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media ’ Category
I may be revealing how much television I watch, but those K12.com Oregon Virtual Academy commercials are everywhere these days. Issues of school choice aside, their refrain of praises for online learning has me thinking more and more lately about the role of technology in education. How will new technologies help students’ learning? How will digital tools change the classroom? Will all these developments help create critical thinkers and global entrepreneurs (with “21st century skills”), or will they disconnect people from each other and create a generation of frenzied consumers of the overwhelming digital stream of information?
In our current ChalkBloggers poll, not one person has selected “Utilizing new technologies” as the most important element of classroom instruction. That’s a relief to me. I would never want a teacher to sacrifice real interactions (like providing constructive feedback and creating a positive and open learning environment, the two top answers) to let a computer do it for them. No one wants robotic teaching.
But certainly, lessons can be enhanced with new digital resources—and more and more, this and future generations of technology-steeped children will need to be reached with constructive interactive tools in the classroom. No one can completely shut off to new technologies and risk being left behind. The trick is finding a balance and carefully choosing the most effective tools that will enrich, not distract from, student learning.
But how to sort through the myriad options that seem to be growing and changing even faster everyday? It seems like a full-time job just to keep up. But I’ve found a few new online resources (of course) that look to do the work for you.
The last few months reflect a time of momentous change in public education. Weekly, it seems, headlines tout new developments from across the country. Much of this conversation has morphed into a broader, polarized rhetoric, portrayed with clear winners and losers. Whether it is the publication of VAM data by the LA Times, the exit of Michelle Rhee as chancellor of Washington, DC schools, or the redefining of tenure in Illinois, we sense that a battleground of high stakes change is afoot.
I suspect this positional media frenzy is more symptomatic of national political discourse than an accurate portrayal of the challenging yet rich high stakes conversations taking place in many states. Certainly in Oregon, we have chosen a more thoughtful path as we navigate the forces of reform together.
I was pleased to learn that President Obama specifically cited emerging work in Oregon and a few other states as part of his weekly radio address this past Saturday (watch the full address here). In fact, I believe there is a compelling and admirable story to be told within our state. This is not a headline story based in union bashing, erosion of contracts, or top-down directives from a governor; rather, it is a more subtle, compelling story of collaboration, hard work, and creativity in the midst of extreme economic hardship.
I was recently intrigued by a blog post on GOOD that posed the question: Is the Education Reform World Filled with Too Much Jargon? Being relatively new to the education world since joining Chalkboard two months ago, I could relate to the learning curve that is required to dive into edu-speak, as the author Liz Dwyer calls it.
Of course, any profession has a sort of shorthand code, an expert language that conveys the expertise of those who have studied the industry in-depth and live it everyday. Journalism (my world for the past seven years) is no better: we write heds and deks and balance ad/edit ratios and make sure folios are on every page. The trouble with jargon arises when the experts need to communicate with everyone else.
As teachers and administrators and other education reformers do the hard work to make real change, it makes sense to use among each other agreed upon terms like “benchmark” and “aligned instruction” and “inquiry-based learning.” But as more “regular folks” get interested in the education reform movement—and the movement involves more of the community as a whole—it’s important to make sure the actual meaning behind those words is clear. And sometimes simple is best. It would be a shame for people not to get more involved with education reform efforts because they are turned off by needlessly complicated terms.
The GOOD post was inspired by education reporter Jay Merrow’s riff on education jargon on his Learning Matters blog, and whether or not you agree with his (somewhat-playful) call for a moratorium on the overuse of such jargon, both posts offer an interesting perspective. It’s easy for us to use certain words and phrases so much that we forget what they really mean. If nothing else, we can all benefit from taking an extra moment to remember the real purpose behind all this jargon and always make sure we say what we mean.
What’s your favorite—or least favorite—piece of education jargon?
Anne Gienapp is an evaluation consultant at Organizational Research Services, leading qualitative and quantitative analysis of many community-based programs throughout the Northwest. With a Master’s in Public Administration from The Evergreen State College and extensive experience with children and family services, early care and education, youth development and community development, she brought an insightful and layered perspective to Chalkboard’s evaluation of our civic engagement efforts, which was conducted in 2010.
The Chalkboard Project’s long-term goal is to elevate student achievement and propel Oregon’s K-12 system to be within the top ten nationally. To achieve this goal, Chalkboard pursues multiple civic engagement efforts intended to provide the public with credible information, build broad support for education reforms, promote stronger stakeholder voices and mobilize key individuals and groups to advocate for proposed solutions.
In 2010, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Chalkboard engaged in an evaluation of its civic engagement efforts. The comprehensive evaluation (read the full report here) was based on interviews with a range of key informants—legislators, education practitioners, partners, staff, board members, and advisors—and review of multiple secondary data sources such as press coverage and past reports. The evaluation, conducted by the Seattle-based firm Organizational Research Services, addressed the extent to which Chalkboard’s efforts between 2007 and 2009 led to progress on education reforms in Oregon.
I was left to ponder that thought after reading a “Politifact” article about state senator Mark Hass’ claim that an Educational Service District (ESD) superintendent’s salary could pay for three teacher’s salaries. The article, written by Ryan Kost, sought to establish whether Hass’ claim was true. In reading on, through what seemed like multiple machinations about salary, Kost concluded, somewhat harshly, that Hass’ claim was “false.”
I could craft a separate article about the issues with the methodology that Kost utilized, but I wanted to discuss what the spirit of this article told me.
One the one hand, Mark Hass certainly didn’t do us any favors by trying to make a great sound bite that the Oregonian could take a crack at. But at the same time, I was disappointed at the approach of the Oregonian to undermine what Hass is after: a way to streamline costs for education. The Oregonian runs multiple articles about how schools are using money inappropriately. But when Mark Hass is trying to challenge the status quo of ESD offerings, the Oregonian, instead of remaining consistent and exploring what cost savings there may be, goes on the attack against him.
Reading articles like this one make me question if the Oregonian is going to be an ally in helping our educational system. It would seem to me that the Oregonian’s role in the education debate is not to “stir the pot” in order to fill up the blogosphere on Oregonlive.com. As essentially the only major publication in the state, they have a sacred responsibility to present information to the population that no other media outlet can.