Image via Wikipedia1. Morgan Bayda's link to Dan Brown's video about the eventual death of the educational institution got me to thinking (and laughing.) What if he's right? What if the institution is on a death spiral and it will eventually cease to be relevant to today's society? He made some good points, and I could see where he had given this a lot of thought. Information--facts--are free, and more than just without a price, information is "liberated."
If you want to know something, you don't have to ask someone to teach you. You can find out for yourself with Google. It's easy. The internet has opened the door and in a way, is waiting for us to catch up. While I, like Ms. Bayda, won't go so far as Dan Brown did and quit school (I quite like learning from others), I have to admire his initiative. He took his education into his own hands when he wasn't satisfied with what he was learning in the traditional way.
However, I think that if we can combine the two--self-motivation and the classroom--the problems Dan outlined would cease to be of issue. The good thing about Dan is his desire to actually learn. Unfortunately, while we as teachers may hope our students share his interest, the hard truth is something much less attractive. Students often don't care about learning, and it's hard to get through to someone who refuses to have an open mind about their own education. They just want to get in and get out with the minimal amount of effort or interruption.
The truth is sad, it's true, but watching Dan's video oddly enough gave me hope. Instead of watching education slip into the void, perhaps we can thrust it back into being a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe by using some of Dan's ideas and by encouraging students to explore and find topics they are interested in learning about, we can stop the education slippage and reverse any damage that the frozen-in-time system has done to the image of the educational community. It's worth a try, at least. What harm can come of it?
It is because of my reaction to this video that I feel a strong connection to Ms. Bayda's response. We both came to some of the same conclusions and I realized that while I may "enjoy" some of my traditional lecture classes, I much prefer my online PLN to learn and grow. I can not only talk to people with the same ideas as myself or read about what's going on in the educational community (like I'm doing right now on Morgan Bayda's blog), but I can take the reins on my own education. I'm not hindered by those expensive text books that, like Dan Brown, I find that I never open. I'm free to explore and make my own decisions about what is important for me to learn. Is it so crazy to think that's a good thing? I think it's only natural considering the vast amount of information and knowledge available to us today via the internet. It'd be crazy not to use it, quite frankly.
2. Don't Let Them Take Pencils Home made me laugh, and despite how easy it is to make me laugh, I wasn't laughing because I was amused in a "happy" way. It was more of a "wow, it's hard to believe (but I can't help but believe) that some people are more worried about test scores than learning" sort of amusement. If that makes any sense. I think what I mean to say is this: there are the image type of teachers and then there are the student type of teachers.
Mr. Johnson clearly illustrated the two types, both polar opposite of the other, in his narrative about something as simple as letting students take their pencils home. His description of the long-titled Gertrude being upset about the "wasted" pencils calls to mind the image of Dorothy's stingy neighbor, Miss Gulch aka The Wicked Witch of the West, who begrudges anyone anything and hates all things cute and irregular. Mr. Johnson portrays (hope he'll forgive the allusion) Glinda the Good Witch, who is always willing to work with others and try to make the world a better place, in this story, one pencil at a time.
The simple idea that pencils at home are the gateways to lower test scores and silly behavior (The Wizard forbid they play Hangman!) is just plain ludicrous to right minded individuals, or so you would think and maybe hope. The raw fact remains though that there are a frighteningly real number of people in the educational community who think like Gertrude. They see only the numbers, the raw facts and tangible proof of student successes, like test scores, and the mere mention of anything that might affect those scores--no matter how trivial--will throw them into a fit of outrage.
As a future educator, I know that in all likelihood I will have to deal with someone like that in my career, and since most of those types are often in positions of power I will more than likely have to bow my head in some sort of submission in some way or other in the future. I know that while test scores are still held up on a pedestal, they will still be viewed as the right path. It's undeniable, try though I might to dissuade the believers in high stakes testing from their set ways. I'm going to have to make compromises, though I doubt they'll be for something as simple as a pencil.