Tag Archives: 21st century education

Who’s Accountable?

Have you seen that comic that compares a parent teacher interview in 1960 to one in the year 2010? It’s the one that shows the 1960’s parents screaming at the kid over a failing mark while in recent times, both the parents and the kid are screaming at the teacher. Regardless of what message the comic sends, it raises the issue of the imbalance in accountability that seems to have always existed in education. How do we deal with that imbalance? What should the responsibility/accountability framework look like?

In a recent discussion with a fellow colleague and friend, we, like all teachers, envision for the future, a balanced triangle with student, teacher, and parent clustered around the goal of accountability/responsibility. Carlo Fusco and I are part of a team of educators who come together to discuss issues in podcast form on our site Educast.me. Since integrating various web 2.0 tools in the classroom, we are noticing a recurring theme of potential for accountability in the future of education through transparency. The idealist in me says “keep things open” so that all parties may be placed in a perpetual ring of open communication. I say “idealist” because I know this concept does not come without its own issues, but I think it’s best to focus on the benefits first.

Social media tools, class websites and wikis can all be used to share information and course content with all interested parties. A parent can check a Twitter feed or a Google calendar to help support a student schedule for completion of a project or test preparation. In addition to posting marks and course content, Carlo posts attendance on his password-protected class site for parents to view.
Parents of my students can also monitor their child’s progress through a parent account in Edmodo. They can track assignment marks, completion, and even a news-feed generated separately for parents. A student has to log in to show the assignments to a parent, but this separation between public and private allows some control over transparency, which is not a bad thing when we are trying to teach youth some autonomy.

A student who is sick from school can check online and get caught up or even participate from home, taking ownership for learning. I recently had a student show up in a Google Doc to collaborate with her group while she recovered from an injury at home. Students were able to use the comment stream to chat while co-creating a script. At the beginning of the year, I had a student and his parent come visit me at parent-teacher night. This student used the excuse of being sick as a reason why an assignment was not complete. I was able to show the parent multiple date-stamped postings that appeared over a week and a half in my news-feed on the educational social media site, Edmodo. The news feed was very clear in setting timelines, expectations, and instructions for the assignment.

Open communication through online environments makes teachers accountable too. Because of the date-stamping of assignments, I find that I keep up with my marking. I’m not worried about being held accountable to what I say on-line as I am always professional. Although the textual evidence could work against me if a parent were to take issue with anything I post, it is much more likely to work as supportive evidence for assisting me in my job as a teacher and for helping me meet the demands for a shared accountability.

Now, the heavy. I can speak from both a teacher’s and a parent’s perspective. In this busy fast-paced society, I’ve found that parents just don’t have the time to be engaged in their children’s lives as much as they would like to be. Canadians are still chasing the North American dream, working long hours and putting their kids in countless organized activities. We are spending less time at home and less quality time with our children. This most definitely has an impact on the balance of accountability. Parents are a necessary party in making it work. How do we increase parental engagement? There’s been a fascinating discussion led by Sheila Stewart on this topic.

(cross-posted with VoiceEd.ca)

Ian Jukes: Literacy is not enough

While filming a documentary, I flew out to B.C. to sit down and chat with Canadian author and educator, Ian Jukes about education in the 21st century. I met up with Jukes at his Penticton office where he was giving an on-line presentation to teachers in Alberta. Green chroma key screen behind him and web cam in front, his enthusiasm and passion for education was immediately apparent. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely thankful that after his full morning session Jukes had the energy to chat with me for over 2 hours on camera. A strong advocate for educational change in the 21st century, Jukes took the time to focus on information fluency and to highlight some of the key points from his book, “Literacy is Not Enough.”

The Other Side of the Microphone: I’m the One Being Interviewed

TEENS AND TEXTING

On September 14, 2010 I was interviewed on two CBC morning talk shows about my documentary. I discussed how as a result of my research, I am allowing students to use cell phones in the class room so that I can teach them proper social etiquette, digital citizenship, and help them learn how to manage their compulsion to text through cuing their attention. By the time I drove back to Kitchener, I had two messages from CTV asking to do a feature on teens and texting and a story on how I handle cell phone use in the classroom. The next day, while I was taping CTV’s Provincewide the Toronto District School Board announced it would be reviewing their policy on banning cell phones in the school. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was then asked to weigh in on the issue and supported the Board’s decision, saying schools should be open to using cell phones in the classroom. The CBC called me back and asked me to participate in their radio talk show syndicate circuit for the following day. After CTV spent the morning in my classroom taping footage for the news story, I went home and spent 3 hours on the phone speaking with 11 talk show hosts across Canada. A special thanks goes out to Neil Andersen for sending me a copy of one of the live recordings from St. Johns.

CBC Ontario with Wei Chen -September 14, 2010

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CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway -September 14, 2010

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CBC St. Johns -September 16, 2010

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CTV Kitchener -September 16, 2010

Please keep in mind that restricted use is the first step in teaching students to become self-regulators. It is the only way to draw their attention to their own habits and open a space for discussion. Gradual release of responsibility follows.

Teachers as In-Service Researchers

I presented my research on teens and cell phones at an Education and Technology conference back in the Fall, outlining issues around compulsion, stress, multi-tasking versus task-switching, education, and social relationships. In the trade show exhibition room, following my presentation, I bumped into a fellow teacher colleague and asked about his experiences so far at the conference. He gave me a run down of his morning and his friend joined in and offered his opinions on the seminars he had attended. The friend mentioned that he had sit in on a presentation by a Masters student who had presented her thesis. He complained that it wasn’t anything he could use in his teaching. I noticed a slight twitch in his face as he realized that I was the Masters student (and teacher) he was talking about, and so he quickly added in, “she did a good job presenting, though”. And herein lies the problem. Teachers are still in the “tell me what tools to use and show me how stage” when they need to be at “how should these tools be used effectively, what are my expectations, and what outcomes can I project from using this technology”? Along with “does this tool help me stimulate critical inquiry and collaboration in my classroom”?

 

Maybe teachers expect academic sociologists to be on top of all the research so that those in the classroom don’t have to think about their selections. It’s an extremely strange and troubling stance to take, as teachers are the ones who are immersed in the classroom on a daily basis and know the way each of their students learns better than anyone in some academic lab. That’s not to discount the value of sociologists. They are an extremely valuable and necessary part of our team, rather I am working to establish teachers as valuable members of this team, as well. So does it not make sense that all teachers should become “in-service researchers” and ensure there is reflection and critical thinking in their own practice? Does it not make sense that they would share their findings with their colleagues to help support and form an effective educational learning framework, a.k.a professional development? And worse still, do teachers who want to be handed the tools actually think all of this emerging technology has been researched in advance to ensure optimal learning environments? Often what we are doing is re-purposing web applications that have been born with business productivity or entertainment in mind. There is little monetary value in developing educational applications so we are left picking through the pile of emerging apps. Again, even more reason to use an “educational filter” that calls on our knowledge of the science of learning when selecting appropriate tools.

 

(photo courtesy of  NASA (Great Images in NASA Description)[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons)

Technological Determinism VS Social Determinism in Education

Greg Williams, Creative Commons

I work in education, an area that is slow to roll with the times of change. Technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our students, as youth continue to embrace mobile technologies. Yet, there are many educators who just want to shut the door on technology, claiming that it is too much of a distraction. Common are the complaints about texting at inappropriate times, teen compulsion to stay connected 24/7, and the disruptive nature of incoming calls and texts… and the complainants are absolutely right. It is disruptive. There is no disputing that. But we need to ask, “why is technology disruptive?”

 

The shorter answer has its beginnings in big businesses’ quest for ultimate productivity carried over from the turn of this century when it was thought that multi-tasking meant more work would always get done. The longer and more pertinent answer to the question at hand is that technology is not being used for its greatest benefits because adults haven’t been around to guide youth in setting boundaries and defining good purpose for use. We’ve left youth out on a limb to discover possibly the most life-altering evolution of their lives all on their own. This, at a time when McLuhan’s description of technology being extensions of the self has never had more resonance.

 

Technological determinism does not happen in isolation. Human beings have the opportunity to mold technology just as much as technology has to mold us. Teachers need to help set the parameters for use by embracing technology, teaching good purpose, and modeling appropriate use both academically and socially.