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Monday, March 1, 2010

Education 1-2-3

Professor Jim Lengel, Department of Education, Hunter College, New York, NY, in cooperation with Cisco, has created a series of presentations on the topic of what our schools should look like now by exploring educational history as it corresponds to the workplace. Listen to his quick podcast first to get a better idea about the concept.

I was immediately drawn in because Winslow Homer is one of my favorite artists. I remember spending those halcyon days of my youth in the Boston Museum with my grandfather who introduced be to Winslow Homer. We visited that museum often and now I am drawn to Homer whenever I enter a museum. Sure I liked those halcyon day pictures of Homer that Lengel presented, but the Homer that blew me away and really caught my attention was The Gulf Stream, which is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

I can really relate to this guy because I'm a teacher in NYC. Listening to Lengel reminded about Washington Irving and Ichabod Crane, Little House on the Praire, and the concepts of education the Prussians brought to these shores in those halcyon days. Education 1.0 matched the needs of workplace 1.0. Heck that was how we created that education calendar based on the agrarian lifestyle. Sadly education 2.0 matched the needs of the regimented workplace 2.0. Even sadder, education 3.0 is no where near the needs of workplace 3.0 because it doesn't exist and is unlikely to exist by all indications we receive from the current educational leadership of this country. education uses the calendar of education 1.0 and maintains the regiment of education 2.0. I've ranted and railed in the past about why education today is not preparing our scholars for real world 3.0.

Lengel's complete curriculum is online in the form of presentation slides; text, both rtf and pdf; podcasts; and curriculum guides. The entire program is very interesting and agreeable. I agree and have argued for this kind of learning for years. As I read, viewed the slides, and listened to the podcasts, I was constantly reminded that corporations and college professors of education still don't have a clue about K-12 education.

Sure Sally can do all those wonderful things like contact friends on her cell, read her digitized texts on her ipod, and use facebook and other social networks to collaborate. Sally is even able to contact her school's server. This stunned me, because we can't because we have a firewall. This is why my scholars use freewebspace to build their webpages. There is no way our school system in NYC will ever allow students or teachers to access their internal servers, if they have them in the first place. We have firewalls. Digitizing their work, something I have argued for for years and practiced on my own, will never happen. I love the matter of fact way Lengel presents this. We are constantly reminded about Cisco's sponsorship to as the students refer to the "Cisco WebEx connection." When Sally gets to school all of those tools, the cell, sidekick type machines, ipod, and access to facebook are restricted and silenced. Sally enters an education 2.0 type school, even if some in the school is prepared for education 3.0. The schools have filters and restrict sites like facebook and youtube and more. The idea that Sally could contact the people outside of school is hilarious. Great idea that is not happening in many schools. The technology and being able to operate it correctly is highly unlikely. Even this video conferencing session I was involved with on Friday was a bust. Lengel and the other 142 participants were constantly disconnected and the slides we were watching did not match what Lengel was saying. Sally is a fantasy student. She is a fantasy because we have not begun to teach our scholars to use the technology for anything educationally related. They are entertainment toys not educational tools. I'm always amazed at how tech savvy my scholars are. They can find their music, find a proxy so they can open the blocked Twitter, facebook, or myspace page. They view sports pages and watch videos of games. They shop for sneakers, handbags, shoes. They even find online job and college applications. Then when it comes to doing educational research, they are lost. Teaching them to make webpages during the first couple of days of a semester is a treat, because they finally recognize they are becoming producers, and not just consumers. I've had a Sally or two in my classes and it is a treat. Watching that student use a sidekick device and the computer at the same time for an assignment in class is one of those extremely delicious moments for a teacher. Now if I could just get them to use that ipod plugged into one ear for literature or a podcast, instead of music, I would be a really happy camper. We need to first teach our scholars to be education 3.0 type scholars and our teachers to be education 3.o type, and finally our leaders to be education 3.0 all at the same time. I agree Prof Lengel, Sally's day is very possible. It is highly unlikely with the current leadership and the state of education today. Remember we have been speaking about this possibility for more than fifteen years in education without seeing any improvement, while other industries around us have embraced technology.

Lengel has presented an ideal notion for education 3.0 which of course is reminiscent of education 1.0. I have been trying to practice this idea for the past twenty years and still see little progress on a more global scale for this to happen to little affect. Even with all the help from folks like Cisco or Gates or any other like minded individuals or corporations and university professors, it won't happen because they don't understand how K-12 functions. We are still stuck in education 2.0 and are very test oriented. We need to do some major work on the infrastructure of schools, reeducate teachers and administration, and above all replace our educational leaders in all levels of educational leadership because of the yahoos we currently have from the federal government to state education departments to local departments of education. Their only concern is the test and not education 3.0. Whenever we have conversations with these yahoos, we always hear, "Yes, but..." There's the problem, "yes, but."

I was inspired by Lengel's naivete and vision, I share both. It was a further example of just how out of touch with the realities of K-12 that professors in colleges of education are and how clueless corporations are. We are still receiving this inspiring stuff from afar. It is still education 2.0 delivery mode, not education 3.0 which is collaboration and interaction. They do not visit the schools, they simply imagine what the schools should be from their ivory towers or corporate suites and then lecture at us about how K-12 should function. They quite obviously haven't done their homework, nor have they spoken with teachers about moving towards the halcyon days of education 3.0 many of us have been writing about for years. What I learned from this Thursday fiasco was that those who try to help K-12 schools, don't know how to listen. Many of my former colleagues have left the classroom to become these dreaded corporate types who have forgotten what teaching was like, those who have become principals have forgotten, and even worse are those who have become college professors have forgotten. I say this because they speak down to us, so ignorantly about education at the K-12 level that I know they have forgotten. They don't get it and I don't think they ever will. Educational reform is too top heavy, it is too vertical with top down leadership. In order to have reform of this magnitude it should be more horizontal and more bottom up. Otherwise it is a waste of money.

Corporations believe if they go through college professors and superintendents than change will happen. Sorry, that won't work, never has. The teachers need to be consulted, listened to, and not talked to. It's about the teachers, because they are the ones who have to make it work in the classroom.

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