The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Un-Empowerment Mashup

Will's post of today, focusing on the attributes of a self-learner is a good one. In fact, very good. Unfortunately, it's caught me in a very cynical mood, most likely because it's May, and the Bulls are down 0-2 to the hated Detroit Pistons (sorry Michigan readers, but I know you'll understand-you can remember the angst of Micheal torching Ehlo time and time again, but I digress).

Will's attributes about self-learners are numbered, my comments have DSJ in front of them.

1. Self-learners
who are able to navigate the 10 or 15 or however many job changes people are predicting for them by the time they are 30

DSJ: How real is this issue for educators? How pressing? Do those of us in K-12 education really believe that anyone could possibly have that many jobs? In education, in our brick and mortar schools, it takes four years (in Illinois) to get tenure and have a job for life. And most do. And when teachers change jobs, for the most part, they change schools. It's the same career, but just in a different place. Maybe if we were faced with multiple job changes, and having to prepare for it ourselves, then we might be better prepared to accept the truth of this.

My sister, who works in the business world, finds tenure the most ridiculous thing imaginable, it is an absolutely foreign concept for her.

2. Self-selectors who must find and evaluate and finally choose their own teachers and collaborators as they build their own networks of learners

DSJ: In today's high school, there is one teacher per classroom, one source of content per classroom. Nothing more, nothing less, and plenty of unwilling (and sometimes willing) vesicles to install content into. There are four walls, the 6X5 grid of chairs, and outdated textbooks and notebooks filled with content lists. Choosing teachers is not yet an option, creating a network of learners is not viewed as something that is acceptable, and learning is still confined to 9oo square feet per period.

3. Self-editors who can look at a piece of information and assess it on a variety of levels, not simply believe it because someone else does.

DSJ: Content is given to kids in socially approved containers, whether that is a teacher, textbook, or the vaunted library database. We approve content, and they use it, typically for some ridiculous project such as a jello-mold animal cell, and forget it. Oh, and don't forget, Wikipedia is unreliable...

4. Self-organizers
who can manage the slew of information coming at them by developing their own structures and strategies for making sense of it all.

DSJ: That's the teacher's job. That's the librarian's job.

5. Self-reflectors
who are not solely dependent on external evaluation to drive their decision making and their evolution as learners and people

DSJ: Rarely do we teach kids how to assess themselves. How many times do we provide kids with best practice examples of what is expected of them, and then ask them to determine why indeed they are best practice examples?

Scantron tests, worksheets and quizzes-and an occasional essay written for the teacher-that's what we want. And I'm just as guilty-that's what I asked for when I was teaching. But I often tell my colleagues that when I return to the classroom, the area of assessment is the first, and most significant, aspect of my craft that I will change.

Today, kids prove understanding to a teacher, and the evaluation goes no further. Is that how it works today-your knowledge judged by only one person? Just look at the power of the comment feature of this blog, and that this blog can be read by anyone-anyone, and everyone, is a potential critic, a potential evaluator. I often tell people that blogging is the hardest writing I have ever done because there are a great deal of very intelligent people critiquing my thoughts.

6. Self-publishers
who understand the power and importance of sharing and connecting information and knowledge and can do it effectively and ethically

DSJ: That's what blogging can do. That's what digital storytelling can do. Help kids to publish, to understand that what they have to say is important, and that it is their right and responsibility to contribute, and you know what, we'll show you how. Follow us, because we know how to make this happen for you, and set you up with the skills, and the ability to learn new skills when needed, so that you can fulfill a lifetime of contribution....

7. Self-protectors
who understand where the online dangers lie, can recognize them, and can act appropriately to stay away from harm.

DSJ: CIPA. NCIPA. DOPA. Filtering. Blocking. Put the cell phone in the locker. And put away the iPod! Just like content, we've got you "covered." We'll do it for you...

tags: willrichardson will richardson davidjakes

picture by DSJ


  • At 8:37 AM , Anonymous Christy Tucker said...

    Re: Point #1: I don't think you can say that "most" teachers take a job for life when 50% of them leave teaching within the first 5 years. (At least, that's the number I heard a few years ago, right before I joined the ranks of Illinois teachers who left the field...) It's a stretch to say "most," but not as much of a stretch as Will's 10-15 jobs before 30. :)

    That said, it made me stop to think how many jobs I have had. If I really go back to every paying job, counting all summer jobs, I'm actually there now. Even if you count the two call center jobs together (they were with the same company), I'm still at 10. This also doesn't count teaching private music lessons, which I have done off and on since high school, or paying music gigs.

    1. Paper route
    2. Hostess/cashier/waitress
    3. Factory work (packing parts)
    4. Wal-Mart remodel crew
    5. Customer service inbound call center
    6. Telemarketing/outbound call center
    7. Test Scorer
    8. Teacher
    9. Substitute Teacher
    10. Software Trainer
    11. Instructional Designer

    I turned 30 in March, so I wanted you to know that it's possible to have that many jobs, especially if you do something new every summer in college. :)

    Of "real" jobs since I left college though, that's just the last 6. (Yeah, I did some telemarketing the summer after I graduated before I started teaching.)

  • At 10:03 AM , Blogger David said...

    I'm basing my figures on the teachers I see every day in our two buildings...and those young teachers, those who do stay (and we have a very high retention of those teachers in our district), once they get tenure, well, they're not going anywhere. The 50% figure you quote is interesting, and overall, for districts in Illinois, I wouldn't be that surprised, considering that there are some challenging areas in Illinois to retain teachers.

    Perhaps 50% loss is a good thing...maybe they didn't belong in education anyway. The point is that there are many ways to look at that figure.

    Thanks for your comments, they are interesting. Dave


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