Is the iPad2 a good device for education? Are IWB’s a waste of money and a trick to keep teaching in the 20th Century? Is lecturing bad for public education? If so, why are we so in love with (sometimes boring or disorganized) TEDX talks? Will the republicans manage to eviscerate and end forever the power of the public employee unions? Quite a week of debate if you follow the educators on Twitter or the current news on state budgets and education reform!
I realize that some of the topics debated above were not meant to be polarizing discussions, but they were never the less. The debates have been about devices, methodology, personalities, political motives and effectiveness of teachers as well as the current system of education. Do a Wordle (another sometimes harangued tool)of this post so far….how big are the words STUDENTS and LEARNING? They would not even show up! The most import noun and verb in the title of what we do, and they are missing! Can the learning environment be significantly enhanced for students with the use of iPads and IWBs? In the right place with the right users, you bet! Are there multiple methodologies that work to engage children and foster the construction of knowledge and skills (including some lecturing)? You bet!
I think the most troubling part of what I am talking about is the discussion on reform. We as educators know that no two students, families, schools or communities are the same. A standardized approach to educating our children is not going to work. Continually testing such a narrow part of what is important in our curriculum is not going to make our system stronger. We know that poverty is a huge factor in why some students do not meet expectations across this country. We also know that the majority of teachers in this country are dedicated professionals that care about students and their growth. People working in American classrooms know that the current charter school movement, merit pay schemes, and the dissolution of teachers unions are not going to make our schools magically produce results that put us on top of the international NAEP results. The folks who are in control of the edreform movement do not care what we say because we are gaining no traction by telling the world they are wrong and we are right! We have to be willing to talk about solutions to the problems that do exist. We have to talk about our successes and frame them in the context of how our students are learning and growing. We have to show how what we do in all areas of education (outside of math and reading) will allow our students to become competent citizens and participants in our diverse economy. The next time John Stewart asks a prominent education advocate what our plan is to make sure our students have the best education we can offer, the answer has to be something other than the other side is wrong.