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 It’s out of date and a new part isn’t enough; it nearly needs to be completely replaced.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?

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