Showing posts with label School reform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label School reform. Show all posts

Friday, February 22, 2013

Questions About Changing School

This morning on Twitter I shared some questions that I have asked students in the past when trying to gather their feedback about what they think schools should do for them. Those Tweets started some good conversations so I thought that I should share the questions here too for folks who are not on Twitter. I hope that some of you decide to use them to spark conversations with your students and your colleagues.

The first question I asked was, "if you could change only one thing about school, what would it be?" The follow-up question that I asked my students was, "what is your favorite memory of school?"

Ken Templeton added some important questions to the conversation too. His questions were, "what would you never change about school?" and "what do you love about school?" Ken also added this prompt, "describe a powerful learning experience, how can we make school like that?"

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Message to The Brookings Institution About School Reform

Warning! Rant Ahead!

Last week I received an email from someone in the PR department of The Brookings Institution. The email asked me promote a forum they were hosting about ways to improve student attainment and achievement in K-12 education. They had invited a lot of politicians, government bureaucrats, and other "expert" school reformers (most of which I hadn't heard of and some whose works I've read and disagreed with). Needless to say, it was not a forum I was interested in promoting let alone spending money to attend (admission wouldn't have cost me anything, but getting there sure would have). So like I do with 99% of unsolicited messages from PR people, I just ignored the email until today when I got a follow-up message.

The follow-up message from The Brookings Institution included highlighted sections that they thought I would be interested in promoting. They wanted me to promote Harnessing Technology to Improve K-12 Education (you can get it as a PDF here). I don't think they thought I had actually read it. I had so I wrote back and shared my thoughts with them. Here's what I wrote...

Thank you for the follow up. I appreciate your efforts to point out things that might be of interest to me and my readers. I have read the work of Chatterji and Jones. Their ideas smack of people who do not truly understand the challenges facing public schools today. They, like many other "experts," are trying to apply a business school model to K-12 schools. Public K-12 schools are not businesses, they are places of learning and learning is not defined by test scores. Good teachers are not defined by test scores either. I will not promote the works of people who think that applying business school, finances trump all, methods will improve schools. Likewise, I am not likely to promote most of the education "reform" efforts of people who have not actually spent time teaching in a public school classroom. If the Brookings Institution believes that they are doing a good thing by promoting these kinds of misguided "reform" efforts, please look for someone else to promote your materials.

Was I too harsh? If you have read the proposal, can you tell me if I am missing something?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Balancing Reform with Reality

Image Credit: John Webber
This morning I had a conversation on Twitter that led me to writing a Google+ post about the need to balance our ideal education reforms with the realities of teaching in public schools. You can read my full post here. I've included the first paragraph below. In my opinion the first paragraph is the most succinct of the three I wrote. I also encourage you to read the comments and add your own on Google+

My chief complaint about many education "reformers" is that they forget to balance the realities of teaching in a public school with their ideal school situations. You can't tell a teacher to completely buck the system without recognizing that bucking the system could cost that teacher a job. Rather than telling teachers to completely buck the system, I prefer to encourage a systematic series of small changes that will add up to big change over time. Read the rest of the post and add your comments here. 

For the first time visitor: This is not indicative of my typical post, I generally prefer to stick to covering how-to topics and new developments in educational technology. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Food for Thought - Schools for Tomorrow

Yesterday, The New York Times hosted their Schools for Tomorrow Conference. I'll admit that I don't know as much about it as I probably should, but I am looking forward to learning more through the recordings of yesterday's panel discussions and presentations. The panel discussions and presentations are now available online at the Schools for Tomorrow website. The first one that I plan to watch/ listen to tomorrow morning while drinking my Saturday morning coffee is the school environment panel moderated by Ewan McIntosh whose blog I have followed for quite a while. The video of that panel is embedded below.

Watch live streaming video from schoolsfortomorrowa at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stop Waiting for Superman, He's Been Found!

As I've mentioned before I rarely weigh-in on the political aspects of school reform because that doesn't help fulfill the purpose of this blog. However, there are some times when something jumps out at me that I just have to share. This is one of those times. 

My friend Ken Shelton is a middle school computer science teacher in Los Angeles. He's also a fantastic photographer (see his whole Flickr collection). The story behind this photo that he just posted to his Flickr account is one that every teacher should read. The short version, you are Superman or Superwoman.
Image credit: Ken Shelton
This week the parent teacher student association insisted on showing Waiting for Superman at Ken's school. One of the parents in the PTSA is friends with a producer of the film. The producer was on hand for a Q&A after the screening. As Ken said, the teachers were "left to defend the very core of what they do everyday." This image and the rest of Ken's story are his response to that screening.

I know it is Friday morning and it may have been a long and stressful week, but remember, even if the "experts" outside of education don't agree, you are doing good important work.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Is Broken - Why?

The video below features Seth Godin giving a presentation called This Is Broken. In his talk Seth explains the seven reasons why things, businesses, organizations can be broken. Identifying what is broken then understanding why it's broken are the first steps in improving an organization.

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

This video appeared on the TED Blog over the weekend.

Applications for Education
What's broken in your school or school district? Can the people leading identify why those things are broken?
I watched the video this morning and wondered if the people pushing school reforms on the state and national level truly understand the causes of the things they perceive as broken.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Hey Seth, How About Some Practical Ideas?
What Matters Now, By Seth Godin and Friends
Vintage Ad Browser - View Old Print Advertisements

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hey Seth, How About Some Practical Ideas?

Warning: This post is a bit of an editorial rant. I rarely do this on Free Technology for Teachers, but this has been bugging me for a while and I need to get it off my chest.

This week a couple of videos (here and here) featuring Seth Godin made the rounds on Twitter and other networks. In both of these videos Godin takes the public education system to task for not producing creative thinkers and for producing students who lack initiative and subsequently sit around waiting for directions from their teachers and later their bosses. That doesn't bother me because Godin's not the only person to say such things and I believe those statements are accurate when applied to the majority of public schools. What bothers me about Godin saying those things is that he doesn't follow them up by offering any practical implementation strategies. What's worse is that he has a huge following of people (many of them wealthy and powerful) outside of education who will rally behind him and further take public education to task while again not offering any practical reform strategies.

Now before people jump on me for using too small of a sample size to judge Godin's statements on education; I've listened into live web conferences in which Godin eluded questions of practical reform implementation, watched a dozen videos featuring him, read one of his books, and listened to the audio of another of his books. In other words, I think I have a good handle on what Godin's all about. In fact, I like what he has to say about business, leading people, and his general cheese-moving qualities. But when it comes to education, I lump him in with all of the other people calling for reform in education without having stepped into a public school classroom and without offering any practical solutions.

I was venting about all of this on Twitter this morning when Colin Davitt asked who do I see as pointing out the problems and offering practical solutions. Here are some of the folks that are doing good work toward making practical change; Chris Lehmann, John Carver, Eric Sheninger, Patrick Larkin, and see my Twitter list of K-12 administrators for others. These people are in schools making changes happen at an administrative level. You can be out of the public school system and still make contributions to changing education. Wes Fryer, David Warlick, Scott McLeod, and others on my Twitter list of Ed Thought Leaders demonstrate that. And as classroom teachers we can stop wishing for permission and make changes happen in our classrooms, Lee Kolbert demonstrated that in her blog during the last school year. And as for me, I've sat in the hot seat because I don't wait for permission I go on the offensive with a case and evidence that almost requires a change of thinking. Nothing says "he's got a point" like hundreds of pages of research dropped on a naysayer's lap (yes, I literally did that once).

So Seth, have you got any ideas for us?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Harlem Children's Zone

Last night 60 Minutes ran a segment about The Harlem Children's Zone school started by Geoffery Canada. I watched all of it and was impressed by Canada's conviction and enthusiasm. One part of the segment that I didn't agree with was the focus at the end on trying to figure out which one thing is making Canada's school successful in closing achievement gaps. As they said in the segment, "trying to boil it down to pill form." If people are serious about closing achievement gaps and want to use Canada's model, they'll need to adopt all of his strategies, not just the "boiled down" version. The full segment is embedded below.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Friday, September 18, 2009

Social Networks Help People Spread Change

Sacha Chua has once again created an awesome slide presentation. Her latest creation is called Smarter Work: Why Social Networks Matter. This presentation is targeted toward businesses, but the ideas definitely apply to the education sector too. The presentation speaks to the difficulty of being an early adopter (or as Beth Still would say, a Change Agent) and how social networks can help spread change.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chris Lehmann Talks to the FCC

In his latest blog post, Will Richardson links to Chris Lehmann's recent presentation to the FCC. If you're not familiar with Chris Lehmann, I encourage you to read his blog or watch this presentation he gave for Ignite Philly. In this video as in all other presentations I've seen him give both live and on the web, Chris raises some excellent points about the changes that schools need to make in order to best serve today's students. You can watch the video below, but I encourage you to read Chris's own notes about the presentation on his blog.