This post first appeared on my Education Week Blog photo via Educolor.org With all that is happening in our world, I cannot think of...
Thursday, July 21, 2016
photo via Educolor.org
With all that is happening in our world, I cannot think of a more important hashtag than #educolor at this. I am concerned that the most prevalent sound bytes that we hear are ignoring the voice of people of color and leading to an imbalanced perspective. Ironically, an impromptu Twitter chat took place on the #educolor hashtag last night after a one-hour #edchat on the topic of racism in schools lacked a significant representation of educators of color.
Thankfully, Jose Vilson stepped up to the plate on the #educolor hashtag and asked the following critical questions for educators to reflect on to ensure that we are providing schools and classrooms that support our students of color:
It is imperative that all school leaders provide opportunities for conversations surrounding questions like these. This cannot be just an hour at the beginning of the school year or a one-time position statement. There needs to be ongoing schoolwide and community-wide discourse and concrete action plans to ensure that we are not marginalizing students, parents, staff, or community members of color due to ingrained institutional traditions, rules, and/or mindsets. The one thing I am sure of is that I have a very limited set of skills and experiences in navigating this discussion and that my good intentions and genuine concern for all leaves me well short of the much higher standard that needs to be met when it comes to ensuring equity within the school district in which I work.
Fortunately, I have other educators who can enlighten and guide me beyond my shortcomings. The educators sharing personal perspectives on their experiences and work to ensure equity for students of color can be found on Twitter at #Educolor. We all need to listen, engage, and act.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
A few months ago I had the opportunity to give a TED Talk during a TEDx Youth Event here in Burlington. The video was up briefly and then taken down due to a minor technological glitch. The complete talk is no up and can be viewed below. It was an honor to be part of this event which featured talented educators like Kerry Gallagher, Starr Sackstein, Eric Johnson, Jeff Bradbury, and Marialice Curran. Thankfully, the adults speakers preceded the impressive talks from students. I am grateful for the work that Jenn Scheffer put in to make this event possible and the fact that she did not have me follow BHS Senior Timmy Sullivan.
I am hopeful that my talk "Breaking From Tradition" strings together a few cogent points.
I am hopeful that my talk "Breaking From Tradition" strings together a few cogent points.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Friday, July 15, 2016
Literacy is a broad term. The definition from Merriam-Webster defines literacy as "the ability to read and write or knowledge that relates to a specified subject." The struggle for me comes on the topic of specified subjects. Are these static or changing? Once prioritized, where do we find the most relevant and up-to-date information? Once we find the best source of information, how long does that remain the best resource and how long is that information up-to-date?
One of the words I have heard most often at a number of educational workshops over the past year regarding complicated topics like this is the word iterative. "It is an iterative process," they say in an effort to help those in the room process the complexity of the work ahead and also understand that this work cannot be expected to be completed overnight. However, sometimes I get the feeling that this pronouncement is taken as a signal that significant progress is not really expected. Maybe we need to explain that you can't have an iterative process without making a first iteration? I do find it a bit ironic that the word inertia can be extracted from the word iteration.
One place where I feel this frustration is in the area of digital literacy. A couple of blog posts from Shaelynn Farnsworth and Steven Anderson following the recent ISTE Conference really got me wondering about how much has changed in regards to how we support our students in this area. We are more than eight years beyond the publication of the definition of 21st Century Literacies published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), yet I question how many of our students are able to do the following by the time they graduate from high school:
- Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
- Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
- Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.
I don't see anything significant happening here until we accept the words in the title of Steven's post and ensure that all educators feel that We Are All Teachers of Literacy. This will not be as much of a shift for elementary teachers as it will be for those in middle and high schools. For those districts looking for resources to help educators get started, Shaelynn's post provides the following:
Google Inside Search - Understand how Google Search works, explore the interactive timeline highlighting the advancement of Google Search throughout the years, and view lesson plans for educators.BrainPop - A video introduces students to search engines and how to use keywords and phrases to locate the information they want. This site also includes lesson plans which include multi-media ideas and also skills to promote with students for online research!ReadWriteThink - A great lesson plan to help students focus their internet searching. This lesson not only supports skills need in the initial search, but also reading strategies to locate and evaluate information once it is found!
As I make this statement, please be assured that I include myself in this group playing catch up in regards to how to best find quality information online. Reading beyond clickbait headlines and titles is a challenge sometimes when I do not feel like I have the time to give due diligence to the source behind that headline. But if we are committed to fulfilling our mission to develop responsible citizens, then we have to go all-in when it comes to developing responsible digital citizens.
In an area where the majority of our information is coming to us from digital media, can we really claim literacy without digital literacy?
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
With summer here, as well as a less hectic schedule, it is a great opportunity to catch up and revisit some of the great education-related books out there. My first read is a quick revisit of "Quiet" by Susan Cain, a must-read for any educator who has not yet had the chance to pick up this insightful look at introverts. There is so much for educators to consider regarding Cain's work and how we create learning opportunities that really reach all learners.
A particular aspect of the book that struck me my second time through was a portion discussing the role that social media can play in giving introverts a voice in discussions. With so many schools, classrooms, and educators still dealing with discomfort at the thought of providing and encouraging students to utilize online tools to share their thoughts, I have concerns that we are missing a critical opportunity to engage some of our students in meaningful discourse and connections.
Cain says the following on this topic in the second chapter of her book:
"The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships to the real world."
I know many educators who can identify with this and we owe it to our students to ensure the same opportunity. This does not mean that every student needs to have online interaction for every discussion, but it does mean that we need to provide chances for every student to have experiences with online conversations at some point. Heck, by the time our students hit middle school they are most likely already engaged in some type of online social media interaction. My feeling is that we have to engage the adult learners in our schools in utilizing these resources in order to allow every student access.
As Cain states, "Social media has made new forms of leadership possible for scores of people..."
Hopefully, we can count all of the students in our schools among these scores of people!