from. The same can be said of bakers. That which delights our senses in a bakery would not be so delightful in its raw form.

The magic of Flipboard is that it will take a feed like the Twitterstream of Twitter and convert the tweets to appear as magazine articles. Instead of viewing links in a 140 character text block, Flipboard shows the actual post, article, or video to which that tweet refers. You can touch the post to take you to the Blog site.. You can touch the video to view and enlarge it. When you are ready just use your finger to turn the page. It’s a magazine. It does this even more dramatically with an RSS feed. If you develop an RSS feed devoted to a subject of interest, the latest posts will appear on your magazine as they are published.

If there is one thing that holds teachers back from engaging technology more it is a lack of comfort with that technology. This Flipboard is a dream come true if you have colleagues who do not know what they are looking at when you show them a Twitterstream or your list of Blogposts from Google Reader. Those colleagues do understand magazines. Your Twitterstream and Google Reader posts now will have meaning to those colleagues. The content has been turned into a non-techie format, so they might accept it more readily. Ironically, we use technology to hide the technology. Maybe that explains the unfulfilled promise of flying cars. People are comfortable with cars, but they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with airplane stuff. Hence, no Flying cars!

I see the way technology is manipulating the content to be more familiar to people as a good thing. One of the big stumbling blocks with involving all teachers with technology is a lack of comfort with the unfamiliar on the part of many teachers. Converting RSS feeds to a magazine format creates a familiar platform as well as up to the minute content for consideration and reflection. Maybe one day it will come to the screen on the dashboard of our Flying Cars.

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If you are not familiar with #Edchat, it is a Twitter discussion on specific topics held every Tuesday at Noon and 7 PM EST. A full explanation may be found at this Link: http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/edchat-revisited/. I am revealing in this post that I am the one who makes up a bulk of the #Edchat Topic choices. We do get some outside contributions, but each week I try to lift relevant topics from the Twitterstream and current Educational Blogs to explore further in an #Edchat discussion. It has been a successful formula thus far. My dilemma however, is always when is it a good time to revisit a topic. I recently received a comment from an educator that stated he always found the topic choices very interesting, but eventually we would need to discuss Standardized Testing or High Stakes Testing as a topic. Actually, #Edchat has discussed this topic in the past. The problem I have however is that in trying to keep the pulse of education concerns, Standardized Testing is the one topic that has an overwhelming majority of educators mentioning their opposition on a daily basis. Educators seem to be in agreement that Standardized Testing is a major roadblock to Education Reform. One growing opinion seems to be that the emphasis has become the tests and not the education.

Assessment has been and always will be part of education. A simple explanation: As educators we use Formative assessment to make sure we are succeeding with our students as we go. Do they get it? This allows for adjustments along the way. The Summative assessment tells educators how successful the complete endeavor was. After all is said and done, have the students gotten it?  Educators do this to determine the next step, so they may continue to build on this education. This is the teacher’s assessment of learning for the purpose of the determining of what comes next. The curriculum is the roadmap of where to go. The assessments tell the teacher if the students are there yet. Teachers can always take students beyond the original destination.

Now we should look at High stakes testing. Its purpose is to accumulate data on education. Data requires simple, objective answers that are easily converted to numbers for analysis. As a former English teacher, I often envied Math teachers whose test answers were either right or wrong. As an English teacher I was always trying to figure out shades of right or wrong with essays. That oversimplification of math testing is less true of Math today with the changes that have been made requiring more of an explanation of reasoning. I hope no math teachers were offended.

The purpose of High Stakes testing seems to be changing. If it was originally intended to assess where we were with student learning in order to offer directions for places to improve, we may have strayed from that goal. It is now used to: determine funding, determine remediation, determine school closings, determine careers, and as a stretch, determine elections. These reasons have little to do with what educators use testing for.

Of course there is a simple solution; Teach to the test. That would give everyone what was needed. A problem with this however is that it will not work. It will not work because it does not consider all of the other factors involved in a student’s education; poverty, environment, culture, and even family relationships. How do we ask questions for the purpose of converting these factors into data in order to take all of this into account? Of course a more obvious reason teaching to the test won’t work is that it is not educating any one. Teaching to the test is preparing kids for a Jeopardy round, not life.

Now here is where I begin to sound like a conspiracy theorist. I, along with almost everyone in America, recognize that we are in a dire economic period. I understand we need to cut costs and increase revenue, and we will all need to sacrifice. One of our greatest expenses is education. Education has been highlighted as a political concern. It is apparent to some of us that the call for education Reform is code for cut taxes. The high stakes tests are not being used to examine and address changes in methods and curriculum as much as to vilify teachers. This call for reform by some is not a call for education reform, but rather a call for labor reform. It is a call to do away with Unions and due process for teachers. These tests are not being used to free teachers to innovate, but rather to begin to dismantle public education for the purpose of privatization for profit.

How can so many educators on every level be so opposed to high stakes testing and still it thrives?  How can the mixed to dismal results of a Charter School movement still allow politicians to call for more Charter Schools? How can the influence on education by Poverty, Race, Environment, and Family go unrecognized as factors in need of reform?

We do need to reform education, but we need a better understanding of what changes will have a meaningful effect. There are many things that unions and teachers can do to affect change, but the greater changes however need to be made in methods and focus of curriculum. The emphasis of needed skills for a growing technology-driven society will be another game changer.

Assessment is needed and has a purpose in education. We need to focus assessments on the learning and not the Labor. The vast majority of educators are intelligent, dedicated, people-oriented, sharers. They may need to be given guidance and professional development in the latest methods and technologies, but they are the best source we have to support our education system. Firing teachers, closing schools, busting unions, and dismantling Public Education may be Reform to some, but to many others this is a destructive path. We need educational leaders to stand up and be heard on this. Voices of education need to be heard over those voices of business and politics and vocal disgruntled taxpayers. ( We are probably all disgruntled about taxes.)

Now I have to put up an #Edchat Topic dealing with High Stakes Testing. Your comments are welcomed here.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 48 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 953kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 15th with 485 views. The most popular post that day was My First Post on My Own Blog.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, iconfactory.com, hootsuite.com, facebook.com, and refzip.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for illegitimi non carborundum, my island view, tom whitby, tom whitby blog, and lack of discipline.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

My First Post on My Own Blog January 2010
44 comments

2

A Modest Blog Proposal September 2010
53 comments and 7 Likes on WordPress.com

3

About Me January 2010

4

Twitter’s Achilles Heel September 2010
40 comments

5

Lack of Discipline August 2010
11 comments

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