Posts categorized "Ed Policy" Feed

What Truths Do You Hold to be Self-Evident About Education?

Chris Lehmann: The Great American Teach-In: Listening to Students.

Sam Chaltain: What's Your Declaration of Education?.

What truths do you hold to be self-evident about education? Please join me and many other education stakeholders in exploring the state of US education during the Great American Teach-In (, scheduled to take place on May 10th. 

During this event, we will be examining what it means to be educated in the 21st century and formulating solutions to improve education. I believe that in order to do this thoughtfully, we must look within ourselves to identify and articulate our fundamental beliefs about the purpose of education. Participants will be encouraged to draft their own Declarations of Education in some format and to share these ideas with the world. 

The following questions were developed to help participants reflect and over the next few weeks, I think I'll tackle these in blog posts here in preparation for writing my own Declaration. I see this as sort of an cathartic exercise similar to NPR's This I Believe series. I hope you'll think about these as well and take the time to create your own vision of education.

1. When and where do I learn best?
2. What does an ideal learning environment look like?
3. How closely do our current places of learning resemble our ideal learning environment?
4. What barriers to learning/growth exist within our current environments?
5. What will we do to make our current learning environments more perfect places to work and learn?

I also am thinking about how to involve my own kids, ages 8 and 12, as I think they have opinions on this matter. I'd like to help them better articulate their feelings about school, and to think metacognitively about their learning in order to advocate for themselves. 

Let's change the current tone with education and focus on what works, what needs to change, and how we can do it together. 

Live Blogging from the Education Project

Live blogging for #tep10 will appear here staring in about 6 hours. Send me an email at elemenous at or a DM via Twitter (@elemenous) if you'd like to participate. Joining me will be Kevin Brookhouser and Julene Reed! 



Pondering Waiting for Superman Etc.

I wrote an extensive post on all the current ed reform hype, and lost it somehow. I'll attempt to collect my thoughts on this again in a much more succinct and less eloquent manner!

My main points were:

I'm concerned about fevered pitch of anti-teacher rhetoric in the media today. The American public needs to critically examine the current ed reform hype generated by the release of  Waiting for Superman. Specifically, citizens should look at:

  • The buzz  around Superman, particularly Oprah's spin  and subsequent initiatives which don't give much credence to teachers
  • The recent mayoral election in Washington DC and the work of DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee
  • The decision by the LA Times to publish value-added data on LAUSD teachers. (Make sure to read the extensive comments in this blog post.)

The education landscape is a complex picture, and more standardized testing, firing of teachers, and charter schools will not alone solve our current crisis.       

  • Yes, bad teachers exist and should be removed from classrooms. However, our current teaching force needs to be inspired  and prepared to meet today's challenges.
  • We're facing a teacher shortage with baby boomers retiring over the course of the next few years and we must not throw the baby out with the bath water.
  • While some teachers are born great, it takes time and professional development for most teachers to evolve into truly effective ones. 
  • Teachers must stand up and make sure their stories (positive and negative) are told. Clearly, the American public is only getting one side of the story. 
  • Teachers also must advocate for developmental and pedagogical best practices. We are at risk for ignoring research.
  • Parents need to be a part of this formula for success. In Singapore, parents feel immense amount of pressure to do what it takes to make their children successful and their system is considered one of the most successful in the world.
  • Administrators do not seem to be the focus of current reform rhetoric. We must examine the role of school leadership in motivating and engaging school communities.
  • We need positive messaging to encourage all stakeholders to work together towards the common goal of doing what's best for children. Effective change will not happen with divided factions. 

A voice for reason in all of this has been Diane Ravitch, a prolific writer, professor and historian of education. A former appointee to the Department of Education under Bush I, she has reversed her views on what truly works in education. Read her latest book, follow her on Twitter, and check out this interview featuring her. Also, consider signing this petition for her to appear on Oprah (a complete long shot, but my hope is that her work is brought to Oprah's attention). I want to be Diane when I grow up. :) 

Please share additional readings on these topics via the comments here in my blog.  Articles and posts  that have caught my attention on this are:  

Obnoxious Online Marketing Tactics?

I'm preparing to write a blog post in which I'd like to incorporate the input from my personal learning network friends, so I've been posting the link to this survey in multiple places including Twitter, the Future of Ed ning, and Classroom 2.0. I'm wondering where to draw the line with this... when it does become obnoxious to see the same material in several spots online?

As I logged into EdWeek's Digital Directions ning this morning after following a tweet from EdWeek forum panelist Barbara Treacy, it occurred to me that by posting in lots of places, I may be joining a practice that I have long abhorred. I saw on the front page of this ning posting of a man pushing a product. He left comments on several members' pages, essentially cutting and pasting his message. 

This man, who shall remain nameless, has done this for consistently for the past few years. In fact, when he did this on the Global Education Collaborative, which I run, I asked him about his intentions and then banned him from the group when he did not reply. There is now another woman posting events that use this same product fairly often. I did a search for her name and she's an SEO expert and has been posting the same information about this same product in multiple Ning communities. I did write to her expressing my concerns and she said she'd curtail her postings.

When I've inquired on Twitter about the practices of the aforementioned man and the product he is pushing, I've heard from extremely reputable educational technologists who think the product is legitimate and that this guy is really a teacher. The more I see his name and his canned message pop up, though, affirms my doubts that he is a spammer. And frankly, I will not even look at a company's product if they resort to these kinds of marketng tactics. It takes away from the authenticity of relationships in these online communities and the lack of transparency creates makes me think this company is not trustworthy.

So, am I going in this same direction by posting in many places in line in order to reach as many people as possible? It's a fine line, but the bottom fine line is that I am not profiting from anything and I genuinely want to gather input from as many of my online colleagues as possible. 

UPDATE: I dug around a bit and it turns out that this aforementioned man who pastes canned messages on Nings is the US business development executive for this India-based company. Supposedly he works in a high school, but I couldn't find a faculty directory on his school's web page. My problem is that he is NOT transparent in his postings that he WORKS for this company and he is pasting generic messages on people's pages. He is not even engaging in conversations and mentioning his product in context. I would not have a problem if he was transparent with his consultancy, but I clearly recall asking him if he worked for this company and I received no response.

EdWeek Leadership Forum - Chicago

On Thursday, I'll be at this EdWeek event and am planning on live blogging as much as possible. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing keynoters Susan Patrick and Eliot Soloway! Feel free to join in the live blog I've created.

Midwest Tech Forum 2009 Handout

Check out the handout for my portion of the Web 2.0 panel at Tech Forum Midwest tomorrow! This is intended to be a short overview of Web 2.0 and its implications for education. I've also included some web sites and readings for further exploration. Lucy Gray • Tech Forum - Midwest 2009 Lucy Gray • Tech Forum - Midwest 2009 Lucy Gray This is a handout I created for Tech Forum - Midwest in 2009. It gives a definition of Web 2.0 and the implications of such tools in education. Find recommended tools and resources in this handout.

Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?

Woo hoo, I scored 100% on the science quiz which is not saying much. Next, math!

Use the code below to display the banner:

The Ed Tech Elevator Pitch

This morning, I listened to Lisa Parisi, Maria Knee and other people in my PLN on EdTechTalk. There was a lively conversation in the chatroom and I happened to mention that I haven't perfected an "elevator pitch" or consise argument for why it's crucial for educators to be addressing 21st century skills and literacies, for lack of better words. Others agreed, and I created a wiki on the fly for us to map our ideas, thoughts and resources around this idea. I think educators these days need to be prepared to quickly and articulately explain why we are passionate about the power of emergent, collaborative technologies used effectively in educational contexts.

I'd love for more people to join and add their thoughts! Email me if you'd like to be added to the wiki.

Oprah Winfrey’s Lavish South African School - Newsweek Entertainment -

Link: Oprah Winfrey’s Lavish South African School -
Newsweek Entertainment -

I'm really interested in knowing more about this school, and I'm guessing that we'll hear a lot more about it in coming weeks as it is about to open. This article has some beautiful photographs and it looks like a lovely campus.

I do find it bothersome that Oprah's are called extravagant. Why are educational institutions always looked at to be spartan and budget conscious? Does that really make a school a better learning environment? The fact is that good education is expensive, and the physical environment in which children learn is as criticial as curriculum and teachers.

The article also reminds me of what Dean Kamen was saying in the Iconclasts episode I watched last night. The technological know-how is there to solve world problems; it is harder to change attitudes about the status quo. Too bad the South African government didn't look at this as an opportunity.

This paragraph in the article also stood out for me:

"Oprah also knows that some people will complain that charity should begin at home, even though she has provided millions of dollars to educate poor children in the United States, especially via her Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program. But she sees the two situations as entirely different. "Say what you will about the American educational system—it does work," she says. "If you are a child in the United States, you can get an education." And she doesn't think that American students—who, unlike Africans, go to school free of charge—appreciate what they have. "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there," she says. "If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."

I hope people can get over geographical boundaries and appreciate her efforts for helping children in general. And, secondly, it saddens me that our values are so skewed in this country that education is not always appreciated. We have so much here in the states, and it never seems to be enough for some. Poverty here, while no cakewalk, seems to be a different thing altogether than living in a completely impoverished country. I honestly don't know how Americans can turn this around and yet, I can't imagine that every school plagued by societal problems is like what Oprah describes above.

At any rate, I'm really curious about how this school will operate, and particularly about technology usage there. Since beginning the ADE global awareness project last year, I have wondered about technology in Africa.

NetDay Speak Up

Link: Speak Up Home Page.

Just a reminder for those of you registered for NetDay Speak Up Day. The survey for teachers, students, and now parents will be open until December 15th. So far, we've had 180 students, 5 teachers, and 15 parents particiate at my school and I am hoping that our numbers increase. Our aggregated data could be very helpful in our future tech planning efforts!


Link: CATALYST CHICAGO :: Cover Stories.

As a former Chicago Public School teacher, I still have an interest in school reform and best practices related to urban education. The Catalyst is a great source of information here in Chicago, and I hate to criticize it, but this series of articles on technology could have been better on analysis and investigation. Of course, I think the two pieces related to the U of C charter schools are decent as another ADE is involved with that project, but hey, I admit I am biased.

In one article entitled, "Winning the Race - at First Glance", Harper High School is profiled. Recently, this school was offered up to Oprah show viewers as an example of the many schools dealing with inequities as the result of school funding issues. The author of this article says that Harper appears to be winning the technology race superficially. Since when has there been a race to accumulate machines in schools? Do the actual number of computers in a school correlated to an improvement in student performance? And, the number of computers per pupil is cited in this article in relation to national statistics (which came from a study conducted in 2003. See David Warlick's post on this.) In my opinion, a plethora of technology is not going to make one iota of difference in a school unless they are used in an engaging manner and teachers have some experience integrating technology into their subject matter.

Chicago high schools are also lauded for having ethernet connections and A (read one) full time tech coordinator in 62% of CPS high schools. Assuming that your average high school has over a thousand students, one tech coordinator in a school is not going to be particularly effective. I'm guessing that many of these tech coordinators solely are responsible for staff development, network administration, and instructional support. Frankly, I am not impressed with the numbers cited in this article, given the realities that are also outlined... lack of maintenance, lack of access, and lack of staff development. However, you would be led into thinking that CPS was on the cutting edge of urban school educational technology if you read the second article....

A second article was, "Equity the Goal for Technology" and one fact cited item is that a CPS school is sitting on Accelerated Reader software because the school doesn't have time to deploy and train the teachers. My former school used AR, and I don't recall that it was so complicated that it warranted a great deal of professional development time. And, why are schools bothering to purchase expensive software that they don't have the time or inclination to really use? Why isn't professional development time adding into their technology budget?

As far as the reporting goes in the aforementioned article, there is only a brief mention of the Chicago Board of Educaton's Tech|XL computer leasing program which offers internet connections and tech support at a cost to individual schools. Last I heard, these services don't come cheaply, and I would have liked to have seen some explanation of this program. And... since they were talking technology in this article, why wasn't the expensive student information system the board is currently implementing discussed? I don't know much about this, but I do know that there's been some controversy involved. Maybe if there was more information available on these two programs, people, such as myself, would not rush to judgment. I also had a problem with two comments from one national ed tech leader, one that CPS had vision regarding a lot of the tech related issues plaguing urban districts, and that Chicago was a leader in online training. That very well may be the case, and I am in no position to dispute that, but let's not airbrush reality here. No matter how much training in isolation or number of computers in isolation are presented to these schools, these bandaids are not going to bridge the digital divide. All schools, urban or otherwise, must have equipment, student and teacher access, technical support, and pedagogical support working together in unison. Finally, this graphic from the Catalyst based on their survey of a couple hundred schools interested and slightly alarmed me. There is so much more to educational techology than the software mentioned here. Effective educational technology is not about PowerPoint slideshows or graphing data in Excel; it's about process and communication that happens when students are deeply engaged in meaningful work. When are educators going to get this? It's not about the software!

National Teachers Academy

Link: Home.

I visited this Chicago Public Schools demonstration school yesterday as I volunteered to help my friend and fellow ADE, Karen Percak, with her Family Reading Night event. NTA is located in the South Loop area of Chicago, and it serves a predominantly low income African American population from neighboring housing projects.

Wow! What a school! The facility is amazing and is only about three years old. I did not get a tour of the entire complex, but architecturally, it's beautiful and inviting. It is evident that a great deal of money is being put into this school, and it's nice to see that kids who need the most are getting access to quality materials, teachers, and learning environments. Often, one hears people complaining that all the best materials, teachers, and the like go into schools serving middle class and up students at schools like Northside College Prep and Walter Payton Prep. NTA is still very new, so it will be interesting to see how this school develops.

Anyway, congratulations to Karen for organizing a fun and well attended event! I'm sure this will grow in popularity with her school community in the years to come.

School Orders Students to Remove Blogs - Yahoo! News

Link: School Orders Students to Remove Blogs - Yahoo! News.

There are a couple of things to note about this article. First, Yahoo now lets you instant message the article to another Yahoo member. I've never seen that feature before.

And, until last year, I was unaware of the xanga and myspace. Parents of the teeny bopper set are probably unware of these services, too. I agree, for the most part, with those interviewed in this article who opposed banning blogs and with the idea that it's more important to teach kids how to interact safely with Internet. However, I wonder if schools are nervous about legal issues surrounding blogging activities using school resources. Because schools are really unable to control the online activities of their students, yanking the privilege seems to be the only recourse. I wonder if this ban extends to outside of the school day, and if some particular incident preceded this.