Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is 2012 the Year for an Educational R/Evolution?

Source: Time
The announcement of Time magazine’s 2011 “Person of the Year” as “The Protester” reminds us of the 2006 issue that declared “You” as its selection for the individual contributions made by user-generated information. Since 2006 a lot has changed in the world of technology and information sharing. The floodgates have opened and anyone, anytime, anywhere can share their ideas. There is no turning back. The amount of content generated for the World Wide Web by individuals now far exceeds the amount produced by experts.

Source: Time
The advances in technology allow for form to be separated from content. In other words, content no longer depends on finite structures within the restrictions of code to create material on the Internet. Instead, individuals create, share, and publish content with incredible ease, allowing us to be the designers and distributors of our own content. In Michael Wesch’s video produced in 2007, Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us, a line types across the screen that reads, “The Web is linking people…Web 2.0 is linking people…people sharing, trading and collaborating.” For Wesch, media changed the way people interact with each other, and as a result, human relationships changed, too.

This year, the frustration felt by millions nationally and internationally reached breaking points. The Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire had no idea that this would be the beginning of the “Arab Spring,” toppling dictators in major countries in Africa. The protestors who set out to show their frustration and anger in the Occupy Wall Street movement hit a raw nerve in the American public, stemming protests around the country that grew in size and number. So how does this relate to education? Well, for one thing, we are heading into 2012, six years past the recognition of “You” by Time magazine, yet schools still try to block and restrict not only technologies, but teachers as well.

Source: Certification Map
To top it off, we have a growing number of disgruntled youth in America who drop out of an education system that sees them as a number but fails to see the ensuing impact on society as a whole. In hindsight, our growing dropout rate as a nation should have been predictable. Conformity and measurement are used to define students, yet we constantly talk about differentiation, multiple learning styles, and the whole child. The words "motivate" and "engage" appear in countless educational books, articles and conference sessions. At the same time, the daily press reports on holding teachers responsible for poor standardized test results. It seems ironic: on routine assessments in academic classes throughout the year, the student is accountable for his or her success or failure, but not on standardized testing, where a student’s poor performance is blamed on the teacher without regard to class work. This leads us to ask the question, how many teachers will “dropout” from conformity and measurement?
Source: Network movie clip on YouTube
Just think how much more we could engage students if we were not so close to the edge of a cliff. Teachers want change. Just follow the streams of passionate teachers on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Their frustration can be felt, including the pressure from virtual, for-profit, and charter schools as the panaceas for educational ills. Is there a bright spot at the end of the tunnel?

Well, there are breaks in the ranks. States seek waivers to opt out of NCLB requirements, Long Island principals protest new New York State teacher evaluation based on test scores, and students nullify a standardized test in defiance by writing essays about squirrels. Perhaps it's time for educational leaders, teachers and students to be like the memorable character Howard Beale in the 1976 movie Network and start shouting, "I'M MAD AS HELL AND AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE."

Technology has altered the learning landscape, and the educational system is reluctant to change with it. The youth of today do not live in a static world. For them, at least outside the classroom, the world is dynamic, interactive, animated, and collaborative. In fact, they know how to collaborate better than the hierarchical systems imposed upon them. Information in their world is fluid. In other words, content is free from the constraints of structural limitations. Students recognize this. Outside the classroom they are free from the restrictions of blocked websites, filters, wired access, and standardized tests. They know there are multiple points of view and access them with ease.
Source: Michael Wesch, Information R/evolution
To them there is “no shelf system” for categorizing or telling them what they need. They generate content at lightning speed, they publish continually on the web, and they design how, when, and what they want to learn, follow or ignore. As educators, we can learn a lot from our students and would do best to stand up for designing content that is pertinent, rich, and connected.

Source: United Opt Out National
Something needed to give, and now it is.  United Opt Out National is a group of parents, educators, students and social activists who are determined to bring about change to end standardized testing that they see as destructive to ALL parties. In addition to protests by New York State principals, the organization Save Our Schools wants to put the public back in public schools and supports the Call for Action that United Opt Out National has declared on January 7, 2012. Let's also not forget the guest post that went viral from the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet about the school board member who took a standardized test and did not fare so well. Perhaps with the new year upon us, the groundswells of revolution will bring about education evolution after all.


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  2. A delicious thought, parents, educators, and (best of all) students screaming "We're mad as hell ..." and then DOING something about it. We've painted ourselves into a corner (after all, schools only reflect the prevailing social culture) and as a society we need to find our way out. Ghandi's 'being the change' comes to mind, which to me means we have to learn to become more introspective. Then we'll be able to create real change. Let's do it!

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