Saturday, December 10, 2016

Virtually a Virtual Disaster

we've got to do something different

Virtual learning in educational settings is expanding exponentially. It's cheaper; it's more accessible to students anytime, anywhere, on any platform; it's touted as the answer to the highly circulated myth of the failure of the American public schools system; and in Michigan, it's the law. But it's not working for our high school students in Michigan and it's not working nationally. Unfortunately, because of the nature of academic research, most of the articles and studies I have found related to student success in online learning are all studies of higher education. There are huge differences between high school students and college students related to maturity, perceived power and control, choice, perceived relevance, apathy, long-term vision and goal-setting, self-efficacy, and self-control. Young adults are not "younger adults." Studies related to engagement and motivation and success in virtual higher ed environments are simply not applicable to high school students. We have to do something different. We are losing our kids to virtual classes and they are losing out on a quality, meaningful education.
Rob Kelly, in "Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation," posits that Brett Jones' MUSIC theory's factors of "eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring" are the factors that contribute to student success. As per the usual, Kelly's discussion is based on higher ed students, not high school students. And in this way, the MUSIC theory misses the point: high school students don't see the usefulness of what they are "forced" to learn, and it doesn't matter how often they are reminded of "the real world," they don't believe or can't see what the real world is like. Therefore, the other factors of empowerment, success, interest, and caring are absolutely critical for high school students to experience, if they are to be successful in their classes.
Unfortunately, much of the virtual class offerings for our high school students offer none of the remaining MSIC aspects. So much of what the students experience is predetermined, checklist learning. Student interests and student choice are not factors in their courses; in fact, their voices are seldom heard. Much of the course offerings are instructor-free. Someone, somewhere, built a course and it now functions as software, not as interactive learning with human beings. As one of my former students (enrolled in and currently failing an online sociology class) said yesterday, "Sociology is about human interactions; wouldn't it make sense for a class about human interactions to have some?" In addition, the lack of feedback and the lack of interaction creates a student success vacuum: students only know if they got something right or wrong; they don't know why, or what errors in their understanding they have, or how to move in the right direction, or what they are doing well. There is no support, no sense of community, very little connection with their interests, and no caring. Even the students with a "real, live teacher" in their virtual classes report having very little interaction with the teacher and no sense of who they are as people. The interactions they have with other students are stilted and limited; they don't feel "real."
Something has to change. It's not enough for Milman (2011) to insist that students complete a readiness self-assessment before embarking down the virtual path; it's not enough for Kim et al. (2014) to insist that an LMS module that encourages student goal-setting and reflection be a part of the virtual experience; it's not enough for Kelly (and Jones) to tout the necessity for their MUSIC theory to be a part of the learning experience for students. High school students have different needs and different motivations than adult learners. They need to have that personal interaction, and we need to figure out how to make it happen. For my former student who is failing his online sociology class this semester, the solution is for him to bring his Chromebook into my classroom at lunch every day so that I can work with him and encourage him and high five him and nag him and make eye contact with him and remind him that he is worth it. Until virtual classes can figure out how to make this happen, I'll be spending my lunches helping their students try to find and maintain success.

"Those offering online courses should provide even more supports to foster the success of all learners. This assistance should involve completion of high-quality orientation by all students, examination, development, and implementation of effective strategies to support students in online courses, careful monitoring of the reasons why students might withdraw from online courses, factors that contribute to their persistence, and also research about factors that promote the success of all students" (Milman 2011).

  • Guo, J., Marsh, H. W., Morin, A. J. S., Parker, P. D., & Kaur, G. (2015). Directionality of the Associations of High School Expectancy-Value, Aspirations, and Attainment: A Longitudinal Study. American Educational Research Journal52(2), 371–402.
  • Kelly, R. (2012, August 10). Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from­classroom/
  • Kim, R., Olfman, L., Ryan, T., & Eryilmaz, E. (2014/1). Leveraging a personalized system to improve self-directed learning in online educational environments. Computers & Education70, 150–160.
  • Milman, N. B. (2011). Is online learning for all learners? Distance Learning.

Monday, September 19, 2016

M-Stepping those Results Right into the Trashcan

I received my daughter's 4th grade M-Step results in the mail yesterday. 

I had not seen the results report before; two years ago, I opted her out. But last year, in a co-parenting compromise with my ex-husband, I allowed my daughter to take the test.

You will be happy to know that my daughter is 100% adequate. Or, to be specific, she is making "adequate progress." I was surprised at the naming of this progress indicator, since her scores are in the "Advanced" range in Math and English Language Arts, and at the very top edge of the "Proficient" range in Science. But, for a 4th grader approximately 1/3 of the way through her K-12 education, her progress is deemed as adequate. One must suppose then, that her teachers have also been adequate and her school is pretty adequate.

I question the use of this terminology; does "adequate" seem "proficient" or "advanced" to you? I realize that this word, according to google, means "satisfactory or acceptable."  But I challenge you to use this word in conversation and see how it is perceived. In fact, next time you are eating a dinner that your significant other prepared, I dare you to announce that it is "adequate." And next time you and your significant other are in the midst of...ahem...a romantic physical encounter, I challenge you to announce that he or she is "making adequate progress." I look forward to hearing about the ensuing conversations. Go ahead and get back to me with the results.

I'll wait right here.

While I'm waiting to hear about the progress you've made in your relationship, I'll talk a bit more about this M-Step report. The math section is divided into 4 claims which then report into 3 sections. And the Performance Level Indicators are reported in 4 color-coded bands, which then report out into 3 Claim Performance Indicators, illustrated by pointy-up and pointy-down triangles. Clearly, this report earns a yellow circle (Attention may be indicated) on the math claims of "2/4: Problem Solving, Modeling & Data Analysis" because of the fundamental confusion of the modeling and data analysis in this report.

The report itself is so...ahem...inadequate. For example, the color-coded Performance Bands at the top of each section read from left to right. The left indicator is Not Proficient, and the right side is Advanced. However, the Performance Level Descriptors at the bottom of the page begin with "Advanced" on the left and move to "Not Proficient" at the right. Who created this graphic? Why would a performance band read from left to right in the visual section of the graphic and then from right to left in the explanations? And then, for the sake of clarity, the Science section is broken into disciplines with points earned/possible points reported. No pointy-up or pointy-down triangles in science. Science gets Numbers! And science is apparently so unscientific, that the margin of error spans 3 performance levels. Luckily, my daughter may possibly be partially proficient, proficient, or advanced, but she is not to be deemed adequate in science.

I dare you to ask a 4th grader what is wrong with this report. Have them analyze the modeling and the data analysis. Have them explain to you what this report means. I look forward to hearing about those conversations.

I'll wait right here.

As an avid reader and an English teacher, I was highly relieved to learn that my daughter is also making adequate progress in English Language Arts. But, before you congratulate me on her very adequate score, I would like to question what this score is actually an indicator of. Any English teacher knows that this score is not a reflection of progress and preparation. This score is a measure of how many books are in a student's home. This score is a reflection of what the child ate for breakfast, and what the educational level is of the child's parents, and how many jobs those parents have to work to put food on the table. My daughter lives in a home that has 4 full walls of books. She has access to fresh produce daily and she gets 3 full meals a day. Between her parents and her grandparents, we together hold 10 post-secondary degrees. Her ELA score is an indication of exactly that.

I challenge you to go into the homes of the students who are pointy-down triangles (most at risk of falling behind). I challenge you to count the number of apples in their refrigerators. I challenge you to count the books in their homes, and the number of advanced degrees their parents hold. And then I challenge you to go into their communities and count the libraries. Count the grocery stores. Count the parks. Count the museums. I look forward to hearing those numbers. I would like them reported out in real numbers, not in pointy-up and pointy-down triangles, please.

I'll wait right here.

The State of Michigan, to its credit, is very concerned about the M-Step scores. Students are scoring very poorly on this test that has been redesigned two times in the two years it has been administered. And so, the State, based on M-Step scores, is threatening to take aggressive action and "rid the state of failing schools." Instead of spending time and resources making sure that schools have the resources they need, the State will close those failing schools. They might also create a new test, administered 3 times a year, to replace the current test that replaced the old test that replaced the test before that one. Because clearly, the answer to poor test scores is more testing.

I would instead challenge the State to do something truly revolutionary. I would challenge them to go into those failing schools and make sure that there are enough teachers there to teach the students. I would challenge them to make sure that the schools had enough funding to buy chairs. I would challenge them to make sure that students have access to community supports and a standard of living that allows for walls full of books and access to museums and to higher education and to apples.

I challenge the State to actually do something about it, instead of forcing students to sit on milk crates to take more meaningless tests that result in poorly designed nonsensical reports. I challenge the State to make adequate progress.

I'll wait right here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

This is Not the Appropriate Time

This is not the appropriate time to write. The appropriate time to write would be after deliberate reflection, studious investigation, and thoughtful processing. This is not that time.

I cannot deliberately reflect. I cannot find the peace of mind or the space or the energy to come up with pithy summative statements encompassing all I know and believe.

I cannot studiously investigate because the facts are not in, and even if they were, our current media design does not allow for pure truth. Half-truths by omission are the journalism standard. No longer can satire be recognized as a separate entity; our talking heads only know sarcasm. Our debaters only speak in “gotchas.” We The People only know how to point at others. We do not seem to know how or want to know how to look at our own reflections in the mirror. We cannot bear to stare hard enough into our own eyes.

I cannot thoughtfully process because there is no time. There is no silence. There is no breath. Moments before the idea of one more murder sinks in, another senseless killing occurs. I cannot catch my breath.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe this cesspool of emotion.


This is not how people should be. This is not how we are.

And yet, it is so clearly how we seem to be. We insist that All Lives Matter. But the evidence proves otherwise.

If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t arm ourselves so eagerly in order to destroy our perceived threats. If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t shoot first and ask questions later. If all lives mattered, we would make the personal sacrifices we needed to make in order to keep us all safe. If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t be tempted to say “all lives matter.”

All lives don’t fucking matter. It is clear.

Only my life.

Only my life matters. That is what we really mean. That is what we really believe. We pretend that we are arming ourselves in order to protect our families, even though the statistics alarmingly show that more people die in houses with guns. We are not protecting our children. We are putting them in arm’s length of their own suicide. We are putting them at the mercy of the whims of their hormones. We are putting ourselves at a terrible risk.

But, we have hubris. We believe that we are rational at all times. And we believe that, in any event (robbery, arrest, psychosis, depression, loud noises in the bathroom) we will be the rational one, with a calm head and a steady hand, and we will save our own lives. Because only that: only our own singular insular lives are what truly matters.

I dare you to prove otherwise. I dare you to put down your gun and stop insisting that you have all the answers. I dare you to turn off the pundits and put down your phone and sweat in the silence and stare into your own eyes. I dare you to hold your child’s hand and tell them the truth, the honest truth -- all of the terrible truths -- about our nation. I dare you to face the horrors that we have inflicted upon so many and the horrors that we continue to perpetuate. Do not wait for the appropriate time. There will never be an appropriate time. This is not the appropriate time.

Do it anyway.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Letter to my Daughter

This is a letter to you, my daughter.

How do I even begin? My letter to you will last your entire lifetime. You will be writing your story as you live your life and I will be writing what I said, what I wished I’d said, what I did, what I wished I'd done. This is a lifelong letter. It will never be finished.

But, today, you are turning 10. You are double digits. You have a lifetime ahead, but you are already ten years wise. You have given me so much. And you have so much to give to the world. And I have so much to give to you. 

I want to give you the world.

So, this is my attempt--to give you the world--in a letter.

I could write to you about your body and your health. But so many others have already written that letter to their own daughters. Those letters are beautiful and poignant and honest and true. They talk about honoring health and rejecting societal standards. They talk about learning to love and respect the skin we are in. I have read them all, and I will share them with you. But those letters are not my letter.

My letter to you is about me as much as it is about you. It is about the lessons I have learned as I repeatedly banged my head against the wall of the world and tried to figure out how to be. I know that you will have to learn your own lessons in your own ways, but I also hope that you will listen. And I hope that you will bang your head a little less often than I did. But I know you. You are stubborn and curious and intelligent and emotional. You are passionate, as your pre-school teacher so succinctly summarized when you were an emotional rollercoaster at 3. You will live with passion and you will find your own way. But as you do, I hope that you will listen.

Listen. Listen to your own breath. Listen to the silence. Listen to the spaces in between. The spaces in between the sirens are full of beauty. There are frogs and crickets in those spaces. There is the sound of the wind in the trees. The spaces in between the words are pregnant with intention, emotion, and the things left unsaid. Listen to the words that people are not saying, and listen to the thoughts that they share. Listen with your eyes and your heart and your soul. Listen to what they want to say to you. Listen to how you want to respond. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Sometimes they just need you to hold some space for them. Sometimes they don’t need advice or solutions or instructions or feedback. And sometimes they don’t say what they mean and sometimes they don’t mean what they say. But if you can stop, and just breathe, and just listen...There is so much honor in listening. There is so much integrity and self control. But there is also a peace there. There is a beauty that radiates from those who listen. You are so quick to respond, so clever, and so passionate. It has been my lifelong struggle to listen. And it will be a lifelong struggle for you, too. But it is a fight worth fighting. I will always try to listen to you. And my hope, for you, is that you listen with all of the passion in your soul. Listen to your own words, and make sure that you are proud of how they reflect you. Listen to your reflection as you speak.

Because you will speak. You must speak. You must speak out whenever someone makes you feel uncomfortable. You must speak out when someone is being disingenuous. You must speak and defend those who can’t find the words or the strength to defend themselves. You have the strength, and you have the passion. You have a way with words that is profound and thoughtful. What you have to say must be heard. You can change the world with your words and with your actions. Maybe the world you change is small, for that one person in the room that you just defended. Maybe the world you change is bigger, as you eloquently push back against hatred and ignorance and discrimination. Maybe the world you change is huge, as you lead by example, and help others to speak out. Maybe the world you change is only in this tiny moment, as you offer a kind word or a compliment to a stranger. But there is a power in your words. You have the ability to wound, and you have the ability to heal. You have the ability to inspire. Use your words well. Never stay silent.

I cannot promise you a life without conflict. I cannot promise you a life without pain. I cannot promise you a life that is always inspired.  But I can challenge you to live each day with passion and integrity. I can warn you against the soul-crushing monsters of apathy and ambivalence. I can beg you to be kind. I can try to inspire you to find the beauty in every day. And I can try to listen to you with my soul, and to speak to you with honesty and honor.

I hope that I can lead by example and teach you to do the same. I am so lucky to be a part of your journey as you become the young woman you strive to be. 

You have passion. Use it well. Listen to your soul and speak the words in your soul.

You have an incredible soul. Honor it, and be true.

Happy birthday, Helena Skye.

I love you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Why Bother?

Why bother paying dues to the MEA? 

After all, the MEA isn't doing anything specifically for you. The lawyers they retain are not working on your behalf. The court cases that they are currently fighting in our state to ensure that teachers get fair representation and are not terminated because they are expensive, or old, or argumentative...these cases don't have anything to do with you. Those people are old and expensive and mouthy. Not you. Your job is not in jeopardy.

And those same lawyers who are fighting for the 3% that was illegally taken out of paychecks and is now sitting in escrow -- that doesn't have anything to do with you. That money was taken out of their paychecks, not out of yours. Those people want their money back. It doesn't affect you.

Why bother supporting a union that employs lobbyists? Those lobbyists don't represent your political interests. They are currently wasting time and money trying to make sure that Representative Garcia's bill to make calendar a prohibited topic is defeated. But the school calendar doesn't have anything to do with you. You don't have any interest in when school starts, when it ends, when holidays are, how professional development is mandated, and what would be best for local communities. Those people have an educated opinion about what the school calendar should look like. Not you.

Those lobbyists are wasting time trying to make sure that all of the terrible bills meant to punish Detroit teachers and students, like taking away the right for teachers to have a sick day, and taking away the right for teachers to point out that there are terrible building conditions, overcrowded classes, and dangerous mold in classrooms. But those people...they don't have anything to do with you. You do not have mold in your classroom, dangerous building conditions, and overcrowded classes. And you most definitely will not call in sick. Those people should deal with those issues. These are not your issues.

Why bother paying for liability and legal services? You won't need it. Those people are the ones who get accused of terrible things by students and parents. Not you. That will never happen to you. And your money shouldn't have to go towards legal fees for those people.

Why bother standing in solidarity with those people in poor, minority schools who are losing their buildings, their resources, their health, their jobs, their dignity? Those people are in other districts. Those people got themselves into those situations. You are not in those districts. You do not teach those students. Those people need to figure out their own solutions. It's none of your concern.

Why bother supporting your local leaders, who negotiate your contract and your benefits every year? That is, after all, their choice. It is their choice to dedicate hours away from their family to negotiate for the district. It is their choice to spend countless hours with the superintendent instead of with their own children. It is their choice to spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on babysitters so that they can attend workshops that help them understand the laws, the current legal issues, and the financial situation of the state and of the districts. You didn't force them to negotiate your contract. That's their choice. It has nothing to do with you. If that's how they want to spend their time and their money, so be it. And when your local leaders dedicate hours of their time meeting with administration to go over evaluations, or sit through disciplinary meetings...that is their choice. When they fight against privatization year after year in order to maintain local staff and services? Their choice. And when these same local leaders spend their planning periods working with teachers who are struggling with district didn't ask them to do that.

Why bother being a part of the local group that donated two month's worth of costs to the Ronald McDonald house to support a staff member in need? That was the group's choice to spend their money that way. That staff member who had to live at the Ronald McDonald house? That wasn't you. That was them. Those people. Not you.

And why bother being part of a group who spent time drawing up a letter of agreement with the district so that sick days could be donated to staff members who had run out of them? Those people run out of sick days. Not you.

Why bother to pay a union that does nothing for you? Sure, they have made sure that your working conditions are safe, and they have dedicated years to fighting for equal pay regardless of gender and race...but things are equal now. You get paid the same as everyone else, whether you are in the union or not. You still get your paycheck. You still get your benefits. That inequality stuff is all ancient history. It doesn't matter anymore. Those people are just fat cats, living off your dollar. And you have better things to do with your money than support a union. Unions are for those people. Not you.

So why bother?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Puerilia Argumenta

An Argument with a Child

"Sam, I've asked you three times. Please pick up the Legos."
"But Helena got out the crayons and you didn't ask her to pick them up!"
"Sam, I'm talking to you right now, not to your sister. Please pick up your Legos."
"Ugh! This is so stupid!"
"Sam, that word is not okay."
"But everyone at school says stupid!"

I could continue transcribing this conversation, but the argument strategy employed by my 7 year old son doesn't change. Even though I stress to my children constantly that we are each responsible for our own behaviors, their default is to deflect their own responsibility by pointing out the irresponsibility of others. This isn't unusual behavior, and it isn't limited to my own children. A similar conversation happens in my classroom and goes something like this...

An Argument with a Child, Part 2

"Seriously, Stephanie. Please stop talking when I'm talking. It's very disrespectful and disruptive."
"But Julie and Mark are talking."
"Stephanie, right now I'm speaking with you and asking you to stop talking when I'm talking."
"Well, you should talk to them, first."

Why is this an acceptable response from a teenager? When do people outgrow this "but what about those other people" mentality? At what point do we stop evading our own responsibility? At what point do we own our own behavior?

Apparently, the answer in today's culture is that we don't. We don't take responsibility for our own behavior and we don't force the leaders we support to take responsibility for their behaviors. Instead, we childishly focus on the other side. We've lost the ability to have a logical, civilized, mature argument. I submit, as evidence, the following two Facebook conversations.

A Childish Argument, Exhibit A: 

A friend on Facebook posted this article and took a stand, stating that Trump did not represent Christ's views, and that Christians should speak out. 

One person commented:

I'm not backing Trump. But I am not also going to pretend that he is the only vicious one out there. To have ANY dialogue there needs to be truth from both sides. If one side is still going to have their blinders on to what they are responsible for, well, this country has no hope.


"Obama had black panthers support him which he never denounced."

Why can't this person be brave and say that Trump is a disingenuous and dangerous man? When she says "but what about the other side," she is, in essence, saying, "but everybody's doing it."

That's not an appropriate response. The appropriate response is simply, 'YES. Trump is a terrible human being and not worthy of my vote." The other side has no bearing on the inherent evilness of Trump. Don't make excuses for this man. Don't dumb down your own convictions because of "the other side."

A Childish Argument, Exhibit B: 

Another friend posted this tweet, related to the Flint Water Crisis.

One person commented

But if I say the same about Barack and the VA or Benghazi its racist?


How many died at the VA? I didn't rule out neglect or indifference in the Snyder Flint situation, do you on Obama and the VA?

Aside from their obvious lack of understanding on appropriate apostrophe and comma usage, this person also lacks logic. He tried to deflect criticism of Rick Snyder and his cronies by bringing up the President and the VA. But this isn't a path of logic; in fact, it's a logical fallacy. Attacking the integrity of the speaker and bringing up a completely unrelated topic are simply attempts at changing the subject and belittling the speaker. 

It is imperative that we point out these logical fallacies instead of engaging in discussion with them. If we engage, we fall into the "yes, but" trap and end up on the defensive. And that is the goal of the arguer: to put us on the defensive, thereby diminishing his own responsibility for his own actions--and deflecting criticism away from his beliefs, his political candidates, and his cronies.

It's time we stop arguing and say, full stop:

Please pick up your Legos.

Please don't talk when I'm talking.

Donald Trump is unethical, immoral, egotistical, racist, and rude.

The Flint Water Crisis occurred because white people with money and power valued economics over human lives.

I will not engage in a childish argument. 

The Space Where I Currently Stand...

My Statement of Purpose -- Application for PhD Program

Opportunities for online and digital education are vast and continually expanding. This should be a win/win for our students; after all, they now have more variety in course offerings and more freedom to pursue their passions before they graduate high school and enter college or begin careers. And yet—as I watch my students opt out of traditional classrooms in order to take classes online—my heart sinks. One of my senior students, Jill, illustrates the promise and peril of online education. A bright and driven student, she took her junior-level high school English class online last year so that she could be in a business program during the hours that junior English was offered. She was able to take the business courses and get a head start on her future college goals; however, this year, in my Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition class, Jill is struggling. She has said, multiple times, that she “learned nothing” in online English last year. She “doesn’t know how to write.” She “feels so far behind” the other students in the room. She “didn’t have to read a book” during the entirety of her online English class, and she “never got feedback from the instructor.” Jill is right -- she didn’t learn how to become a better writer last year, and she is miles behind her peers this year.

When I was discussing online classes with a colleague during passing time, another student (who also happens to be in my AP class) overheard and blurted out, “online classes are the devil! They’re horrible! I had three last semester and two this semester…I learn nothing, I procrastinate, I get overwhelmed, I do a crappy job on everything. I hate them!”

So, while Michigan’s legislation 21F demands that all students in grades 6-12 are able to take any two classes of their choice online per semester from any education provider they choose, the reality is that students who are taking classes online are struggling. Currently, our district’s pass rate for online courses is 63%. A 2014 study released by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute found a 73% increase in the total number of online course enrollments in the state, but only a 57% pass rate at the time of the study (Watson, 2015).

In our district, in order to compete with the online course offerings, save money, save our own jobs, and raise student engagement, district and building mandates are continually being given by our administration. We have been challenged to “meet the students where they are” and offer them a new, modern format to our traditional seat-time classes. New technologies are presented as “game-changing” -- but the changed game doesn’t seem to be directly benefiting the students. We were encouraged to flip our classrooms as the solution to all of our engagement problems. The subsequent conversations in the teacher’s lounge now included discussions of equity and access for our students…but, ultimately, we had to admit that our students’ levels of engagement didn’t seem to change. Then, “blended learning” was offered as the solution. As more classes moved to a blended format, the workload for teachers increased…but the engagement by students remained stagnant. 

As I watch my colleagues give daily multiple choice formative assessments in order to have data-driven differentiated instruction and provide competency-based education, my heart sinks further. The joy is gone. The student engagement is gone. Teachers, desperate for ideas to pull students back in, try new quiz platforms. They Polleverywhere. They Kahoot. They have data. But are the teaching practices reflective? Are students engaged? And, if students are engaged, is the thinking critical? Life-changing? Are students mastering the content? Can they apply the content to new situations?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. But, I do know that this is the direction of education. And something needs to change. 

And this is why I want to pursue the Doctor of Educational Technology program. 

My professional goals as a high school English Language Arts teacher are, simply put, to continue to reflect and grow as an educator, and to remain a part of the professional learning community in K-12 public education. My passion has always been to provoke students and colleagues and myself to think critically, and to push back at the establishment. Although I have, hopefully, grown more tactful in how I have pushed back over the years, my passion and idealism have not changed. I know that technology is the future and the future is now. But I also know that what we are doing isn’t working. 

So, how do we teach students in meaningful ways that are technology rich? And, how do we avoid the siren song of “cool tools?” How do we engage today’s learners? How do we push back at bad politics and policies in order to create content that will truly provoke critical thinking, content mastery, and social change?

This is the space where I currently stand, and I am excited to be a part of meaningful conversations happening within CMU’s Doctor of Educational Technology program. I want to explore the domain of educational technology from tools and policies to content development and delivery. I want to have the conversations that will lead to stronger educational experiences for me, my peers in the program, and our students. I want to create thought-provoking and effective professional development for our colleagues in education. I want us to figure out how to meet our students where they are, and I want to inspire us—and them—to be game-changers.

Watson, John. "Michigan Study Provides Detailed Online Learning Data; Shows Student Attributes and Growth in Online Enrollments « Uncategorized « Keeping Pace." Keeping Pace with K12 Digital Learning. Keeping Pace with K12 Digital Learning, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Please Don't Pray For Me

"We'll just have to wait and pray!" she cheerfully responded when I emailed about pending grades.

Pray? About her student's grade? How exactly does that work? I'd like to point out that the (obviously hypothetical) student in question had 19 missing assignments. And the final exam had been completed. I just hadn't managed to grade it yet. So, what was her god doing to do, exactly, in order to answer these prayers? Change the answers on the exam? Change the answer key? Kill me, red pen in hand, before I got a chance to grade the test? Burn down the school? Destroy Pearson and all its grading platform glory? (I might get behind that prayer, actually.) wouldn't this god's time be better spent hearing prayers to save the lives of so many homeless children living, impoverished, in Africa?

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families during this time," the politicians and pundits said.

Prayers? For the victims? How does that work, exactly? Aren't they already dead? Or are you going to pray them into some sort of afterlife?

Or are the prayers for the living, the ones left behind after yet another murdering piece of inhumanity armed with a gun and an agenda took the lives of their loved ones? And what will you pray for, exactly? That they find comfort in their loss? That they forgive the unforgivable? That they cast their ballot for you at the next election, even though your policies helped to mold the environment and the individual and arm them with intolerance and rage and weaponry?

"I will pray for your soul, and that you begin to find some peace of mind."

I appreciate this sentiment. Truly, I do. But what I don't appreciate is the implication that my soul and my mind and my peace or lackthereof is worth more than the lives of the starving children fleeing civil wars in Syria. If you want to seek help for my peaceless mind, then please aim those prayers directly at your pocketbook, your borders, your refugee services, and your food banks. If you care anything about my soul, you would understand that it demands more than lipservice. My soul demands real service.
Why do we offer prayers? Is it because we have run out of meaningful things to say? Or is it because we are too lazy to do the things we should do, so we repeat these token words and allow ourselves to feel a tiny bit better about our own repetitive inaction and apathy?

If we are going to pray to the gods we believe in, let's pray that we will someday get off our asses and start taking care of each other. Let's pray that we get to work and clean up our families, our homes, our cities, our countries, our world, our planet. Let's pray that we begin to spend more money on water pipes without lead and classrooms without mold and less money on Starbucks. Let's pray that we stop talking and we start doing.

But please, god, please. Let's stop pretending that our prayers are some sort of substitute for decency and sacrifice and hard work and tough choices and active love.

Don't pray for me. Do something about it instead.