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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Berry, 2011, p.210).

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Bond in the summer of 2010.  We looked in depth at teacher leadership and I was inspired by the notion that teachers can and should lead from the classroom.  I had never really thought of myself as a teacher leader before.  I knew I was a good teacher who nurtured positive relationships with her students, her parents, the staff at the school and the community in general.  I didn’t realize, however, that many of the things I was doing actually made me a teacher leader!  Once I recognized the potential power of my role in my school community I decided to take action.  I developed a Professional Development plan for my school that involved the instigation of Professional Development Communities (PLCs).  Teachers were given a menu of choice and joined the PLC they felt fitted their individual learning needs.  Being a member of a PLC was optional but many teachers were enthused at the opportunity to direct their own professional learning.

A year later the PLCs are thriving.  Teachers are involved in professional dialogue about their students and it has been amazing to observe my school community colleagues grow and learn together.  We have been involved in many topics from “Teaching with Love and Logic” to reading the Berry book.  We have Tech Mondays where teachers from all grade levels come and share a technology tool they are using in their classrooms.  Increasing numbers of staff have been involved in presenting at the PLC meetings and while I, and a few other teachers remain the main facilitators, we have enjoyed seeing our colleagues begin to take on their own teacher leadership role.

We now have a wiki which I have set up.  It’s sole purpose is to extend our discussions beyond those who cannot attend meetings.  While it is in its early stages and uptake has been slow, we really hope that this will progress to a Professional Learning Network, unconstrained by the time or physical boundaries.

Watch this space…

http://falconlearningcafe.wikispaces.com/

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Teacherpreneurism

YES!  It really is all about teachers and I was pleased to see Berry acknowledging this at several points in the first half of the book “Teaching 2030”.  I, like him, don’t believe that any technology in the world will ever eradicate teachers from the world of education. After all research (and lots of it) has shown that the top-performing school systems in the world all share one consistent feature: top-performing teachers.  I think it’s about time we paid more attention to them; to us; to ME!

And I’m not alone in this sentiment. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of “American Teacher” two weeks ago during the Austin Film Festival.  I was so inspired by the movie I decided to try to get a screening at my school.  I succeeded.  On Tuesday November 8, 2011, 15 or so teachers gathered in the cafeteria of my school to watch this thought-provoking movie about the crisis in education. Being proactive in spreading their message was something I committed to on leaving the auditorium that day.  I can’t change things single-handedly – it really does take a village and I am now proud to be part of that village!

This Teacher Salary Project, of which the movie forms a part, is based on the New York Times bestselling book Teachers Have It Easy by journalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop. He, and others like him, hope to bring an awareness to the real and imminent crisis in our educational system—how little we value our strongest, most committed, and most effective teachers, and the ripple effect this has on how our children learn and their potential for future success.

Large amounts of the content of “Teaching 2030” was reminiscent of points raised in the movie and I felt so positive on reading this.  Yes, it might conjure up images of never to be attained things but it’s nice, as a teacher, to know that people are thinking this way – and a lot of people at that.  A very knowledgeable professor once told me, “Just because you think you can’t change things doesn’t mean you don’t try.”  Here, here!  (A British parliament expression for those of you non-Brits out there!)

In my career spanning ten years, two countries and two continents, many have criticized me for being idealistic; for wanting to challenge the unchangeable.  I have been accused of being an “overachiever” and have been ridiculed, yes ridiculed, by colleagues for my vision for education.  But why shouldn’t I dream?  Didn’t some one very famous person have a dream…and we all know what happened with that don’t we?  I am not for one minute, trying to compare myself with the great Martin Luther King, my simple point being: Let me, and others like me, try to change what’s wrong with education.  Let us imagine teaching as “an adaptive profession that empowers and rewards members who develop their pedagogical talent, spread and “sell” their expertise, and find innovative solutions to the challenges their students face” (Berry, 2011, p. 18).

While the cause for teacher professionalism has stalled and the NCTFs’ recommendations a distant memory, we do have a choice: reignite the debate and the passion for encouraging and rewarding teacher knowledge; allow teachers to share their skills without leaving the classroom; treat our best teachers in a manner conducive to their talent OR forever mourn their passing.  I am not much in to the latter so I plan to embrace the former and continue my crusade!  At least for now, I know I am not alone!  Thank you, Berry & Co.

“The problem of education does not concern me quite as much as the solutions to the problem of education” – George Siemens

Reading Christensen and completing my Online Learning Theory Presentation at the same time really made me sit back and reflect on the teaching and learning that occurs in my classroom.  Not just on how I use computers and whether I use technology as a way to “modularize the system and thereby customize learning”, but on the entire learning landscape of my classroom.  What am I doing to improve the future of, and for, my students?  What am I doing to help them to “sense-make around social and technological connections?”

Sure, I embrace everything that is thrown at me, and try to integrate as many things in to my learning landscape as possible, from Xbox Kinect to a “Bring Your Own Technology” to school initiative.  But how is this going to “prepare individuals for the vital combat of lucidity.” (Edward Moran)

These thoughts led me to look a little more at what is wrong with education and what I can do to change that.  On doing so I came across this video.

It made a lot of sense – at least to me.  I agree that it is time to challenge the assumptions we had of place-based views of education, to disrupt the notion of what it means to be a teacher and a learner.  But how do we break down the physicality and focus on collapsing everything to the point of a connection?  Perhaps I need to keep my eye on George Siemens and see what other insight he has to offer.  While I wholeheartedly accept that “to change education is to change society”, I am still at a loss as to how to affect that.

Children develop only as the environment demands development

I had the joy of taking a class with Dr. Waite this summer and, while reading Bauerlein, was fondly reminded of our animated class discussions.  (One of the only positive things to have come out of the past week’s relationship with the book “The Dumbest Generation”, I hasten to add!).  In CI5308, Introduction to Gifted and Talented, we read The Genius in All of Us, an inspiring book by David Shenk.  One of the many topics he addressed was how children develop only as the environment demands development.

As Baulerlein stated, James Flynn discovered that IQ scores rose markedly over the last century and, as a result of this, concluded that, “(The intelligence of) our ancestors in 1900 was anchored in everyday reality. We differ from them in that we use abstractions and logic and the hypothetical… Since 1950, we have become more ingenious in going beyond previously learned rules to solve problems on the spot”  (Flynn, 1987).

While Bauerlein remains intent on proving that the youth today are ‘culturally ignorant ‘, I am more inclined to surmise that the children of today are developing as their environment is demanding development.  And is there really something terribly wrong with that?  Can we not accept that tests designed many decades ago might yield different results in the 21st century?  I don’t think anyone would ever try to attest that “America now is a nation of shining intellects”.  What we cannot argue, in my opinion, is that American is different and surely that is ok.  The environment children are growing up in is demanding different challenges and utilizing different thought processes.

I think it’s ok that our children are going to be ‘smarter’ in something else and, perhaps if we modified our tests and all the studies to which Baulerlein refers to, we might see quite different results.

We can’t continue judging our students based on an old environment.  We have to adjust to the new one – and the time is now!

Prensky

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

So, it just happens that we had a gathering at our house yesterday and among my friends exists a wonderful, and highly opinionated, mother-of-two.  Out of the blue (honestly, it was NOT manufactured) arose a discussion about PTSD.  She had read, somewhere, that some children were being diagnosed with this condition and the culprit?  Yes, you guessed it, gaming.  Now, my ears immediately pricked up and I chuckled to myself.  Ha, what better time than to quote some Prensky.  I mean, really, I could not have planned this any better.  Anyway, once she finished her rant, I calmly asked if she had heard of Marc Prensky.  Her response, No.  I proceeded to tell her how interesting I found her comments and went on to quote at length his discussion about ‘counterbalancing influences’.  For once in my life, I caused this friend to quiet down, humph, and walk away.  Score!

But seriously, I totally agree with Prensky on this.  Parents need to parent.  Yes, I said it, parents need to parent.  If children are ONLY playing video games and watching TV then, sure, something might go amiss.  Limits are not only good they are necessary.  Parents need to decide on those limits and stop taking the easy way out.  I say, easy, because I truly believe that lazy parenting is endemic in our society.  I am not talking, like my friend suggested, about low-income, single moms, (yes, I know), I am talking about those middle to upper ‘classers’ who can afford this stuff, and plenty of it.  I work in a district where most children can have any piece of hardware and software they want and I see the dangers of this.  But the dangers I see are not from the technology itself, it’s from the parents willingness to let it take their place.

Games, used properly, and supervised appropriately, are powerful tools for children and quite frankly, whether we like it or not we are going to have to embrace the world of games.  If we don’t we will be left behind my young people who are learning a completely different way to ‘be’. I say bring it on!  I would much rather talk to my own children and my students about the opportunities that games present than worry about the harm that could be done.