Seriously, Why Are You Still In Education?

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This past week I shared “The Silence of Education Reformers on Ferguson is Deafening” on my blog, Actualization. In this piece, Rishawn Biddle provides insight I don’t have, and it’s kept me thinking throughout Thanksgiving weekend. The issues are ours for the advocating: poverty, equity, access, opportunity. Why are our reform voices not being heard above the clamor and strife of recent events? Not that it’s pleasant or easy. No one relishes staring down racism, confronting poverty and calling out injustice. But this is the cancer eating away at society. Either we fight it aggressively or accept a terminal diagnosis.

To beat it, we need a new kind of leadership in education; educators who have a seriousness of mind and commitment of purpose to push the profession past where it’s stuck. Not the ed-celebrities currently beating their drums in the name of education reform; they are neither leaders nor reformers. Their primary interest is self-interest…keeping their following coming back for more. Sure they are willing to rabble rouse against popular targets like government policy and state spending. But where are their calls to take down poverty, instead of politicians and programs? The reality is they have no incentive to speak up on behalf of society’s powerless and disenfranchised.

You and I, on the other hand, are invested in people: children, parents, extended families, communities and countries. We got into this profession to touch individual lives and to touch the future. We believe in making a difference, not just by what we say but by what we do. It’s time to take this to the next level and expand teacher roles. Meet students on their turf instead of waiting for them to come to us. Work with community agencies to provide for children’s needs. Make a difference before they ever enter the classroom.

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If our current leaders are silent on race, poverty and injustice, where are they leading us…and is it where we want to go? This is our mission in today’s quickly-changing world: preparing successive generations for a future they can’t see and we won’t know. Our efforts to accomplish this in a culture of fear, ignorance, poverty and hatred have been, and will continue to be, less than successful.

Within education, issues like standards, assessment, achievement, technology and funding can be defined and addressed. But the challenges of the society we serve are deep-seated and not so easily contained. They require the kind of faith in humanity that got us into education in the first place. Here’s what we can do:

  • Speak up and be heard on the issue of poverty and how it permeates every major challenge we face in education and in society.
  • Support one another in addressing poverty in our schools so that all children can learn and be successful.
  • Upgrade our schools to be centers of hope in every community, no matter where students and families come from or how well-prepared they are to walk into our classrooms.

The past year, a group of committed New York educator-leaders initiated a statewide conversation on poverty, with tremendous interest and participation by empire state educators. I have watched first-hand as they’ve brought educators together to immerse them in simulations, share experiences and insights, and identify strategies that help children from poverty succeed. If these educator-leaders can make this happen in a state weighed down in bureaucracy and politics, surely the rest of us can, too.

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What if we craft one national agenda, without all the politics and prejudice, where everyone cares and contributes, and all the fears and excuses and labels and cop-outs are eradicated instead of people’s hopes and dreams, so that the only thing no longer tolerated is intolerance? We’ll need to leave our fears and frustrations behind and devote our energy to deeper thinking and courageous action to make it happen.

There are no curricula, tests, technologies or instructional innovations that can accomplish this. There are no ed-celebs or politician-reformers who can do the work for us. And there are all kinds of forces working against us, most notably racism, fear and ignorance. If these facts are all you need to know to walk away, then walk. Seriously, why are you still in education? On the other hand, if you know in your heart that nothing is going to get better until you step up, then we need you to lead from wherever you find yourself in your current position.

A month ago there was a huge outcry from educators reacting to a Time magazine story on “the war on teacher tenure” including a cover image of a gavel coming down on a perceived “rotten apple.” Anger and indignation flowed for weeks about the disrespect the magazine showed our profession….all directed at a story written to sell copies. Are we that conditioned by the media that we believe that anything that is said, good or bad, deserves our energy and attention? The story was inconsequential: those who agreed with what it had to say had formed their opinions long before they began reading, and those who know better weren’t swayed.

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Let’s get real. If we focus that kind of passion on the fight against racism, poverty and injustice, Time and everyone else will stop and take notice. The only people worthy of our time and energy are those who roll up their sleeves and work with us. And the more people who join us us in our mission, the more influence and capacity we will have to make change. Can we make it happen? Is it within us? I believe it is. Can we afford to fail?

The challenges we face are not insurmountable. These social conflicts and divides have been put in place fairly recently in history. We have the wherewithal to level the landscape and build new pathways and connections, understanding that there are no shortcuts. It’s going to be messy and it’s going to be hard, but we can do this. We must do this, for children everywhere.

The work begins with open, honest dialog; our voices resonating with those who live in poverty and despair. And from that dialog, we can begin isolating and destroying the pathologies that have allowed this societal cancer to become so pervasive and so resistant to treatment. Access. Equity. Opportunity. We have to get started.

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Supreme Court Case: Free Speech on Facebook

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Reposted from U.S. News & World Report:

Free speech activists say the outcome of a Supreme Court case could affect protesters, journalists and millions of social media users. Anthony Elonis posted some rap lyrics on Facebook. Then, he got arrested. That’s his side of the story, and supporters of free speech rights are rallying to his cause ahead of Monday’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court, where his lawyers will say he was wrongfully imprisoned for making threats. Elonis was arrested in 2010 after posting the purported rap lyrics about his estranged wife, an FBI agent and others. He was convicted of making threats and served more than three years of a 44-month prison sentence before his release in February.

At trial, Elonis’ lawyers insisted he did not intend to threaten anyone but was merely blowing off steam in a manner similar to rapper Eminem, whose music features violent rants about his ex-wife and others. Jurors, however, were asked if a reasonable person would consider Elonis’ words to be threats of violence, and returned four guilty verdicts. Federal appeals courts are split on whether proof of subjective intent is needed for threat convictions. In addition to the federal split, eight state court systems have standards that clash with the federal appeals circuit presiding over them.

Facing off against Justice Department lawyers, Elonis’ attorneys Monday will warn of grave consequences if the Supreme Court does not require subjective analysis for threat convictions. “Imprisoning a person for negligently misjudging how others would construe his words is fundamentally inconsistent with basic First Amendment principles and would erode the breathing space that safeguards the free exchange of ideas,” they told the court in a brief.

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The Web Is Getting Slower In How We Experience It

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Reposted from Wired Innovation Insights:

One thing you can always rely on technology to do is speed things up. Everything, from processors to phones to networks gets faster. Heck, there are actual laws that define this phenomenon. So when at a recent Akamai analyst event a speaker made the offhand comment that the Web is getting slower, it pretty much made me sit up in my seat and say “what?”

My first gut instinct was to say “No way, this is technology, things don’t get slower. I used to have a modem, now I have fibre. I used to use a WAP browser for mobile web, now I have fast 4G and LTE connections.” But once that initial instinct passed, I had to admit, it sure did seem that many of my recent web browsing experiences were less than satisfactory from a performance standpoint.

So what’s causing this slowdown? Is it the result of problems in the core of the Internet’s infrastructure? Well, while there have been cases of hardware problems causing Web slowdowns, as well as performance issues caused by political fights between major carriers and streaming video providers, the cause of the Web’s slowdown is actually coming from the other side of the infrastructure.

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Ed Tech Approaching Pivotal Moment

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Reposted from the Center for Digital Education:

Education technology is nearing a tipping point where IT leaders can help create a new education model for future generations.

Over the next two to three years, education will reach this tipping point where technology will drive a transformation in education, said Pete Just, chief technology officer of the Metropolitan School District in Wayne Township, Indiana. This transformation will improve education for the children and grandchildren of today’s workforce.

“This is the perfect time to be in the roles we’re in as tech leaders because we’re being listened to by the superintendent and the cabinet and the board,” Just said. “We have an opportunity to make a huge impact on all future generations of students by creating a model right now.”

Three things will drive education to the tipping point:

  1. Educator retirement
  2. A large volume of press that illustrates the need to change
  3. The ubiquity of tools that help make people’s careers and lives more efficient

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The Top 10 Jobs and Skillsets of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]

futureproofAyers Management from Sydney, Australia, offers this projection of the top jobs and skill sets of the future. Currently, Services, agriculture and industry comprise the majority of jobs worldwide. Interestingly enough, the top ten jobs are all traditional positions already well-established in the marketplace. The six disruptive drivers of change are especially informative, and the skillsets flowing from them help fill in the blanks of what the future holds for workers. See the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Career Outlook page for more information on U.S.-centric projections

The Silence of Education Reformers on Ferguson is Deafening

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Reposted from Dropout Nation:

Dropout Nation is undertaking its mission, one to which all school reformers should be committed at all times and all moments: Building brighter futures for all children. Challenging systems that harm the futures of all of our sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, and cousins. Stand along with communities to bend the arc of history toward economic and social progress. And create cultures of genius in which all of our kids are provided the high-quality education they need and deserve.

Back in August and September, after Wilson’s callous slaying of Brown led to months of protests in and out of Missouri, this publication ran pieces on how the Ferguson-Florissant School District exemplified the failed policies and practices endemic in American public education. This included focusing on how the district failed to provide all kids with college-preparatory curricula, a Dropout Nation Podcast on how we must use the events in Ferguson to save young black men from the economic and social abyss, and a report on how Ferguson-Florissant was doing worse on behalf of black children than the notoriously-woeful St. Louis district nearby. So why can’t reformers do the same? More importantly, how can the school reform movement talk about addressing equity in public education while remaining silent about Ferguson?

To be a school reformer is to look at all the issues that happen in the lives of our kids, understand how American public education impacts those matters adversely, and champion solutions that can transform the schools and other institutions at the center of the lives of children, their families, and the communities in which they live. When reformers don’t live up to their obligations, as both members of a moral movement for bettering the lives of children as well as human beings, they are doing disservice to the mission. The silence of so many reformers on Ferguson is shameful, unacceptable even. And it must stop.

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3 Strategies to Find Education Content on Twitter

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Reposted from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning:

Twitter search is a great alternative to the conventional ways of searching the net. This socially-based kind of search allows students to access content and resources that are both timely and relevant. And most importantly, students do not need to have Twitter accounts to search its database. Here are some of the ways students can leverage the power of Twitter search to look for educational content:

Use Twitter’s powerful set of search operators to conduct focused search queries.

Use Twitter’s hashtag search functionality to find information in real time.

Use Twitter’s advanced search to refine and pinpoint information access relevant resources.

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