Essay IV

Change in Education

Lines form as a bell rings. It is time for everyone to enter and begin their day of learning. Students follow a schedule from one classroom to the next, heedless if they need to learn more of the previous subject. There is more to learn, more too forcefully stuff into their heads so that they can pass the test. It does not matter if they remember it next year, does not matter if it aids them in the future. All that matters is the golden number, the high score. The same comes when the students venture into athletics, the goal not being exercise or a release of energy but winning the game. Then comes their lunch for the day: five cooled tater tots, half of a banana, and a heaping spoonful of coleslaw with a carton of milk to top it off. There are laws of course, but the school is more inclined to listen to money then care about a rule that insures the children’s health. Punishment comes when midday they lack energy and attention spans. They feel like they are wasting their time, not learning. Perhaps they are right and they are wasting their time. The dropout rate climbs higher and higher as students leave to find something more worthwhile than education. So why is it that we keep pushing a system that binds children to failure? Why is it that we focus on numbers instead of learning? Perhaps it is time for a new playing board and a new set of rules. Perhaps it is time for a change in the education system.

The world is ever changing like water under wind; green technology is being developed to help heal our world out of the dustpans of old rusted cars, cures for cancer being built on top of the back bones of iron lungs, and illness and intolerances developing out of the old rinds of yesterday’s preservative filled bread. One thing that does not seem to change but stays ever constant is school. Parents know exactly what their children will be going through; they have been through the exact same process themselves. Perhaps that is the problem then? This process of our country’s where children are put into grades based on age and are pushed to do as well as their top peers even if they are not ready, to make them work on a schedule, to teach them to find the easiest answer and quick as possible. Realistically speaking, are they learning anything? Many students will run into the problem when they get home where they ask their mother or father for help and are met with the answer of, “I don’t know.”

A large reason for forgetting is the rate of forgetfulness and lack of review. There is an old saying that if you don’t use it, you lose it, and that stands true with the rate of forgetfulness. Twenty four hours after a child leaves a classroom, or does the homework for that class, they are bound to forget the information. It has been finished and will not be covered again until the rest review for the chapter. The problem is that when they get to the test review, unless their teacher was bothering to review them often over the material, it will feel like they are starting from scratch again. The material will feel vague and muggy instead of clear and crisp, easy to use. That is because by day two of having learned the material, only twenty percent is remembered.

That is where reviewing comes in handy; “By reviewing the information on Day 2, about 24 hours after learning it, you bring your retention back up to 100%. However, instead of losing most of it after one day, your brain is now trained to recognize that this information is important because of the repetition. “ ( Kimeshan, 2013) This is followed up on day seven and day thirty with even small review sessions but greater improvement in memory, as shown in figure I. Schools often practice the day two review, especially in mathematics classes, but are pressed to move on afterwards by a timeline to testing.

Figure I
Shows the amount of memory
lost and retained over a period
of time. Figure was made
by Kimeshan, 2013.

This leads to one of the biggest problems that stands out like the star on a Christmas tree; Standardized testing. When the No Child Left Behind Act came into place, funding became test score dependent and the switch between teaching to help kids learn and teaching to help earn funding came about. The test hangs over the head of parents, students, and educators alike and everyone feels the weight of it on their backs. It creates stress which can develop problems in children such as test anxiety. Test anxiety causes volatile physical reactions such as vomiting, shaking, trouble breathing, and crying. The mental affects can lead to the best students forgetting even the most basic of formulas. The anxiety itself prevents the test from properly showing how much the children taking it have learned, thus showing improper scores. Another problem is that the test is multiple-choice. This forces educators to teach children how to find one right answer when in reality they should be teaching children creative problem solving which could help them more in the future. Instead they learn which shortcuts will help them best in the test and how to eliminate least likely answers. There is also encouragement to cheat or manipulate test scores by the school themselves as the threat of losing funding comes near. One might ask that if these tests are so important, what are they used for? The test results are supposed to show what children are having trouble with and how the teacher can adjust to help them learn it. The problem is by the time most teachers receive the results, that class has graduated and moving on making the test results useless.

Why are we even using a model that has been proven again and again with each year to fail? Why use a model where we put children in grades just because they are old enough instead of with children on the same level? Why put so much stress on a child that they become ill physically and mentally? Why make children feel like dropping out of school is a healthier option than braving through the test? Why do we teach to test? Why are we letting the government decide what’s best for our children instead of the educators?

The truth is that educators are trying to battle it. They do not want to eliminate all testing because it is good when done appropriately. It helps find out what the students are having trouble with and what needs to be reviewed or reworked. It just does not need to be all that the children see. Testing should not be more important than education itself. The dream system would be to allow children the ability to learn and collaborate, to create and destroy. Educators would be there like mentors, to teach and guide their class groups through their projects. It would also be better if mentors could work together. It is good to separate subjects when learning the basics but why keep them separated beyond that when children could be learning the basics of engineering and the importance of design if we combined them together? Imagine a system where everyone works together instead of looking for a single puzzle piece to fill the slot.

The truth is that educators are already working to find a better way for their students, even if standardized testing is in the way. There are classrooms where the teacher will hand out the tests and tell the children to form groups. That group is now their life line. Instead of forming the nauseating stress that comes from an individual struggling alone, they now have comrades to think with just like they would in a real work force. Perhaps only one person on the group knows how to solve the problem but under their influence, their team mates can learn how to work it as well. Maybe none of them know at first but through working together they find the solution. Then again, maybe even through team work none of them figure it out but at least they know they are not alone and as a team they tried their best. This system has been proven to help promote thinking in the classroom even if it is seldom used.

Another way is to allow the student to defend their answer. Perhaps the student does not think any of the answers are correct or thinks their answer is more correct than the one the educator has chosen. The educator then allows them to defend their choice. Perhaps their answer still is not right in the end but the child is learning how to state their process and how to think outside of the box that was set up around them. In real life there is never just one answer so why not allow the student to find a second if there is one?

One stellar example of an educator going above and beyond is Stephen Ritz who used the resources outside of his school to help better his students. He lives in Bronx which is not the wealthiest of areas to live in and his students suffer from unhealthy diets which can tax the mind. Through collaborating with George Irwin from Green Living Technologies he taught his children how to grow plants and then how to do vertical gardens. The best thing about these gardens were that many of the plants were edible. By Ritz’s thinking bravely outside of the box on how to help his students he helped them find a way to secure jobs in an increasingly popular field and to bring free food to their community. The best part about Ritz is that he never says it was thanks to him, but thanks to his students. He believes in their abilities fully and trusts them to continue onwards with the future he has helped set the first stone down towards. Ritz story is important because a great majority of teachers and students alike feel like their situation is hopeless. Ritz proved that an educator can help his students regardless of the tight binds that standardized testing has put on them. His students proved that just because they were born into poverty or were homeless that they were not destined to be so all of their life. That anyone and everyone is possible of learning and change.

A problem that helps prevent change like Ritz advocates for is that too while many educators and administrators are willing to take the risk, the greater majority are too scared to which ““guarantee the isolation of the small faction of teachers who are willing to engage in change from the majority who find it an intimidating and threatening prospect, and [who] are likely to instigate conflict between the two groups of teachers that renders the scaling up of this reform highly unlikely.” (Miller, 1996)” (Bowman, 1999) That does not mean that the willing educators and administrators give up. Many still take the leap.

With the help of groups such as Next Generation Learning Challenges, the brave educators and administrators find funding that can help them find ways to change the formula for education in the hopes of finding something better. Unfortunately, the change is mostly with the community of charter schools which makes up a tiny percentage of the American school systems. Either way it is a start and a hundred and fifty schools is still better than none. It was enough to help spark curiosity amongst some state of education boards leading to the creation of districts of innovation where the state boards pick schools to accept NGLC’s funding. The schools that are taking on the change try to gear their children towards project based learning as well as a mix of independent study (online) and interactive study (in the class room.)

The differing schools can really excel. They often do lottery systems to allow children from all standings of wealthy to poor into their school because they want everyone to exceed despite their backgrounds. Some only take children from their district while others will allow room and board so that the children can get an education they could not have at home. The schools try to do good and try to do what is best for the student above all else but they do have their failings. Before any good they do they still stand as experimental schools and any experiment can fail. A large problem with charter schools that do not receive funding like NGLC is that the teachers get paid less than traditional public schools. This is where the real risk is in starting one. The race to do their best and get more funding can sometimes break the point of the school; to be able to educate without the stress of funding and state testing. Luckily, there are many brave educators out there who would still try after failing and thanks to them, systems are being made that make sense and the world of education is starting to get back on its feet again.

A good way to help boost their finding a system that works might just be finding a system to base it off of. Artist and engineers alike need reference to make great works and education should be no less worthy of reference. There are many school systems around the world that are doing productively. To name a few; Finland, Japan, and China.

Chinese school ranks are some of those that rank highest in the world and for good reasons; China does not cut corners. Chinese students practice and study rigorously and it earns them high test scores. Unfortunately, when there are thousands studying just as hard in the same school, it is still easy to be at the bottom. The problem is why their school system is so excellent at making children learn, it is poor at doing what is right for the children. Sleep deprivation is at a whopping eighty percent among Chinese students as their time is better used learning and memorizing than sleeping. They also have no extracurricular activities which leads to a killing of creativity. China is a poor example to follow but unfortunately it is China that America chooses to battle against.

Japan is usually represented as a highly brilliant country and it should be by all means. Japan is the mother of sci-fi and fantasy. They are literally teeming with beautiful inventions from work with artificial intelligence to more functional robotics. Japanese students are unfortunately low ranking compared to America. Their students lack self-confidence and curiosity which are important for a student to develop leadership qualities. They do succeed in mathematics and reading and wonderfully so but they lack in most other fields. Their foreign language skills are nearly nonexistent, their IT knowledge is low, essay writing is not seen as necessary before college, and their presentations are severely lacking. Even Japan sees its failings as it constantly points it out in their media through television, video games and literature with lazy students who are failing their English classes and cannot get high marks on their essays.

Finland’s schools are an entirely different story. There is no race to get your child in a “better” school because the goal is to provide more than adequate education at every single school. The Finnish love for improvement for the child’s sake instead or rank’s sake is what has gotten them so far and will only propel them father. Finland’s educators are overly qualified to do what they want and it really pays off. For one, the government trusts the school administrators and they trust the educators to do what they are qualified to do. There is one teacher per seven kids allowing adequate one on one time with each of them. They also push for children to be as forward thinking as possible and work their way outside of the box to find new solutions to their problems whether that is by themselves or with their peers. It is no mystery as to why the Finnish school system is so revered; it is a work of art and is so without the pressure of standardized testing.

It is truly curious that America puts such an emphasis on making better scores than China and the rest of the world when Finland is a shining gem and is given praise for its system. Then again, the government of the United States has not put strong attention on the education system for a long time. Still, Finland would be good inspiration for any experimental school trying to break from the rift of public schools and testing. A strong step in that direction every year and the praise of the surrounding community could do some good and spark courage in the hearts of the many educators who have given up or are standing quivering with uncertainty.

American school systems are lacking and that is no secret, but at least we are not alone in our short comings. Japan and other countries can also admit that they have a problem. Perhaps we do have a lot to learn from China; not to be too proud of ourselves and our numbers and look at what we are doing to our children and our future. Maybe we can aim to be like Finland and to find trust in one another while currently we blame and form rifts. There is improvement coming about and people really are trying to do well. No Child Left Behind and Michele’s Obama Let’s Move campaign were both very good ideas at their base and with work, ideas like that can be prune of their bad giving’s and be given the means to flourish into new and better ideas built upon the twigs of the old. To quote a famous story teller and businessman, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” (Walt Disney) There really is nothing more important than to keep moving forward and trying new things. We never know what is beyond the next open door or if the new tried path will be the right one. We just have to keep moving and trying. Giving up hope will only lead to a plate with five cooled tater tots and half of a banana. Before us is an open world where we can grow gardens on school walls and if we try, we can succeed.

We have the building blocks after all, we just have to look ahead for the tower being built.

Works Cited:

A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx. Stephen Ritz. February, 2012.

Bowman, Richard. “Change in Education: Connecting the Dots.” The Clearing House 72.5 (1999): 295-97. Web.

Changing Education Paradigms. Sir Ken Robinson. October, 2010.

Future of Learning, the . 2 revolutions, March 1, 2012

Hancock, LynNell. “Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?” Smithsonian Magazine (2011). Web.

Pros and Cons of a Chinese-style Education, the . Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Why The Japanese Education System Does Not Excel As Much As You Might Think . Tofugu. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Essay III

On the Road to Research

Everyone has the intentions of getting their projects done right away and I was no different. However, like many college students I struggled with finding the time to start. A full time job and full time class schedule leads to little time to sit down and pour over research. What really pushed me along were the checkpoints due on Wednesday. I would do really quick research as I would have an hour after work to read and write the checkpoint summaries.

For blog post VI I originally had no focused idea of what I wanted to use. I vaguely remembered there being some revolutionary school systems overseas and decided to see if we had anything differing from traditional public education here. It was not as radical as the new school designs I was thinking of but it was something different and that was exciting enough! It felt kind of like a Robin Hood system with the riches going to the poor, low-income community primarily.

The information for blog post VII was less giving in many ways. I picked articles from my child and adolescent development class, familiar from the topics after having just written an eight plus page essay over them. I found them relevant for my topic as they were about different forms of teaching children. To figure out the best way to change education we need to know about the current options that are mainly being used. I found them informative but not very interesting. Still, they worked well since I had no time to read anything else that week.

With a tiny attention span I was slugging along with blog post VIII’s research. No matter what I tried to read I simply couldn’t get myself to focus. So what better medium for a tired mind than videos? I already was using the website for some write-then-play. The equal amount of relaxation allows my mind a little wiggle room. Unfortunately the play time can stretch when I get on youtube and start playing catch up on Markiplier or Buzzfeed. It was in the middle of watching a play through of Machine for Pigs part three that my mind started to slide towards work for once. Why not do what I did when I scampered for a source really quick after work for one of my blog posts and use video sources? There are ones that are quite credible after all.

Ted Talks itself specifically drew me because I liked to watch it for fun with my ex-girlfriend over the summer. I liked listening to the lectures that were posted to Ted Talks and had a better time focusing on them than any news article I have stumbled across. The same went for my assignment. Pushing through a thirteen minute lecture and writing notes was much less taxing than pushing through a thirteen page article. I also felt like I actually retained most of the information which felt rare with written articles. As can be seen on essay two, my summaries for the videos were usually much larger than the ones for the articles.

The article-based summaries came a little (or rather lot) slower than the video based ones but with a little procrastination, love, and care they did get finished. After the ordeal that was reading articles and living off of three hours of sleep every day for a week, I promptly made gluten free sugar cookies that were a little too dry due to a lack of shortening and fell into a crumb covered coma on the couch. I did not sleep peacefully. I dreamt of yet more articles to read. I weep as I write this for it wasn’t a dream at all. Dramatics aside, the articles weren’t all that bad. Some were truly interesting to read through while others were grueling and mind numbing. Alas, that is nothing new to a junior in college and I was thankful for the fact that at least some of the articles were fun to read. I am also thankful that the reading is done for essay four! It looks like clear sailing from here on!

Essay II

Education is the backbone of society and without a sturdy spine; the body will come crumbling down around it. America has done a poor job of keeping its bones healthy and it is showing well as the spine curves, concave. The question is; what can we do about it? Or rather, what needs to be changed in the education system? It isn’t as simple as a computer update or adding technology to the classroom. The entirety of the education system simply doesn’t work. It’s out of date and a new part isn’t enough; it nearly needs to be completely replaced. Now, things will hardly reach those extremes but there is the problem of only a handful of people working to make even a few changes happen. There is a virus of timidity that runs through the educators and students alike and not enough of them stand up and try to make a difference. If the students, educators, parents, and government teamed up and created a foundation of trust instead of greed and anger the transaction of change and knowledge would come much faster. Instead it seems to be on a layaway and the ability to grab the outcome of our paying does not seem to be getting nearer but farther.

Still, fear scents strong on the wind and everyone stays behind. Well, perhaps not everyone. Brave educators like Stephen Ritz do not allow their fear to bind and overwhelm them. Instead they act out and do what’s best for their students to aid them in life and to educate them. Ritz shows that the children can learn more in a greenhouse than they can in a textbook and that there’s more profitable knowledge than the ones demanded by common core. I want there to be armies of characters like Ritz in the schools enabled with big hearts and open minds. I want our system to have the trust seen in Finland and the freedom from the chains of testing. Most of all I want the government to care enough to fund and step away, allowing us to do what we know is best instead of what they think is best. Because when it comes down to it, who is going to know how to educate better than an educator?

The future of Learning. 2 revolutions, March 1, 2012

The future of Learning by2Revolutions; an education science lab. The speaker states how the current education system fails both the students and the counties. The two main ways of thinking about change in education are dreaming and dreading. Dreaming , the positive trend, is overly optimistic about what can be done and fails to recognize the complexity of education and human kind, she argues. Dreading, the negative trend, is overly cynical and doesn’t recognize the potential of the technology its condemning. Instead we should be thinking of Designing in which we try to design the world we want. It leads to integrative design. She goes on to say how learning integrated by design is important, fusing all forms of education into one instead of reaching things block by block.  The future of learning model is to be: personalized, learner driven, applied, cost effective, tech-enabled. The new system teaches them how to learn instead of teaching them strictly about something. This allows them to devour information more easily and become a lifetime learner.  I find this model to be very important and hopeful for the future of education. Not just this one but many others. It shows that people are working hard to find something that betters the student, not scores. Not once does the new system mention tests or long days of useless studying. Instead it talks about finding a design to prevent children from getting stuck and to give them the skills they need to move on in life.

I personally believe that 2Revolutions is spot on. The system is broken and needs to be repaired or completely hauled out and replaced. We don’t keep using brick minute phones when a smart phone does the job so much better, do we? Just like we have programmers sitting about and designing new phones, I think it is important that we have designers like 2Revolution working on blue plans to make a better model. Who deserves and needs an upgrade more so than children? They shouldn’t keep learning from our mistakes, we should learn from our own and pave a road for them.

Changing Education Paradigms. Sir Ken Robinson. October, 2010.

Similar to 2Revolutions, the Ted talks “Changing Education Paradigms” hosted by Sir Ken Robinson was about the failing education system. He makes a good point as to why the current education system doesn’t work now like it might have for previous generations. Robinson states that, “When we went to school we were kept there with a story that if we worked hard and did well and got a college degree you would have a job. Our kids don’t believe that; and they are right not to, by the way. You’re better having a degree than not, but it’s not a guarantee anymore.”(2010, Robinson) So the question posed is why would children waste away their lives on an education that seems meaningless to them in the end? Why even impose an education on them that does nothing to help nurture them? He also couples the rise of ADHD with the rise of standardized testing. Robinson wonders about how we drug the children with dangerous drugs to help them focus and learn. Essentially, he questions the way we as a culture anaesthetize the children instead of work to “wake them up”. He goes on to point out how our schools seem to be based on a factory set up with strict bell-rung schedules, separate facilities, and educating children in batches that make little sense. We put children into batches based on age and Robinson argues that it doesn’t make sense that we treat them all the same. He says that he has, “knows kids that are much better than other kids of the same age in different disciplines. Or different times of the day, or they do better in smaller or larger groups or even on their own.”(2010, Robinson) Robinson questions why education seems to be best on conformity and this “production line mentality”. He thinks that we should go the opposite direction from standardized testing and instead go to divergent thinking. That is, we should teach children to see multiple answers- not one! An example is that about 98% of children in kindergarten score high in divergent thinking. As children are educated over the years their scores drop significantly and this is possibly because education teaches them that there is only one answer worth pursuing. Robinson states that we must rethink learning capacity, quit defining what is academic and non-academic, and realize that collaboration and group learning inspires growth.

I think highly of Sir Ken Robinson and his lecture accompanied with the help of animation is perfect on educating everyone to this national disease, not just educators. The truth is that defining all children as one is not going to help anyone and using one answer as a solution never has worked. So why do we keep going by that formula? That one times eight billion is going to equal one instead of eight billion? With each individual lies another answer and instead of locking it up with standardized ideas, educators should be given the freedom to nourish each one as best suits them. I will use myself for an example. I do not learn much from reading research or listening to lecture in class. Like many of the modern age, I find concentration difficult. However, I learn well when it is coupled with action. If someone teaches me actively I am likely to get the idea down. Organic examples help tremendously as well; the animations that illustrate this lecture for one help me concentrate and get the point across. If the resources to educate me in the way that helps me most exist, why aren’t they being used? The same goes for every child who has stood and will stand on the production line of education; why aren’t we being given the resources to learn properly? Why are we only being given one answer? That one plus eight billion equals one.

A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx. Stephen Ritz. February, 2012.

Another Ted Talks I found insightful was A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx by Stephen Ritz. “Behold the glory and bounty that is Bronx county,” (2012, Ritz) Ritz explains while excitedly telling the audience about the wonders his children have made. His students; not him. Ritz goes above and beyond in his actions as a teacher and does what educators were born to do; he helps make a future for his students. Not just a far of future but a close up and personal one too. Ritz noticed that the kids in his school were getting obese, sick, and a great percentage of them were labeled with learning disabilities. This is no big surprise as he lives in the south Bronx where a quarter of the population is unemployed and many children are homeless. He didn’t believe that children should have to leave to do better so he made things better for them instead. Together with the help of George Irwin from Green Living Technologies he was able to bring green technology to his kids. He speaks with pride of his students who worked hard to grow an in class garden with the seeds provided. Coupled with Irwin’s technology the children made a vertical garden. They progressed, installing green walls in schools and even a green wall on the John Handcock building. The students secured jobs with the green technology community, they learned how to make the world a better place, and they provided nutritious vegetables to the school and to their community that so desperately needed it. Ritz asks educators and others to help spread this farther than he alone can reach.

It is truly amazing how high one seed sown by a teacher can grow. His students eagerly took root and grew as well. This is truly a good beginning to innovative design in education. The use of technology and educating by using the world around them and what truly mattered. I think that Ritz is a fine example of what educators should be doing without the prompting of their schools. Ritz has provided his children with income, life skills, food, pride, and education. Their attendance rate went from forty percent to over ninety percent and they were well rewarded from this garden they grew. Ritz also shows a good quality of being humble. He realizes that he helped the students get started and progress with this endeavor but he also realizes it was the students who made this happen. It was the students who wanted to learn, who wanted to better themselves, and who learned to love the skills they were given. Like a gardener, and a teacher, Ritz simply cultivated them. I believe all educators should follow Ritz footsteps and learn to cultivate their students too.

Dean Jr., David, and Kun Deanna. Direct Instruction Vs. Discovery: The Long View. New York, New York: Wiley InterScience, 2006. Online Academic Journal.

Direct Instruction vs. Discovery: The Long View by David Dean Jr. and Deanna Kun, which is a report over an experiment done by the authors. They separated a group of equally intelligent children in three groups; The practice group was allowed to develop their own ideas to solve problems provided to them. Direct instruction was given to group two to teach them how to solve the problems. The last group was a combination of practice and direct instruction. The results were curious with direct instruction scoring lowest on most assessments, the bi-group varying, and the practice group starting off rocky then succeeding greatly.

I found it somewhat interesting how direct instruction alone was not quite helpful in the end. There is a saying that practice makes perfect and discovery shows that well. There should be a balance between instruction and discovery and a very fine one at that. Students should be given background material and instructions to work with but they should also be given plenty of time to explore and be given free rein to find the solutions to their problems with the tools provided. This hybrid is shown most successfully in science labs. Background information and brief details are given to the students but by working together with their group they can make a solution with their clues and background. I think it would be wonderful if we found ways to work this system into other class types such as English or History. Something with a less structures spine to support it.

Cooperstein, Susan E, and Kocevar-Weidinger, Elizabeth. Beyond Active Learning: a Constructivist Approach to Learning. Baltimore, Maryland: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2004. Printed Academic Journal.

Beyond Active Learning: a Constructivist Approach to Learning by Susan E. Cooperstein and Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger. It went over constructive learning in which one does the activity before they learn the objective. (such as a science lab where you do an experiment to learn as opposed to learning about something and then doing the experiment to test it.) The article goes on to explain how the constructivist approach works best in a library. This is because a student will not bother to remember how to search for a database or what level what books are on simply because they were debriefed about it at some point in their life. Instead they will ask questions about where these things are when it becomes important to them and aiding them in reaching a goal.

I think the constructivist approach can be useful because it is correct; students won’t learn or retain what they deem useless. However, we can give them tasks at the same period of learning to accelerate their need to know the info. This system would work best hand in hand with project based learning as it is a need based accelerant. It is not one of my favorite styles of learning and probably won’t be for some time though I do see the benefits that may or may not come from it.

Bowman, Richard. “Change in Education: Connecting the Dots.” The Clearing House 72.5 (1999): 295-97. Web.

“Change in Education: Connecting the Dots,” is an short but interesting article by Richard F. Bowman. The author describes the fallacies behind change and how we are moving slowly in our attempts. The biggest problem stated is that there are too few educators and administrators willing to take the leap and too many who are cynical and scared to try. To quote Bowman who is quoting Elmore; “Specifically, Elmore argues that reforms typically begin with a few teachers in a building who nurture a distinctive identity with administrators who “construct new school from scratch and recruit teachers who are highly motivated to join the faculty” (Miller 1996, 2). In either case, according to Elmore, those origins “guarantee the isolation of the small faction of teachers who are willing to engage in change from the majority who find it an intimidating and threatening prospect, and [who] are likely to instigate conflict between the two groups of teachers that renders the scaling up of this reform highly unlikely” (Miller 1996, 2).” (1999, Bowman) Both Bowman and Elmore give a good point on why change is slow and only appearing in a few places. Fear has always been quick to hold people back. It is a pity as educators are supposed to teach children to be fearless in their endeavors and yet we as a group are scared to fight for change. I am not surprised by this article as I have seen in it act all throughout my education. If nothing else, this article has helped solidify disappointment within me.

Cook-Sathor, Alison. “Authorizing Students’ Perspectives: Toward Trust, Dialogue, and Change in Education.” Educational Researcher 31.4 (2002): 3-14. Web.

Another article read was “Authorizing Students’ Perspectives: Toward Trust, Dialogue, and Change in Education, by Alison Cook-Sather. Cook-Sather criticizes how education is formed purely by the ideas of adults when it is the students who are being educated by it. She covers several different attempts and critiques every one of them. The author says that “As the pace of life accelerates, the population becomes increasingly diverse, and the media through which we teach, learn, and work become more complex, more than ever before, we educators and educational researchers must seriously question the assumption that we know more than the young people of today about how they learn or what they need to learn in preparation for the decades ahead. It is time that we count students among those with the authority to participate both in the critique and in the reform of education.” (2002, Cook-Sathor)

I think what the author suggests is potentially very important. Our world’s information is said to double daily. Children are expected to learn what those in the past learned along with much more new material. All of it is still squished into the same tiny amount of time and they surely struggle to memorize it all if only for a short time to pass the test. So the question comes about to: what is important for them to know? I don’t personally think that children should have the only input but neither do I think that adults should be making all of the suggestions. After all, how many adults versus how many students know the benefits of video games and other immersive technology? A surprising amount weighs to the child in this location. I believe that their fresh input would help narrow down and also expand what we find important for their path to education.

Orton, Don. “Issues Raised by Changes in Secondary Education.” The School Review 69.1 (1961): 1-10. Web.

Issues Raised by Changes in Secondary Education,” by Don A. Orton covers just what the title suggests. Orton starts off by questioning some things he found problematic: “Will curriculum technologists with appropriate aggressiveness assume a more active role in directing curriculum change? Will they guide these changes by the best theory available from the related sciences? Will they design changes with full concern for a variety of appropriate considerations rather than from a single, constricting position?” (1961, Orton) Orton works out these issues like problems and uses examples and diagrams to illustrate his point throughout the article. The author criticizes the way educators work and states that they must pay attention to change and use every resource available to better them and their teaching. Even though the article is not a story it holds good story like qualities that could make it appealing to non-academic readers.

I’m not certain if the article will be useful for my essay but I do find it interesting and over all, I find it very well written. Orton proves himself to be a very good story teller and composed a beautiful article over some well poised questions. The questions themselves are probably the most important part of the article, with or without the answers he later gives them. I think that it is important that we as educators always question ourselves and our higher ups as much as we do our students. As Orton so well puts it; if we miss our chance to act we may sink with all of our opportunities.

Goldstone, Robert. “The Complex Systems See-Change in Education.” The Journal of the Learning Sciences 15.1: 35-43. Web.

“The Complex Systems See-Change in Education” by Robert L. Goldtsein . The author excitedly talks about the movement of decentralized networks and explains and gives example of Small World Networks. Goldstein also covers complex systems and says, “Complex systems are powerful mental tools because they allow widespread prediction and induction. For example, knowing that a system is a small-world network allows one to predict how quickly information will spread between nodes, how much diversity of opinion there will be at different times, and how influential neighborhoods will be in deter mining cliques. Teaching complex systems is important because their predictions and inductions would not normally occur to people who are not exposed to them.” (??, Goldstone) Other things of importance that Goldstein covers are perpetual reconstructing and (de)contextualization. The author goes on to use these further topics to help support the importance of complex systems and their addition to the learning community.

I personally think that the complex system is a good way. Network learning doesn’t seem new to me though I can see how the concept could have been new in 2006. I’ve seen the beginnings of this being used in the high school system but I do think it would be good to see it broadened and used more avidly. The relation of new material to old material is a bridge that isn’t always traveled too smoothly. I think it may be hard for educators to be creative and think of networks when they aren’t taught extensively in creative problem-solving themselves. This can be related to the “there is only one answer” problem that was brought up in the lectureChanging Education Paradigms.”


Hancock, LynNell. “Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?” Smithsonian Magazine (2011). Web.

“Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?” by LynNell Hancock wastes no time in getting to the root of the answer. Trust. One of the reasons Finland’s schools are so successful as that everyone trusts each other to do their job and everyone trusts the educator. The educators are trusted because they are the best at what they do. They are the top ten percent of those with a major in education and they live by the philosophy to do “whatever it takes” to help their students. The author criticized the American school system and backs it up with the Finnish system. In Finland there is no standardizes testing, ranking, comparing, and all schools are publicly funded. There is no race to get your child in a “better” school because the goal is to provide more than adequate education at every single school. The Finnish love for improvement for the child’s sake instead or rank’s sake is what has gotten them so far and will only propel them father.

I think it would be great for America to learn from Finland’s example. Standardized tests force an education plan and takes trust away from the teachers to do what they are hired to do: educate. Instead they are told to teach students how to pass a test and how to find the one golden answer. In America they may even cram a hundred students in one lecture room while in Finland there is one teacher per every seven children so that they always have someone there to help them and guide them. Isn’t it time that the government put trust in their schools to do what is best for the students instead of worrying about their charts that seem to only get worse with time?

Essay I

A step too far

Teachers have been around for thousands of years. They weren’t always called teachers but went by many others names such as trade masters, scholars, philosophers. Youth and young adults were taught by those who has spent their lives dedicated to a work how to use their hands and make something with them or how to use their brains and think of the world and its rules. The education system has changed dramatically over the years from apprenticeships to houses of learning for the wealthy. In the last century, however, our system has hardly changed. Children are brought to a classroom and are expected to learn certain material from many different walks of life. It is not only children who have their plates too full but teachers. The systems lack of modern updates but growth of information that has been demanded for retention has pushed teachers hard. With test scores especially, teachers are challenged to cram as much information into the pickling jar as they can and over succeed. However, one has to ask when the teacher is going too far to succeed and help the student.

Educators are told from the time they are being educated that they have to over succeed. They can not simply be the best at their job: they have to surpass the guidelines. They have to make the best test scores even if there is information elsewhere that could be better put to use once learned by their students. Test scores can make or break a teacher. After all, good scores mean success and poor scores mean the teacher is not trying hard enough, or so it seems. The educator is taxed with making a learning plan that will make the students willing to engage. They are told to read their environment, to analyze their students like they would words. Does that student need extra tutoring? Do they look like they don’t understand? The questions a teacher might ask themselves start simple. They can so evolve into statistics. The child looks underfed so they might be hungry. That child is labeled as part of the Choctaw tribe so they might have trouble learning. That child is affected by a disability so they might not be able to learn the same way as the other kid. They act before they truly observe the child in action.

Striking before they act can simply be over eagerness on a teachers part. Perhaps they wanted to take a step ahead in success like they were told. Maybe what they inferred from the world was not quite what they were meant to see. Maybe they were not meant to see that the student was hungry and needed to be excused to get a snack. After all, that removed the child from the classroom and thusly the learning environment as well as flaunted unfair treatment in front of the other children. Maybe they were meant to see that the student may need some extra help during and outside of class because their concentration is weak due to hunger. It isn’t the teachers job to feed the student anything but knowledge. It is the parents and schools responsibility to provide the student with the physical kind of nourishment.

Sometimes educators are forced to take that step whether want to or not. Teachers of the United States are already paid unfairly low amounts of money. To add injury to insult the school demands they provide the best learning opportunity for their students without giving them all the tools they need to succeed. It isn’t unusual for a teacher to spend hundreds of dollars each semester out of their own pockets just for small things like pencils and paper, knowing the students cant preform if they are without them. They also end up having to buy their own printer ink and write their own textbooks simply because the schools can’t afford it. Whether the students know it or not it is thanks to the generosity of the teacher that they are allowed some of their chances to learn in the classroom.

Another step that is forced is that taking of extra unpaid activities. To help boost student morale there are activities such as Prom and homecoming or after school tutoring that the teachers are often expected to help with. There is often no extra pay or not enough to help supplement the educator for their time lost. Instead they are giving it all to the children whether the students really need their help and guidance or not. The teachers are also expected to raise the money for any extracurricular activities that involve field trips. If the teacher was wanting to show the students a trade job that would allow them to use some obscure mathematics that was often complained of as impractical and not useful in the real world and suddenly make it useful in the eyes of the students they would have to raise the money. Students often will not find out ways to raise money on their own so teachers spend their free time looking up fundraisers for their students that abides the school’s rules. They then play banker and collector to the student body, expected to collect and store the funds the students raise.

Councilor is an unexpected job that many first time teachers find themselves stepping into. Connecting with their students emotionally and offering advice for them to apply to their lives rather than their homework is a bonding experience that can often be as harmful as it is beneficial to the teacher. On one hand the students the teacher gives council to is more likely to respect them and listen to them in class. They understand the teacher actually cares about them and are less likely to take it personally when the teacher calls them out on something. On the other hand the teacher becomes emotionally invested in the student and knows enough about them to worry themselves sick . This is completely unnecessary as most schools are equipped with a councilor to help the students and teachers alike with any problems they might have. It eases the councilor’s work when a teacher helps with little problems such as arguments between other students in the class rooms but when it comes down to at home stuff it is best for the teacher to leave it to the councilor. This is an area where they are easily seen passing the safety line and is best if they do not push.

Protesting is something teachers are well known for. Often it is associated with their pay in the public eye but more often than not they are protesting for the students. The government is always passing laws that hurt the students or electing people that harm the education student and thusly the students. One example is standardized testing that has been proven time and time again to prevent teachers from teaching curriculum that is more useful for the students. Instead they are forced to focus on vast amounts of information in little time which doesn’t allow the students to retain it as needed. Another thing they protest is the removal of arts from the school system. Classes such as choir, art history, studio, and foreign languages are often cut even though they are mandatory for graduation. More often then not when teacher go to protest a cut in the ‘pay’ that the government gives the education body in general, it is the cut of available jobs and classes that they are protesting. What is an education system when there is nobody there to teach, anyways? And what is a school without the humanities that foster creativity and expression? It is extremely important to the teachers that the students get the best education they can give. Even if they have to fight to give it.

As read above, there are many factors to the overstepping of boundaries by teachers. One can not simply accuse the teacher without looking at the many factors leading to their decision. Were they made for the betterment of the student? Were they made to follow the state and country guidelines? Were they made because the teacher was too over eager to help? Were they made by the downfall of the education system and the follies of the government and the corrupt society that we live in today? Teachers are the not so silent warriors that fight for the childrens right for education, even when there are obstacles trying to stop them at every turn. They fight on unsponsored and unpaid giving their blood and time, what little money they earn, to help nurture society when no one else will. Yes, they over step their boundaries and sometimes it isn’t for the better… But in a world where everyone is turning their back on the student, sometimes the teacher is the only hero they have. And sometimes the teacher has to step forward and sell their hero’s cape to buy the student a future.

Works Cited

Freire, Paulo. “The Importance of the Act of Reading.” Academic Universe: Research and Writing at Oklahoma State University. Eds. Richard Frohock et al. Plymouth. Hayden-McNeil, 2012. 281-86. Print.

Stelter, Brian. “We are the 99 percent.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing. Marilyn Moller. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. 679 – 83. Digital.

Claudia Wallis. “Progress Report: ‘The Teacher Wars’, by Dana Goldstein.” The New York Times. August 22, 2014. Web. September 9, 2014. < >


  1. Intro-
  2. Small story intro about the failing school system.
  3. Something along the lines of “This is why we need to change the school system”
  4. The time used reviewing is too little
  5. OP: That children might fall behind if they spend too much time reviewing instead of reading over new material.
  6. What’s Wrong: Children can do nothing with the new material if they can’t even remember the old material.
  7. Me : Memorization seems to be a big problem outside of school as well as inside school. For example, parents don’t remember a scrap of the material their middleschool child is going through.

III. That teachers need to push the limits to help provide children with better education.

  1. OP: Teachers can’t do anything about the current education system. They are stuck in the mud.
  2. What’s Wrong: Many educators are finding side projects that help empower their students and help them earn respect, life skills, knowledge, and a love for something new.
  3. Me: It does seem pretty set in stone at times, and its hard to work around standardized testing, but teachers can change lifes easily if they put down the effort, love, and patience.
  4. The American classroom model needs to change drastically.
  5. OP: Whats wrong with our schools the way they are?
  6. What’s Wrong: Many things; School lunches are bed for childrens health, under qualified educators are being hired all of time, there are too many kids to a classroom for the teacher to fully spend their attention on.
  7. They set children up for fail and seem more like a factory system than a healthy place for learning.
  8. Conclusion
    Education needs to change soon for the betterment of our students.

BP XV is a site for educators that focus on anything education based. It has everything from news, blogs, lesson plans and tech. What I find very interesting is the voices of differing teachers. Like for example, on the home page was a link to an article by Kassondra Granata in mild defense of Standardized testing. She also posts another interesting article about how teachers in America were barely making middle-class pay wage. The site has factors like “Teacher of the Day” where the teachers chosen each day are put in a monthly drawing for one hundred dollars and furthermore for a yearly drawing of two hundred and fifty dollars. The lesson plans stretch anywhere from season themed crafts for the elementary school classroom, interesting facts and stories that can be used in lectures, lesson plans for specific topics, and lesson plan ideas to help guide the rather stuck educators out there. The last thing I found extremely helpful was the professional development tab. It explains things like classroom management and the classroom climate which would be very helpful to a new teacher who knows little about what s/he’s stepping into.

Now I can’t say it focuses on the same thing as my topic but the primary focus of my topic is making a better school for children and the first step is the educators. A healthy web environment where they can bounce around their greatest ideas can only benefit children in the long run. If nothing else, it was one of the better sites I found. Web designers educators are not, or so it would seem.