“Our” Kids

child poverty

Reposted from the Harvard Kennedy School:

When Robert Putnam was a teenager, somebody put up the money for him to play football on the high school team. And somebody put up the money for his spikes and helmet. Somebody also put up the money for years of music lessons and for an instrument so he could play in band. That somebody was the community of Port Clinton, Ohio, where Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, grew up in the 1950s. That small community on the shore of Lake Erie about halfway between Toledo and Cleveland, came together to do all that because it believed that it was right to support young Robert Putnam, just as it was right to give to every other kid in town the same opportunity to succeed. There was plenty wrong with a place like Port Clinton in the 1950s, including racism and chauvinism, Putnam readily concedes, but to a surprising degree, all the members of his high school graduating class were, in the eyes of that community, “our kids.”

Today, in Port Clinton, a lot of kids can’t play football or band because they can’t afford the hundreds of dollars needed to pay for the equipment. The lives of the bottom third, often simply characterized by personal and societal neglect, are unimaginable, in fact unknown, to those succeeding in today’s America.

“Over the course of the last four decades, our sense of ‘we’ has shriveled,” Putnam says. “Now when people talk about “our kids” they talk about their own biological kids, they don’t think about all kids. This leads to a situation that’s bad for the economy and bad for democracy. But it’s also just not right. We have an obligation to care for other people’s kids too, not just our own.”

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Video

Why Use a School #Hashtag? [VIDEO 2:09]

So you have a school Twitter account. Now what? How about a school hashtag to help develop your brand both in and beyond your community? A hashtag can help de-privatise practice, boost classroom transparency and connect your school with the world. This video provides a quick insight into the ways it could transform your learning community, from showcasing success to building a buzz, backchanneling PD, boosting recruitment and opening the door to a new world of professional learning. Your hashtag is a reflection of your trust, agency and support of all stakeholders in your school community!

It’s Time to Stop Using Terms Like “Achievement Gap” & “Student Success”

studentsuccess

Reposted from the Hechinger Report:

The sobering data on men of color in colleges is a reflection of college and university performance – so take the scrutiny off of student achievement. Outcomes for male collegians of color are lagging because postsecondary leaders aren’t held accountable for changing them.

If scholars want to rid themselves of deficit approaches (looking at weaknesses) moving forward, then we must stop using the deficit language in our speech and research. Acceptance of constructs like the achievement gap, drop out, student success and data driven may legitimize you in the academy, but they are complicit in promoting the verbal and statistical rhetoric that avoids the problem of institutional accountability.

The inferred white male referent in the achievement gap construct contributes to the centuries old logic that others should be compared to whites. On its face the idea of student success lets institutional factors of the hook, which have been shown to be at least half of the reason why men of color are pushed out of college. Educators shouldn’t be data driven. We should be community driven and use data to support students. These distinctions aren’t some semantic ruse. If scholars want a revolution in how students are treated in the academy, then we must be willing to question how statistics have been used to facilitate poor outcomes among black and Latino male students.

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Can Ed Tech Lift a Small Town Out of Poverty?

PiedmontAL

Reposted from the Hechinger Report:

Unlike many school districts with technology programs, Piedmont has a broader goal than creating high-tech classrooms. The district hopes to resuscitate a dying rural town, according to Matt Akin, the superintendent of Piedmont City Schools. “That’s always been the bigger picture,” Akin said. “What can we do to revive a community?”

It’s an ambitious goal for a district of 1,240 students in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 15 miles west of the Georgia border. In recent years, several major factories have shut down operations in Piedmont and relocated elsewhere, taking hundreds of jobs with them. The modest downtown area is lined with abandoned buildings and empty storefronts, with a few businesses, like a café and a clothing store, clustered together on the main street.

“Technology allows people in rural areas to reap the benefits of a rural lifestyle, while not sacrificing access to learning opportunities,” said Karen Cator, president of Digital Promise, a nonprofit that helps schools integrate technology. In rural areas, access to technology helps students become “digitally literate,” she added. And it’s not just about formal education. “If you’re in a rural area, it doesn’t mean you have less varied interests than students in other parts of the country,” Cator said. “If you have access to technology, it’s much easier to … pursue your interest, whether it is computer coding or technology or photography.”

 

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Self-Selecting, Real-World Learning Communities

ImageImagine in your mind, a map of your community. Nothing detailed; just the boundaries and general lay of the land. Got it? Now add in the major areas in your community where people live and work and play. You know, to give yourself some bearings with a few landmarks. Still with me? Good! Now convert this mental image into a heat map. You know, where the hot spots flare up in bright yellows, oranges and reds? Picture in your mind hot spots that indicate places people go to learn new things and practice skills that are important to them. Where are those heat surges? Athletic fields? Dance studios? Book stores? Parks and beaches? Art galleries? Theaters? How about school buildings? No? Why aren’t school building hot spots on anyone’s heat map?

Karen Pittman discussed this this at the recent ASCD Whole Child Symposium Live Event: “Learning communities need to be grounded where children live, being able to learn in all kinds of places within their community. Let’s let go of the idea that there are buildings where learning happens and help children find their own learning communities based on their interests and abilities and pace of learning. Such learning communities do not provide just more learning time, but better learning experiences by being able to learn and practice skills in their authentic contexts. We need to allow young people to create their own heat maps based on their learning needs and interests. And then we need to go to those places where children identify their learning hot spots and find ways to replicate learning experiences there on the ground within the community. You can bet schools are not going to show up very warm on heat maps.”

This isn’t a big conceptual stretch. We already have virtual learning communities that connect people of common interests and skills. Students meet online with content matter experts, skilled professionals and learning partners as a way to push beyond the four walls of the classroom. But as we continue to transform education from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, why settle pushing the boundaries when we can literally open up the doors and let students out to seek meaning and understanding and practical application of the skills they will need to be successful contributors to their community?

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Children are past the point of needing to master content. They can find the information they need on the fly in real time from anywhere. Instead, they need the skills and understandings of how to

  • collaborate,
  • problem solve,
  • create products of value,
  • practice conflict resolution,
  • self-monitor their work performance, and
  • learn from risk-taking regardless of the outcome.

If students can learn and practice these kinds of skills, they will be ready for whatever their adult world looks like, regardless of the information at hand.

“Right now,” Charles Haynes pointed out at the live Whole Child Symposium, “there is an emphasis on student interest and choice in preschool and in college, but nowhere in between.” Why is that? In a world where agility with skills and concepts is key, why are our elementary, middle and high schools focused on prescribed content and contrived outcomes? Because for the last century the ideals of the industrial age were reflected in public education: alignment, standardization, consistency of behavior, ability to follow directions. These things produced a more homogeneous citizenry, a trainable pool of prospective soldiers and responsible stewards of business. We accomplished this to an impressively high degree. But society has continued to grow and morph, and being able to master a set scope and sequence of memorized facts, rote vocabulary and basic heuristics no longer meets the needs in a collaborative, competitive global economy. If we continue training bean counters, they will serve those who can ask important questions, find valuable answers, and deliver innovative breakthroughs in ways our generation cannot even imagine.

School buildings are brick-and-mortar monuments to a bygone age. They have served their purpose well, delivering us from being an agricultural start-up to a world super power. But we no longer need brain factories dispensing knowledge into empty heads. There’s little value in inspecting graduates with one-size-fits-all assembly-line standards. A century ago we enacted labor laws to free children from inappropriate working conditions. Today we must enact education laws that free children from inappropriate learning conditions. Learners participating in self-selected learning communities. Teachers participating as facilitators, coaches and mentors. Learning taking place across the community: libraries, museums, laboratories, businesses, public offices, virtual spaces. Anywhere students are engaged and motivated to learn, allow them to do so. Sure there can still be standards and assessments, but let them be as practical and authentic as the real-world environments where learning takes place.

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For the last thirty-five years, the reforms that have been imposed on public education have cited the cost of everything but lost sight of the value education delivered. The solution is not further reform of the outdated model, but to fully transform education to where it needs to be today. It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. How do we start? Educators committed to children need to band together and take risks, creating environments where learners can acquire and practice the skills they need. It will be our legacy; our gift to the future. What a transcendent way to give back to our profession, and make the world a better place for the next generation.

This blog has been cross-posted on the Whole Child Blog:
http://www.wholechildeducation.org/blog/self-selecting-real-world-learning-communities