It has been three weeks now since EdcampMN and there is one question that was brought up in one of the sessions I attended that keeps running circles in my head. The question was brought up in the context of a discussion around agency and change and what is needed for teachers or even students to take charge or be empowered to act. The question was, “Is teaching an occupation or a profession?” I found this question so profound because the atmosphere in our schools is greatly impacted by how those involved (administrators, teachers, students, parents, board members, legislators, etc.) view teachers. Are those in a system governed by a top-down hierarchy more likely to view teaching as an occupation? Does this attitude toward teachers and teaching affect the decisions a teacher makes about pedagogy? Does it affect an administrator’s choice in who they hire or how they evaluate their staff? Does it affect how a legislator or board member votes on issues regarding funding and policy?
What do you think? Is teaching an occupation or a profession and what impact does the answer to that question have on education?
One of the more dicey dialogues I was part of at this year’s EdcampMN was on exploring the idea of using an LMS to make one-shot standardized testing obsolete. This topic, proposed by Dan McGuire, was interesting because it was not really an argument against the use of standardized testing but a rethinking of how it might be deployed. Dan asked us to ponder if course content were properly aligned with the content standards, and we used an LMS (Moodle, Blackboard, Conexux, Schoolology, etc.) to periodically test students while they were in the process of taking the course, would there be a need for a single shot high stakes test?
In the notes for this session there is a link to an interesting New York Times article that discusses how testing can help make us smarter. That article promotes an idea similar to that of Dan’s arguing that smaller tests given more frequently can actually help us with our retention of information and better at reading for content. But what about domains of learning that do not focus on information recall or computation?
I left this session thinking that breaking up the test and embedding them in courses would help to address some issues students have of test anxiety. It might also be a better measure of how well a teacher taught the content. But, I am a a bit skeptical. Would employing such a method only work to reinforce the already strong trend to eliminate or at least reduce resources spent on content areas not easily tested? Short of doing away with them altogether, how else might standardized testing be re-envisioned?
At yesterday’s EdcampMN opening keynote speaker Steve Hoffman posed some pretty tough questions that he views as things that hinder collaboration in schools. We only had a few minutes that morning to discuss these questions and they really are questions that deserve more time. In case you missed it, or if you just want to revisit it, here is a very shaky video of the keynote
speech “rigorous conversation.”
Question 1: How come the men aren’t here?
Question 2: Where are our colleagues who are not here (African American, Hmong, American Indian, Latino, etc.) represented?
So, why are there so few men and non-white minorities in the teaching profession? Is this a problem for our profession? And, what can be done to help bring a more representative cross-section of our population to the table?
EdcampMN 2013 Coming Soon!
Announcing EdcampMN 2013: Join us in July for an exciting day of transformative learning!
WHEN: July 25, 2013, 8:30am – 3:30pm
WHERE: Hamline University Carol Young Anderson and Dennis L. Anderson Center
EdcampMN is professional development FOR teachers, BY teachers. Experience professional learning that’s active, flexible, democratic, participant-driven…and FUN!
Never heard of Edcamp? Watch this video to learn more.
Graduate credit is available through Hamline University.
LEARN MORE: http://edcampmn.wikispaces.com/
We hope to see you in July!
Two of the most popular sessions at EdcampMN this year were on iPads: iPads in Primary and iPads in Intermediate. iPads have also been a dominating force at nearly every conference I have attended or followed this past year. A lot of this has been driven by Apple’s aggressive marketing and leasing programs for schools. At least ten districts I know of in Minnesota will be going full-on 1:1 k-12 with iPads across the whole district. Many other schools are doing smaller iPad integration programs (one school, one grade level, one subject area, etc.).
These tablet devices are great and have captivated the attention of a lot of people but I can’t help but wonder if it is the best choice. Marshal McLuhan tells us that in the electronic age the “media is the message.” By that he means that it is not so important what the content of the media is but the effect the media has on us and our social environment. He also classifies media as having either “hot” or “cold” qualities. A “cold” media is one that relies on the user for the content. The telephone is a cold media because the content is completely controlled by the user. Conversely radio, newspaper, and television are “hot” media in that the user has little control but is greatly affected by the media. Under this definition, compared with the desktop or laptop the iPad is a relatively “hot” media.
iOS devices are largely consumer-oriented and closed systems. You cannot program an app for the iPad on the iPad. Plus, a lot of what I hear schools list as reasons for iPad adoption involve content-heavy rhetoric surrounding content delivery rather than content creation. At the same time there seems to be a decline in teaching computer programming in schools. Last month at the ISTE conference in San Diego, the largest education technology conference in the world, there was only one poster session (and not one breakout session or featured session) devoted to engaging students with programming and that session was geared toward teaching kids how to make their own mobile apps.
So, if the “medium is the message,” what is the message that the iPad brings? Is there anything we should stop and consider about its adoption?
One session at Edcamp Minnesota this year, led by John Wensman from St. Paul Academy, was a discussion session about “Visual Rhetoric within Digital Literacy” that brought up some themes and concepts I have been struggling with myself. The conversation was basically wrapped around the concept that with the emergence of digital technologies our world has become more visual and to some degree the rigor of academic classes is in danger. Some people in the discussion feared that the need to use multimedia and digital tools to make classes more “engaging” was eroding the quality of the curriculum. It is interesting that Just a few days later at the ISTE Conference in San Diego David Warlick presented a breakout session with a similar theme, “A Broader Perspective on Data: Infographics and Visualization.” It seems like there is an interesting development occurring around the intersection of data, digital integration, and visual rhetoric and an emergence of something new. When we are told our decisions in schools must be data-informed or data-driven what does it mean that trough aesthetics we can make data say almost anything?
Explore some of the links shared at these two sessions, there is some great content there, and let me know how any of this might be useful in your classroom or practice.