Why I decided to support Connected Educator Month
I did not not support Connected Educator Month (#CEM) last year. In total I logged on to three or four events as I respected the panel of speakers. Still I doubted the motives of the Department of Education. I felt we needed to boycott the events if we supported digital teaching and learning. I was wrong.
It seemed like a shell game. A fraud to hide the truly damaging nature of many of the Department of Education’s policies. These DOE plans in no way aligned with principles of Connected Learning or with the use of digital teaching and learning. Simply put I was a skeptic and thought that if members of my PLN gave credence to #CEM then we were complicit in pushing pedagogical choices that conflict with what we know about connected learning.
I thought the DOE served as shell man while we connected educators sat in awe trying to find the hidden pea. Yet like any con we would come up short. Under the shell the DOE had stuff one bad policy after another that hurt educational technology. Under the leadership of Arnne Duncan Enhancing Educational Through Technology grants dried up, Race to the Top pushed the Common Core State Standards on to states before states had a chance to increase technology requirements, and district level RTTT envision technology as a way to “personalize” education through adaptive testing. Simply put these bad policies do not align with better practices made possible through digital teaching and learning.
Enhancing Education Through Technology Grants grew out of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed under George Bush. The law required, though did not define nor suggest how to measure, that all students be technologically literate by the end of 8th grade.
In an effort to help states and local LEA reach this fuzzy goal the E2T@ grants were distributed. According to Ed.gov the goal of E2T2 was to:
improve student achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. Additional goals include helping all students become technologically literate by the end of the eighth grade and, through the integration of technology with both teacher training and curriculum development, establishing innovative, research-based instructional methods that can be widely implemented.
One of the first actions by Arne Duncan’s Department of Education was to cancel the E2T2 money and funnel the funding into grants to develop testing for the Common Core or to award districts who adopted untested teacher evaluation methods.
How does this support Connected Educators? How does this align with the principles of Connected Learning. So last year I felt that we were getting the raw deal with #CEM. All talk and no support. E2T2 funded many great programs and now those funds simply pour into more test development.
Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s crown of educational reform was RTTT. Once again this bill did little to serve connected educator. Instead of passing meaningful legislations the DOE has instead decided to host a couple webinars. Does that not feel like a bait and switch?
The first round of RTTT required districts to adopt the Common Core State Standards (effectively nationalizing the CCSS) and adopt outcome based teacher evaluations that used yet to be developed tests. The second round of RTTT went to consortiums to develop these tests, that no one has seen, that will determine who gets hired and fired. Imagine the federal government telling the states that every hospital must judge, and possibly dismiss, their doctors based on a medical exam no one has ever seen and no one has ever tested. This to me does not align with principles of connected learning.
To be fair on outcome of RTTT was schools are now in a race (which they will lose) to purchase tablets or laptops and beef up their networks in order to be ready for Smarter Balance or PARCC. This could be beneficial. Yet I fear those machines, especially in low performing districts, will be viewed as testing tools and not mobile learning device.
RTTT lead to Common Core adoption at a break neck speed. This has not allowed states to cater the standards. This has not allowed states to increase digital learning expectations. Under RTTT states could adjust up to 15% of the CCSS. I have long argued that states should use this to increase the amount of technology in the curriculum.
The CCSSS mention online reading and media skills in one paragraph on the fourth page. They then discuss multimodal composition, in a round about way, in the writing anchor standards. There is very little in terms of interactive reading, speaking and listening. No mention exists for computational thinking. States in a rush to get RTTT dollars (that very few received) did not develop plans to revise or train staff on implementation.
So now we have new standards, new teacher evaluations, new tests, and no plan. Not really the recipe for connected learning.
The final round of RTTT went directly to districts. In order to qualify districts, those large enough to keep grant writers or hire consultants, had to demonstrate a plan to personalize learning. This sounds like connected learning. This aligns with many connected educators I know. Yet f you dug down deeper into the RFP it required technology to be used not for digital learning but for more testing. The goal was to sit kids behind a terminal with a computer adaptive curriculum. Rote skill reinforcement. Does that sound like connected learning to you?
Why the change of heart?
The final report from last year’s #CEM described the goals as:
Five Broad Goals of Connected Educator Month
1 . Raise the visibility and showcase the benefits of online social learning and collaboration.
2 . Encourage unconnected educators to get connected and give connected educators
more ways to broaden and deepen their participation.
3 . Promote the practice of being a “connected educator” as central to what it means to be a member of a profession that demands
continual learning and growth.
4 . Support innovation in an emerging and promising field .
5 . Encourage more collaboration among organizations and individual educators and to
accelerate progress toward a more seamless, connected education community.
Yet as outlined above, based on the actions of the Department of Education it is simply lip-service. Clearly, and pardon another cliche, the DOE did not put its money where its mouth was.
Yet as a an instructot pre-service teacher, as a researcher and instructor focused on multimodal compostiion, as a member of my Universities Writing Across the Curriculum committee my responsibility to my students must outweigh how truly disappointed I am in the educational policies of the Obama administration.
I want my pre-service teachers to be connected educators. I want my students well versed in the rhetorical decisions of multimodal composition. To do this I know I must model, model, model.
Therefore as part of #CEM and the #OOE13 MOOC I set two goals for myself. 1: Become a better blogger. 2: Learn Arduino
I launched my blog in 2007 after a presentation at NCTE on multimodal writing through blogging. I took a hiatus during my dissertation work but I am back to posting. I want to build my network. First by writing and then by commenting on the posts of my peers.
To be a better blogger I will further develop myself as a multimodal writer. To do this I am working on creating a teacher netcasting network with Ian O’Byrne. We will be producing and publishing vodcasts. I will launch with two shows. Ian will also produce and host two shows. My fist show, Spherical, will focus on bloggers that I admire. I will interview author’s of posts that I enjoy. I will focus on their decisions as a writer and what it means to liver the bloggerly life. My second show TechTrenches will focus on innovative in practice teachers. I will host a conversation with practicing teachers.
I want to also model the maker movement for my students. It is an area that I have not developed in a long time. In order to do this I am trying to build with Arduino. I will document this learning effort here on my blog. I have found support. I have attended the Geekouts hosted by HOMAGO.
I have a responsibilty. I am preparing the future teachers and writers of tomorrow. They need to be connected educators. Therefore I will get involved in #CEM this year. Some may disagree. Some may say that a boycott of bad policy would be a better model for engaged and connected citizens. I would disagree simply because I know all the value I get from being a connected educator.