George Lucas' Edutopia
Foundation made a video that is completely biased towards arts-infused
, challenge-based learning
in today's classroom, and I love every minute of it. I don't see how any progressive educator could ignore such a strong argument for media literacy. Sad part is, larger class sizes, fewer resource dollars, and higher standardized testing stakes
do not mean progressive educators
will be able to actually teach anything not on the state tests, especially media literacy.
Even sadder still, students with little or no practice in higher-level thinking skills about media
will most likely never receive any education at home. Otherwise, if the parents of those students had any idea what "predatory lending practices" were, we might not be in the economic situation we are currently in.
We're not at a complete loss, though. States like New Mexico, where poverty levels are some of the highest in the entire country
, have begun to teach media literacy
in public schools. Come on, California legislators! Media literacy isn't an elective in life-- it's mandatory
for being able to live in American society.
This week, as part of a class I'm taking for my Reading Specialist credential (sounds much more formal than what it really is, doesn't it?) my professor asked the class to read and respond to this
article published by Learning Point Associates
. If you know anything about LPA, they "help" Program Improvement schools get out of the standardized test-score gutter. I'm not biased against or for such programs, but I always wonder how much magic they can actually work on all the problems that plague American public education? Since I work in an 80% poverty-level school, I'm skeptical-- what can I say?
Several key points stood out for me when reading this article. First and foremost, the following quote completely hit home with me because of the reality that it illustrates:"Why are we evaluating? What are we evaluating? How are we evaluating? How well have we evaluated?
Instead of being used as a process for judging and improving program quality, evaluation becomes something teachers or administrators are required to do in order to satisfy externally determined needs. When this situation occurs, teachers have no ownership of the evaluation plan or the generated data. The result is that often no one seems to know why the assessment information was gathered or how it can be used to improve instruction."
Teachers don't feel comfortable with walk-throughs, coaching, or observations because of the lack of investment they have in the whole process.
Another quote that I agreed with, but was disappointed to see marginalized was the point made about socioeconomic status:
"Children from families of low socioeconomic status often attend schools facing other problems attributed to at-risk students. These schools typically have many students with high mobility rates, severe behavioral and emotional problems, and limited English proficiency. In addition, children of low socioeconomic status may come from culturally diverse backgrounds (Knapp & Shields, 1990)."
Teaching in one of the most disadvantaged school districts in the state has made me realize that no matter how much effort a teacher puts into her teaching, students and parents will always decide if that effort will be of use or go to waste. It is quite unfortunate that such a decision can make or break a student's future, an educator's career, and a school's budget.
It is unfortunate that admin doesn't understand how to create a school climate that encourages higher level thinking, character, and parental involvement. One of the most important parts of student achievement is high standards, yet when parents complain that students are being held to standards that are higher than what they were held to, or what they are comfortable with, then admin backs down from those high standards, appeasing parents. This is one of the big mistakes I see in low-performing public schools. This is not the case in schools which may have low socioeconomic students, yet require students to perform at a certain level if they wish to stay at those campuses. I've seen several charter schools (Yes Houston, KIPP, Achieve, Inc., etc.) in high-poverty areas that require contracts from parents and students, and I feel this is one of the best ways to maintain high standards. If we are to hold teachers to specific performance levels, then all parties, including parents and students, must be held accountable for their learning and education, as well. Otherwise, the three-legged stool that holds up public education in America will be left to stand on one leg, and teachers are exhausted already.
I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to my Professional Learning Community. Not just a little, either. I am continually checking my professional Twitter account
, reading other educators' blogs
, and forwarding information such as links and news stories to my fellow educators. Some people in my PLC, such as Kim Cofino
, call it a Personal Learning Environment
. Whatever you decide to call it, the most important thing is that you start your own and use it consistently.
My school district blocks most websites, including any social media sites and blogs. Yet, I am able to add many RSS feeds and Twitter to my Netvibes
page, which is limited, but still accessible. I also use UberTwitter on my Crackberry
, which, after trying a couple different ones, feel is one of the best mobile Twitter apps
Recently, the county I teach in decided to start its' own PLC on Elgg
. I don't think it will take off because of the limits placed on teachers by administrators. Limited technology, limited accessibility, and limited time will hinder this good intention. I also foresee that educators who are uncomfortable meandering online communities will be skipping out on this PLC. Since the beginning of the year, only about 12 people out of an entire county worth of educators have joined the network.
The whole point
of social media, technology, and personal learning communities defines life-long learning. I enjoy conversing with my PLC because I feel like I have a posse of professionals to back me up when I want more insight to an idea, have a burning question, or need a few virtual shoulders to cry on. I love my PLC, even if I've never met the people I chat with-- at least I know I'm not alone in this crazy mess called public education!
For anyone who looks to the Internet for socializing, discussing personal and professional ideas, and building a network
of real and virtual connections, there are plenty of sites to keep one engaged for hours a day. It's a fact: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Second Life, among other social media sites, suck the life out of life sometimes. Now, studies about the black hole of virtual socializing from OSU
are sending educators, administrators, and even students mixed messages about the real-life implications
of time spent in a virtual world.
So, does social media help or hurt students? Is social media a time suck, or is it the answer to collaboration and communication restrictions? It all depends on how students use social networking, and of course, on whom you ask.
Take, for example, this Edutopia poll
, where readers were asked if they believed social media helped or hindered learning. Several responses supported the view that technology is important in today's learning environments, yet the face-to-face experience of discussing and interacting with peers must not disappear just because technology has made communicating via phones and computers so easy.
The most difficult part of using social media may be the ability to stop and listen, then think, before responding. Twitter discussions may not be the best place to try and engage deep conversations. Just try to keep up during an #edchat
session! Social media is, after all, self-centered and narcissistic
, but that doesn't mean that education can't take advantage of bringing people (students, professors, professionals) together who want to talk about their experiences and opinions on a given subject matter. Social media goes hand-in-hand with education because education has a social core. For real-life learning to occur, social concepts
of cooperation and compromise, as well as being able to express ideas and thoughts to a group of people, are required.
One crucial component of using social media in the classroom is to make sure the medium reflects the amount of depth that questions require. For example, use Twitter for quick, to the point answers, or wikis to examine longer questions with layers of opinions. Facebook and MySpace can be used for interactive conversations on specific interests or application-worthy discussions. YouTube can be used for video responses that illicit even shorter written responses as comments from viewers. Second Life and Flickr can be used for those students who need visual illustrations to accompany conversations.
Obviously, the uses of social media in educational conversations
are boundless, but in the end, what really matters is not how much
students say, but what
they say using technology.