It’s been a while since I’ve done a SitRep on what I’m up to. Here’s the update:
1. iCon2013 is coming up- get signed up and come share.
2. I’ve shot/edited/posted Burlington High School’s annual Poetry Out Loud Finals.
3. We have a 3D printer now- specifically a MakerBot Replicator2. It’s been printing up a storm.
4. I think (think) that I’ve got a solution to running a multi-camera Google+ Hangout (Live on Air). Still working out some details, but it seems to be coming along. That means regular broadcasts from my students via that. More to come.
5. A million jillion things happening in my personal life. None of which really fit here, and all of which demand my time. Happily.
I usually avoid politics and social commentary outside the strict realm of Education on this blog. I’m a human with opinions, yes, but I choose to focus my efforts on a subject I feel I have some mastery in. That said, I’m writing an open letter about an issue I feel profoundly about- as an educator as well as a human. In case you’re unaware, there is an ill-conceived attempt to ban LGBT students form the prom at a High School in Indiana. A teacher has supported and spoken in favor of the effort. There’s an article here that’ll bring you up to speed. The following letter is to the superintendent of the district she teaches in. The letter (which I have sent via email) follows:
Dear Mark Baker,
I’m writing to you as a long-time educator. I am writing to you as a human being.
It is incumbent upon you to immediately dismiss Diana Medley from your staff. Her recent public statements have (and this is beyond doubt and debate) caused serious harm to an already at-risk population of students in your system. You are duty bound to provide first and foremost a safe environment for your students, and Mrs. Medley’s statements make it clear that she does not value as human beings a significant populations of your students. She has publicly stated that they “serve no purpose” and such a statement sends a clear message to her (and your) students: they have no worth.
The suicide, depression, and homelessness rates of this population are far above that of the general student population. This qualifies them as at-risk implicitly. To make such a statement about such a fragile population therefore puts them further at risk. Such actions by an educator are unacceptable.
Thank you for your time,
Think about this:
When a educator sets up a classroom, what are they trying to get the students to focus on? How does the configuration of that room help with that focus?
And then ask why that educator’s desk is at the front of that room.
If we concede (as I’ve pointed out here before) that English classes in High Schools are not really about teaching the language of English, but rather about helping students understand the nature of both logical thought as well as the linear nature of communication, the the logical conclusion is that the literature we use in these classes is nothing more than fodder for our thought and communication experiments and practice. As such, it seems that we should not limit ourselves to the standard cannon of literature. The books that occupy places in that cannon are there as a result of their long term relevance to our culture. They have become, so to speak, cultural touchstones that provide a common experience across communities and generations. I’m not interested in discounting the power of those cultural touchstones, but I am interested in evaluation if the range of what we use for literature in our High School classrooms best prepares our students for their adult lives.
While I’m sure you can make a cogent argument about the relevancy of any book we use, I offer that while books were once the only instrument available for the transmission of ideas, they no longer enjoy such a monopoly. Widespread accessible means such as video, graphic, and photographic represents egalitarian means of communication in ways never before possible. It has become incumbent on us, as educators, to ensure that our students are completely literate as they graduate and enter the world.
The classical definition of “literate” is inadequate. The mere ability to both read and write, while extremely important, no longer comprise the only skills needed to be relevant. Media literacy has become a new standard, and one that educators have been woefully slow to embrace. Students must become familiar with video, graphic design, and music. They must understand managing a digital footprint and crafting a brand of themselves. They must know how to compartmentalize and privatize their information. They must understand how to communicate via both long form and short form digital means. Email etiquette. Skype conventions. Instagram behavior. While we’d like to think that our students already know these things, or that they’ll learn them organically, the reality is that they are being left woefully behind to fend for themselves. And not only is there no guidance for them, but they are making mistakes that persist well into their adult lives.
As I’ve said many, many times before: Schools need to be sharks. We die when we stop moving. We must reconsider our view on the integration of new forms of media if we want education to remain relevant.