Where Have I been?
Writing is a gift that we can give ourselves. It is the documentation of a meditative process that helps clear the mind onto paper. Once our thoughts are out on paper we can take a step back and begin to sort and make sense of what we are thinking and feeling. To a full time working mom (ugh I sound so old) the act of writing, much like meditation can seem indulgent. Why would my thoughts matter when there is a pile of laundry to be done, lesson plans completed and meetings to attend. Why should my family suffer (yes I am being dramatic) because of my indulgence to write? Well, I think the first response from me to me is to get over myself. My purpose is not to satiate my family, nor is to save students from the hazards of an outdated educational system. My purpose, for now is to tell my story and make sense of how my story can inform my inquiry. My story is one of millions/billions of stories that can be told or not, it can create a ripple or not, it can make a difference or not. Shifting from my story to my inquiry has left me in a state of “between.” This state of “between” is the space that exists from my old self that was not opened up to my evolved self that continues to open up to new ideas, understandings and perspectives on how the world works. My reality changes with each conceptual or theoretical framework that I read, and my direction changes, although I have no idea where I am going.
I do know that I have spent the last 20 years working with students who have been classified as having a disability. I have come to see disability as a social construct. This idea that some can and some cannot has become unacceptable to me. The last 10 of the 20 years I have worked more specifically with students who have a diagnosis of autism. What I have learned from working with these students is that how we perceive the world matters. I can not just teach students content without knowing how they experience the world.
The work of Albert Bandura speaks to this need to understand how individuals organize, regulate and reflect (2001), “People are … not just reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by environmental events of inner forces. Human self-development, adaptation and change are embedded in social systems. Personal agency operates within a broad network of sociostructural influences. IN these agentic transactions, people are producers as well as products of social systems” (Bandura, 2001). So I am wondering the relevance of this statement for the students that I work with who have classic autism, that is students whose social and communication skills are distant to the norms? Is there an awareness of these networks of sociostructural influences and social systems?
Hmmm, Culturally Responsive Teaching?
I am so interested in Universal Design for Learning or UDL. In an article by McGuire, Scott & Shaw (2006) they discuss Universal Design and its origins in architecture by architect Ronald Mace. The idea behind this design is to make environments accessible to all peoples regardless of age or ability. McGuire, Scott & Shaw believe that in the era of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) there needs to be more thought in planning in how we design our educational practices with this idea of accessibility for all. Presently (in New York State) we are facing the consequences of our adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) in our Race To The Top (RTTT) efforts to reform and fund education with the federal government. What we need to understand is how this is impacting the education of ALL students. McGuire, Scott & Shaw at what elements of Universal Design can inform a new paradigm in teaching in learning to benefit students of all abilities. Nine elements of accessibility to a curriculum are identified (McGuire, Scott & Shaw, 2006) as: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive, perceptible information, tolerance for errors, low physical effort, size and space for approach and use, a community of learners and instructional use. Curriculum accessibility is crucial for success of all students on assessments that rate the effectiveness of teachers and guide instructional supports (Academic Intervention Services) and educational programs (charter schools) for all students. Universal Design of Learning is still developing into a well researched theory or framework. This leads to the question of what theoretical/conceptual framework can inform an understanding and anchoring of UDL?
Digging deeper into UDL, the work of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is a conceptual theory that shares many commonalities of teaching and learning with UDL. These commonalities are: high expectations for all students, equitable use, flexible use and a learner centered approach to instruction and learning. CRT has its origins in the work of Geneva Gay. Culturally Responsive Teaching is essentially knowing your students and teaching to them, not at them. It is bringing the diversity of the classroom to help all students achieve their potential through the acknowledgement and integration of experiences, abilities and the whole child for the betterment of the entire classroom. While Culturally Responsive Teaching looks at ethnic backgrounds, it also applies to understanding a students ability or disability.
This is the connection to the understanding of Universal Design of Instruction. It is meant to benefit the needs of all students by addressing the nine elements mentioned above to meet the diversity of our population of students and increase our tolerance and acceptance of this diversity.
So now to the big question: How does our adoption of Common Core State Standards and Annual Professional Performance Review impact our ability to provide instructional practices that embrace the pedagogy of Culturally Responsive Teaching? Does it impact our ability at all?
I am taking an intro to statistics course and it has me thinking about quantitative vs. qualitative research. In our statistics course we are going through a lot of different examples of data sets. What I find is that with each data set I want to know why? Why is there a difference in gender, why is there a difference in adults over 30, what do the outliers suggest? I am thinking a lot about the data from the New York State public school assessment data from the years 2013 and 2014 and I am thinking about how those numbers lead me to questions. I am particularly interested in the data on students enrolled in special education services. While the mean for all students who receive a 3 or 4 on the state assessment is at 31%, the mean for students with disabilities who receive a 3 or 4 on the state assessment is at 5%. How are these scores impacting students? What do these scores tell us about students success beyond the public school system. These are just some random thoughts to post.
Wanna be startin’ somethin’
I just signed up to do an independent study with a professor who will guide me through the process of writing an empirical article about special education, common core learning standards and the relationship between the two. I will be looking at a culmination of data from a recent project to understand and report out my findings.This involves many tasks as I toggle between data, previous research, and theoretical and conceptual frameworks. I also need to keep track of my thoughts, so this is where my blog comes back into my life. It is the recording of my thought process that will hopefully lead me on a clear path to opening up my ability to share and contribute what I know about the field of special education and how that meshes educational theory and practice. So I stand here at the threshold of my journey ready to start something that can have a profound impact on my career as a researcher.
In this early phase of my research I am asking myself a few questions. These questions are:
What will guide and inform my inquiry?
What data will I include/exclude?
Who is my target audience?
In this post I will discuss my first dive into what will guide and inform my inquiry. I begin by revisiting the Socioecological model to understand the dynamic relationships that occurs between the environmental and personal variables in education. The socioecological model has its roots in the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner‘s Ecological Framework for Human Development. Brofenbrenner theorized that to understand human development there needs to be an understanding of the dynamic relationship of humans to their environment. Brofenbrenner identified five layers of environmental factors that surround an individual as: Macro, Exo, Meso, Micro and Nano systems. These systems are dynamic meaning they are multidirectional.
The Macrosystem describes the conditions and beliefs that a society holds. This encompasses laws, social classes, ethnic groups and religious affiliations. It is the overarching determinate of how we view a topic, who makes decisions on a topic and policies that impact how we carry out our beliefs and ideas.
The Exosystem is the connection between places such as schools and neighborhoods, workplace and home. It is a removed relationship of places with each other and not individual relationships. An example is the relationship that a neighborhood community has with their school and the impact on this has on beliefs and organizations. This shapes perceptions and understanding of relationships and the value they have over an individual.
The Mesosystem is the systems that include the individual and their relationships. The examples cited are school to home, work to home, childcare and home. These are the relationships of the systems that directly influence the individual as they are a part of the individuals direct environment.
The Microsystem is the system of activities in which the individual is involved. The activities, social roles and interpersonal relationships are all a layer of systems impact how the individual interacts with their environment.
The Nanosystem is the individual. Age, gender, genetics are all factors that influence the development of the individual within the dynamic layers of the Macro, Exo, Meso and Micro layers.
While this is a rough explanation the following video explains ecological systems in more depth.
Looking at these systems help to put into perspective the policies of No Child Left Behind, Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), the implementation of Common Core Learning Standards and Annual Professional Performance Review as part of the Macrosystem, but we want to know how these policies penetrate the other systems in the Socioecological model ultimately impacting the educational development of the individual.
So here I stand with my first thought on my paper. It is a line of inquiry that I will dig into each day. I am hoping that my blog posts will make my thinking and learning transparent, and provide a record of decisions and processes that I will go through to inform and guide my writings to create a manuscript for submission by summers end.
I read Tom Whitby’s blog post in My Island View titled Assertions and Assumptions Skew Perceptions and I suddenly felt myself in the rut of education.The realization of this rut led me to the conclusion that I do not want to get back on the main road of education. I instead want to forage a new path of discoveries by stepping away from the industrial classroom and into a connected, interactive, relevant space where students are able to discover themselves and thrive.
Whitby reflects on his attendance to a conference with many educational leaders and their “lack of relevance in the world of EdTech education.” There is a real crisis in our education system that lurks in the lecture halls of undergraduate classes and in the training of pre-service teachers. The education of our future teachers has not evolved with technology and society, leaving the education system stagnate in a pond of traditions and past practice. Our undergraduate students are immersed in basic coursework, leading them to student teacher positions that last weeks in various placements observing and eventually imitating the observed while adhering to policies and procedures that have been in place since the construction of the physical building. Student teachers are looking to gain employment from these experiences so standing up for best practice and innovation are not always recognized and rewarded. Graduate work can bring a sense of loyalty to the system with excitement bubbling under reform. If a teacher is lucky enough to have gained employment the utterance of reform is heard, but caution is a common theme as veterans share their stories. There is resistance to reform and innovation as administrators race to meet the latest educational policy and act.
Where does this leave teachers who are looking to push past political and popular educational practice? How do teachers embrace educational research and practice to inspire relevant reform, innovation and give life to learners who are armed with the knowledge to lead a peaceful and prosperous world? My simple answer is start connecting.
I can remember sitting at a meeting when Facebook ignited social circles, and we (teachers) were encouraged to refrain from using this social medium. Many moons later Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular sites have become a staple in the lives of many, yet still blocked in many schools and frowned upon for educational purposes. What is being ignored is the ability to connect. We can connect to each other personally and professionally. We can create spaces where professional development is continuous. We can share ideas, concerns, problems and solutions. We can create spaces for dialogues that shape our professional practices and perspectives allowing us to grow in our profession, absorb best practices and begin to shift our industrial rows of desks into a web of connections. These connections allow us a common voice that can not be ignored by politicians and public perception. It is a voice that can be so big that it could allow educators to take back education and make educational reform a prosperous reality instead of and empty campaign promise, that is based on nostalgia, empty bank accounts, and little research.
Let us give each other a voice. Next time you are at a conference give people your digital profile. Start creating a digital profile if you do not have one. Ask colleagues friends and yes even your students what they use and like. The act of questioning alone begins a connection. Let them follow you on social media. Connect, share, listen and be heard. Open your mind to the possibilities of EdTech not only to inspire the next generation of learners, but to connect and ignite this generation of teachers. Technology is not just a way to learn or teach but it is a way to develop relationships, understanding and tolerance. In a world that is connected to technology, we need to be better at connecting to each other through technology. It is time to push back on what politicians are calling reform and take back our profession.
I woke up this morning to hear that a friend had passed away. It was not the conventional phone call or even an e-mail that brought me this tragic news, it was a tweet. The twitter post was from a former professor who had lead us in an online learning course during the summer of 2013. The tweet was to all of my former classmates and was a simple condolence and remembrance of our classmate. It started me thinking about all of the conversations and debates that we have had in our courses about the ability to connect with content, the instructor and to each other in an online course. Our department and program is all about curriculum development and instructional technology. We have discussed presence in instruction and developing a community of inquiry both face to face and online. We have prepared our courses in a variety of mediums and then break them apart to understand best practice and how our students can dig deeper and really master content of the course and personal goals. We look for ways to complete our connections so that we are able to maximize our educational experience and develop relationships that extend beyond our classrooms and into our life long work.
My reflection this morning is that ETAP 640 was such an incredible journey in what every course should be to its students. It facilitated a community of learners that have stayed connected through school and beyond. We are a community of resources, professionals and friends. The ability to form these deep relationships online is a powerful tool. The sorrow that I feel today from the loss of a true friend magnifies the successes of my online learning experience. My classmates laughter floats through my speakers as I reflect on our collaboration and exploration of online education. My reflection leads me to gratitude. I am grateful to all of my online adventures, for friends who have helped me understand varying perspectives, and to dig deeper into who I am and sharpen my goals. I am grateful for my online community and all of the joys and emotions it has brought me over the past year. You all are a part of who I am and this continuing journey.
Input equals output
There are many different angles to be explored when looking at student outcomes. We need to know the learners background of content, the students motivation and the learners developmental level. When we are talking about higher education this can encompass a wide variety of learners and needs. “A central challenge for educators is to support the emergence of environments for adults to participate in their own learning with respect to to those issues that are integral to their lives (Barab, Thomas & Merrill, 2001, pg. 107).”
So not only should we be looking at outcome, but also where students are in their lives. Distance education was an alternative for students who were unable to attend traditional classes based on geography, but the ability to remove the constraints of time and location from education exploded with the technology offered by the internet and has opened a whole new educational community (Bernare, Abrami, Lou, Borokohovski, Wade,Wozney et al., 2004).
What are the effects on K-12 students in distance education courses? Eleven variables were identified as features that impacted outcomes of student performance. These variables were: duration of program, frequency of use of distance learning, instructional role of the program, number of distance learning sessions, duration of distance learning sessions, pacing of the instruction, role of the instructor, timing of interactions, type of interactions, amount of teacher preparation for distance instruction, and amount of teacher experience in distance instruction (Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess & Blomeyer, 2004).
These ideas connect to interactions of student:teacher:content. I am thinking about science courses that I took as an undergraduate and how they may work online. The lecture part of the course would be fantastic online, but what about the labs? How about the role of gaming as an alternative to textbooks and science labs? Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMGO) can offer “well-crafted instruction, yet they also fully realize simulated worlds exhibiting emergent, unpredictable properties…MMGO’s can offer multivariate problems of real complexity and of genuine social importance to those solving them, problem solvers are stakeholders…individuals have the opportunity to make a genuine contribution (Steinkuehler & Chmiel, 2006, pg. 728).” Maybe this is an area of education that will get more attention and we will begin to realize that while distance education and f2f education have the same outcomes, some of the technological tools we have will benefit some disciplines over others.
Barab, S. A., Thomas, M. K., & Merrill, H. (2001). Online learning: From information dissemination to fostering collaboration. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12(1), 105-143.
Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., … & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of educational research, 74(3), 379-439.
Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K. J., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The Effects of Distance Education on K-12 Student Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis.Learning Point Associates/North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Steinkuehler, C., & Chmiel, M. (2006, June). Fostering scientific habits of mind in the context of online play. In Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Learning sciences (pp. 723-729). International Society of the Learning Sciences.
Who is doing this?
I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the interest in “computer courses” not only in higher education, but in the k-12 setting. A friend recently handed me an article from Phi Delta Kappan titled Cyber skepticism. As I read through the article my heart pounded out of my chest with the description of online learning advocates. “Rather than supplementing the work of traditional brick-and-mortar schools, they (advocates)see online education replacing neighborhood schools. And they are making inroads.” I immediately shouted, “Who is doing this?” Then I thought of my school district who is rumored to be developing virtual lessons for students who are sent to “in school suspension” and need instruction for the day. Is this what students need?
There is a propensity for decision makers in education to throw out trending terms like technology,MOOCs, virtual classrooms, flipped classrooms, Smartboards and Apple t.v.’s (the latest) without an understanding of purpose or best practice. These trendy terms are tied to grants and “district initiatives” and teachers are flooded with expectations. Soon the wind will blow, and a new trend will gust littering the to do list of educators with mandates. What is different with technology is that it is not going away, and it shouldn’t. The technologies that pop up daily are fantastic tools to inspire creativity, connections and inspiration. Our ability to connect to one another and to access content is opening education up to endless possibilities. What is difficult for me to grasp is replacing our face to face teaching with online instruction, with little understanding of pedagogy and best practice. In his article Cyber Skepticism Jack Schneider discusses the arguments for virtual schools by advocates being that students can customize their curriculum and pace. In addition students without access to great teachers and schools based on geographical location, would be given access. While those arguments are valid, we must understand our learners and that the goals for our students are not just that they gain knowledge of content, but knowledge of self.
My observations of school systems failing is not so much based on teachers who do not have knowledge of content, or who lack the ability to teach. It is based on a lack of presence. Schools are becoming so assessment centered, but not to inform us about the learners needs rather to inform the state on how our students are competing.
The research of best practices in instruction (Garrison, Chickering & Gamson and Bransford to name a few) is that best instructional practices come from a community of learners. Students are successful in knowledge of content and self when spaces are learner-centered, knowledge-centered, community centered and assessment-centered (Bransford et al., 1999). We develop a triadic relationship between learner, content and instructor. The community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001) overlaps teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence that develops the learners knowledge of content and knowledge of self as learner. In our public schools we have become so overburdened with policies and mandates, we are forgetting to develop these personal connections to students and content. The cycle of blame on pop culture and innovations continues, when these influences have always been a part of adolescence. Teachers need to jump into the cycle and connect. We need to help learners understand themselves. If I have a student who struggles to read, I can’t throw my hands up in defeat of how low she is, I need to help her reflect on her abilities and begin to help the learner build a path to success. I am not saying that the burden should lie on the shoulders of the teacher. I see the need to overhaul the educational system, but not by adding more testing, and not by creating virtual schools.
To address the advocates of virtual schools, do we really think that all students are ready to customize their curriculum and pace? We need to look at how we are scaffolding a learners experience in school to learn to be self-regulated learners so that in time this would be a reality. The idea that online instruction will give those in rural or poor districts a chance, how will they access the schools? Do they have access to computers and internet? If the educational institutions in these areas is so bad then shouldn’t we change them?
Over the past century educational reform has been a doormat at the threshold education. We have added to our understanding of how learners are successful, but we have failed to put these understandings into practice.
So, who is jumping into this virtual landscape? In 2009-10 students in the k-12 setting took 1.8 million courses online and 250,000 students were enrolled full-time in virtual schools (Barth, Hull & St Andrie, 2012). Who are these 250,000 students? What is the allure of virtual schools? We need to know more!
I have been reading a lot about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the debate on their ability to engage and address the needs of learners. I have been learning about connectivism and the branching off of MOOCs into cMOOCs and xMOOCs. With statistics that report thirty-two percent of students in higher education taking at least one online course, and the steady increase of higher education institutions offering MOOC courses, the question of the quality of education a MOOC can provide needs to be analyzed. The same is true for virtual schools. While these new tools in education are exciting and add to the educational landscape, we need to be cautious about how we use these tools. In addition we need to think about what our goals are for our students. While we want our students to gain knowledge of content, we need them to learn to connect and collaborate. Students need to learn how to socially interact, self regulate, compassion and empathy. We need for them to come together in spaces to problem solve, to go to spaces to create and to be comfortable in their own space and reflect. There is more to teaching beyond content, and my fear is we will lose sight of the many dimensions of education if we leap into the virtual world of education.
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction”
Albert Einstein is quoted, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
Technology has enhanced our ability to interact with each other forming communities and connections around the world. What we need to be cautious of is replacing our connection with others with the use of technology. How we are sharing and what we are sharing is defining our existence in our digital world, but what are we doing with this shared information and new ideas? How are we using our interactions to better connect us in our physical tangible lives.
Social networking is allowing us to create profiles, connect with others, and to create communities of shared interests. A critical component of social networking is the public display of information (Ellison, 2007). With this public display of who we are and our web of connections there is a sense of empowerment that could be the catalyst for social change. We come together as collective groups and advocate for change and the push of social movements. “We can regard social movements as networks of relationships which connect informally – i.e., without procedural norms or formal organizational binding a multiplicity of individuals and organizations, who share a distinctive collective identity,and interact around conflictual issues (Diani, 1992). The ability to post music, video, text in forums globally can raise awareness and support that can significantly impact how we live in this global community. The rise of social media in the 21st century has grown from connecting millions to billions (Shirky, 2011). We connect through text messages, photo sharing, social networking and e-mail but the impact of these connections is still being researched and understood.
We all witnessed the rise and fall of KONY 2012 and the empowering statements like, “We’re living in a new world. A Facebook world in which 750 million people are sharing ideas. Not thinking in borders. It’s a global community, bigger than U.S (Wing-Kosner, 2012).” What are we sharing, and are we connecting? While technology is an everyday part of how we connect, it should not be the everything of connections. Media shapes our perceptions, but we must be physically present in the real world, in our neighborhoods and communities. We need to remain true to who we are and be present to tell our stories. We can connect the physical to the digital. We are faces and personalities behind posts. If we forget the human being behind the text or photo, we miss the point of technology as a tool to connect and make a difference.
Diani, M. (1992). The concept of social movement. The Sociological Review, 40(1), 1-25.
Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230.
Shirky, C. (2011). Political Power of Social Media-Technology, the Public Sphere Sphere, and Political Change, The. Foreign Aff., 90, 28.
Wing-Kosner, A. (2012). 12 Lessons from Kony 2012 from social media power users. Forbes.Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/03/09/12-lessons-from-kony-2012-from-social-media-power-users/