Ryan’s Recipe 4 Reform
This is how I began my blogging hobby over a year ago. A specific topic, a specific date, and an open invitation to submit my ideas to the world. I’m very happy to participate in the Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform.
I’m a systems thinker. I detail in my Bio the fact that I am passionate about the entire educational system, from the taxpayers to the students to the cafeteria workers to the plumbers. Many people are quick to place the blame of so-called “failing schools” on poor teachers, unfunded mandates, overpaid administrators, inadequate facilities, greedy teachers’ unions, community strife, MTV, and so on. From my point of view, however, anyone who blames the shortfalls of public education on just one or two factors is oversimplifying a very complex systemic breakdown.
The opposite is also true. Anybody who thinks real, meaningful change can occur system-wide by changing one piece of the puzzle is probably in for a rude awakening. For real, meaningful, lasting reform to take place in our educational system the stars have to align and multiple changes need to occur simultaneously. Any of these things by themselves will support a certain level of reform; the more that occur, the more effective the reform will be.
What I’m going to suggest today – my “recipe 4 reform” – will detail a few of the changes that I believe need to be made for effective pedagogical reform to occur.
We’ll begin by emptying the entire bag of traditional learning into a large mixing bowl. There’s nothing quite like the smell of century-old traditions and systems flowing out of its container and into the 21st century. Its probably a good idea to mix it up a little bit now, as there’s a significant chance it’ll be coming out lumped into strands once thought to make sense. Once its all in the bowl you’re ready for the next step.
Unfortunately our recipe doesn’t call for some of the stuff that has already been emptied into the bowl. Any small pieces of
bananas sages on the stages that you may find, please throw in the trash. Likewise, if you’re able to find any traces of boring professional development, flash-in-the-pan initiatives, or unmeaningful grading schemes please be sure to remove them and discard them. What we should be left with is a fine, powdery mix of everything that was good a century ago.
Next, add to the bowl a container of web tools (in some markets this is sold as “web 2.0″). These come in many flavors – finding the right mixture is always the chef’s preference. Along those same lines we’re going to add a good amount of online social professional development (the type that’s flexible and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes). Grab your blender and mix that soupy mess all together, being sure to leave nothing untouched.
Let everything sit for a while; perhaps long enough for the teachers to embrace what has changed but not so long that the test scores drop. That would require a re-write of the recipe, which, like everything else, is nearly impossible to do with the current lame-duck congress.
Once this mixture starts to gel, it’ll want a box to constrain itself to. The most fun part of the solidification process, however, is what we don’t do. We aren’t going to actually put this slop into a mold. We’re going to put it in a plastic bag and allow all of the users to squeeze it into their own mold. It’s always more fun to see what others can do with something than it is to force them to do something in a specific manner.
Since the outcome is unique for everyone – students, teachers, administrators, etc – make sure to document the process and the product. Since the final test in this recipe lies in that documentation, make sure to share it digitally so that others can review it and make comments. This portfolio should follow the user from A-Z, K-12, or from newbie through competent so that at the end of the day everyone can prove what they’ve done and where they’ve been.
I know it’s contrived… and I had to eliminate a handful of ingredients in order to make it fit in the “blog” category and not in the “longer-than-the-dictionary” one. My point? Mix it up! Let’s make the changes that *everyone* agrees have to be made but everyone is too scared to implement.