Global Education Conference, We're Only Just Beginning #globaled10

Today I had the opportunity to moderate a session during the Global Education Conference. Given completely in Spanish, Diana Rojas Caballero spoke to us about her experiences regarding education reform and the improved teaching practices her organization (Comunidad Escuela Nueva) is attempting.

I think the possibilities for learning that technology brings us really are still in infantile stages, as we're only just beginning to open up increased collaboration between cultures and learning customs world-wide. This conference, nevertheless, demonstrates some of the potential (370 sessions from 62 countries, wow!).

When Participating Isn't Appropriate (Thank You, @kwhobbes!)

Kelly Christopherson has done an excellent job in articulating exactly what I've been trying to say for months now about social media participation.

From my experience, if you can sum up your contributions to the school and learning in quaint little anecdotes, little stories about touching tales and quips about snippets of days, then you really don’t get it. See, for the most part, I can’t share what happens in my days because it’s confidential, too difficult to describe and, really, there’s no quaint way to tell the story. It’s about the lives, spirits and souls of the people in the two buildings as we begin to forge a new direction and the interconnectedness here.

I guess I find that many of the things that others write about to be, well, common sense and something that is within my realm of experience for too long to be thought of as actually unusual. Whether it’s talking with parents about a student with learning needs, helping parents with students with special needs, creating learning spaces for students, finding supplies and supports for teachers who need them or questioning people in positions of responsibility about programming and support, it’s what an administrator does because it’s what’s best for children. And I believe that is what defines my job – doing what’s best for children.
As I wrote (and for which I've since been scolded):
The fact of the matter is that there exist a very large number of effective educators that are simply not able to contribute in any significantly recurrent amount to online discussion. All told, it's not that they're incapable of participating and it's not that they're unwilling. Rather, this group maintains perceived silence online because their professional priorities prohibit them from spending the time or energy required to provide plausible contribution.
Now, I realize it would be nice if we had genuine, original online input from every educator. In fact, I'm still surprised by how exciting things get when technology facilitates a global conversation. (Just look, for example, at the quality and range of keynotes that will be presented next week at Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray's Global Education Conference!)

Nevertheless, like Kelly, I've learned that as an administrator that are definitely times when participating really isn't appropriate - and when an educator's greatness might just be measured in how well they refrain from participating, rather than by how witty they're able to be while distributing dirty laundry before strangers. Along those lines, I've also found that there are even appropriate times when a mere retweet is all you're gonna get. You can tell a lot about a person by the articles they pass along (we are what we share), and some online interaction can be a lot better than none.

For what it's worth.

"The Institution Made Me Do It." Really?

Further response to Stephen Downes and the idea that we might accomplish "school" without "institutions":

So Stephen,

Offended probably isn't really the right word for how I'm feeling. As I've been discussing here, I wonder if we aren't bumping into a clash of cultures regarding the actual purposes of schooling.

If you believe that the chief purpose of schooling is to simply acquire academic-related knowledge, then I suppose that an institution wouldn't be required to facilitate such an education. Nevertheless, I think there's far more to a well-rounded education than mere knowledge acquisition. Moreover, I think our schools do far more (good) for kids than provide them with academic instruction.

I'm interested in learning more about your ideas regarding changes to the system that might improve the educational process for our students, but am afraid it's going to take more - a lot more - to convince me that we'd ever be able to provide our students with a well-rounded education without also relying on the structure that institutions can provide.

Furthermore, the difficulty is compounded upon realizing that "well-rounded" is locally defined and credentialing is expected to transcend borders.

The Real Key to School Reform

Via San Pedro de Alcantara (1499-1562):

The trouble is that no one wants to correct himself and everyone meddles at correcting others. Thus, everything stays as it is.
Quit blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and dig in.

Three Questions for @leighblackall


To begin with, I really appreciate the zeal and effort you've already demonstrated in identifying the process you hope to follow in order to earn a Ph.D. Clearly you've done a little homework already and put forth significant thought toward the related issues.

Nevertheless, I have some questions:

  1. How do you plan on replicating the bureaucracy and tenacious hoop-jumping that it normally requires to complete a graduate degree?
  2. Will any face-to-face rigor be included in your pursuit?
  3. How long do you anticipate taking and how will you really know when you're finished?
Right now, I'm in the data-gathering stage of my dissertation. I began the Utah State University Distance Doctoral Program (Ed.D) back in 2006. I've since taken all of the courses, passed my comps, and have had my dissertation proposal accepted. For me:
  • The most difficult part of the degree has been registering for classes, jumping through hoops to pay tuition, arranging times to meet with professors, getting parking passes, driving to campus, sitting through boring (but required) courses, sweating bullets in front of my dissertation committee, 20+ hours of homework every week to accompany 6 hours of class-time (for three consecutive years), writing more than anyone would ever care to read, arranging for summer housing, and living "the dream" as I was required to stay on-campus for three Summer stints.
  • The most rewarding part of the degree has been taking what I have learned from the entire process and sharing/critiquing it with folks online. I'll never forget posting, commenting, and tweeting about my professors, their good and bad teaching behaviors, the curriculum, my fellow cohort members and their ideas, my homework, and more.
Now, I think I get that you believe in open education, that you probably want to stick it to the Man, and that you'd probably love to de-institutionalize planet earth. Edupunk lives.  However, I also think that your proposed plan for "earning" a Ph.D. will deny you of the best and the worst aspects of the traditional process.

To me, it looks like you really only want to partake of the goods, while bypassing completely the hell required to finish a terminal (or any legitimate) degree. In my opinion, you'll have "earned" nothing without having also busted your butt through the same kinds of experiences that have made my experience difficult. At that point, I'll be willing to welcome you to the club (of which, I'm not yet even a member).

For what it's worth,


Equity and Three Things That Matter Most

I'm half-way through Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. First, I agree with Darling-Hammond whole-heartedly:

As the fate of individuals and nations is increasingly interdependent, the quest for access to an equitable, empowering education for all people has become a critical issue for the American nation as a whole. As a country, we can and must enter a new era. No society can thrive in a technological, knowledge-based economy by depriving large segments of its population of learning. The path to our mutual well-being is built on educational opportunity. Central to our collective future is the recognition that our capacity to survive and thrive ultimately depends on ensuring to all of our people what should be an unquestioned entitlement - a rich and inalienable right to learn. (p. 328)
I'm offended by Stephen Downes' blanket accusations of justified institutional mistrust because I personally know far too many good, well-intentioned, hard working people leading public districts across the country. Furthermore, I remain convinced that all people have the right to a rich education, regardless of the economic and technological resources at their personal disposal. For me, blaming isn't solving, and the only viable solution we have is to work through the issues that arise in our public systems of education. Why else would I, of all people, willfully list the wide range of barriers that arguably hold my field back?

The experience of [high-performing] school systems suggests that three things matter most: 1) getting the right people to become teachers; 2) developing them into effective instructors and; 3) ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child. (p. 5)
While I can't do much to bring the right people into the profession, I'm working my guts out to help good teachers become great and ensure that my corner of the system enables the best possible instruction for every child.

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