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Taking the Fork in the Road

How often do you find yourself driving along the same road, and sometimes you get to your destination and not even remember the journey? It comes from habit, or familiarity, and we all feel comfortable taking that journey down the same road. But what if on our journey we come across a fork? What if we see a road, we have not yet travelled, which has signs telling us it will allow us to go even further than we have before…much further? Will you take it?

You can see where I’m going; after years of taking the same road in our schools, integrating technology on top of existing practice, I feel we are reaching a fork. I feel that finally the weight of the world our modern learners are growing up in outside school is forcing us to finally think seriously about taking that fork.

If you can stick with me while I stretch the metaphor a little further, I think our travels down “the road so familiar” has only allowed ubiquitous technology to have a minimal impact on the learning lives of our young people; it has allowed us to maybe click into 2nd gear, go just a little bit faster, but basically take the same route...and get the same outcomes…with marginal, or incremental improvement; is that really the best we think ubiquitous access offers?

What if we consider the fork? What might be down that road…’less travelled’? Is it possible that it might allow us to go much further than we did before? Is it possible we might be able to do things on that road that we never dreamed were possible?

Maybe it is time for us to get serious about taking that fork.

When you are investing, as we all are, in a long-term transformation, there comes a time when we must now seriously consider taking that road less travelled…whether that means challenging the very foundations on which we have based much of our teaching to date; whether that means asking serious questions about the relevance of the security blanket we call curriculum; whether it means radically rethinking the way we teach subjects like science and mathematics, or whether it simply means looking more closely at the world our modern learners are growing up in, and learning from what we see there, it is time to change direction.

We’ve passed down some rather interesting roads on this journey, and who would have thought that we would have come across the small ‘unmade’ tracks like tablets and e-books that have started many going back to where we came from; that’s what happens when you don’t make it clear to people just what lies for us at the end of this journey!

However, we must also embolden our efforts in support of those who have started down the fork; support those who have taken the first tentative steps towards genuine transformation of the experiences their students can now have. These are the teachers who are not relying on the journeys they have taken in the past, but realize there is SO much more to be gained by looking ahead instead. These are teachers who realize that by looking ahead and trying new ideas and taking new directions, they will empower their students to go so much further in their own life’s journey.

There is so much to be gained for our young people if we look forward, and take that fork in the road.

….as always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
November 27th, 2012 @ 11:06AM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

What Would Happen If We Let Them Go?

Interested in hearing your thoughts on a quote from Richard Elmore, the Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which is taken from "What Would Happen if We Let Them Go?"

"As I read the collected entries in the Futures of School Reform Blog, they seem bright, energetic, combative, and optimistic about the future of the enterprise of American public schooling. I wonder, as I read them, whether the writers are aware of what classrooms in American secondary schools actually look like--the dismal, glacial, adult-centered, congenially authoritarian, mindless soup in which our children spend the bulk of their days. I wonder whether people are aware of how robust the old "bargain" is in the face of so-called "high stakes accountability;" how little the monolithic beast of American secondary education has been affected by the bright, high-minded optimism of professional reformers; how little the exemplars that professional reformers use to justify their role in society have actually affected the lives of adolescents.

I wonder, finally, what would happen if we simply opened the doors and let the students go; if we let them walk out of the dim light of the overhead projector into the sunlight; if we let them decide how, or whether, to engage this monolith? Would it be so terrible? Could it be worse than what they are currently experiencing? Would adults look at young people differently if they had to confront their children on the street, rather than locking them away in institutions? Would it force us to say more explicitly what a humane and healthy learning environment might look like? Should discussions of the future of school reform be less about the pet ideas of professional reformers and more about what we're doing to young people in the institution called school?"

What do you think? Are American high schools so dismal? Are professional reformers oblivious to the real needs of students? Are our expectations - for high schools, for students - too low? We want to hear from you!
November 27th, 2012 @ 10:46AM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment