Sunday, August 3, 2008

Events, Pt. 3

Yep… I’m still going here. I’ll limit myself to 6.

5. Two Books - There are two books that I have read that have shifted my view of education into the next gear. One, without surprise, is The World is Flat by Friedman. I find that if an educator has read the book and is making this list, the book finds its way on it. The other is just a little more obscure to the average person, but equally unsurprising: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. That book gives a practical summary of web 2.0 technology and their application in the classroom. But more importantly, it talks about the philosophical shift in teaching, as we go to the “read/write web”. He outlines several shifts in the way educators must think. This was one book that, immediately after reading it, I designed and offered a graduate course to educators based on it.

I’m sure in future posts I’ll highlight the important thoughts I see in these two works, as well as others (I make no pretense that when I make this list in five years, there will be different books on it). However, there are some things that stand out apart from the specific content in the books. One is that they create for me the sense of urgency. We can’t sit and wait… we must change now. The second is the networking element. Before Will Richardson, I knew nothing about the community of 2.0 educators out there. Using him as a starting point, I’ve connected to many others with many ideas.

6. Schwinkie

This too will need some explanation. Schwinkie is a former student of mine. Schwinkie isn’t his real name. I could have used a generic fake name, like Tom or Fred, except that I have had a Tom and a Fred, and they would think I was talking about them. So I have to use a name that I will never come across. For that, I look back to my clever students. As my wife was pregnant with our second child, I offered students extra credit to come up with a name to name the child. One came up with Schwinkie. Seriously. She liked the sound of it. That would never fly in Scrabble…

So, we’ll call this student I had Schwinkie. Actually, it could be any student. This is a student who our school was not serving, who was at risk for dropping out. Schwinkie was doing things which just didn’t make sense… staying up to study until 2:00 in the morning, and then sleeping in until noon the next day and missing the test, stuff like that. Schwinkie was also acting out to get attention. In fact, Schwinkie would have been out of school already, had it not been for the work of Dwight Laidig, perhaps the best teacher I have ever seen in connecting to the un-connectable.

At any rate, this isn’t a fairy tale. Schwinkie is still a student, a junior this year, and still at risk for dropping out. We’re hopeful he will make it through, but we haven’t got the panacea to share with you on how we did it. As a principal at this school, in visiting with Dwight and our Dean of Students, it really helped me realize the magnitude of the need to find alternative forms of education. We have to do more, to find other options. We have lived in a static world of the educational structure, and we haven’t progressed nearly as fast as I thought we would on NCLB.

I really like Schwinkie… I spent a lot of quality time with him in my office (I’ll let you imagine the circumstances that led to those). I really like Dwight… I think he is an amazing educator that I wish I could have supported better. And because of this, it has changed my view.

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