Midpoint Musings

Midpoint Musings

Friday, January 21, 2011

I received this email link a while ago. It's fascinating. So, in keeping with my previous post about changes in our lives this past decade, I may as well explore the potential implications of these predictions for education. Feel free to explore the non-educational effects these trends could have. 

People often remark how different education is than it used to be. I think I could say that they really have no idea how different. I have absolutely now idea how I would do my work without a computer. I can't imagine typing my tests, my lesson plans, or communications on a typewriter without a delete button. I used to make countless trips to the school office everyday, trying to remember to take notes and letters with me, or trying to catch someone to tell them something. 

Email has enhanced and improved my ability to communicate with parents/administration/colleagues/others. I do not keep a lesson plan book or a hard-copy grade book. From home I can, just as easily as I can at school, enter grades, check grades, access student demographic information, their schedules, there GPA, their grades in other classes, their attendance, and their birthday (cause we SING happy birthday in my classes), etc. 

I keep all my files on my computer and on my flash drive/memory stick/jump drive. My file drawer in my desk is rarely opened and desperately needs revised. I have numerous texts and resource books for my subject area, but most of the time, I check out information available on the internet when I need it. I find educational resources, games, sheet music, and music. 

I order choral scores on line with a few clicks. I don't even need to listen to the promotional CDs sent my way each year to inspire me to order new choral publications. I can listen to the score before ordering it. If someone sends an email with important information or links (to web pages), I don't need to print the document. I just forward it to my personal email account to use/read later. I have a chorus department web page where my students can access any and all information about what I teach, my classes, choral activities, procedures, etc. 

I use You Tube to view performances of choral pieces we need to prepare. I use a computer program to assist my kids in learning their music for choral festivals. 

I manipulate digital pictures and video, burn it to CDs and DVDs.

The chairs in my room are movable and throughout the day, never sit in neat rows. They are lightweight, and the students move them just by sitting down in them. So we have various configurations during lesson time. All of this, and I have only scratched the surface. Read the article below. What is your reaction?

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers
A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.
(Ed. Note:  Check out Plock's 2010 nomination for best blog post:  "Why Teachers Should Blog")

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their backpockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

Editor's Note: A "classic" from the Teach Paperless blog and previously published.   Shelley Blake-Plock is a self-described "artist and teacher . . . an everyday instigator for progressive art, organization, and education. In addition to his work teaching high school Latin and Art History, Shelly is a member of both the experimental Red Room Collective and Baltimore's High Zero Foundation . . ."   It will be interesting to see how his predictions fare over the next few years . . . 

Posted by The Daily Riff December 10, 2010

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Onto a New Decade

In the first decade of the 21st century, the Thayer family experienced a lot of change.  

In 2000 the first of our children married; in 2001, the second; in 2002, the third. 

In 2001, we were blessed two grandchildren. In 2004, two more; in 2005, two more; in 2006, another, and in 2009, another. 

In 2004, the last of our children graduated from high school; in 2008, she graduated college. Also in 2004, my husband earned his masters degree in counseling; and in 2008, I graduated with my masters degree in education, and our soon-to-be future son-in-law earned his college degree. 

By 2001, my husband and I had left our life work and moved on to other employment. In 2003, I was hired as a public school teacher, something I never thought I would be, and my husband started his work as a counselor. 

In 2004, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We celebrated our 36th in 2010, and our daughter was married that same month.

We lost my husband's dad in 2002, my only living grandmother in 2004, and this year, 2010, my extraordinary father made his passage. 

Currently, in spite of the lousy economy we are in, all of us, our children and in-law children are gainfully employed, drive working vehicles, and live in relative close proximity of each other. The exception is our oldest and his family who live in Florida, but thanks to trains, planes, and automobiles, we see each other fairly often. 

In 2001, we thought we had arrived when we purchased our first computer and acquired dial-up Internet access. Now, in this house where we live with our youngest son, youngest daughter, and her husband, we have seven working computers, one non-working computer (2001 model, by the way); two of which we do not use, one of which is only for our daughter's business, and three of which are laptops. We all benefit from TV cable high speed connection distributed via a wireless router. 

In 2002, I acquired my first cell phone. My husband had one that his job provided, and we had a land-line in our home which had the same phone number since 1976, the year our first child was born. In 2008, we discontinued our land line altogether, and currently we have five cell phones in the house.

Well, enough of this, I suppose. It is good to reflect on the changes and trends that happen in a decade, but only if it's occasion to stop and give thanks for all of the blessings. As people enter and exit our family, we are enriched and changed forever. It is difficult to imagine another decade as eventful as this, and it really doesn't matter. 

But one thing is certain. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.