Friday, September 14, 2007

With My Eyes Closed, I Don't See Anything!

Wes writes:

Will NCLB get reauthorized this year? I’m afraid it will. Where is the constituency of educational and community leaders articulating an alternative vision to NCLB for schools, students and teachers? Certainly there are many in the edublogosphere community and even at professional conferences like Learning 2.0 here in Shanghai who are advocating for change, but has this vision been spelled out (pun intended) and articulated in a way that it can be embraced as a counter-vision to NCLB? I don’t think so...

Where is the vision for the future of learning 2.0, articulated in pragmatic ways that local, state, and national leaders (as well as their constituents) can both understand and embrace? If it exists, I haven’t seen it. A blog is a great communication tool, but it is not the appropriate communication modality for a well-constructed and comprehensive reform agenda like I (and I think many others) want to see. This needs to be a paperback book and a downloadable PDF file.

Is it too late to draft such a vision for the NCLB reauthorization debates going on now? Probably. A single report, book, or PDF document isn’t going to broadly change the perceptions of voters on education in time anyway, however. I may be wrong, but I’m increasingly convinced it is CONVERSATIONS which have more potential to change us than anything else. What is the VISION for educational change about which we need to be talking and our leaders need to be supporting? Who is articulating this in a cogent and comprehensive way?

Well, Linda Darling-Hammond did a pretty good job in her testimony this week. She writes books, too! Here's another book: Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools, written by a good chunk of the best minds in US progressive education. No, I haven't read it either, but I found it easily enough after reading your post. It's only been out three years. If you want to stick to blogs, read Schools Matter to find critiques of NCLB from every possible angle. What about Nebraska's vision?

I could go on, and on, and on, and on. C'mon Wes. Open your eyes! If these educators, writers and their ideas aren't getting enough attention, perhaps it is in part because prominent bloggers with extensive teaching experience and post-graduate study in curriculum and instruction pretend they don't exist.

4 comments:

Downes said...

> perhaps it is in part because prominent bloggers with extensive teaching experience and post-graduate study in curriculum and instruction pretend they don't exist

Hear! Hear!

Wesley Fryer said...

Tom: Linda Darling Hammond is certainly an articulate voice and author in the discussion about NCLB. From her journal articles I have read to date, however, I don't hear her integrating ideas about digital literacy, the new information landscape, how technologies should be leveraged to connect learners to both content and other people, etc. Stephen, I definitely am not intending to pretend anyone doesn't exist. There are certainly voices in journals, in blogs, and in books that are weighing in against the instructional vision of NCLB. Donald Graves' short book "Testing Is Not Teaching" is one of my favorites, it's been out awhile. I'm not saying that there aren't voices articulating support for constructivist education, clearly there are. George Siemens, you yourself Stephen, groups like EduTopia-- there are many voices. My point is that a vision for constructivist learning paired with appropriate use of digital tools to support inquiry and collaboration has not been articulated as a cogent political alternative to NCLB. If it had been, I think (or at least would hope) that some of the U.S. candidates for political office would be talking about it and referencing it. I would think a group like "Ed in '08" or private foundations supporting progressive education would be supporting it, if that agenda for educational policy existed in the United States.

I'm the first to admit I have not read or heard all the voices and I don't have all the answers. One of the things I appreciate about the blogosphere and open commenting is the potential for transparency and accountability it can provide. I need to look over testimony that you cite, Tom, and see what I'm missing. While there are contrary voices to NCLB, again I'd repeat that I don't think it is the root problem. I want it to be defeated and not reauthorized in its current form, but I think we need a broader vision of needed learning change paired with the use of digital tools and resources.

Tom Hoffman said...

Wes,

I think your sense of scale is out of whack. At the scale of NCLB, "digital literacy, the new information landscape, how technologies should be leveraged to connect learners to both content and other people, etc." are just implementation details.

And they are details that are are included in the discussion draft:

"The House draft also would provide incentives for states to develop standards aligned with the skills needed for success in the 21st century, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaborative skills."

I'm not sure how much more you could get out of NCLB on the subject. Are you hoping they'll include a clause about not blocking Skype?

Chris Lehmann said...

Just wanted to second the recommendation for "Many Children Left Behind." I have read it. It's a must read.

And I agree, as much as I applaud the efforts of Ken Lay and the 21st Skills group (even when I disagree with Ken on certain points,) technology reform in schools is but a piece of the larger school reform question.

We can hope that technology can be the progressive tail that wags the dog, but that's an uphill battle. Let's work on creating a progressive school agenda nationally, and then we'll have the fertile soil where the best of our "new literacy / 21st Century Skills / etc..." ideas can grow.