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Archive for the ‘Educational Politics’ Category

“What if we stopped investing in curriculum and started investing in our children’s minds?” http://3.ly/qE5P
February 16, 2010  at 12:44pm via Twitter

NL: Oh my god.. LOVE that idea!!! :o)
February 16, 2010  at 12:54pm
DK: i read the blog… it’s a kick… especially if you are at all interested in technology integration. a very tongue-in-cheek look at the issues early adopters like me have to deal with all the time!
February 16, 2010  at 1:01pm
TM: Investing in minds? What a novel idea. But you know it’s not just the schools or the school system, although that is where the brainwashing comes from. Too many parents have allowed schools to be surrogate parents and have allowed themselves to be convinced that school is where learning happens and that the schools know best. That’s just crap and an abrogation of the responsibilities and the rights of parents.
February 16, 2010  at 1:27pm
MN: What a concept! Who would get rich that way??
February 16, 2010  at 1:37pm
DK: @MN we all would 🙂
February 16, 2010  at 1:41pm
TD: Debby teachers were actually able to teach when we were in elementary school now they are teaching to tests because of the “outcome measurement studies” and requirements.
February 16, 2010  at 2:47pm
DK: i absolutely agree. read through my comment from yesterday about brain atrophy. lots of good insights there.
February 16, 2010  at 2:51pm
TH: Invest in parents minds like mine, obvious I could use it Love ya cuz
February 16, 2010  at 5:51pm
MN: Debby, I absolutely agree that we will all be richer when we invest in our kids.
February 16, 2010  at 6:33pm

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brain atrophy

i’m fairly certain public education leads to brain atrophy. emphasis on the checking right box instead of relevant problem solving skills.
February 15, 2010 at 12:19pm

TC: and let me tell you, fighting to teach in a different way is quite a challenge. The resistance comes from the students as well as my teaching peers.
February 15, 2010 at 12:27pm

FR: Who needs to learn problem solving skills, that’s what college is for right? Makes it easier to turn the rest of Americans into mindless automatons for menial labor and our multitudes of fast food joints.
February 15, 2010 at 12:28pm

DW: Unfortunately they try to drive on the roads with us and shop in stores next to us. Makes for some interesting and often frustrating challenges
February 15, 2010 at 12:43pm


DK: seriously…

this morning’s educational rant brought to you courtesy of my children (and others who live here) that want steve & i to micromanage every step of every task. i asked him if we were just awesome thinkers or if there was a missing piece in there somewhere that the other inhabitants of this casa aren’t getting. at some point in our lives, we both developed the ability to approach problems with reason, creativity, and determination that has carried over to almost everything we do. the major goal in our parenting is to pass that skill on to our children.

it occurred to me that they are approaching a task (ex: clean up around the outside of the house) as a check the box sort of thing. they expect a specific set of instructions (sweep here, pick up those sticks, stack that wood, throw away trash) and fail to generalize to the larger problem solving skills that are needed to successfully accomplish the goal.

frank… you’ll get this… they are confused by “undefined parameters” but instead of engaging the brain to figure out what to do, they freeze up until the next instruction is given.

Mind you, we have a home where higher level thinking is encouraged, cultivated, modeled, etc… but it really feels like we are swimming against the current of where they spend the majority of their day almost every day of the week. they get it here, but are overwhelmed by influences outside of our control that encourages, and even celebrates, students who check off the right boxes.
February 15, 2010 at 12:47pm

KH: Atrophy? Try brain death, and stress to go with it.
February 15, 2010 at 12:49pm

LG: Debby I couldn’t agree more and am glad to know that it isn’t just here in my home or just my kid that wants/needs a simple task broken down the a long list of specific instructions. Some as simple as clean your room, where he simply rearranges the mess into piles out of the general walking area. I used to think he was being lazy, however, I do believe he is so conditioned at school to being given the task, the method, the mile stones and the goal he must reach instead of being taught how to develope the process himself is partly to blame, partly he is a lazy teenager…lol…however I have begun to stop myself from being so intent on the outcome and am trying to teach him how to figure out the process of gettin from A to Z… I have found a good tool is to give him a task and how I want it to look or be when he is finished and making him write a plan…even on simple things like cleaning up the yard…lol… Oh well I have added my rant to yours…have a good day…
February 15, 2010 at 1:03pm

KH: Ok, easily explained. At this age, time spent figuring out the minimum that can be done to get the parent off their back is considered time well spent. If they haven’t been told exactly what is necessary to be considered “finished”, instead of using the imagination, they will spend the time: 1) goofing off 2) pestering the parent for specific instructions or 3) do what they have been told to do–no more. It has nothing to do with ability to understand or produce. They are not freezing up, they are plotting on how to get out of it. Even if it takes 2 ot 3 times as long to frustrate us into signing off on a job, they consider it a victory, and then will have the nerve to be upset over all the “wasted” time.
February 15, 2010 at 1:14pm

DK: i would mostly agree with you kim… but not all of the participants are children, and i see it in my college classes also. i really do think this is a generalized issue that goes beyond “let’s get the parents off our backs” to a long term conditioning issue. information is easy to get (who reads books anymore?). we think in twitter soundbites and ask kids to make an educated guess from a, b, c, or d. getting done fast is better than getting it done right because there’s not much quality control anyhow. teachers spend a good portion of their day (out of necessity) on crowd control and classroom management so who has time to engage the brain? that requires quiet time, slack time, daydreaming time… all of which there is no time for in our uber-efficient, highly productive society.

but i digress… i have a very important report to work on that no one will actually read, but it checks off a box that indicates that we have done our due diligence when the powers-that-be look to see that we have all of our ducks in a row. that’s all that matters anyhow, right?
February 15, 2010 at 1:27pm

KH: Touche.
February 15, 2010 at 1:28pm

HP: And by “checking the right box,” do you mean my right or your right?

Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week.

Seriously, I agree with all of this, in particular the final point about how teachers are held accountable much more for the ancillary, non-educational portions of their job than for anything that happens in the teaching/learning process, so they are perfectly positioned to unintentionally perpetuate the dumbing-down of America.
February 15, 2010 at 2:02pm

CM: You need to read “Catching Up or Leading the Way,” by Yong Zhao. It looks at how standardized testing and test-based accountability are destructive to creativity and innovation, and why just as we start trying to emulate China, Japan, and South Korea, those countries are abandoning their highly centralized, test-based systems because they havefigured out that scoring highest on international tests doesn’t develop creative and innovative workers. For all its faults, the US system does produce more creative output than any other country in the world, and all those other countries are trying to emulate what we’re busy trying to destroy.
February 15, 2010 at 3:10pm

CM: You can see a video of Dr. Zhao presenting at http://www.tvw.org/media/mediaplayer.cfm?EvId=2009110082&bhcp=1. Skip ahead to 31:20 to hear his part of the video.
February 15, 2010 at 3:13pm

IW: This conversation raises deeper issues than just schools. Investors have forgotten the idea of long term investment. Eliminate scheduled maintenance and it is pretty cheap to own a car (or any other assett). For a little while…
February 15, 2010 at 3:46pm

MS: Agreed!
February 15, 2010 at 7:25pm

TM: What else would we expect from a government bureaucracy exacerbated by unions?
February 15, 2010 at 8:34pm

SB: tell me about it…
February 15, 2010 at 9:38pm

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I was asked by a colleague what I thought of a resolution moving through Academic Senate that would restrict instructors to only being allowed to use the college Moodle server. I responded with this:

“Although I understand the motivation behind this resolution, I believe there are some larger questions in my mind on this issue, including the ability to foster innovation, academic freedom, and intellectual property rights. I am concerned that people will lose site of those important values in the name of not wanting to make waves given the current situation we find ourselves in. Institutions too often find themselves in a position of locking down technology into a standard template and lose site of the fact that teachers and students are individuals that don’t fit into a “standard” mold. If we want to support the variety of teaching styles and learning styles that make for a diverse and rich learning environment, then we have to be very careful about over-regulating and micromanaging.

Another issue is that at the district level, we are working on creating a policy that will foster innovation and allow for technology exploration while recognizing the benefits of being able to standardize on some levels. We are trying to come up with a balanced document that will allow for early adopters and innovators to safely pilot cutting edge technology without fear of repercussions. An organization has to allow for that if they want to be able to stay current; otherwise an organization risks stagnation, stubbornly doing what they’ve always done, because it’s always been done that way.”

I forwarded this to another good friend and colleague who works at a different college in our district. He is a technology innovator, leader, and advocate. I asked him:

“Honest opinion… am I making mountains out of molehills? Or is this worth standing up for?”

He replied:

“I think all of the rules regarding technology are dumb, shortsighted, and oh yeah…. They diminish the professionalism that is supposed to be a part of our job.  BC sent out a copy of the new board policy banning cell phone use and text messaging during class and (wait for it) office hours.  Never mind that I use mine to contact students all the time, that it is the #1 most ubiquitous technology, etc, etc.

People are thinking about the benefits of standardization, assessment and locking things down, just like they do in K-12 education.  The effect will be the same.  Innovation and high quality learning experiences will be exchanged for standardized, “safe” learning that informs rather than inspires, and trains rather than challenges.   We’d say that education is the “lighting of a fire” rather than the “filling of a bucket”, but hey — fire is dangerous and difficult to control.  Filling buckets is safe, easy, and doesn’t require as much skill or work.  Oh, and it’s so easy to measure and account for. </rant>”

EXACTLY! Are we going to take a chance and light fires or are we going to safely fill our little measurable buckets? And if we do the latter, what will the consequences be?

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I was just in a meeting where the state, district, and college budget was discussed. instant migraine. i feel like throwing up. or crying.
December 10 at 1:55pm

TM:
Given the circumstances of California’s money problems, “budget” doesn’t seem to be a word they should be using.
December 10 at 2:02pm

CT:
During said budget talk was it discussed how much money was wasted on said discussion?
December 10 at 2:03pm

KH:
How does one go about getting scholarships for talented children?
December 10 at 2:18pm

DK:
this was an academic senate meeting, so no money involved. the college has been told to prepare reduction scenarios in the event (the inevitable event) that a 5%, 7%, or 10% reduction was required. It’s all “hypothetical” now but we want to be in a position to make our own choices and not have the district make those choices for us. since it is hypothetical, i don’t feel right discussing specific programs/cuts (as nothing is set in stone).

In general, however, here’s what it might look like in terms of course reductions:

5%
sections removed: 49
enrollments (students) turned away: 1225

7%
sections removed: 68
enrollments (students) turned away: 1700

10%
sections removed: 116
enrollments (students) turned away: 2900

Yes, lots of other cuts in lots of other places, but we are already lean, so there will be cuts to course offerings. I would encourage you to write, call, email, find on facebook your representatives and the KCCD school board and let them know how this impacts you on a personal level. make a case. the student voice is very often the strongest voice.
December 10 at 2:45pm

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This will be of interest to community college students (and many others). Dr. Jack Scott is in charge of the 110 California Community Colleges. He gives an overview of the current budget situation and offers some possible solutions that might just work. Interesting thoughts on choices to make when faced with challenging circumstances.

Dr. Jack Scott, Chancellor
California Community College
Community College League of California Conference
San Francisco, California
November 19, 2009

Living in Difficult Times

Scott Peck begins his well-known book, The Road Less Traveled, with these arresting words:

Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. . .  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. . . . Life is a series of problems.  Do we want to moan about them or solve them?

This statement is not meant to be pessimistic, for Peck would affirm that life has its joys as well as its problems.

Yet, if you have lived very long, you know this truth, that life is difficult.  Most of us have experienced serious difficulties such as the loss of a loved one, harsh financial reversal, a failed marriage, or a chronic illness.  And just as problems occur in our personal lives, so also do problems arise in our professional lives.  That is why I have titled my speech “Living in Difficult Times.”

There is no question that 2009-10 is an extremely challenging time for California community colleges. This year we experienced a huge 8% cut in our state allocation.  My experience in California community colleges dates back to 1973, yet I have never seen a reduction of this magnitude.

Ironically, at the same time our funds have been reduced, our enrollments have surged.  The students still came.  This fall, our enrollment increased by 3% over last fall.  Colleges report that at registration time this fall, 95% or more of their course sections were completely filled, with many students on waiting lists and some–sadly–turned away with no classes at all.

At the same time that the colleges have increased enrollment, they have been forced to decrease the number of classes that they offer.  This fall, colleges cut classes, most by 10% or more.   This reduction certainly made economic sense since our colleges were experiencing a severe cut.  Furthermore, most colleges are over their enrollment cap; thus, they are educating many students for which they receive no remuneration.

In one sense, this overcrowding is good news because it demonstrates our popularity.  Why are community colleges so popular?  Let me cite some reasons.

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DK: re: faculty resistance 2 new tech. faculty need 2 remember, we are in the business of learning. the best way 2 facilitate it is 2 model it.
November 9 at 11:41am via Twitter

SB:
I understand their concern. It changes so much and we have to keep up with it. Especially in my field where things change what seems to be by the hour. In the long run it’s better to deal with it, especially if you can pass the knowledge/lessons learned on to students/peers.
November 9 at 12:18pm

DK:
I understand their concern also. However, that doesn’t excuse the problem. One of the webinars I was in on this morning shared a very powerful model of education: switch the role of “teacher” to facilitator/mentor, and the role of “student” to researcher. we are all in this learning together. if you aren’t immersed in learning yourself, how can you relate to others who are also learning? real learning? not just memorizing something for a test, but changing the way you think to integrate and apply new ideas and concepts in new and unrelated situations. maybe that’s just my bias coming through, but i think that’s where we, as professional educators, need to be so that we can be most effective in helping our students achieve that as well.
November 9 at 12:23pm

BM:
I don’t think most faculty see themselves as being in the business of learning as much as in content delivery.
November 9 at 12:27pm

DK:
agreed. definitely in need of a paradigm shift. so… how do we help facilitate that? you and I do a lot with individual faculty and through the avenues where we have influence. do we try to effect change on a larger level? maybe I’m having a “paul sparks – we should change the world” moment 😉
November 9 at 12:29pm

SB:
This isn’t High School… They are in a job where they have to learn as much if not more than the students are learning. If they don’t want to do that then maybe they should go back to teaching general ed.
November 9 at 12:29pm

TM:
Many people take the easy way out, the path of least resistance, precisely because they don’t want to have to think. Our education system is a bureaucracy, the root cause of its failure to competently educate. Its members become bureaucrats of the type that makes bureaucrat a four-letter word.
November 9 at 12:35pm

GT:
Content is dead. Or more accurately if we let it rule as it has in the past we will be dead under its untenable weight! Education should revolve around process – research, analysis, synthesis, communication . . . and any content will do. Read Rachel Carson in HS science – obvious, but what about as a tool to teach math? Old man and the sea (Hemingway) in literature class – again, obvious, but why not in science? Content should be fluid and at the creative discretion of the teacher . . .

Tom Brown in Change by Design, “If Gary Hamel is correct in arguing that the twenty-first century will favor adaptability and continuous innovation, it just makes sense that organizations whose “product” is creativity should foster environments that reflect and reinforce it. Relaxing the rules is not about letting people be silly so much as letting them be whole people [ ]” Do schools create or allow for this type of environment or is it regimented . . . and if regimented, isn’t it the obsession with standards and standardization that causes the inertia?

If “well prepared students” is school’s “product” is the century old system we are stuck in ever going to result in quality? If education put the focus back on the student, instead of using them to justify jobs and salary increases, we might be able to reinvent school.
November 9 at 12:43pm

BM:
just don’t have a Paul Sparks “would a yo-yo work in space?” moment, and we’ll be fine. 😉
November 9 at 12:49pm

SB:
Seriously, would a yo-yo work in space? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… So, in theory it could work?
November 9 at 1:45pm

DK:
oh no… yet another student nerd sniped by Sparkian yo-yo astrophysics!
November 9 at 1:57pm

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interesting (and right on target) education model: power of NotSchool.net (UK) – moving the role of teacher to facilitator/mentor; shifting the role of student to researcher; not course-based but project-based to create relevant learning across the curriculum. US Westwood School is doing this also: http://3.ly/Um8

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