The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
[White paper? It is based on the dictionary. But my definition of a white paper is it is supposed to be all encompassing. It is supposed to tell all about a subject including the bad. This is just another sales pitch. Unfortunately, this is what white papers have become.]
Bruce Dixon is co-founder and president of the
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation and
director of IdeasLAB.
Susan Einhorn is the executive director of the
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation.
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, IdeasLAB,
and Maine International Center for Digital Learning
Through these conversations, five Key Elements for Initating <sic> Change emerged:
1) The Need to Identify and Embrace a New Perspective
2) The Importance of Re-framing the Conversation
3) The Value in Identifying and Building on Passions and Talent
4) The Opportunity to Shift the Locus of Assessment Control
5) The Priority Required to Refocus Educator Preparation
My own philosophy is revolutionary rather than reformist
in its concept of change. But the revolution I envision is of
ideas, not of technology. It consists of new understandings
of specific subject domains and in new understandings of the
process of learning itself. It consists of a new and much more
ambitious setting of the sights of educational aspiration.1
Seymour Papert, Mathematician, Scientist, Educator
[Why the need for change?]
The Current Context
The ability of the institution of school to provide an education that befits
students in a contemporary society is being challenged globally, in both
the developing and developed world.
“We haven’t fundamentally restructured the way our schools function. We need to stop, take a step back, and ask ourselves some hard questions about the tenets that define our work today. We need to rethink some basic assumptions about the use of time, the structure of the school day, and how we organize our students in their learning environment. We need to move from measuring seat time to measuring competency [WHY???? You did NOT answer my question as to why the need for change.]
Together, we have an unprecedented chance to reform [Reform is not in and of itself a good thing. Reform just means to change the form of something. But it could be change for the worse.] our schools and drive innovation [Same with innovation. It just means change.] ; a fantastic nexus of crisis, urgency, and opportunity. We must dramatically improve teaching and learning, personalize instruction, and ensure that the educational environments we offer to all students keep pace with the 21st century. [Just because you can does not mean that you should.]
We can get there with technology.” 2 [Why technology? Admittedly adding technology would be a change where there was none but you have not convinced me that change is necessary!]
United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
The situation in much of the developing world is even more dire. Few
initiatives have had as much potential for impact on modern society as
the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals3 and within that
initiative, probably the most ambitious and impactful goals related to
education. The Millennium Development Goals included, among seven
others, the right to receive a Universal Primary Education. [Not a right to learn, as you say!!! This talks about Elementary School, to boot.]
Previously, there have been similar targets that were created and recognized
by some jurisdictions; for more than 50 years since 1952, Article 2 of the
first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights obliges all
signatory parties to guarantee the right to education (although interestingly,
never realized). [Why interestingly? The 1949, United Nations’, Universal Declaration of Human Rights have never been fully realized even here in the United States. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of its authors.] At world level, the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under its Article 13. Previous initiatives were also developed as part of the World Conference on Education for All in 1990, and the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 under which the Education for All program, driven by UNESCO, had most countries committing to achieving universal enrollment in primary education by 2015. The impossibility of the task is extremely problematic given that even with four years to go, it seems that it will not be realized despite the introduction of the Fast Track Initiative in 2002. Despite its best intentions, this initiative has been incapable of mustering sufficient ‘donor funds’ to meet even the half way goal in 2010. Yet no one has challenged the very idea that this right was defined as something that would be provided, rather than something inherent to all people, something of which each and every child has ownership. [You say that not enough money was given to this initiative? Could it be the goal is unattainable no matter how much money is spent?]
The Right to Learn [We all have a right to an education, the chance to learn but NOT a right to learn.]
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
The Right to Learn
Maybe our focus is not right. Is it possible that the definition provided under the Millennium Goals leads us to think of solutions that are more about delivery, provision and, inevitably, institutions, rather than empowerment
and opportunity? Maybe [We are and should be.] we are too used to aligning teaching and learning with schools and traditional educational structures and processes, rather than re-imagining how contemporary technologies [Why re-imagining use of technology. It looks like you have solution, which is not really even a solution but you say it is, in search of a problem. We have supposedly agreed to the meanings of words and to change that so that you can change other things is wrong.] might provide more powerful learning paradigms that challenge traditional thinking. Maybe it’s time we re-define a child’s ‘right to education’ in terms of a child’s fundamental Right to Learn. [There is no such thing. You are really saying that all kids have the same IQ, have a right to the same IQ. You cannot guarantee outcomes. It is like saying we have the right to be rich, a genius, to play in the NBA!!! Even with our advanced medical system and doctors, etc, people still die. We have a right to live but not a right to life. Meaning we have a right to try to stay alive but we will eventually die.] It is not what we might seek to give them or deliver. It is not something bestowed. Rather, it is something that they, by their very being, set in motion at their time of birth. Sugata Mitra’s ‘hole in the wall’ project7 has captured the interest of educators from around the globe. In one of the most popular conversations at the Big Ideas Global Summit 2010, Mitra described how children, living in the slums of New Delhi and rural areas in India, faced for the first time with a computer, a mouse and no instruction or educational context, teach themselves and organize themselves to learn in ways that most people believe are only possible in a formal educational setting. [Wrong. This is why I say not to teach technology in K-12. They can pick it up on their own.] His remarks resonated with so many participants because his work so strongly demonstrates how, when given the opportunity to freely exercise their right to learn, children are driven to do just that. [I agree they are natural learners as are most humans. They have no need to be inspired to learn. It also says that you do not need to teach technology school, as I stated above.] When we think in this way, a far more reasonable and achievable focus becomes each child’s Right to Learn [Again no such thing.], and, within that context, a child’s right to have the freedom to learn; to have no impediment to learning within the modern world [IQ? A low IQ would be a big impediment.] in which he or she lives. Surely this then is a profound and immutable right; one which carries with it, by implication, universal access for every child to contemporary learning media, resources and knowledge. [Why contemporary learning media – you mean technology and the Internet, etc? Yes you can go to the Internet and answer a question, maybe, but how do you know it is right? You may just get 2 million bogus hits—none of them actually answering your question.] “Universal access with computers is a human right,” Miguel Brechner Frey, President, Laboratorio Tecnologico del Uruguay [Holy cow. Since when did having access to a computer come to be a right? Does everyone have the right to a car? Does everyone have the right to be rich, to be POTUS, a super-genius, etc? NO!!!!] The intent of this focus does not however, lead us back to the chaotic days of Summerhill, and the terrible ‘70’s when the extreme of children doing what they wanted, when they wanted, seemed to deflate many progressive educators’ dreams. [Where was this? I could not do what I wanted nor when I wanted to do and I went to high school in the early 1970s.] That was the outcome of lazy thinking, a complete lack of rigor, and, if anything, it took away a child’s right to learn in ways that provided him or her with the best life choices. Such learning requires counsel; it requires nurturing; it requires the wisdom and guidance of great teachers, who, from the time of Socrates and his learned Greek colleagues, have refined our notions of pedagogy until, in the forum of contemporary technologies, we are now challenged to anchor our thinking back with the learner. [Weren’t the students of Socrates adults? Plato was already well versed in academics and some in philosophy before meeting Socrates. Plato was about 30 years old when Socrates died. He was a student for about 15 years. So at the age of 15 he started being Socrates’ student. Plato was arguably one of the smartest men ever, at least, he was well above the average human in terms of IQ (his was about 180) as was his teacher Socrates (IQ 160). You are wanting to apply the Socratic method to the average and below average person and children at that. Good Luck with that!! I might interject here that there is so much more to know now than then and more years of schooling should be done prior to teaching the Socratic method to students— like in wait until college. Heck, Geometry was advanced math of the time.] We must flip our perspective and ask how the art and science of [Teaching is an art not a science nor should it be a science.] contemporary teaching and learning might now make it possible for us to be able to reach, not just those few who made it to the Agora; not just the privileged who were allowed to attend the institutions of school over past centuries, but rather all young people. To do this we need to shift our thinking from a goal that focuses on the delivery of something—a primary education—to a goal that is about empowering our young people to leverage their innate and natural curiosity to learn whatever and whenever they need to. [They need to learn what is taught when it is taught, not have the kids run their own education.] The goal is about eliminating obstacles to the exercise of this right [Right to learn whatever they want whenever they want it? Since when? When they become adults then they can do this. We should know more about what they need to know in their childhood years. When they get to high school they do have options of whether or not to take some classes. It has nothing to do with technology.] —whether the obstacle is the structure and scheduling of the school day, the narrow divisions of subject, the arbitrary separation of learners by age, or others—rather than supplying or rearranging resources. [Boy you do have a lot of complaints about the American education system. You would apparently like to see classes go altogether. Why? Colleges are set up that way. They are taught by people with substantial education in one area of life. It is not so arbitrary to separate kids by age. What would you have us separate them by? Maybe not all? That will not work in high school.] The shift is extremely powerful. As challenging as this goal sounds, the reality is that this may now be possible, and that it is in fact only possible in our modern world through the advent of new technologies. Yet this is an idea that has only recently gained credibility, despite having roots shortly after the middle of the last century with the thinking of Seymour Papert and Alan Kay. It has taken an alignment of powerful ideas, technologies and visionary leadership to show us how possible the realization of this contemporary goal for education is.
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
Limits of Traditional Education
It has taken a long time for us to put education, learning and schooling
into a balanced perspective. We are even today still largely celebrating
the best that traditional education systems can deliver as countries across
the globe strive to push that traditional education model to the limits of
its capacity. The reality is that those limits seem, for the most part, to
have largely been reached. [It was reached in 1970 with a 75% high school graduation rate. In 2010 it was 75.5%, which was a new high. It was between 68- 75% for those 40 years. So, for graduation rates, at least, we have hit the wall.] As we moved into the new millennium and international benchmarks such as PISA grew in status and influence, [Yes why? PISA was actually just started in the late 1990s, so why in only a couple of iterations, did it achieve such prominence? And why do we care?] countries such as Finland [It does not use technology to teach its kids. Its population is about 90% homogenous with a 10% Swedish population, so they have, at most, only two languages to deal with.] , Singapore, Australia, Canada and Korea [These are again homogenous populations (one or two languages), for the most part.] were well-placed to reap the benefit of their focus on delivering a high quality traditional education, with all that that implies, and countries that had failed to match that commitment to quality such as the United States, France, and Spain showed up accordingly. That is, of course, omitting the extraordinary amount of commitment and money parents in countries such as Singapore12 13 and Korea14 15 were spending on private tutoring, variables for which PISA fails to account. So the question really is, how many countries are reaching the limits of the capacity of that traditional system to address the needs of young people growing up in a modern society? At the end of the first decade of the new millennium, the cracks are starting to show. As we start to analyze the inequity, the outcomes are staggering. A recent study completed by McKinsey shows that for the US, results show
that if the gap between low-income students and all other students had
been narrowed, [You say they raised up to everyone else, not lowering of everyone else to their level. This is a minor point. Yes what would it have been if we all were medical doctors? A lot higher I suspect but an impossibility. High school is NOT needed for most of the jobs out there. In fact according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fully 2/3 of the jobs created between 2008-2018 will require only a high school diploma and a little OJT. I would add that most jobs that require only this would mean a high school dropout could do these jobs.] GDP in 2008 would have been $400 billion to $670 billion higher as a result of this reduction in inequity. This represents an extraordinary 3 to 5 percent of GDP. [God. Education has nothing to do with GDP. Education in and of itself does not generate jobs therefore does not directly effect GDP. You are assuming that the more educated a country is the more GDP, income, etc happens. This is a wrong assumption. In the 1920s we had the highest high school graduation rate in our country’s history, up until that time. It continued into the 1930s. Yet we had the Great Depression with massive unemployment. Now we have the most college graduates and the most high school graduations rates (supposedly we have 90% of all adults either have a high school diploma or GED, yet we have had the highest unemployment rates since the 1930s. I would argue that in terms of sheer numbers more were unemployed recently than the ‘30s. At the height of the Depression the worst unemployment rate was 25% of about 100 million population. It was over 9% of 300 million recently. That is the same as saying 27% of 100 million, therefore more people unemployed recently than in the Great Depression yet we are more college graduates and high school graduates than any other time in our country’s history. So, if you (the reformers and A Nation at Risk believers) were right then we’d have an overabundance of jobs today, that paid well, instead of the opposite. You exaggerate the relationship between education of the masses and GDP and the Sandia Report of 1990 has so said. So, it is not just me saying that!!!] So again, we must ask ourselves, have we possibly reached the limits of our traditional education system’s capacity to deal with the diversity of learners that come to our schools today? [No. If they can speak English then they should be able to learn in our schools without computers.] For capacity is about breadth and most significantly depth, and despite all that is celebrated with the triennial release of PISA and associated global benchmarks such as TIMMS and PIRLS17, we are facing the realization that the traditional education system of schooling is clearly not capable of extending its reach and scope, to address every child’s Right to Learn. [They have NO RIGHT TO LEARN. They have a right to an opportunity to learn, that is it, if even that. Most countries do not need a well educated workforce. They are still mostly agrarian societies. You do not need to be well educated to farm. Education in and of itself will not change these societies, nor ours. Also, you cannot guarantee outcomes. You cannot guarantee that all kids will be geniuses, rich, POTUS, or other outcomes. Most of schooling is on the child, to learn what information they are given. You are twisting the goal of education with learning. Guaranteeing education is analogous to guaranteeing medical outcomes. Even with the best doctors and hospitals people still die and even die before their time, while young.] I see no call to reform the medical profession. Why then the teaching profession?
As we begin to realize the limits of the capacity of our traditional education system, we are slowly seeing real alternatives emerge. Both Leadbetter and Christensen in recent years have explored new ideas
about the shifts in our traditional learning paradigm. The impact of initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child are suggesting that as early as the end of the second decade of this millennium this momentum will
have caused a dramatic shift in where, when, and how learning takes place, and, most importantly, it will provide a platform for every child to exercise the Right to Learn. [How long has this been going on? How much would they have learned if it had been the traditional method? We will never know.]
Breaking the Bonds of Legacy Thinking
So what has drawn us to this point? What has been the change process, and what role has that process played in creating this time of great debate and challenge? In the first instance, for more than two decades, computers were simply part of school resources. But twenty years on from the original visions of Papert and Kay, the 90’s saw the incubation and execution of the idea that students could have their own fully functional personal portable computer. [There we go again. With all of these so-called success there have as many, if not more, failures, with using technology in education.] While initially treated almost whimsically, the idea gained followers across several countries, and as the internet and, then, social media made a previously unimagined range of experiences possible for young people, attention shifted to what the implications of universal access to personal computing might mean for learners. In many ways, it is probably only natural that it has taken until now, when we start to realize the limits of the capacity of our traditional education systems, to see the possibility and viability of alternatives. We are at a crossroads. We can see an emerging crisis in our schools, while, on the other hand, we see a renaissance for learning. [Circa 1900, radio was supposed to revolutionize education and circa 1950 television was supposed to do the same and now it is computers. Why? Why is it you think technology is better than the traditional ways? Why is it you think computers will or should revolutionize education when radio and TV did not?]
The question then simply becomes: would a completely different perspective that builds on the latter, be a more productive focus for us than the continued, largely unproductive, public debate around the former? [I love the way you framed the debate—the questions. Not really!!!! It is a false choice. You have framed the debate falsely. You have already determined to do the former and are trying to convince us that you are right.]
In the past, the notion of alternatives was limited to a narrow series of schooling models that were still very much constrained by macro resourcing issues such as high quality teaching and the investment in physical infrastructure, while scalability and sustainability were largely afterthoughts. As we look globally, alternatives have been emerging. In Sweden’s [Ranked 26th , 29th and 19th in 2009 PISA Maths, Sciences, and Reading, respectively.] Kunskapskoolan, each student sets his or her learning goals and, with assistance from a teacher who acts as a personal tutor, determines a personalized learning path. Currently in Sweden, there are only 9000 students enrolled in Kunskapskoolan schools, [But no interest in expanding it in Sweden? ] but there is significant interest
from many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, in this model. For more than 50 years, the Fontán family in Colombia [Has Columbia’s economy improved much? In the 2009 PISA Columbia ranked 64th out of 74 countries, in Maths, 60th in Sciences and 56th in Reading. So their 50 years of alternative education has NOT done much for them. By contrast the United States, which most of the proponents say did so badly, ranked 31st , 23rd, and 17th respectively. So even Sweden did only a little better in Maths and worse in sciences and reading than the US ranked. 494 Sweden and 487 the US in Maths, not a marked difference. If you add up the numbers – US = 1489 and Sweden = 1486. So the US did better than Sweden and much better than Columbia. Where is the crisis? 9000/1,000,000+ students in Sweden is 0.9%, hardly a good representation of the school no matter how good it is.] has invested its time and energy in exploring alternatives to the traditional models of school, accruing decades of discussion and learning. In their schools, students are guided in setting and achieving personal learning goals and are able to do so in a timeframe determined by their needs and learning process. It is the antithesis of ‘one size fits all’ education. The Fontán schools believe that it is possible for every child to learn, for every child to fully realize his or her potential, [How do you measure their potential to know if you and they have achieved it?] and they believe that is every child’s right.
[If you are going to cite some country make sure they do better than we do.—talking about Sweden and Columbia here.]
“What we do in the Colegio Fontán is to provide students with the tools to construct meaning in their lives [to construct meaning in their lives? Since when was school to “construct meaning”? How about to know something?] and then how to develop this as a model of life that they set.” Julio Fontán, Director, Colegio Fontán [This would appear to be college and not K-12. But how do computers help anyone find meaning in their lives? But I guess you are talking about K-12 education, then it most assuredly the approach is too early. How do kids set a model of life?]
Unfortunately, such thinking is rare [because it is wrong.] and exceptional. Our incremental thinking sees the emergence of possibilities that suggest new schooling models, but while they are gaining traction in growing numbers, we seem to still be waiting for the ‘Big Leap Forward’. Perhaps models such as Fontán illustrate scalable possibilities, but we are only just scratching the surface of what might indeed be possible. [Most systems that work are small, if they work at all. When you try to enlarge them they do not work or work as expected. Most co-called solutions are NOT scalable. Enlarging a system always has unintended consequences.]
Our thinking about what personalized learning might look like is still exceptionally naïve. One only has to look at the popularity of the ‘learning algorithm’ that delivers ‘personalized’ learning in the much-lauded School
of One in New York City, to appreciate the ‘smoke and mirrors’ view of how technology might personalize learning, compared to other more informed perspectives. [It is all smoke and mirrors or what I call Bells and Whistles!!!] From Dan Buckley’s Personalisation by Pieces and the New Line Academy models of risk and intervention around personal profiles (both from the UK) to Alaska’s Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) with its competency-based pedagogy, new models are emerging, models that are showing glimmers of just what technology might offer teaching and learning. [According to my research, more of these programs fail than succeed and most are no better than the traditional education system. So overall it DOES NOT WORK. In her book of 2013 Reign of Error . . . , Diane Ravitch says that only about 17% of Charter schools do ‘better’ than traditional, while 48% do about the same, and 35% do worse. So, more than twice as many do worse as do better. Granted this does not explicitly say technology, but they are what the reformers want. A lot of these schools are into technology.]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
At the same time, the evolution in computing technologies has led to
repeated misplaced positioning of their role in education. We have suffered
three decades of misdirected conversations around our use of technology
in education, and it has inhibited our perspective around what it might
make possible. [Again this is the circular reasoning that says if technology failed to do its job then it was not implemented correctly. Wrong implementation for over 30 years?]
A combination of inadequate language and a lack of perspective hampered us as we sought to understand where [But not whether or not it should fit in at all?] technology fits into the traditional model of school. Whether it was computing as a science, computers locked in a ‘lab’, or computers used in ways that allowed both teachers and students to do what they were currently doing, but on a computer, our naiveté through the 80’s and 90’s was predictable, though disappointing. But what everyone has avoided has been the simple fact that most of what we have done to date with computers in education has been at the behest of a compromise of access. It has been the ‘elephant in the room—don’t raise that, because we can’t do anything about it’ approach. So consequently much of the research in this field has been completed against a background of unreasonable and almost absurd compromise. So we might well ask, why has so much time, energy and funding been expended on the ‘impact of technology on student achievement’ when the vast majority of it has been based around minimal access to the technology, and, at best, trivial leverage of the opportunities the technology can provide for both teaching and learning?
The state of Maine provides an example of educators and state leaders who saw the limits of the state’s education system and took bold steps to shift from a traditional to a transformed system. In order to prepare its young people for the knowledge economy, Maine knew it had to dramatically change the way in which teachers teach and students learn.
Determining that technology would be a key in bringing about this shift, Maine began by ensuring that every middle school student has a laptop. In 2009, the program was extended to the state high schools. Maine’s efforts are helping to lead the way to a better understanding of this paradigm change.
In speaking with other governors, Governor King realized that all states were undertaking very similar investments in areas like education and economic development and if Maine wanted to jump ahead of these other states it would require a sharp departure from what Maine had done in the past. Immediately, everyone recognized that education represented the most crucial area for this major change and Gov. King recalled a conversation he had had with Seymour Papert a year or two previous where the idea of how to transform education was discussed. During their conversation, Papert convinced King that a major transformation would happen only when student and teachers worked with technology on a 1 to 1 basis and that any other ratio would not produce the transformation everyone sought. [The average IQ for Maine is 99.4. What was it before computers? I, for one, do not seek transformation. So, not everyone seeks it.]
This is a short look at Maine’s own Report Card using their data.
Maine uses a letter grade for its schools. For 2014, Elementary Schools (no laptops) went about according to the Bell Curve 40 As; 54 Bs; 209 Cs; 62 Ds; and 51 Fs. If I added correctly then we have 416 Elementary Schools. As 40/416 = 9.6%; Bs 54/416 = 13%; Cs 209/416 = 50.2%; Ds 62/416= 14.9%; and Fs 51/416 = 12.3%. We have slightly more Fs than As, slightly more Ds than Bs, and almost exactly Bell Curve for Cs.
Bell Curve should be something like 50% Cs, 10% As and Fs, and 15% Bs and Ds.
For High Schools (in other words with laptops for each student since Middle School) we have another almost perfect Bell Curve:
10 As, 18 Bs, 58 Cs, 23 Ds and 13 Fs. It is slightly skewed toward the negative Ds and Fs. I see no benefit for using laptops in Maine.
If I add correctly there were 122 high schools in Maine.
As 10/122 = 8%, Bs 18/122 = 15%, Cs 58/122 = 47 %, Ds 23/122 = 19 %, Fs 13/122 = 11%.
So not even ¼ did better than average, while almost 1/3 did worse than average. Not even ½ did average, that is, 50% Cs!!!
Comparing Elementary As and Bs 22.6% and for High School we had 23% or 0.4% more for High School. This is not much of a statistical difference. Comparing Elementary Ds and Fs 27.2% and for High School we had 30% or 2.8% more for High School, but this time it is to the worse. I would say comparing non-computer was slightly better than computer based education, based on Maine’s own data. It is at best a wash if you consider 2.8% not much of a difference or worse (almost 2.5 % — 2.8% – 0.4% = 2.4%) if you do.
This report touts Maine as a positive example of the use computers in school. Maybe they should do their homework more before citing a source.
Maine Learning Technology Initiative
It has only been in the past decade that the real opportunities for reimagining our models, not just for computer use in schools, but for new models of schooling, or, most significantly, new models of learning have now emerged.
Now, we are finally seeing realistic alternatives emerging, ironically at the extremes. In the highly resourced developed world, ideas around how technology might make personalization and child-centered learning possible are becoming more mainstream, while in the resource-poor developing world, technology presents as a ‘leapfrog’ opportunity; the
chance to equip previously under-served young people with the ability to access unprecedented learning opportunities. The globalisation of 1:1 initiatives should reduce the digital divide between young generations of developed and developing countries. Francesc Pedro, OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation
Perhaps these earlier missteps were a necessary pre-requisite for the ‘real thing’; perhaps we were simply giving ourselves a reference point, even if it has been a low one at that, but, if we accept that technology ubiquity
for learners is both inevitable and fundamental [I do not. Where is the proof? This is just exactly what I keep asking you proponents and never get an answer.] to a young person’s Right to Learn [Again, no such right exists.] in a digital world, then now is the time to confront the reality and raise the bar for all. We must stop accepting the behavior of past years of compromised access, and focus our future research around what is now possible in this emerging learning world of technology-richness. [We do not need access at all!!! It has never been proven to be better than traditional.] The dynamics of teaching and learning within the virtual space are as diverse as they are complex. We will need to develop tools to better understand them, [I love it. You are going to implement a plan without even understanding the virtual space. You are rushing into implementing a system when you do not even know what it can or should do for you. You are fools. Fools rush in where wise-men fear to tread.] but in the meantime we can start to build a theoretical framework that allows us to better articulate the experiences and behavior. Instead of seeing the non-face-to-face learning space as one of a compromised experience, we surely need to recognize and explore without fear the new and, in many ways, more profound pedagogical opportunities the virtual space opens; opportunities that will challenge and possibly even undermine our traditional perspectives around
effective teaching and learning.
“Should we think of education as separation from everything else? [YES.] I think we’re in the process of redefining what’s important and how we get there. 1:1 can become the basic infrastructure of education. 21st Century learning, what does it take? It takes Universal Access.” Participant Big Ideas Global Summit 2010 [We should not teach things that are learned outside of school or teach things that can better be learned outside of school. We should teach more of the things that do remain constant not something fleeting like technology. We should not be teaching fads. Any time not spent on teaching the subject matter is wasted. Time spent teaching the technology is time not spent teaching/learning the subject matter. Technology is therefore a distraction.]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
Rethinking How Learning Happens –
Constructing Knowledge, Self-Directed Learning, and Collaboration
Young people say to me, “when I need to know something at the point when I need to know it, I will find it in five minutes. So why are you wasting my time in class?” We must have a good answer.
Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology, Newcastle University
[The answer is you won’t necessarily find it in 5 minutes or in 5 decades. The Internet is full of junk that you must weed through and it does not have all of the answers. There are certain things like Africa is continent and not a country. You know basic things like that. If you are discussing this and do not know it, it makes you look stupid. What is the answer to global peace? You won’t find that in 5 minutes. So you are trying to make them better, more knowledgeable citizens of the world in a small way and citizens of this country in a very large way. We have to know where we were and where we are to see why we are where we are and where to go in the future. These things they will not find on a web page in 5 minutes. You should be trying to increase their knowledge base, not have instant gratification by finding some so-called answer on the Internet. Some questions scholars spend lifetimes trying to answer and most of the time never do.]
In many ways the when and where learning takes place answers follow on naturally to our notions about how learning happens, so it is essential to explore these ideas further. So many of our learning theorists have hypothesized about the nature of learning. From Dewey to Bruner, Papert to Bransford, we are slowly unpacking the fundamental building blocks that allow us to better understand how learning happens, and, most notably, how such a process can happen across a diversity of learners, cultures, intellects in its many forms and demographics. [We actually learn most of knowledge outside of a classroom. The teachers give us the lecture and through homework and thinking about it, we learn it. I’d hate to be taught everything in classroom with no time to reflect on the material. This is the way we all learn.] We all became walkers and talkers in every environment, before school was even a concept we understood, and yet the common belief that guided our recent past of around a century or so, is that mandatory participation in the institution of school for a minimum of 10-12 years is a necessary pre-requisite to becoming functioning members of our society. Our Millennium Development Goals seek to deliver that universally by 2015. [Very admirable, in theory, but very unattainable goal. Functioning members of society need education? Perhaps not. Even if so, how much? If we are taught the US Constitution and what its writers intended when it was written then we can function as members of the society.]
Something to consider. President Ford was condemned for pardoning Nixon, rightly so. He was wrong on two counts. Firstly, Nixon never was impeached (although it looked like he would be) so there was no crime to be pardoned from. Secondly, and most importantly according to the US Constitution, a President can pardon for any offense, EXCEPT IMPEACHMENT. Apparently, Ford and nobody else knew this either.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
The real paradox of this is that our participation in the institution of school is only required for less than 20% of a student’s waking hours each year, and yet, not only is the role of learning outside that time rarely discussed, modeled or understood, it is too often trivialized. [It is called time off to play, to be with others your own age interacting with them, playing sports (you know exercise). They do not have to be in constant learning mode. Again time for some homework and reflection on the information given to us this day.] Recent notions around informal learning are changing this; however, too much of the current thinking about learning suggests it is something that happens to the learner, happens only as result of being taught, and is heavily weighted towards a “content” view of the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the predominant view held around the broad brush of processes labeled e-learning, where pleas of “more content” brings music to the ears of vendors locked in the textbookresources legacies of past generations of learners. This will change, soon.
It has sometimes been said that “content is everything publishers would like pedagogy to be, after it has become adulterated into a commodity.” The cries for content decry the role of the teacher and the magic, wisdom and insight they can bring to the learning process. What is becoming better understood is what personal computing in the hands of learners allows. The emphasis is more about who controls the learning than about content. It’s about learners learning through the lens of topics and issues that are of interest, relevant and purposeful to them; [Again, the students know not what is important and it should not be up to them.] it’s about them constructing knowledge; [No it is NOT. It is about them understanding what the teachers told them. This is learning.] it’s about connecting to an unlimited resource of people, ideas, and conversations that gives all learners unique insights, insights that underpin deeper understandings about [Unique and probably conflicting. Why would you want to confuse young minds? The textbooks ought to be good enough. Get rid of the PC jargon in the textbooks.] the world in which they live, and how they might act collectively to influence their world and their lives. It’s about having the freedom to learn in a way that is appropriate in a modern world. [Appropriate to the modern world. Why is that necessary?] It’s about acknowledging a learner’s innate drive to learn about, and understand, his or her place in the world. [Their place in the world. They will not find that out until after school.] So we have a simple, but powerful idea: Empower young people with a personal portable computer that will support their Right to Learn. [An EMPHATIC NO!!!] With that right, young people will explore ideas, construct knowledge, and share collectively and collaboratively [Sharing – collectively – collaboration—none is needed!!! These are just things that computers on a network can do but are not necessary.] to provide unique learning opportunities that even a decade ago we would have thought where never possible. [Christ most of the time they are playing games, watching Youtube video or socializing online. They are not learning anything of any importance.] So that not only will we see more young people connecting, communicating, and acting collectively, [Why can’t they act independently?] but they will have unprecedented opportunities for deeper learning, and, with that, more substantial and more rigorous learning. [They cannot peruse everything on the Internet anymore than they can read every book in a library. Most have not read the entire Bible yet and probably never will. They had more opportunities before now, too many and yet you think that because there are more it is somehow better?]
The most profound influence on life in the 21st century may turn out to be the Internet. The Internet links us to the greatest repository of information in the history of civilization. [Most of it is bogus.] It also provides multiple modes of communication. Finally, it is the most efficient system in our history for delivering new technologies to read, write, and communicate. Together, these elements permit individuals to construct new information, new knowledge, and even newer technologies. [Circular logic again!] As a result, the Internet is in a continuous state of becoming, regularly transforming each one of us as we, in turn, transform it. [Most of us do not transform anything. Also, none of these reasons are important.]
Donald Leu et al, New Literacies Research Lab, University of Connecticut
When we think about learning within this notion of constructing knowledge or ‘constructing modern knowledge’, rather than something that is most often ‘delivered’ from within an institution, [I would rather have the latter than the former.] it becomes a possibility for infinitely more young people around the world. In this model of learning, they formulate their thinking and build their knowledge within a technology rich-learning environment, and their specific circumstances, whether they are in a developed or the developing world, becomes decidedly less relevant. They are not constrained by a lack of ‘content’ or resources, but rather, only their imagination. [Their imagination does not get used when on the computer. The programmer’s is or whomever wrote the simulation or subject software.]
So the question becomes how do these ideas about collective knowledge construction ‘fit’ within our present models of schooling? Is this something that extends what we currently do in school, or is there possibly a very different framework based on our new perspective for what ‘schooling’ could and should be? [It is what it should be. Leave it alone.]
There is a natural leaning by educators toward the former option, which tends toward incrementalism, whereas true learner empowerment would seem to be implied with the latter. Again it is directly a function of control, of who determines what, when, and how the learning takes place. The very notion of constructing knowledge [Knowledge is NOT a construct. It is something to be discovered.] implies self-directedness, self-organized learning that leverages, rather than depends on, an institution to deliver an education. [The whole idea of a class is to have everyone on the same page at the same time.]
Incremental change can be self-defeating; it’s not a step on the way to the big change. A silly example: suppose that the inventor of the refrigerator found that the only way to persuade people to buy them would be to make a refrigerator that could drop the temperature by just one degree. Now that thing would be no use as a refrigerator, it would be a kind of step towards a real refrigerator. [How about an icebox where someone would have to put in big chunks of ice to get an area cold then devised a way to use refrigerant? Then to put them different boxes from the refrigerator. This would be incremental change.] If you distributed these around people would develop ways of using them, they’d use them as storage boxes, they’d use them for all sorts of things because people are ingenious beings and they try to use what they’ve got. So, there’d come about a refrigerator culture based on ways to use refrigerators for purposes that had nothing to do with what we know refrigerators are good for… this is what’s happened to computers in schools. They’re being used in ways that have nothing to do with the potential of the computer to allow the possibility of a radically different way of learning. [You know I have to say something here. One of the first things I got taught in software engineering class (systems analyst or efficiency expert) was, besides seeing how the old system worked and if any computerization could help, was to get the users’ inputs because you can design the best system in the world but they do not use it or use as intended it has gone to waste. But you have yet to convince me that even the former is true—that being computerization could help.]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
The Elusive ‘21st Century Skills’-Self-directedness and Collaboration
While the education and corporate world dance around ideas and clichés of 21st Century Learning, a new, extended global conversation around the nature of learning within our schools has begun to spring up. Much of that conversation has been about manipulating and sequestering these ‘new’ competencies within the existing curriculum and existing school practice. Again, the institution of school wins. There is always general agreement around the importance of many of the skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and self-directedness, however, the latter two stand alone in both importance and execution. [The latter two are not even necessary and the former is not all of the important in K-12.]
You don’t deliver learning, you inspire learning, you engage people in learing.” [Wrong. You do just exactly that, you deliver it and the student picks it up.]
Stephen Heppell, Chair in New Media Environments, Bounemouth University35
When Singapore’s well-respected Education Minister Mr. Ng opens a keynote to address to school leaders with a focus on the importance of self-directed learners, people take notice. [You know it was the Japanese that back in the 1980s came up with self-directed work teams. And they had an economic meltdown in the 1990s. We adopted it in the 1980s. Our management did not truly see it our way and it was scrapped. It might have worked but that is because we were all adults and had at least 15 years experience doing our jobs. This is not true for K-12 kids. Why is it do you want to take an Asian idea that did not work for Japan and make our schools like them?] This is not the education system one might expect to have such a focus. While always near the top of traditional international benchmarks such as PISA, Singapore’s school system, by its own admittance, has been decidedly traditional, didactic. Self-directed learning would seem to undermine much of the teacher control values that are inherent in this framework.
Self-directed learning cannot be separated from the Right to Learn—it is the core expression of this right. [Neither of them is a right, self-directed nor Right to Learn.] The current critical conversation that surrounds the idea of learners’ ‘controlling’ their own learning parallels much of what is being written and spoken about in regard to personalization. What we should be asking as we re-frame the conversations is how technology ubiquity enables us to re-imagine the experience for self-directed learners. So much of the discussion around personalization, child-centered learning, project-based learning and the like is still centered around the traditional model of school as too often a pre-requisite institution for learning.
What if, instead, we started with some key questions that might better define our notions of personalization… [this is wrong.]
Who should choose what your students learn? The teachers.
Who should choose the path your students take? The school district and people thereof. The students should have some say so but long term only not within given classes.
Who should choose at what pace your students learn? The teacher.
Who should choose how and when their progress is assessed? The teacher and not some computer.
Who chooses what mode or medium they will use? The parents of the school district.
Surely this should be our starting point, and while the extreme answers to these questions again take us to the chaos of Summerhill, [Of course not, but why then even go in that direction.] the choices a child might make do not. In fact if we start from these basic principles, we are now having a very different conversation.
Instead of thinking about buildings and budgets, we think about what learning might be possible. [You do not know what is possible or even good.] Instead of thinking about student teacher ratios, and high stakes tests, we think about the impact that a child taking more responsibility for his or her learning might have on a child’s life choices. It simply shifts our emphasis, and most importantly, our perspective.
In keeping in mind our new understanding and acceptance of each student’s fundamental Right to Learn, [Keep in mind there is NO fundamental right to learn.] the answers to these questions become clearer. The challenge is to answer these within what is perhaps a new definition of ‘schooling’. One of the great paradoxes of the call for ‘21st Century Learning’ [21st Century. What does that fact we are now in that century got to do with it. The Jewish and Chinese calendars say it is much beyond that. So we entered a new century? We entered a new millenium. Again, so what? We entered a new century in 1901, was there a call for massive change in education? Even if there was, was it done? No.] is that it clearly calls for students to develop the disciplines necessary for self-directed learning while taking away most, if not all, the necessary pre-requisites a student must develop for such disciplines. If we continue to try and deliver what we think is best for a student, if we continue to impose traditional school structures that remove a student’s capacity to better develop his or her competence for better decision-making, how can we ever hope to see the sort of shift towards self-directedness that we seem to be calling for so urgently? [This is something else. Back in the early 90s there was a call for self-directed work teams. We even had gotten rid of our supervisor and reported directly to our manager. That did not last and we were adults that had 15 years of experience doing our jobs, for the most part. I would not want children taking charge of their own education. They are NOT adults. Why are you trying to copy things from business that did not work?]
At one level, in this technology-rich learning world, we can immediately grasp various dimensions of transparency that will be made possible. For example, it could be learners leading the learning, while a teacher, mentor or
learning coach provokes and stimulates insight, challenges and questions hypotheses a student may be forming, and tracks visible learning through online conversations and dialogue, more authentically monitoring progress.
We know that ubiquitous technology can make this possible at an individual or small group level and in unprecedented ways that are yet to be realized.
Collaboration – Who Collaborates With Whom, When, How, and Why?
The idea of collaboration appeals to everyone conceptually, [No it does not. People should do their own work particularly in school.] but is often executed sparingly. We are not talking about the traditional ‘group-work’ definition of collaboration, or the sharing work practice, but real, authentic collective knowledge construction [There you go again, constructing knowledge not discovering it.] that technology ubiquity makes so easy. [Just because you can does not mean that you should.] But where is the evidence that we have even started to explore the dimensions of what collaboration experiences should be for young people? [Where is the evidence that it is even needed?]
Technology has provided a myriad of new ways to construct meaning [No. What it has taught is the use of technology, which is a fad or series of fads at best.] through both increased interactions and different modes of interaction. We must leave behind trivial notions of collaboration and develop more sophisticated ideas around what might be called collaboration literacies. In doing so, we make available greater opportunities for learning, more opportunities to be exposed to a variety of ideas and experiences. [No. There is no need to collaborate.]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
Key Elements for Initiating Change
Surprising as it may be, we are already into the second decade of the ‘new’ millennium. So, what’s changed? If we are honest with ourselves, not much; or, at best, not enough. [Again, why does entering a new millennium generate the need for change?] We can do better, much better. We kicked off the turn of the century with the greatest ambitions and intent, but somewhere along the way, ten years went by, and here we are still having too many of the same conversations. It is time things changed. We don’t have time for ‘21st Century Skills’, for more distracting technologies or for any more debate or research about what, in too many cases, is frankly the ‘bleeding obvious’. [What’s ‘bleeding obvious’ is there is no proof that change is needed. Or that computers are that change.] Change–real change–is not simple, nor can it be accomplished via a checklist of tasks or a recipe. It is profound, difficult and messy. Yet it’s possible to identify some elements that need to be present to not just initiate change but work towards achieving the goals of equity and the unencumbered exercise of the Right to Learn for all.
#1 Identify and Embrace a New Perspective (Perspective is worth 80 IQ points) [I realize that you are not really addressing the concept of IQ here. But boy this goes into what I have been saying. It is not the schools. It is the kids IQ and there is nothing that you can do about it in the macro. This is the only mention of IQ in this whole paper. Yet learning is a two way street. It probably is actually more the kids then the teachers, that are responsible for poor schools. There is nothing the kids can do either. They are born with a given IQ.]
Because many of us work in schools, with schools, and we all went to schools, it should not surprise us that our perspective is too often tainted as we look at technology through “school-colored glasses.” [I look at this with technology colored glasses and I see no proof that this is necessary.]
The time has come for fresh thinking–a new perspective. Over the past decade we have seen technology in schools moving from ‘school computing’ to genuine personal computing, ensuring an unprecedented means for each of us to exercise our Right to Learn. [Again, no such right.]
As we see the now rapid growth towards students having their own fully functional personal portable computer, towards technology richness across our society and schools, and towards a very different view of the possibilities with which that presents us, there is an urgent need for us to look at our use of computers in schools from a completely different perspective and explore in some detail the implications this has for the role of school and what schooling could, and should, be. This new perspective, the recognition that everyone has the Right to Learn, means we are obligated to not only not create obstacles to learning, but that we must enable at every opportunity the exercise of this right as much as possible. [Yes this can best be done by getting distracting technology the heck out of our schools.]
For all that we have written about our use of computers in schools, little has explored the excitement of possibilities. So much has labored the trivialness of the technology, because it usually fails to challenge existing values or assumptions about the role of school or every child’s inherent Right to Learn. Witness the avalanche of words that have been written and spoken around interactive whiteboards (IWB) as evidence of how much can be spent for little value or real impact. This approach completely deadens new thinking. [What? Telling the truth deadens new thinking? In this case it should. It is saying do not buy IWB for your class or school. If it does work why in heaven’s name would you use it? This is proof staring you in the face that it does not work, that it is not cost effective and yet you want to ignore it and even to eliminate it from discussion. Why?]
Essentially it is not about technology, but rather, at the heart of the vision that underpins this technology ubiquity, is a deep and fundamental belief about empowerment and what the technology might make possible. It’s a
powerful idea about learning equity. It is not about learning as we know it, but rather, how it could and should be; and, most importantly what it makes possible for all learners. [You have heard of the Normal (Bell-Shaped) Curve for IQ distribution, haven’t you? This would negate the assumption that you have that all kids can learn all things. Most kids/people can learn the basics but that is as far as it goes. Nothing will change this including computers. Less can handle Middle-School, even less can handle High School and even less can handle college. Computers will not change this.]
It seems very clear that simply providing computers to schools is not enough to change the nature of instruction and learning. A holistic perspective is necessary for 1:1 initiatives to be drivers of educational change in schools.
Encouragingly, some of the least predictable people and places are championing the core values of technology ubiquity and a child’s Right to Learn in our emerging digital world. We should all be inspired by these disruptions that are now becoming more prominent.
Countries such as Uruguay and Portugal have boldly begun to dig underneath the façade of expensive circuit boards and screens to reframe the realities of what inequity will mean for our new generations, and they’ve done so in spite of all the naysayers and doubters. [You mean they have ignored facts!!!] Uruguay has provided XO laptops to all of its 380,000 primary students and 20,000 teachers and is now beginning distribution of laptops to secondary school students. Portugal’s Magellan Project aimed to distribute 500,000 low cost laptops to primary students in that country. [You mention that they are distributing laptops. Big deal. This is an Appeal to Numbers Logical Fallacy. Just because they are doing it ‘large-scale’ means that they are right. Why? I notice you do not mention how things are going beyond just a large scale use of laptops.] Several other countries, such as Argentina, Chile and Rwanda, are in the early stages of nationbuilding initiatives that will provide universal access for several million young people. Aren’t these examples of what not just technology ubiquity but also vision, [Why is this a vision? It is a clouded vision.] courage and disruptive innovation [You are right there. It most assuredly is DISRUPTIVE and chaotic. But how is this good?] might achieve? What matters most is that we let go what has gone before and start thinking how technology ubiquity enables us to re-imagine the experience for learners. Identifying and embracing a new perspective means rethinking, re-imagining what technology ubiquity now makes possible for how, when, and where learning takes place. [Again, why? Again, there is no proof that it is better than traditional education.]
#2 Re-frame the Conversation
Next, we must reframe the conversation. It is imperative that we rethink the nature and content of the conversations we have been having for nearly three decades around our use of computers in our schools. [Exactly 30 years. A Nation at Risk (1983) basically started this whole notion of change and it was wrong.] So much of what has been written about our use of computers in schools has been locked away in incrementalism.
There is no more time for this. Our world-our digital world-is changing far more rapidly than for previous generations. As we re-think the conversation from the perspective of a child’s fundamental Right to Learn, we have no time to delay. We need to be revolutionary in both our thoughts and our actions. [Again. There is no Right to Learn. Revolutionary in both thoughts and actions? Only if there is something wrong with the current system and computers are the answer.]
This new conversation has started already. June 2010 saw a group of nearly 100 education leaders from more than fifteen countries come together for three days to thrash out the good, the bad, and the ugly of where we sit today. The outcomes at one level were predictable, at another unprecedented. The dialogue that started at the Big Ideas Global Summit during those three days has set a new agenda, a new conversation-one that has been long overdue. [Again, you are all lemmings following a lemming off the cliff. You are so into how over the past 30 years that you never determined if you should.]
We must shake out old cobwebs and throw out old thinking, [Why, because it is old? Again, you have not proven to me that it does not work.] be bold and express ideas we’ve probably held for a while, but maybe were afraid to share because the accepted conversation was so different. As education and policy leaders, we need to begin a new dialogue based on a child’s Right to Learn.
Ask new questions. Do whatever you need to bring the people you work and talk with to a new space in rethinking the educational conversation around computing and what it makes possible. [Again, proof is what I need.]
Start conversations around the idea that technology ubiquity enables the free exercise of a person’s Right to Learn. Then talk about collective learning and knowledge construction. Instead of asking, “How does 1:1 impact on mathematical achievement?” or “What is the impact of 1:1 on student achievement?” ask, “How does 1:1 empower us to rethink how we teach mathematics?” and “How can we best design assessments that truly reflect contemporary learning priorities? How do we empower learners?”
Ask and continue to ask, “What are the barriers to learning? How can these barriers be eliminated?” [You mean what are the barriers to using computers! PROOF!!!!!!]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
#3 Identify Talent and Build on Passions
The real purpose of building knowledge is to put it to worthwhile use–to act collectively. [Act collectively. Since when? Since computers became so ubiquitous?] Ultimately, this use is driven by both passion for its content and for its impact. We spend much time exposing young people to a plethora of ideas and information, in the hope that some might stick. A more rational approach suggests that our aim for the lives of the young people who come to us as learners is to help them identify their talents, their passions. We should be structuring their school experiences accordingly. [Yes and traditional methods work for this too. They have a whole lifetime to explore their passions. They should not be doing it while trying to learn the basics!!!]
And therein lies the dilemma–is it possible to provide in a systemic way a customized educational experience for all students that both allows and encourages them to pursue their passions, but also exposes them to the wide range of human endeavors that they may have little or no knowledge about and therefore wouldn’t be able to even know if they were passionate about in the first place? [Yes. Traditional education does all of this. Customized education is also not needed. Computers are NOT needed.]
Karl Fisch, Director of Technology, Arapahoe High School, CO, USA
Again, this is not about young people doing whatever they want. [Sure it is. They will find out once they get a job that they won’t be able to do what they want. They will always have a boss, for most of them.] Rather, it is the opposite. It’s about the extraordinary range of possibilities that universal access provides for them, and about the depth to which they can pursue interests and explore ideas. [I do not see much depth, unless it is in advanced scientific research that only a few people in the world can understand, and no high schooler, can even begin to understand. Having access to this information is superfluous at best. I cannot even get access to proof that proponents of technology in K-12 education, like you, say is mountainous.] It’s about acknowledging that universal access does not just simply describe wirelessly connected laptops, but rather the access they now have to an unlimited array of experiences and thinking that might help them identify ideas and occupations that match their own interests and abilities. [Christ. Again, Myers-Briggs testing will help them to determine what they should be doing in general terms.] No longer do they need to rely just on the first-hand contact of their immediate world, with a friend, teacher or relative, to spark curiosity or develop an interest or indeed career aspirations, but rather they can reach out and network with others who share similar interests, hobbies and passions. If we seek to do this, there is, of course, not just one answer, but many, for talent identifies itself in a diverse range of ways, often at very different times. For some young people, their destiny seems to stretch out before them as they enter formal schooling, while others need a broad, diverse range of experiences before their unique passions become obvious. Either way, it would seem a good premise on which to build the ‘schooling’ experience of our young people as it allows them to see purpose, relevance, and meaning and gives a foundation on which a genuine love of learning can be built.
It has been many years since the idea that children enter school as “tabula rasa” or blank slates was the accepted principle. We recognize that they each come in with knowledge gained through exploration, observation, and
interaction with the world around them. [Maybe but not much and even less that they understand. For most intents and purposes they are a blank slate, a mound to clay to be molded. And the quality of this clay differs between individuals.] They also come in with specific interests and an interest in being interested, a willingness to explore new ideas and areas of potential curiosity. [Yes. So that artificially generated inspiration is not necessary.] A major role of educators should be the identification of both those interests and the paths along which these interests can grow. [No, that is the kid’s and to a lesser extent the parent’s responsibility, not the school’s. You are there to provide the information. That is all. SCHOOLS DO NOT EXIST TO RAISE KIDS!!!] The well-known and much studied Reggio Emilia Approach is based on learning in an environment based on the interests of the children, a philosophy appropriate for all ages, not just young children. [This philosophy is NOT appropriate for K-12 kids. Even in college you are required to take most of the courses whether you want to or not. You are required to do the work, again whether you want to or not.] The new role of education is to ensure all students have the opportunity to use their interests and passions to connect to all areas of knowledge. [Cannot kids just accept the fact that they need to know this, whatever it is? They should be motivated already by their desire to learn.]
#4 – Shift the Locus of Control for Assessment – Learner Determination
The role of assessment in schools is one of the most challenging issues facing education today, partly because assessment has come to be used for such a variety of purposes. Many of these purposes have narrowed the
opportunities for young people, teachers, and institutions, acting as, rather than removing, obstacles to the exercise of a learner’s desire and Right to Learn. [We have become a test-happy nation, the US. And a test-happy world as well with, at least, two international standardized tests. This testing has gone way overboard. The desire to micromanage is rampant, to the detriment of all. We already have multiple tests per class and yet you apparently feel that more is needed?]
Assessment is a triangle, you have a model of cognitive skills you want students to have, you have observations that you make about their performances because you can’t open their heads and see what’s going on inside, and then you have inferences you make based on observations. Over the last couple of generations, the cognitive models have gotten better, the methods have gotten better, and the reason things are so messed up is that the observations continue to be very impoverished. The observations you can get out of a multiple-choice item are so limited. Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies, Harvard University [Oh my god. A professor of Learning Technologies? Given a 4 answer multiple choice you should be able to get a 50% without knowing the subject at all. You can eliminate 2 possible answers as being too general—words like always and never, generally are a clue. That might leave only two viable answers. A 50/50 choice.]
In recognizing everyone’s Right to Learn, we need to radically change our understanding of what assessment is. School testing is external to the learner and is too frequently used as a means to judge, sort, and eliminate learners from the system, dis-empowering them in the process. [Education is competitive, as is life. Some of these tests are there to eliminate the teachers.] Our current system of comparison and judgment has been mediocre, at best, and fails to detect talents traditionally considered non-academic. [What ‘skills’ are these. School is academic. Why would you think it is any other way?] What assessment should be is an essential component of a continuous cycle of learning and growth directed by the learner. [NO, no, no, and again, no.]
Self-reflection–to determine where you are in achieving your learning goals–is a powerful tool. It is the necessary complement to the learning drive all children inherently possess. Unlike manufacturing, where quality assurance
testing is based not only on having raw materials of uniform properties but on end specification identical for all, in this new vision of schooling, educators would guide self-directed learners, with their diverse passions, talents and goals, in this reflective process to help them understand when their learning goals have been reached. [NO. The kids should not have goals at that early of an age.]
If you want to have a profound effect on kids’ learning, have them write reports. Over four years, we had only one student exaggerate his progress. Serious kids take responsibility for their education.
Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010 [Okay but so what? You are all about the kids being self absorbed.]
In this process, learners, now with the means to try out their thoughts with a wider audience and get a range of feedback on projects, [Why do they need to try out their thoughts?] can develop a deeper understanding of the role (and necessity) of assessment in pursuing their educational objectives. It’s the educator’s role to mediate this process to help learners achieve their goals and guide them in understanding how to self-evaluate more deeply but within reasonable parameters. [It would be far more efficient for the kids in junior high/middle school to take the Myers-Briggs test to determine their personality type. This coupled with grades in courses should help them decide what field to get into, what courses they want to take in high school. What, if any, college or trade school they should pursue.]
We work with virtual worlds, which are incredibly rich, but even something as simple as social bookmarking generates a cognitive audit.
Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010
How will we ensure that all segments of the population progress? By removing obstacles and ensuring opportunities are available for all, equally. [Insure it by holding others back? Opportunity to go to school, in US, is there. It exists, but not all kids can learn, as much as some others. You cannot guarantee that all will be Einstein.]
The Right to Learn
Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change
#5 Refocus Educator Preparation
One of the most important things I see taking place is the discussion around the issue of alignment, because everything is so interconnected, alignment of the post-secondary agenda, the early childhood agenda, the public school agenda, etc. This is where I see the real power of pursuing the policy piece.
Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010 [Alignment? You mean preparing all kids for college from Pre-K onward, even though most do not go onto college? This is ridiculous. Since about 1/3 will not graduate high school, 1/3 will not graduate college and only about 1/3 will graduate college it would be impossible to have one size fits all system- to have the high schools prepare for everything, especially to prepare all for college.]
How do we prepare educators for this new form of school? At the same time as we begin to change perspectives and reframe the conversations in K-12 school, we should be doing the same in schools of education. The first change really involves a redefinition of the profession itself–it should be absolutely clear to anyone who chooses to study education what the focus of their work will be. Just as journalists are major players in the practice and in many ways protection of the fundamental right of freedom of speech, apprentice and experienced educators have the same role and responsibilities in regard to the Right to Learn. Anyone entering the field of education should be passionate about protecting this right. [I am not saying that a teacher should just present the information and move on. The teacher should help if asked. Or at least tutors should be at the schools. I never used tutors and rarely asked the teacher for help.]
Sometimes teachers are criticized for not designing the environments from which children can learn and interact, but maybe we’re being unfair: how can you design something with which you have never had experience. I propose that teachers should be involved in immersive learning themselves. They need to experience it firsthand. They need to be de-socialized out of old attitudes and beliefs. Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010
[This is what some teachers spend some their free time in ‘professional development’, or brainwashing. Why do kids need to interact? Just try to understand the material presented. This should be the only interaction required.]
Universities need to restructure classes in teacher education programs to model what learning in our schools should be. They should ensure all future educators not only have, but use technology and use it as an essential
learning and thinking tool and not merely as a subject to study in one or several courses. [Oh yes, brainwash them early and often.]
You have to redefine the curriculum that is taught (in universities) as to how to be a teacher. Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010 [Again NO.]
But how will this change come about? School districts and state education authorities hold the key. Currently they spend both time and money re-educating new teachers (in spite of this, 10-12% of first year teachers leave
the profession). [It is because of this fact they leave. That and culture of fear of their students not doing well on State tests and the very real possibility that they will be fired.] Schools of education must align their programs with the needs of school districts and state education authorities so that all new educators are prepared in terms of approach, attitude, and knowledge to participate within this new model of learning and schooling. There’s no reason districts need to accept new educators who do not meet these expectations. [Can you say, teacher shortages?]
One of the things we have done is redefine the criteria of teacher education. Not only do we fund the university that produces the teacher, we certify the teachers and then we hire them. We hold all the cards.
Participant, Big Ideas Global Summit 2010
Every year we delay in changing schools of education results in a corresponding delay in having new educators prepared to explore and implement these new schooling models. [GOOD!!]
The Ultimate Obligation
We have been given an unprecedented opportunity that we must not ignore. Never before have there been the possibilities that are now before us to create the extraordinary diversity of educational opportunities [Why is there any need for “diversity of educational opportunities”? They have had this all along. It is called courses and textbooks.] for young people around the world; and yet, we are only starting to realize that along with unprecedented opportunity comes obligation. In facing this obligation, we must be more ambitious in seeking answers to what technology makes possible for all learners. [Again, there is NO PROOF that technology is the answer. It looks like you have a tool and just are trying to figure out how to use it. Put another way, you have a solution and are looking for problems to solve. To me this is backwards.]
The first and core principle in fulfilling this obligation is the recognition of the right that each of us has to be active, engaged, passionate learners; to recognize that learning is as natural and important a process for all humans as eating and breathing. We must eat, we must breath, we must learn; and today we have more opportunity to learn than ever before. Rather than be overwhelmed by what we can now access and do, we should be excited; rather than be challenged by new and innovative ways that we can learn, [Why????? Why the need for innovation? By that you mean change. Change in of itself is not inherently good or bad. But it could be bad. You have had 30 years to get a handle on this.] we should be enthusiastic to know more; and rather than be intimidated [I am not intimidated. I just seek the truth and proof that this is the best way to go.] by new paradigms of where and how learning takes place, we should be inspired to explore those possibilities.
Although this seems natural, none of this is easy. We have for so long modified the learning experience to be in line with industrial needs [Since when? You educated yes but irrespective of the ‘age’ we were in. How do you educate to be on an assembly line? Back then you also taught Latin. How you spend 13 years in school to go to an assembly line to just do the same repetitive tasks for 40-50 years? Before that you taught reading and writing to farm or hunt and fish? You have never taught about balancing a checkbook, driving a car, etc. ] that moving to what is natural will take a tremendous amount of conscious effort and the need to do what we’re rarely called on to do–create totally new models from those that brought us to this point. In Identifying and Embracing a New Perspective, we have to recast our present not as a product of the past but as a precursor of the future. As we Re-frame the Conversation, we must consciously and assertively push those around us to think anew from the perspective of a child’s fundamental Right to Learn. [Again they have no right to learn. And who says computers are the answer?] We need to find ways to Identify and build on each learner’s Passions and Talent [Myers-Briggs testing can help—give each kid an unknown self-knowledge. This along with classes and grades can help the child to know about what they should be in. I guess I am repeating myself because they are.] and provide guidance and support as they use these to connect to all areas of knowledge and become joyful, engaged learners.
We must move from a high-stakes industrial quality assurance model of testing to Assessment in which the learner actively participates and understands how to use this tool for growth and learning. We must insist that new educators be Prepared to Protect a child’s Right to Learn, to remove obstacles not allowing learners to exercise this right, and to support, mentor, and guide all learners as they explore the world.
At birth there is a clear path and boundless arena [Sorry wrong. Large amount of curiosity but limited arena by their IQ.] in which to learn. Yet this path gets so littered with obstacles – systemic obstacles that create a huge need and market for intervention and remediation – [Why have either? We did not have these in the 1960s-70s. Why now?] that we find ourselves in the bind of having to be constantly fixing when we could be building. We spend a great deal of time and money repairing a system based on a delivery and ‘fix-it’ model rather than on a build and grow model. [You are the ones that think that is broken, I do not. If it is it started about the same time as computers started making their way onto campuses and with all of this experimentation. I am not saying that they caused it but both happened about the same time though.]
As adults create digital means to connect the world, collaborate, and interact in global citizenship, we should not deny these same tools to our children. [Sure we should. Adults also create pornography and wars, so let’s get our kids in on these as well. Kids do not need to be treated as adults.] Fundamental change is in the air—from political revolution to the overthrow of old media models—and we’d be hiding our heads in the sand if we didn’t recognize that major shifts have to be made in the way our young people learn. [They learn same as anyone else. This Digital Native argument has been discredited by now and yet you seem to think it is valid.] And, if we keep postponing the inevitable, maybe we will see ‘student voice’ become focused on the democracy of learning. Our passivity to date is surely reason enough to justify such a shift. [Again, fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. Perhaps this use of technology has been good to show it does not work and should be scrapped out.]
Now you can take a role in leading conversations that are genuinely critical ones; conversations that provide advocacy and real thought leadership; [Real thought leadership should involve proof, as should critical thinking.] conversations that will expand our knowledge and experience, and make a genuine contribution to bettering the lives of our young people in their future.
The Right to Learn
It seems like you want to rush off the cliff and follow the rest of the lemmings. Without proof, long-term large-scale proof, we are just taking a chance, a very expensive chance. We spend $Billions on technology for k-12 education, nationwide, annually.
Of course you say that we all must go whole hog and not look back. If we did this we’d be committed to it, for better or for worse. It might be too expensive to remove and go back to the old way of teaching, once we jumped in with both feet.
So, getting the proof would be impossible. You say in order for it to work we must all jump in with both feet and I say we need long-term, wide-spread use to prove its effectiveness. So, I say near wholesale use or at least a lot research and you say a lot more use as well. But in so doing we would have to be committed to its use in order to find out if it is any good.
Computers are just a tool, one of many. But until I get proof, which may just be impossible, I will be an opponent of this. Computers if used at all should be used sparingly as TVs with DVDs should be used sparingly, or any other electronic technology. You don’t use a cannon to kill a fly. Again, just because you can use technology does not mean you should.
Actually proof is impossible. You cannot determine how effective a teacher is (according to Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch, 2013) let alone how effective a piece of software is. They are way too many factors outside of the control of a teacher or computer system, that affects learning, to be able to determine what one effect one piece of the environment had on the mind of an individual, let alone a group.
Again, A Nation at Risk, got it wrong. The relationship between the economy and education of the masses is very tenuous at best and out and out just coincidental at worst.