Now on the new site, I am re-posting something I wrote as a catharsis in 30 minutes, a year and a half ago. This is the post I am most fond and proud of, and has always reminded me of two things: why do we teachers (with an ed-tech bend) do the things we do and why is it a good idea for any teacher to keep a reflective blog to share. The wonderful original comments (link here) spurred me on to keep writing, nearly two years on.
Here is ‘My f*#!%ing goosebump story”. Enjoy …
Before reading this post a word of warning. If you are easily offended by expletives or graphic descriptions please avert your eyes. If not – welcome to my world.
Our school carries a wonderfully bureaucratic euphemism – it is a “difficult to staff” school. We operate in one of the poorest areas of town. Many parents who send kids to our school have not been rewarded by the system of education and they hardly instil the values of importance of education in their offspring.
Last week, one of our students got assaulted by a former student of ours at a bus stop waiting to go to an excursion at a neighbouring university. I stopped the assault only to be assaulted myself. This afternoon, on the way to the bus stop I was called, loudly and in my face, a “fucking cunt” by a Year 10 student after calmly disposing of a piece of plastic hurled at me few moments earlier. He had sat in my class just a few hours before. This school term alone, I have lost track of the times I was told either directly or indirectly (but clearly) to either ‘fuck off’ or ‘piss off’, or was simply and completely ignored as a person, let alone some sort of person invested with authority and responsibility to care for and (forbid!) teach, role-model or ‘inspire’ as the quote garden would have it. About half of my Year 11 Economics class openly say that they are ‘dumb and don’t care about the grades anyway’. My colleagues could recount dozens of stories just like this or worse as part of their ‘regular day’. Yes, we have a reputation of a ‘bad’ school and, depending what measure you look at, we have numbers to prove it (hello bean counters and ‘performance managers’ out there!)
Over the last few days I have been following a great conversation on the Brittanica Blog about Web 2.0 (pron. “web two-oh”) and its potential to change project-based learning thanks to its collaborative nature. I have thoroughly enjoyed the critical examination of myths and hype by a number of fine minds, notably by Daniel Willingham responding to Steve Hargadon’s vision of (usefulness of) Web 2.0 tools in education. Further, some of the comments have been even more impressive than the post itself! For a useful summary of the post and a handy digest of comments I would point you to Robert Pondiscio’s post.
It was all kind of loose blog lurking until a comment by Sylvia Martinez caught my eye.
“Web 2.0 connection that project-based learning has with Web 2.0 is limited. It happens to make a few things that project-based classrooms do a little easier. So it’s highly unlikely that Web 2.0 will overcome the obstacles to project-based learning. We know what those obstacles are, we know what needs to be done (there are thousands of terrific books on these subjects) — and we still don’t do them. We keep looking for a magic wand, and Web 2.0 is the latest one.
The topic was “will Web 2.0 be an integral part of K-12 education” – but everyone seems to have changed it to “will Web 2.0 CHANGE K-12 education”. Totally different. Web 2.0 may become something teachers have in their toolkit, but still used in a way that supports the dominant paradigm. You can certainly have Web 2.0 drill and test, just as easily as open ended blogs.
Without a serious to change K-12 education, Web 2.0 will simply become integrated into the existing way that schools do business.
“Will Web 2.0 CHANGE K-12 education?” My antennas went up! I have often likened Web 2.0 to a Trojan horse for/of change to something that is better than the centuries old warehousing of kids, sorting them like sacks of potatoes, then calling one student or even a school ‘good’ and another ‘bad’. My school, euphemistically called ‘difficult to staff school’ is more often labelled as the latter. So rather than reheating the ‘learning potential’ debate, I look at Web 2.0 from a slightly different angle.
A couple of days ago I attended a dinner with a world-renowned educator and presenter Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, her family, and a few fellow Perth bloggers and ed-tech enthusiasts. The company included a famous chocoholic and THE Edublogger Sue Waters, whom I met personally for the first time, Jean Anning, Jane Lowe and Paul Reid. The evening was very enjoyable and sprinkled with a wonderful dose of fun-spirited Aussie/American bashing and ‘war stories’ – all in all, we hit it off well (I am just not sure how much Sheryl’s family members enjoyed our passionate and often noisy rants, complaints and (mutual) inspirations).
I was particularly pleased and in many ways reassured to hear Sheryl’s passion to push for greater use of ICT and particularly the Web 2.0 (for lack of better word) tools with ‘tough’ schools and kids like ours (see my previous, cathartic post for details – thank you good people for your comments). And as we started getting into the thick of discussion, we recognised that not only the group of people present, but a wider community of bloggers, ed-tech educators etc. (you know the labels…) is vulnerable to the ‘echo chamber’ effect. We all pretty much agree on many things, we fuel each other’s passion, we share and exchange ideas, in short – we ‘get it’. That’s all good but we act mostly in our own individual spaces, despite creation of large (inter)national networks, so easily afforded by the tools whose usefulness and transformative power we try to unveil to others. We are doing great things but without generating the amount of synergy that would make powers-that-be stand up and go beyond, in the words of Seymour Papert (thank you for correction Bryn) ‘strapping a jet engine [of technology] on a horse and cart [of 18th century model of education]’.
Why is that? Continue reading