Week 10- Predicting the Most Important Trends in Ed Tech

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report 2016

The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report 2016 K-12 Edition reads like a state of the union for educational technology outlining key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in the field.  Its evaluation of trends and developments as short-term (1 yr or less), mid-term (2-3 years), and long-term (4-5 years) are reasonably assessed.  So too is categorizing challenges as solvable, difficult, and “wicked”.  Much good information is included here.  Organizing each trend into bite-sized pieces with a sort of preamble; Overview; Implications For Policy, Leadership or Practice; and then substantial For Further Reading offerings  to further explore each subject.

Professional Development

An element of professional practice that I’ve been wrestling with over the course of this year has to do with professional development for k-12 teachers.  There is much to get excited about in this report and some trends are already underway.  However, at the risk of injecting a cynical note into the discussion, I’m not sure how many of these trends will become embedded in American practice until we address professional learning.  Through 47 pages of the NMC/CoSN report, professional development is mentioned 11 times.  In fact, “Rethinking the Roles of Teachers” is a significant challenge addressed in the report as a “solvable challenge”, even if it is buried midway into the report and is the second of only two challenges the authors consider solvable.

I would argue that no trend mentioned in this report can be implemented without significant professional learning for teachers and administrators alike.  The dismal quality of much American k-12 PD, little budgetary support, and teacher attitudes towards it will all have significant impact on whether and which trends come to live in any given school or district.  As such, professional learning and “Rethinking the Roles of Teachers” is the lens through which I will read this report.

Trends

Of the trends outlined in the report, those I think will gain traction in the next five years include  collaborative learning, students as creators, rethinking the roles of teachers, personalizing learning, and online learning.  They are likely have the best chance of taking hold in American education if for no other reason than they fit within the current paradigm and do not require technology necessarily to provide powerful learning experiences.  Collaborative learning, project- and problem-based learning, and personalized learning are already a part of teacher vocabulary.  Online learning is gaining traction via flipped classrooms and blended learning.  With this foot in the door, technology can be incorporated in ways that modify and redesign extant units and lessons.  With some shifts to what they offer, professional learning providers deliver can accomplish such modification and redefinition of existing lessons and in the process realign teachers away from teacher-centered instruction and towards new roles as guides and facilitators.  PD providers need to present learning such that teachers receive “hands-on experiences … to help integrate technology in the classroom [and] create agile environments that support the development of professional learning networks where educators can seek guidance and inspiration from peers and around the globe as they rethink their pedagogies and curricula” (p. 24).   Through their own hands-on experiences, teachers learn as we want their students to learn in the digital age.  With such experiences, teachers are more likely to transfer their experiences to their students.  Back in their classrooms, then, teachers facilitate experiences that extend students’ collaborative learning out through digital networks, empower them as creators of content and not must consumers, teach them to recognize and pursue their own interests and learning goals, and do more and more of all these activities online.

Impact on Educators

I predict that online learning will become a path to personalized learning not just for students, but for teachers too.  I predict that over the next few years, teachers will figure out they can completely personalize PD, learn anytime/anywhere, at their own pace, and not have to contend with one-size-fits-all PD.  I am especially excited about the prospects for digital badging.  As it becomes increasingly popular, more and more educators will be able to extend their personalized, online learning even farther as they accumulate only the skills and content knowledge needed for their own specific professional learning needs.  In fact, some states are already experimenting with digital badges as a way for teachers to maintain their credentials along side CPDU’s and potentially even in place of them. When these trends take off, online learning for both teacher learning and student learning will become de rigueur.

Good for Schools

All these changes will be good for schools, yes.  But mostly, they will be a boon for students and learning.  Young people are so disconnected from their school experiences right now.  Many teachers teach for compliance and completion because such work is easy to grade and translates into easy measurables like GPA’s and graduation rates.  But completion and good grades do not equal learning.  And compliance and completion methods are mostly divorced from the kinds of social learning young people are used to doing with and without their networked devices when they are not in school.  Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to getting more technology-based methods in the classroom is getting teachers to see themselves as facilitators and not experts.  The image of themselves as experts keeps many teachers from trying things they don’t think they know well enough to teach.  This is especially so with technology given how vast a landscape it is and how constantly and rapidly it changes.  Prior to the digital age, it was a little easier to operate with the expert mindset.  But the internet age has given us access to the sum of human knowledge and there is no way anyone can know all of it.  The mobile age has given us a multiplicity of ways to access that knowledge and ways that are persistent.  There is no way to be expert in all affordances either.   In a blog post for a previous class I wrote about this very subject.

“As Bryan Alexander said in the Teaching and Higher Ed podcast, ‘There’s a lot of churn.  But …overall we were right.  We hit on the web as a major feature of literacy and learning.  And that’s a good thing.  We didn’t identify a horrible monster.  We identified a really powerful platform for human expression and connection, with flaws, with problems.  But that’s a major stride forward for the human race….  Teachers are hired to be experts and we can’t be expert in everything online.  Therefore they have an extra layer of anxiety to participate in the social world of the web and they’re not the expert.  They’re average users.  And that is very hard and threatening.  That’s why teachers have had a hard time using the web for teaching and learning.’  Yet we have to push through that anxiety and not only take our place in the digital world, but also guide the younger generations to their own critical and constructively participatory place in it as well.  And as we do, let’s keep in mind ‘There’s too much to master.  No one can master it all.’ So ‘grab one particular corner of it [like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, etc.] and get comfy with it.’”

T.A.T.Too, “Critical Thinking and Information Literacy”

 

Once we can get to this point as a profession — where teachers shed their self-perceptions as experts and dive deep into their “one particular corner” of the internet or social media to feel “comfy” with it — then many more of these trends stand a chance of sticking.  Then school will again be a place of interest and joy for our students and not a drill and kill testing mill.

Final Thoughts

Another significant shift needs to occur around what kind of PD is prioritized.  For any of these trends to become a meaningful part of teaching and learning, teachers need to seek more learning about how to incorporate the broad concepts each of these trends represents and how technology plays a role in each. They need far less PD that is merely training for specific apps.  Indeed, teachers already in the classroom will need quite a bit of focused, long-term learning so they can become “guides and mentors, modeling responsible global citizenship and motivating students to adopt lifelong learning habits by providing opportunities for students to direct their own learning trajectories” (p. 24).  If  administrators and teachers prioritize professional learning to focus on a limited set of student-centered outcomes that map to and differentiate for teacher learning needs, then these trends have a chance of taking root.  The extent to which schools sustain limited PD over time and partner with PD providers who deliver quality learning experiences will also impact success.  But where professional learning is piecemeal, random, low-quality, one-off, and conference-based,  I don’t see any of the trends in the report taking root in any consistent way that is beneficial for all learners.  

 


PD Issues in Ed Tech Video

Week 8- The Helpfulness of the “Learningweb Revolution”

On the whole, Waks’s project seems too extreme and lacks enough solid grounding in the realities and political contexts of our times.  As such, it would be hard to see how anyone could take it seriously as a model for transforming existing schools.  Nevertheless, several of the perspectives and some of the history and research in Education 2.0 have informed my thinking and professional judgments about how schooling and education in the 21st Century ought to be done.

The Helpfulness of Waks’s Vision of the “learningweb revolution”

One way Waks’s vision has influenced my thinking is his presentation of the scope and magnitude of the social, cultural, and economic sea changes washing across the planet as a result of digital, wireless, and network technologies.  Not that I wasn’t aware of these changes prior to reading Waks.  But the way he compares our times to similar upheavals in society when the shift from agriculture to industry occurred lends perspective to our current moment.  Yet, by highlighting just how different the industrial era is from the digital era, Waks brings into stark relief the tensions and crises the transition is causing across society in our present circumstances.  He also does an effective job of addressing what must change if educators are to adapt the profession to the new world in which we already live and serve the children of a networked, digital age who are completely disaffected from industrial schooling.

Despite some of Waks’s proposals being to “out there” to be taken seriously, he presents glimmers of hope for those of us who are eager to usher in the changes we know are necessary for digitally mediated education.  After all, “paradigm shifts do not take place in a vacuum.  Horace Mann’s ‘common school’ revolution didn’t happen ‘of itself’; it was a direct response by economic and political elites to the social and economic changes ushered in by the automated production in New England factories after 1820”  (Waks, p. 196).  The history of past shifts in education let us know that the shifts are not only possible, but do happen when the political and economic conditions are right.  Today, the economic conditions are ripe for this change.  We just have to be prepared for when the political winds shift.  When they do, many of Waks’s ideas will make for a helpful menu of educational options even if his entire project is ultimately deemed infeasible.

Another way his ideas about the learningweb revolution could be beneficial is for educators who are interested in starting a new school.  For the purposes of such a project, Education 2.0 could be a useful blueprint or menu from which to design a 21st century school for the kinds of learning Waks envisions for the future.  Indeed, the schools Waks’s envisions  seems a suitable space for the “connectivisit” methods to be tested.  As George Siemens defines it,

“Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.  Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.”

Sometimes described as a “new” educational philosophy for the digital age, connectivism describes what I imagine Waks’s open learning centers would be if one actually existed.  However, even for a startup school, all of Waks’s version of Education 2.0 are not.  Still, it does provide a bunch of paradigm-busting educators many choices for how to plan a school that provides a 21st Century education with the tools of the age central to its mission.

Colleagues and Friends (and Schools) That Are/Not Doing IT

Only one of my schools is willing to  include some online professional learning.

While I may not be in a position to implement much within school contexts, I am taking my opportunities where I can grab them.  Currently, one of my schools has agreed to conduct as much of our PD online as possible via Google Classroom.  This is as much about making an opportunity out of a crisis moment given the current Illinois budget fiasco.  But it is also about directly demonstrating to teachers that self-paced, mastery-oriented, just-in-time learning, provided through digital, networked, situated contexts can be powerful paths to learning.  Of course, a parallel goal is for teachers to transfer the same methods through which they learn to their students.  (Indeed, few moments in my PD sessions are as exciting to me as when I hear a teacher say, “This is so cool!  I need to try [insert digitally mediated learning activity here] with my kids.  They would love this!”)   I’m certain there will be bumps and pushback.  But we have to do something to start the ball rolling.  Not to mention how great it feels putting into practice some of the things I’ve learned as a result of my studies at NLU.  It’s also a great feeling working with a school courageous enough to take this plunge!

Still, the above school is far from the norm.  Looking around the CPS schools with which I work, there is much Education 2.0 gets completely right in terms of students’ schooling and learning experiences today.  Reading Waks on the heals of other scholars like boyd (It’s Complicated) and Ito (Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out), it hurts my teacher soul to walk into CPS high schools and see what kids contend with.  Day after day they travel from classroom to classroom doing work that has little to no connection to their lives.  The work is driven by performance oriented educators and policy makers much higher up the hierarchical org chart where all that matters, really, is high test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptance rates.  Worse, most teachers provide few paths that might connect students’ interests to the content they seem to believe is so vital for them to know. When it comes to the educational methods imposed on them, each day students walk into the school and become time travelers for 8 hours a day, warping backwards to the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Tragically, most of their teachers view students on phones as some kind of threat.  Technology — when it is used  — is the gravy on top, not the meat and potatoes of learning.   In light of these conditions, is it that hard to understand students’ apathy towards their own learning?  I only wish I worked with more schools and colleagues where implementing the new paradigm (though not necessarily Waks’s full vision) was happening as a matter of mission.

My Personal Assist

Even though I don’t know of a school or colleagues that are “working toward implementing this new paradigm”, I would pay real money to get a position in just such a school and begin the long, hard, complex work of leveraging students’ digital lives, tapping their interests, experiences, and expectations in order to transform teacher practice and redesigning curriculum.  I would create professional learning opportunities where teachers “must consider how the content and mature organization of knowledge grow out of the practical demands of social life, and how that content is used, tested, and modified in its actual use” (Waks, p. 197).   I would work towards a mastery oriented environment (Waks, p. 206) where play and error take their rightful places as the essential elements of learning that they are.  And the medium and playground for such work — for students and teachers alike — would include and require the networked technologies and personal devices that are a part of everyone’s lives and central to such kinds of 21st Century learning. 


Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism:A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved June 8, 2017, from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Waks, L. J. (2016). Education 2.0: The learningweb revolution and the transformation of the school. New York, NY: Routledge.

Week 7- Clash of Paradigms

The clash of paradigms described by Dr. Leonard Waks and Sir Kenneth Robinson is a struggle between preserving the hierarchical industrial model of education by reforming schooling on the one side, and deploying digital and network technologies to transform education by evolving schools into open educational centers of learning on the other. 

Essential Elements

While there are common elements between these paradigms, there are some significant differences.  The industrial model of schools is characterized by hierarchical structures, standardization, and age-grouping for the purposes of initiating young people into the adult world of factory work.  Some of the assumptions here include the legitimacy of the diploma system to deliver desirable employment and social allocation, the concept of “the dropout” as socially deleterious and collecting diplomas from high school, college, and graduate school is socially desirable.  Another assumption is that  only certified teachers ought to deliver the content they are credentialed to teach through standardized curricula.

In contrast, the Education 2.0 educational model is based on individualized learning, collaboration, and teaching and learning with digital tools and open, networked resources.  Schools are conceived of as open education centers making wide use of Open Education Resources and seek to initiate young people into the adult world by connecting them to it through situated learning experiences.  Advocates view teachers and students alike as participants in and contributors to the learningweb, through which they are initiated to take their place in the  knowledge economy.  Education 2.0 advocates also make some assumptions.  The first is that students can guide their own learning journeys.  The second is that non-certified persons can be co-equal educators of self-directed students simply by virtue of their content knowledge and experience.  The third has to do with what often appears to be a privileging of technological means to learning ends.  Granted, this last one is not necessarily what Ed 2.0 adopters believe.  Nevertheless, when the use of learningweb technologies is a central component of the paradigm, the message quickly gets elided that what matters is quality instruction regardless of whether or not technology is involved.

Hesitations & Keeping Within Known Boundaries

Reasons abound for why individuals and entire systems remain within the old paradigm and be reluctant to adopt the new paradigm.  One reason for remaining likely has to do with the rhetoric surrounding education.  “Reform” is a difficult concept to oppose.  So conceiving of oneself as a reformer provides an attractive and powerful identity.  Who can’t get behind reforming schools, especially when the schools have been framed as failures?  As Sir Kenneth Robinson notes, “People say we have to raise standards as if this is a breakthrough….  Yes, we should.  Why should you lower them?”  Ideas such as this are so positive they are easy to espouse and feel good about embracing.  Another reason for keeping within the old paradigm is that most teachers likely see themselves as part of a long tradition of “passing on our cultural genes” and sending young people to meet the future (Robinson).  Consciously or unconsciously, they position themselves as the next generation of educators, previous generations of which have heretofore sent their students successfully into the future.  Yet lest I sound as if I’m damning with faint praise, I want to be fair.  Most educators do not maintain the same perspective as we’ve been privileged to attain by virtue of our interrogating and wrestling with the big picture.  Most teachers are too bogged down in the day-to-day dynamics (read: survival) that “school reform” has wrought.

Indeed, hesitation to adopt the new paradigm could very well have to do with a much more down-to-earth reason:  The amount of newness Education 2.0 and the learningweb require.  When we stop to consider it, what element of our profession is not effected by digital and networked technologies?  To truly, meaningfully onboard we need new theories, new equipment, new procedures and policies, new strategies and methodologies, new pedagogical and content knowledge, new relationships with all stakeholders, new workflows, just to name a few.   Addressing even one of these can be costly and time-consuming.  Becoming overwhelmed happens quickly and thoroughly.  Fight, flight, or freeze responses are only natural and manifest as choosing to keep on with what is familiar and doing what one has been doing.  

Worthy of Preserving

One of the elements of the old paradigm I believe ought to be preserved has to do with the use of professional, licensed teachers who have completed accredited teacher education programs and not gone through so-called “alternative certification”.  While accredited programs in the US are not perfect and can stand to be improved, graduates still leave with far more pedagogical, developmental, and methodological knowledge than their “alt cert” counterparts.  They provide the pedagogical elements that form the base of teacher practice. Individuals armed with only content knowledge and practical experience in a particular field do not possess such a base.  That is not to say that there is no place for community artists and entrepreneurs in our schools.  But the idealized “open staffing”, as Waks describes it, is a potential Pandora’s box of outsourcing that could gut the local teacher corps, not to mention how it will likely expose students to all kinds of unqualified individuals now enrobed in the title of “teacher”.  Talk about a legitimacy crisis. 

Ignoring Realities

Scott Sternall articulated a sentiment in his commentary on the boards this week.  “I wish Breck, Bonk, and even Waks would be honest with their evaluation of why their system has flaws.”  There is a whiff of intellectual dishonesty to the mission of Education 2.0 revolutionaries — at least as they articulate it in our readings thus far.  As I mentioned back in week 1, societies typically do not shift paradigms quickly.  Institutions like schools, with roots that go to the core of societal beliefs, are not easily changed.  We all know this.  So when the treatise is written as if all we need to do is throw open the doors of our schools, invite the expert community in, slap a mobile device in every child’s hand, point them towards the internet, clap them on the shoulder and education is now reformed is disingenuous nearly to the point that the project cannot be taken seriously.  This is a shame because several ideas here have merit, such as the demise of the factory school, the diploma crisis, and the many affordances of the learningweb and how schools, educators, students, and parents ought to be taking advantage of its affordances to once again make teaching and learning the joyous adventures they can and should be.  Even Waks’s final chapter, “What Needs to Be Done”, is entitled to suggest he will finally give us some nuts and bolts for specifically how to bring his vision to fruition.  Instead, after 211 pages, he delivers an anemic and gratuitous final 10 pages of little more than common sense advice for incorporating Education 2.0 elements into the factory school paradigm.  Who knew paradigmatic shift could be ushered in so easily?

Paradigm Clash in CPS

The schools I work with generally keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the broader educational technology culture.  The extent to which Web 2.0 and Education 2.0 are brought into the classroom is really up to individual teachers.  While a few teachers allow students to use their phones with formative assessment tools like Kahoot!, all of the technology use I see is at the substitution and augmentation levels of the SAMR model of technology integrationImage-Teacher_Created_ResourcesNone of the schools I work with evince a school-wide ICT policy or ICT culture.  I still see far, far too many signs like those on the left in halls and classrooms.  The schools I work with have mostly high performing teachers who “get it”  So when the district gutted time for professional development and common planning, teachers were highly upset about how the cuts would undermine their planning efforts and instruction.  Yet even as I suggested, demonstrated, and mapped out how the collaboration features in GAFE (which all CPS teachers have access to) could be used for asynchronous planning and how with them we could still accomplish most of our goals, I met fierce pushback from teachers saying they were not working on their own time and “for free”.  Frustratingly, such mindsets show how completely embedded they still are in the factory school model and school reform thinking.

Education 2.0 in My Consulting Practice

As an education consultant, much of my work is defined by technology  Leveraging Web 2.0 as much as possible is how I remain present with and connected to my teachers and administrators.  Zoom video meetings, Google Classroom, pushing asynchronous work, using cloud-based apps, built-in collaboration features in Google Docs for curriculum mapping, advocating for and hosting Twitter chats, demonstrating the use of social media as learning tools, using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google+ as ways to extend my PLN and PLN’s of teachers I work with are all ways I’ve extended the new paradigm into my work and that of the teachers I work with.  Lest I sound like the model “Coach 2.0”, however, I still have a long way to go in incorporating these tools more seamlessly and automatically.

In general, the Education 2.0 paradigm provides many opportunities to use technology to transform what I do as an ed consultant.  Mostly those opportunities have to do with my work.  Increasingly, though, as I get used to a new app or process, I am able to draw individual teachers and administrators into the same process.  It’s a little sly, admittedly.  Sneaky even.  Sneaky like a fox!


RSA ANIMATE and Sir Kenneth Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms [Video file]. (2010, October). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms/discussion

Waks, L. J. (2016). Education 2.0: The learningweb revolution and the transformation of the school. New York, NY: Routledge.

Week 3- School Failure I & II

Academic disasters: A Nation at Risk, the Department of Education, “excellence”, international rankings, high-stakes tests, school reform, “inefficiency”, breakdown of social allocation, diploma inflation, crisis of legitimacy, breaks between youth and the adult world.

If I wanted to make a film about educational apocalypse, I might use chapters 4 and 5 as the basis for my treatment.  There is a lot going on here.  Much of it very interesting, including the brief history of the US Department of Education, the long view of the US’s standing in TIMSS and PISA results, and the outline of educational inefficiencies.  Waks weaves this all together, effectively connecting the history to his thesis for education 2.0.

Schools Left Behind?

A question that keeps coming up in class discussion is that of why, when so many teachers are returning for graduate work in curriculum, instruction, and technology, does so little seem to change back at the school level?  Just over halfway through chapter 4, Waks states, “The school reform movement since A Nation at Risk in 1983 has not challenged the factory paradigm.  Instead, it has strengthened it.”  He continues to describe how schools have gone on to require years more study in core courses — incidentally, those that are evaluated on high stakes tests —  and continue to organize instruction by age-grades.  I don’t know if this situation is so much one of “the ongoing historical development of society, leaving schools behind” as much as the schools being further cemented into the industrial paradigm.  The politics of the situation have also helped ossify the schools in the outmoded model.  The Brown Center on Education Policy estimates that the US currently spends $1.7 billion a year on testing.  With so much money at stake, lobbyists for the Big Four companies — “Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill—  collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014” (Report: Big education firms spend millions lobbying for pro-testing policies).  So while there are definitely shifts in society that Waks details, I’m less certain that schools are being left behind as much as they are being held in place by the lobbying dollars and resulting politics propagated by those who stand to gain financially from schools being in a perpetual state of reform.  Add to this teachers’ conceptualization of themselves as unionized laborers within the industrial model as opposed to highly knowledgeable academics and the potential for change is further thwarted.

Whence The Failures?

Given that we are now living in a time where there is near total saturation of web-connected

SAMR Model
Source: Learning Maker

devices, I would not say technology is at fault for the failures we see in school.  However, how educators use that technology is.  Frameworks like SAMR, TPACK, and TIM are useful tools for teachers to “level up” their technology use in the classroom.  Yet, too many dwell in the Substitution and Augmentation levels of SAMR, for example, where technology is an instructional add-on as opposed to a method of learning.  If anything, this is a failure of professional learning for teachers and priority-setting and support from administrators for incorporating technology.  Administrators must create conditions that do not waste teachers’ and students’ energies, that shield them from boredom, empowers them to prevail, and harnesses their youthful energies and abilities (p. 51).  Smartphones should be allowed, websites should not be blocked and anyone below the age of 13, as danah boyd notes, should not be criminalized when they tick a EULA “Accept” check box so they can use certain web sites to live and learn in a networked culture.

Technology The Fix?
Chicago Teachers Union Strike-2016
Source: Doug van Dyke

There are no silver bullets. Neither is there anything inherently technological or 21st century about communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creating (the 4 C’s).   However, inasmuch as networked, mobile technologies turbocharge the acquisition of such valued practices in a knowledge economy, and allow us to teach and learn beyond the constraints of the factory model school and classroom, I believe they are a tool in our toolbox for ushering in a new system of education.  But if teachers can get out from underneath the burdens of being “experts”, incorporate more choice for students’ learning pathways and products, make room for students to follow their interests, and engage in more online learning experiences themselves, then I think there are a number of issues Waks outlines that could be fixed as a result.

For instance, we might close the breach between youth and adult worlds.  Technology could be used to get us out of diploma inflation and the belief that more schooling is the answer for failing schools.  Thoughtful use of technology partnered with strong pedagogical practices could be an answer to rebalancing allocation and legitimacy.  I would imagine the full realization of digital and mobile technologies for education is tremendously threatening to high schools, colleges and the testing establishment.   After all, “[s]chools and colleges have retained legitimacy because…students and parents know that if you want to get ahead you need a diploma.  Graduates know it even better, through their direct experiences in society; they are accepted or rejected for positions based on their diplomas.  Dropouts know this power best — they are allocated to failure, anticipate, it, and adapt to it”  (p. 64)  But what if  K-12 and college were not the only path to allocation?  What if badged learning and informal, connected learning were also seen as legitimate precisely because they are paths through and among the adult world?  What constitutes education ought to diversify such that each diversified path that allows the learner to accumulate their “10,000 hours” is just as legitimate for access and allocation to their respective fields in the adult world.

What Can Technology Fix?

For some reason, at this point I’m thinking of the poem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”.  I’m thinking that while the revolution might not be televised, the evolution is certainly on a screen.  And, brother & sister, you are able to evolve from home, unplugged and turned on —

Book cover for danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked youth
Source: Yale University Press

though not dropped out.  In fact, just the opposite.  If you really want to be a part of the evolution, you are expected to participate, create, collaborate, mashup.  The revolution might not be brought to you by Xerox.  But the evolution is being brought to you by Google, Android, Apple, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, GSuite, Padlet, Pintrest, YouTube, Vimeo, Zoom, Schoology, Google Classroom, Kahoot!, App Store, Google Play, Wolfram|Alpha, Open Educational Resources, Kahn Academy, and Project Gutenberg, to name a few.  Indeed, the evolution is already underway.  Distance learning, LMS’s, 1-to-1 programs, genius hour, makerspaces are all slowly starting to make inroads, re-establishing the relevance of learning for students by tapping into their interests and their technologies.  

Still, what technology can accomplish is completely limited by what humans do with it.  As danah boyd says, the good, the bad, and the ugly that we find online are not new to humanity.  The online environment only amplifies that good, bad, and ugly.   As such, we have to get much more intentional around media literacy and digital citizenship.  This goes for adults as well as young people.  There’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy among some adults when it comes to restricting online access for students.  We all have to learn how to use this technology creatively and responsibly because we’re all new to this era.  And age is not a determiner of one’s fluency and effective use.  As we do this, I think we will rediscover those “alternative methods for allocating social positions” (p. 59) and bring a richness back to teaching and learning that recognizes a diversity of paths, and values connections between the adult and adolescent worlds that the industrial era wiped out.


Waks, L. J. (2016). Education 2.0: The learningweb revolution and the transformation of the school. New York, NY: Routledge.

Week 2- “Education & Change” and the American High School

Introduction

Two ideas in this week’s reading particularly stuck with me, not because the notions are necessarily new, but because of how they were elaborated, placed in the context of our course work, and how they then framed my reflections on my high school experiences.  These ideas certainly, then, have implications for our work as professional educators as well.  Those ideas are schools as places of initiation and education as a “process by which a culture transmits itself across the generations” (p. 12).  However, the notion of education as transmitter becomes a different matter altogether as Waks makes the distinction between education and schooling, at which point one sees schooling as transmitting itself across generations en lieu of education — or at the very least, alongside it.  

My High School According to Waks

The high school I attended consistently ranked among the top public districts in the state.  In

IHHS Crest
Image: RHSAPTS

the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, it was the epitome of the suburban district delivering a “conventional curriculum-based schooling” (p.11) for the mostly college-bound upper middle-class students it served.  About a dozen years out from the first rumblings of the Internet (back when it was a proper noun), the faculty and curriculum of my high school absolutely set a path for a “‘particular way of becoming a person-in-society'”(p. 12) .  It transmitted the college prep culture across the generations from the Postwar/GI Bill years of the Greatest Generation through  the Vietnam years of the Baby Boomers to those of us in Generation X.   However, the society my high school sought to initiate me into would no longer exist by the time I graduated from college.

Summer term of the Western State Normal School (1912)
Image: By Western State Normal School (Kalamazoo, Mich.), via Wikimedia Commons

The predictable and orderly “rules of governing…that build up around all of the significant aspects of life in society” (p. 28)  my high school teachers were preparing us for were not those of the social, networked, collaborative, knowledge economy in which we currently live.  As an educator, I can look back now and see quite clearly the assumptions our teachers made about who we would be as adults reflected in what they taught us and how they taught it to us.  They initiated us to be professionals and business people, specifically working in New York City, mostly in high rises, offices and cubicles.  Aside from the occasional think/pair/share exercise, I can’t recall a single small-group-activity-to-large-group-shareout I ever experienced in four years of high school classroom learning.  Yet I do remember an entire lesson dedicated to learning how to do the “subway fold” with a newspaper.  (This is a particular kind of large-scale origami that with a specific set of folds, flips and turns allows one to read a broadsheet newspaper on a crowded train without the paper ever taking up more space than a trade paperback.  I even remember the class being instructed to turn to the business section to start the fold and then our teacher coming to each of our desks to watch us demonstrate the fold as an individual performance assessment.)  Talk about initiation.

My high school was also the perfect example of mass schooling that habituated us “to the norms of industrial life rather than academic learning” (p. 40).  The only exceptions to that would be my “egg-crated” French classes and “extracurricular” theater program. I can point to real learning from those experiences. Still, if I had to estimate, I’d say my high school learning consisted of 25% education and 75% schooling.  It really wasn’t until college that I can begin identifying multiple courses that exposed me to much more new knowledge and understandings than I can count — even if it was done within a hierarchical model.  But from my high school experiences, I can write well and I can still speak, read, and write French.  I can present in front of audiences of all sizes.  I can fold a newspaper like nobody’s business.  But math stumps me both conceptually and practically.  When it came to math I wish I had been allowed to “build up [an] active capability sufficient to perform with enjoyment in activities and share in their values” — and for me, this entailed different methods than were consistently employed throughout my K-12 experience.  Given my deep fascination with language, what if I had been encouraged to explore math as another language with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax rather than as mere formulae known by “rote learning unconnected to performance” (p. 30)?  I imagine I would have had a very different experience of math then and far less anxiety about it today.

Waks’s 7 characteristics of the hierarchical/industrial/factory model (p. 38) map directly to my high school.  So too were we examples of Sizer’s point that the architecture and grammar of contemporary schooling have changed so little in the past 100+ years and we were so stuck in that way of schooling that college as the next step after high school wasn’t even conceived of as optional (p. 39).  In my family, the question was never, “Are you going to college after high school?”  In my family, the questions were, “Which four-year college will you attend?” and “Will you attend close to home and commute, or will you go away to college and live on campus?”  As a teenager, I was barely even aware of my astounding economic luck to have those as my options, never mind understand the underlying assumptions.

The Sticky Framing Question

I keep returning to the question of the ways in which my high school was a success or a failure in terms of Waks’s beliefs.  In terms of how it functioned as an institution that “introduce[d] order and predictability [and] consist[ed] of rules governing the practices that build up around all of the significant aspects of life in society” (p. 28) — such as life and society still were in the early 1980’s — I would say it was successful.  Where it failed was in the administration’s and faculty’s ability to see what was coming just five years down the pike, adapt to it, and prepare us accordingly as best they could.  Admittedly, a nearly impossible order given the architecture of schooling.   So they schooled all of us such that we could attend college and then take our place in a stable, lifelong, white-collar career with a single company that would then provide the benefits we need through retirement — just as our parents and grandparents had experienced.  It makes me laugh even to type that today.  For Gen X, those work and societal scenarios were already obsolete by the time we graduated college.  And that meant years of struggle, doubt, and misbelief about our own success when, by the age of 28, we were already on to our second or third job placement.  Sadly, those outdated notions were only reinforced by the older generations who questioned our ability to hold a job and admonished us to “settle down” and “make a decision” about what to do with our lives.  My high school and the educators who staffed it did not recognize that “social, political, religious and economic institutions work together in an interdependent institutional order” and that several of those were about to change “in fundamental ways [and that education] must adapt” (p. 28).  That was so at the dawn of the information age and it is so again as a Civilization 2.0 reveals itself through a truly global, collaborative society connected through the digital, networked devices that  billions of people carry in their pockets.  Nearly every institution has been impacted by the internet and information and communication technology — particularly our social, political and economic institutions.  Yet our educational institutions have been slow “to give”.

Conclusion

Reflecting on this week’s readings through these framing questions has left me a bit dispirited.  Heidi Hayes Jacobs is fond of asking teachers, “What year are you preparing your students for?”  From my high school experiences as a student and the evidence I see as a teacher and consultant now 30 years on, the answer —  at least in urban schools — more often than not is indeed the 1990’s. Society has changed several times over in the years since I was in high school, and yet too many of our schools chug along in the same, centuries-old, outmoded paradigm.  Still, Waks helps us remain optimistic. “Mass secondary education is an accident that turned into an institution.  As we re-imagine education in the Internet age, remember that today’s system is an unshapely human invention that today’s humans can replace by another invention better suited for our times” (p.21).  That’s encouraging, even if it is a long road ahead.


Waks, L. J. (2016). Education 2.0: The learningweb revolution and the transformation of the school. New York, NY: Routledge.


Link to Framing Questions