I’ve noticed (not for the first time) that what I am reading affects my writing, thinking, and other readings. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s testament to the ongoing process of meaning making. As I interact with texts I am changed, and as I am changed the texts are also, at least my readings of them are. Further, it’s testament to the concept that reading and writing are reciprocal processes. Each interaction serves to change me ever so slightly. This is not to say that I topple with every new idea, rather, that I sway like a sapling, flexible, but rooted, but still changed by the power of the wind. By learning how I learn, know, and understand helps me understand why and how I teach. Equally, it’s a step in creating/allowing authentic learning experiences in my classroom practice.
Nobody can write who never writes, just as one cannot swim who never swims. Paulo Freire from Teachers as Cultural Workers
0068: No #revolution without reading comprehension, only slaughter
#critical #education #literacy
Reading comprehension has successfully been reduced to a segment of the tested curriculum that simply involves pulling facts from a passage to answer a question. It may reach slightly further and ask that a reader make a mild inference about the passage, but the answer is neatly provided in a multiple choice form. Reading comprehension equals or should equal critical thought. By reducing it to a mere tested segment of the “reading process” the prescribers of such practice have systematically crippled a generation or so of democratic thinkers.
Reading comprehension requires not only the understanding of the words read in a text, but also an understanding of the context of the experience out of which the text was born. Comprehension connects dots and experiences. It is multidimensional. A reader connects situations and analyzes vast fields of information to build understanding of words and more important the worlds in which they live.
If one is incapable of analyzing texts, situations, and contexts then they are helpless in a literate society. They are at the mercy of the media and those who they look to for guidance. They become victims without knowing it. People who are victims of our “sit and get” over-tested educational systems are controllable, they’re manageable, they’re taught to accept their oppression as a way of life. We must make sure, as teachers concerned with our own futures and those of our fellow human beings, that we do everything in our own power to give our pupils the tools they need to think critically and comprehend words and worlds alike. Information flows freely, but in that mix is a wolf among sheep. It we are producing sheep, then we are ourselves Judas Goats leading our herd to slaughter. We must create critical readers, producers, consumers, and distributers. We must produce our partners and successors.
0046: Stop Recess: We’re in School Improvement
#teaching #testocracy #rebellion #test
I’ll be brief. Schools get into trouble because of poor test scores. This “trouble” stirs fear. People fear for their jobs from the top down. Threats are made, also from the top down. And then, a symphony of knee jerk reactions.
I was in a school that cancelled recess, music, and P.E. from kindergarten through sixth grade. These were noted as a waste of time when “we should be preparing for state tests”. The kids went wild and classes didn’t run as smoothly. No shit, right? People need balance. Anyway, some teachers took their kids to recess, and we’re written up and reprimanded. Other teachers had recess in their classrooms, looking out for the wandering administrative spy. Teachers did what they needed to do, but to their own avail.
There was also a ban on silent sustained reading. This was labeled a “waste of time”. Teacher’s were told that kids had time to read outside of class, and reading should “just be taught”. We know that there are myriad benefits for free reading time from motivation to reinforcing skills to better behavior because the kids get a moment to debrief and venture elsewhere in their minds.
These knee jerk reactions are harmful. They are based in fear and not in research. Principals, think before you react. Don’t harm your staff, and ultimately the students in your care. Teachers, be bold and clever in your rebellion for the betterment of your students. Everyone is under the gun, and it’s causing permanent damage. Standardized testing and it’s fallout is injuring a generation of our society. So be bold. Do what you can to survive, but don’t forget you’re responsible for the survival of others too.
0036: If you read this you’ll improve your test scores, and that’s it!
#testocracy #literacy #teaching
Telling students to read more because it will help the improve their standardized test scores is just plum stupid. It’s very clear that those scores are the central aim of public education. In the utopian world of god knows where reading is for enjoyment, or maybe to expand your knowledge, or maybe even to become more fully human. Now reading is for improving your standardized test scores. I’ll keep writing so you too can become a proficient person.
0031: If you can’t reach ‘em, drug ‘em. I guess.
I just finished carefully filling out a form that had the insignias of the America Academy of Pediatrics (dedicated to the health of all children), the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, and McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals— two health organizations and one corporation, good benevolent companies with children’s interest at heart. The goal, I’m assuming is to issue drugs to tame this rambunctious young black child. He is a handful, but drugging a child just doesn’t seem helpful. Perhaps, a behavioral intervention or some adjustment to the way he is being taught. I’ve made a few adjustments and seen improvements. He’s a genius of a kid, just not really interested in complying. And whose to say he should comply? He disrupts during whole group activity. He has energy. When he writes it’s clever and amazing. His writing is a little off color, a little blue. He has an adult sense of humor. But the syntax is amazing. He struggles in all of his classes, but should we drug him? Or, are we just too cheap and lazy to do anything else? I am not without blame. I haven’t learned to manage his behavior. I have neither forced him into compliance or broken his spirit. He is one of the few and proud who is refusing to be schooled. I admire his wit and commitment to doing what he sees fit. He questions absolutely everything. And yes he becomes inappropriate. But, he deserves a proper education. He is not “driven by a motor”. He is driven by his mind and his choices. They do not align with the state curriculum, but they are his.
He struggles in most of his classes. Maybe he struggles against them. I’ve encountered kids like this over the course of my career. Sometimes they make it; sometimes they’re made into victims. I hope my non-referral keeps him corporate-drug-free. I hope the system that serves him adjusts to him. Unfortunately, systems wants perfect sprockets that fit on their machines. If you can’t reach ‘em drug ‘em. I guess.
0008: Digital Natives or Digital Zombies? Helping Students Thrive in a Digital Democracy
Communication by Twitter, Facebook, and/or SMS is quickly becoming a primary method of communicating ideas. A lot is being packed into these seemingly miniscule messages. The contents are responsible for huge outcomes, such as tweet by a graduate student covering a government protest in Egypt that read: “ARRESTED”, which helped free him and his translator from the Egyptian jail (Simon, 2008), to the growing problems of cyber-bullying and sexting among teens, and recently, flash mobs arranged through social networking sites and text message. Evidently, words are power, and the power is quickly entering the hands of the people—the young people. Social networking and microblogging sites put users in the roles of consumer, producer, and distributor of information (Jacobs, 2006), thereby eliminating the middleman (i.e. the media, publishers, etc.). By putting the power to create and publish in the hands of the general public, more responsibility and cunning is required of the participants in this digital world. Consumers must be able to rapidly discern useful and non-useful information, as the majority of information, and producers must choose what to write and how to communicate it in as few words as possible. How can teachers prepare students, who are digital natives, to be wise and productive consumers, producers, and distributors of information in this vast informational expanse?
Teachers need to first be knowledgeable about the technologies that their students are using. Ideally, teachers will become users of these technologies, and active participants in digital culture. As culture progresses, so must the educators who function within that culture. Teachers who choose to remain ignorant of digital technology are separating themselves from their students, thereby rendering themselves ineffective (Prensky, 2001). Once the teachers becomes active digitally, can help their students flourish in the digital world. Microblogging sites such as Twitter should be encouraged and utilized by teachers for teaching tools and informational resources. Microblogging, when harnessed as an academic tool, allows for quick communication and transfer of ideas, a public domain for collaboration, the ability to communicate through multiple mediums, as users can post pictures, video, audio, and so forth, to enhance their communication (Holotescu, 2009). Additionally, communication can be informal and far reaching. The ubiquity and the lack of formal norms and regulation with these technologies raise ethical issues and require students to be critical users.
Students must be critical consumers of information. The meaning derived from readings of the written word are not concrete; readers must be the mediator of the reality, or the meaning of the text they consume (Iser, 1978). Teachers must give students the critical tools to analyze and interpret the word which their worlds envelop. Such tools include: the capacity to manipulate one’s environment for the purpose of experimentation and discovery, the ability to interpret and recreate situations occurring in one’s environment, the ability to collaborate with others to develop collective knowledge that is ever transforming and growing, the ability to understand and mimic multiple perspectives, the ability to mediate differences among collaborators, the ability to discern the reliability and credibility of sources, and the ability to network, or locate, create, and disseminate information (Jenkins, 2009). Students with the above media skills will have the ability to function productively in 21st century society, and ideally in a classroom whether it has transformed or not.
Students must be conscious producers of information. Accordingly, they need to have ethics when functioning as producers of information, and ethics must be taught. Users of social media are functioning more or less as journalists, perhaps more appropriately, gonzo journalists, reporting constantly on their worlds. The content posted by users of digital media is seldom monitored and have minimal ethical constraints (Jenkins, 2009). The constraints that do exist can be easily surpassed, as communication is not limited to one medium. The role of mediating the content of these sites falls in the hands of the users, and the users are vast. The culture is participatory and free, so the norms must be created by the users themselves. Teachers and parents are not able to fully regulate this group of digital natives; rather, parents and teachers have the responsibility to bring students into dialogue about the problems that occur or can occur in such settings and help them learn for themselves how to mediate such situations. This proverbial moral compass cannot simply be deposited in an individual; it must, instead be lovingly developed collaboratively through dialogue between teachers, parents, and learners (Freire, 1970). As users learn to name their world a code of ethics will undoubtedly develop as users reflect on their digital world and participatory culture.
Society and its citizenry are becoming increasingly digital and participatory. It is up to educators and educational systems to evolve to fit the needs of the students it serves. Teachers no longer serve as depositors of knowledge and technology; rather, they must help students, through collaboration and dialogue build a set of tools that will enable them to be critical and ethical producers, consumers, and distributors of information and text. The knowledge and meaning are organic and infinite. The consumers of that knowledge must be discerning, shrewd, and participatory. Teachers must ensure that the digital natives in their care do not walk blindly as digital zombies.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum .
Holotescu, C., Grosseck, G. (2009, January). Using microblogging in education. case Study:
Cirip.ro. 6th international conference on e-learning.
Jacobs, G. (2006). Fast times and digital literacy: Participation roles and portfolio construction
within instant messaging. Journal of Literacy Research, 38, 171-196. Retrieved from
Iser, W. (1978). Readers and the concept of the implied reader. The act of reading: A theory of
aesthetic response (pp. 27-38). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jenkins, H. (2009). Core media literacy skills. Confronting the challenges of participatory
culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1-6. Retrieved
Simon, M. (2008, April 25). Student ‘twitters’ his way out of Egyptian jail.