Forces Against Disruption

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In this week’s reading of Christensen (2011), discusses some of the forces that limit the disruptive products that could transform our current, monolithic K-12 system. The production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials limits student-centric disruptions because a text is usually written by a few experts and caters to a “’dominant intelligence’ for the type of brain whose wiring is most consistent with the methods used to solve problems in the field” (pg. 128-129). Additionally, smaller production companies who may want to produce texts and materials that appeal to different types of learners are unable to do so because it is currently too expensive; Bigger companies can spread cost out by volume and eventually small companies are folded into the big companies that are focused on producing top-selling, fixed and static textbooks (pg. 129-130). Another prevailing force against a major disruption is the current system for the sale and distribution of teaching materials, cementing “the system in monolithic, large-scale products” (p. 130). A few curriculum experts at the district and state level make textbook adoption decisions and “once a few large boards have made an ‘adoption decision,’ many other states and school districts tend to follow their lead rather than go through their own evaluation processes” (p.130).

Furthermore, a school’s reputation and funding hinges upon students’ ability on standardized and high-stakes tests and if a text does not explicitly prepare students for these tests, they can not be adopted (p.131). Although administrators do understand that one textbook will not meet the varying needs and learning styles of different students, but student-centric products are unsustainable and will not be adopted within the current mainstream school system because they do “not fit the criterion of addressing the dominant intelligence in the field, as well as the economic and test-score appeal of one-size-fits-as-many-as-possible” (131).

While this is our current climate, data analysis suggests that despite these opposing forces and even without “explicit administrative decisions ever having been made, student-centric learning will have become mainstream” around 2014 when 25% of high school classes will be offered online (p.143). We as teachers need to be looking for innovative ways to incorporate available technology. Additionally, while our current system is on the verge of a major shift, we need to be flexible, willing to adapt, and creatively supplement our “one-size-fits-most” textbooks and curriculums with interactive, collaborative and student-centric activities and materials whenever possible.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

While using the Kindle App to complete my reading this week, I highlighted many passages. Perhaps I over highlight, but upon completing the reading, I wanted to peruse through the chapter 5 highlights before writing my reflection, so I selected the “Notes & Marks” button. While I appreciate the highlighting option, I had to scroll through a long list of highlights from previous chapters before finding the highlights for chapter 5. While it wasn’t extremely time consuming, viewing options could be improved for this feature to provide more organized and efficient access to the passages. The page number is provided at the bottom of each highlight listed, which really isn’t particularly helpful considering you don’t know what chapter it’s from—so maybe that simple addition, next to the page number would be helpful!

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How to Save Time AND Engage Students

Turnitin.com has already been noted a resource worth sharing, I personally have very little experience with this learning tool and so for my resource share, so I decided to explore it further. When I was observing a friend’s high school English a few months ago, he introduced me to turnitin.com, a resource I had not heard of previously. One aspect of this resource that he raved about was a “plagiarism prevention” feature called Originality Check, which compares submitted paper against “billions of web pages, millions of student papers, and leading library databases and publications.” He loves this feature because he can view the students paper, while a list of “source matches” are listed on the side and he could control filters through which the paper is compared. He explained that this feature not only saved him hours of trying to find the sources his students were plagiarizing, but also providing opportunities for further instruction regarding the proper and ethical way to cite source material. Plagiarism can be a pretty prevalent issue in high schools. As a future high school English teacher, employing this resource in such a way, will not only saves me time but will also allow me opportunities to work with students who very well may be plagiarizing out of ignorance.

In addition to this feature, during my exploration, I learned about a feature called PeerMark—a well-organized space for collaborative online, peer editing. A teacher can customize how many papers will be issued to each student’s inbox, what questions, guidelines, and rating scales, students employ as part of their editing and responses, and comments, edits, and suggested revisions made are presented anonymously so students are able to share honest feedback. Peer editing, not only saves a teacher from spending unnecessary time editing silly mistakes, but also, and more importantly, provides a sort of mirror—students edit one paper while also reflecting on their own. Consequently, students develop critical thinking skils about the writing and editing process, and content material is reinforced. Students can then review the comments from their peers and have the opportunity to revise and refine their papers before finally submitting to the teacher. I remember peer editing playing a large in a few of my high school English classes, and those experiences in addition to teacher feedback were most influential in shaping my writing. PeerMark provides an anonymous and convenient way of blending both peer editing and technology and will undoubtedly be a feature I use frequently as an instructional tool for improving the writing of my students.

A third feature of turnitin.com is GradeMark provides teachers with five distinct ways of providing rich, meaningful and efficient feedback. Originality Check which I mentioned above, is one of those options. Another I found particularly intriguing and potentially very useful is Voice Comments. Voice Comments allows teachers to provide quick and customized audio feedback such as clarifying written feedback, providing encouragement and explaining an element more in-depth. Teachers love GradeMark for a variety of reason, however I can see employing this feature as a way to go paperless, a time-saving way of organize all student papers in one easy-to-access location, prevent “lost” papers and printer issues, to avoid issues over whether or not a paper was turned in on time. Additionally GradeMark provides a feature where teachers can create a “feedback” bank of commonly used comments and questions that can be dropped directly into a student’s paper. Also, scores, once entered, can be immediately transferred to blackboard, for example. Each of these features will be so beneficial, time-saving when I have 150 essays to grade in a matter of days. Not only will turnitin.com save me time and energy, but it will also allow me to provide more efficient and personalized feedback to students, which translates into richer instruction and deeper learning.

http://turnitin.com/en_us/features/overview

Disruption Theory and the Evolution of Public Schooling

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This weeks reading begins with an explanation of disruption theory and how that applies to schools with the implementation of new standards and standard-based testing. In terms of “disruption in the private sector, society has moved the goal posts on schools and imposed upon them new measures for performance.” (p. 51). These new goal posts and new measures of performance require that “schools [to] pursue the new metric of improvement from within the existing organization, which was designed to improve along the old performance metric”—equivalent to “rebuilding an airplane in mid-flight,” which is a feet yet to be accomplished by any private enterprise (p. 51). And while the task seems daunting and requires new primary jobs and new energies focused in new directions, research affirms that schools do evolve and improve as new measures and goals are set.

 

We as human beings have survived and thrived heavily in part to our ability to adapt, to anticipate and to evolve. This is also the case for our schools as outlined in the chapter. One example of a major shift in our school system dates back to the founding fathers, whom, envisioned schooling as the best way to preserve and instill democratic ideals and morals in hopes of helping all citizens assimilate into the American culture as “functioning, self-governing members of the republic” (p. 52). Then, in hopes of competing with industrial Germany, schools were not only required to instill democratic ideals, but also to prepare every person for jobs and participation in the workforce (p. 53).  Not only was the primary focus of schools redefined, but also, that existing system was reconfigured extending high school to all students.

 

Reading that with time, and diligent effort, schools characteristically rise to meet new measures and standards was encouraging. As a preservice teacher, we are already bombarded with the present failures of our public school systems. Additionally, the current transition to the Common Core, the standardizing of curriculums and testing, brings with it new pressure to achieve for both teachers and students. We are entering the teaching profession in the midst of these growing pains and must do our best to adjust while remaining critical of both our existing organization as well as the reconstruction.

Source:
Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

This week I felt more comfortable using the Kindle eReader to navigate Chapter 2. With that said, I stand by my preference and love for holding a book and physically turning each page. My only negative feedback for this week’s experience has to do with the process of making a note. A couple different times, (yeah, you’d think I’d learn my lesson after the first time) I would go to make a note, but after typing a small paragraph, I would decide the font was too small to proof-read what I had written. So, I moved to the full screen option and all that I had typed was lost. If moving from a smaller screen to full screen or visa versa, be sure to save your note first!

Professional Issues: “What Motivates You?”

Today, I started reading chapter one of Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Nel Noddings, and I am hooked. I love the conversational, informal, informative and thought-provoking style of this book.  Reading took me longer than usual because I was busy writing reflections and notes to my future-teaching-self! The chapter begins with a discussion on motivation, different theories, accompanying attitudes and questions teachers should be asking students such as “What motivates you?” (Noddings, 2006, p.23). When it comes to my pedagogical stance, I believe I am neither a progressive who embraces the full autonomy of students, only working with student interests and motives, nor do I completely belong to the more classical tradition where because I am the teacher, I believe I know best and operate under the assumption that students do not have properly developed motivations, nor do they actually know what they need or what interests them (Noddings, p.11). At least currently, I feel suited to more of a middle-road approach, where I do have authority and some insight that my students may not yet posses, but that students are given choices, and their needs and interests are connected to material—motivation “guided toward a worthwhile end” (Noddings, p.17).

I think I was schooled in a more classic tradition until college where I was pleasantly surprised to find I was trusted and challenged to take responsibility for my education, to be an independent thinker, to push boundaries. When creating my own high school classroom culture, when navigating motivation and student interests, I think it would be easier and more natural to limit my students and run a classroom the way classrooms were run when I was in high school. However that way is not what I believe to be in the best interests of students, so I will continually need to be reflecting and evaluating my attitudes and efforts in order to promote a classroom that is more student-centered.  School is often a system where students learn how to earn approval and avoid consequences—work is done to get a certain grade, or simply to pass, students give teachers the answers teachers are looking for, and all can be accomplished systematically with little heart, passion or genuine learning. Like Noddings writes, “much schoolwork can be done with half a mind, and little learning is then accomplished” (Noddings, p. 21). Perpetuating this type of school experience is unexceptable.

I understand and accept that not every student I have in class will love literature and some may struggle or “perform” poorly, and I want to assure my students that that is okay, however, I want to urge my students not to be what Maslow refers to as “human impersonators” (Noddings, p.15). I want them to be spontaneous, original, and creative thinkers who ask questions and search deeply for meaning and connection. My working definition of success for my future English students hinges on my ability to connect literature to the interests, hopes and fears of students, to journey with them into a deeper understanding of who we are as complex individuals and as a collective group. If I am able to do this, I don’t see how students will be able to avoid becoming absorbed in the curriculum nor will I ever need to manipulate extrinsic motivations to provide reason and meaning for what I am teaching.

Reference:

Nodding, N. (2006). Critical lessons: What our schools should teach.  New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press

EDU 6133: Transformative Knowledge and Gender Issues

By questioning basic and fundamental assumptions, transformative knowledge challenges mainstream academic knowledge. In order to effect social change both locally and nationally, Bethune challenged the popular knowledge of her time. As a black feminist, she focused on justice and equality for all human beings, not limited to African American women. In this way, she was a contrasting presence of transformative philosophy compared to white suffragettes who focused primarily on winning the vote for white women. Bethune was particularly concerned with educating local black women and was committed to women’s issues especially those of the working-class and poor. Bethune believed it was essential that the thoughts and perspectives of the black community be represented nationally in order to affect policy making and program planning and to that end, she worked to get African Americans hired in federal jobs.

Bethune artfully walked the line between the mainstream culture and the local community. This philosophy was ever present in her school where her curriculum focused on vocational skills that would prepare students to find and maintain jobs, while also educating African American youth to take their place neither in front nor behind, but alongside their white contemporaries. As a feminist, educator and social activist, Bethune’s transformative power stemmed from an understanding of the restrictions and confines placed on her by racial and gender mainstream assumptions, and the ingenuity to use those to her own advantage. And in that spirit, she worked to undermine and unhinge strictures of class, race and gender.

In some ways similar to Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt’s power as a champion for civil rights stemmed from an artful and intuitive balance between the local and mainstream culture. She recognized her limits and the constraints of the White House and when it came to issues of civil rights, she thoughtfully responded—sometimes as a national symbolic forerunner and other times applying pressure behind the scenes. Both women courageously held to their convictions and worked tirelessly to find the most effective way to implement their commitment to universal equality. In terms of education, using discernment regarding implementation of ideas is key. Understanding one’s current climate and the restrictions one faces provides the necessary context to combat limitations and implement change. So to this end, we must continually seek to understand who we are as educators as well as those we seek to influence.

I can only imagine the insight I will glean regarding gender issues and the gender gap after having spent a few years in a classroom. But according to Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions, the United States has a mid-range score when it comes to “Power Distance.” With a score of 40 out of 100, the United States is not a caste system based society such as India. However, that “40” suggests a presence of inequality and limitations in terms of upward mobility. Infrastructures continue to accept and perpetuate inequalities of gender, status, power and wealth. As a future educator, establishing and promoting a classroom in which each student, has equal opportunity to contribute is essential. A collaborative environment not only establishes self worth, but also teaches students the value of their peers.  Understanding and being mindful of how and when male and female students develop socially, mentally, physically and emotionally is a basic and invaluable way to begin understanding and relating to students. For example, research suggests that in elementary school, girls have advantages in social skills which translate to classroom behavior. Creating a variety of activities to suite varying needs between boys and girls at different stages of development is essential. In reading the article Gender Inequalities in Education, it is evident the ways in which popular notions of gender performance affect the ways in which students view their own capabilities. The article suggests that due to conventionalist ideas about men outperforming women on standardized tests, especially in math, women experience heightened anxiety during test taking that interferes with their test performance (p. 324). As educators, we must be sensitive not to reinforce negative gender differences and notions. Although many aspects affect the performance of any individual student, I wonder if gender inequalities will always exist manifesting in different ways.

 

Reference: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_62826_1%26url%3D

EDU 6133-Diversity and Me

I took a poetry class during my last year of undergraduate school and as part of our weekly assignments, we examined different stylistic aspects of speeches, articles and poems and then wrote original pieces employing those same stylistic devices. As an introduction to my reflection, I thought I would share my piece modeled after Barack Obama’s Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

–I am the daughter of a white real estate agent from Massachusetts and a white stay-at-home mom from Washington State. I grew up with the love of a white grandfather who flew bombers in the US Airforce to ensure my freedom and a white grandmother who raised my father and uncle while papa was overseas. I attended both private elementary school and private university and lived in an affluent suburb. I was offered multiples jobs after graduation despite a lack of experience—a supposed testament to my commitment to hard work.

I have a brother, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of Caucasian race and upper-middle class, scattered across the country, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that ours is not the only Country in which my skin color has significantly aided in making my story possible–

I belong to a homogenously white, traditional, middle-class American family.  I have a pretty large extended family as well, and for most of my life, all of us: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great grandparents have lived within 10ish minutes of each other. I do not celebrate much of my cultural heritage other than making lefse (Norwegian potato bread) with my family every Christmas. I am predominantly Norwegian and Swedish with a milky mixture of English, German, Scottish and Irish… so it takes me quite awhile to build a base tan. One of my best friends from college is Jamaican and I distinctly remember the first time I realized she didn’t have to buy sunscreen because her skin just never burned. And as an aside, I will say that I envied her skin; during the summertime, the goal of me and many of my friends was to add color to our pale skin. As a senior at SPU, one of my dearest friends was Vietnamese and she hated having a tan; she felt lighter skin was more beautiful. Personal and cultural definitions of beauty are a fascinating aspect of diversity.

I attended a predominantly Caucasian private elementary school and probably was unaware that I belonged to the majority until I transferred to public junior high and high school and was lost in a sea of faces that no longer looked like mine. It was a beautifully uncomfortable new reality. Then as a freshman at SPU, I was one of four tutors hired for a new program Professor Greg Fritzberg was putting together. I tutored for three years in two different low-income middle schools where as a white female, I was in the minority. More than 80 countries represented in what they called their “global village.” I had never been in a school with such a diverse body of students. I fell in love with the atmosphere and really enjoyed my mentoring role as a tutor.

I became particularly close with one student in particular. As a sixth grader, she had been in a gang for years, and she felt trapped. Her mother worked all the time to support her and her sister and the grandfather who was supposed to care for them in the meantime abused them. She had experience with drugs and carried worries and fears not meant for a child’s shoulders. I came face to face with my own privilege and although she really valued our time together, I struggled to help her understand the value of her schooling. The latest math concept didn’t seem important when she didn’t feel safe at home and her basic needs were far from met.

As a future educator, this experience was invaluable in opening my eyes to the ways in which diverse experiences shape our perspective on education. I know it is hardly a revolutionary thought, but growing up, I never encountered someone with such a contrasted childhood. It was overwhelming to decipher what my role was and how to navigate the issues this young girl was facing with sensitivity. As an upper-middle class white woman of privilege, I worry about being relevant and attentive to the needs of my future students. I want to be intuitive to the personal needs of my students without being presumptuous.  My hope is to create a classroom of reciprocal respect, where my students feel like they are part of a larger family, comfortable enough to be unabashedly themselves. I know the struggles of my students will way heavily on my heart whether those are issues in the classroom or at home and I worry I will not be able to be enough for them.

My knowledge of the history of American Education

My knowledge of the history of American Education is pretty minimal, however I do know that the New England Primer was a textbook used by English settlers in 17th century North America. This textbook taught students the alphabet and how to read with the use of Biblical passages. The Bible was not only used as a primary text for teaching students to read and write, but also this religious text was used to train children in the Puritanical Christian (and sometimes anti-Catholic) philosophy of the colonists. Also established in the 1600’s, Harvard College, later to become Harvard University, modeled the Puritanical values of the early colonists and produced many Puritan ministers. In the 1800’s, Sunday schools were started in response to the Industrial Revolution in hopes of teaching factory children how to read. During the late 19th and 20th century, Washington and Dubois had very different views on African American education. Washington took an approach of accommodation, wanting African Americans to seek training in order to become an essential and irreplaceable asset to White American society.  Dubois did not believe African Americans should have to slowly work their way up a social ladder, but instead was zealous about forging the path to equality. There have been countless notable events in pursuit of equal education and the desegregation of schools, but in the 1950’s, after Brown Vs. Board of Education, racial discrimination in public schools was ruled unconstitutional. This is the extent of my “fact-based” knowledge of the progression of American Education.