Educause Wrap-up Part II (I know…I know…) and Seth Godin’s Keynote

It’s a little embarrassing, but even in this day and age it happens. I don’t like to talk about it…but last week, at Educause, I didn’t have….I didn’t have…internet at my hotel.

Oh it’s terrible, ladies and gentlemen. Awful. They promised me internet. But it didn’t happen.

So while I was able to tweet extensively during the show using my phone, blogging just didn’t really happen. So here I am now, with apologies and some recap of what was a most educational week.

There’s a lot jangling around in my head. I got to see lots of great technology – some brand new, some that you might know. So I’ll do a bit of a ‘company update’ separately. I also went to a few great sessions where I took extensive notes, so I’ll share those. So…here’s my first in a series of blogs sharing some of the awesomeness I saw at Educause.

Seth Godin’s Keynote @ EDU11
(Sadly this is not available streamed post-conference.)

I’ll be honest. I went in with low expectations. (As I saw @gsiemens tweet: “Getting ready for #edu11 keynote by @thisissethsblog. I’m a cynical bastard. Not convinced he has much to say relevant to education.”)

But WOW. I thought he was excited and exciting, compelling and he set a tone that encouraged exploration. He seemed to talk off the cuff; his slides were very funny and immediately made his point without excess text. It was about inspiring people to do extraordinary things, rather than telling people exactly how to do it – which is appropriate, I think, for a keynote.

It would be impossible to give you a summary, but here are a few highlights many of which were culled from my tweets or the tweets of others during the keynote to augment my memory. Note that these highlights and quotes are not necessarily in the same order as Godin’s speech. I’ve tried to recreate something closer to the story Godin told – I think it’s a bit easier to understand it this way, considering each bit is so out of context. There are also a few editorial comments, usually in the form of a RT quote in italics.  I just want you to know what you’re getting here!

  • RT @twarmbro: educause general session! Hoping @EDUCAUSE_HULK makes an appearance – maybe he could bench press Seth Godin!  <OK that wasn’t from Seth Godin – just a tweet I thought was funny>
  • Competence is no longer a scarce commodity.
  • Mass marketing by definition is average stuff for average people. No choice but to make average products. The college-industrial complex is no different – its object is to keep growing. BUT the world has fundamentally shifted. Mass marketing is broke. Our customers, students are over-saturated. We have branded ourselves to death. We can no longer continue selling average stuff to average people – even if that stuff is a college education.
  • Public schools were created for the industrialized system, for compliance. If you get a defective batch, repeat the grade. They do what they are told so we can ignore them.
  • Give me a map- I’ll do it.” We’ve trained to be competent. But competence is no longer a scarce commodity. What if there is no map?
  • If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper. So there is no future in higher education (with all the costs it entails) if all it’s going to be is high school with more binge drinking
  • Never again is someone going to pay you to answer a question that they can look up on Wikipedia. School is really for solving interesting problems. (@GardnerCampbell adds “finding interesting problems, too.“)
  • Revolutions destroy the “perfect” and enable the “impossible.” Example: the music industry is dead, but there is more music available to more people than ever before.
  •  But now, the means of production have shifted; person who owns means of production keeps the money. “Everyone” w/ computer now owns the means.
  • The first person to install a urinal was an artist, the second was a plumber. We can all be artists with a connection to the world. Art is a human being doing something different that touches another human being. Art means working without a map.
  • RT @GardnerCampbell (Colossal ironies here. Higher ed keeps building maps.)
  • World is getting weirder. Reinforcing their edginess. More weird is more normal. Edge cases are finding edge cases online. The curve is melting. Perfect is now boring. We’re looking for something extraordinary.
  • There is no more mass marketing, in the new model there is engagement, respect and connection.
  • Students need to learn how to solve a problem that has never been solved before.
  • This generation is not looking for a boss, not waiting to be picked. They are just doing it. The people who want to make a difference in the world are not looking for a boss. Education must support these people.
  • If failure is not an option, you have to accept that neither is success.
  • Ignore your lizard brain (the part that tells you not to do something because it’s not safe). It tricks you into meetings and into waiting for someone else to do something before you do.
  • The action of being the one that will be missed is a choice.
  • Stop listening to your inner critic. Move.
  • “Art is about gifts not favors.” Care more about the art not making a nickel. Do art – make change. Give it away.
  • Free range kids is the only way to go. Put them on the subway when they’re 12 & hope they come home at the end of the day.
  • We have to blow up this notion of curriculum. Except for cardiovascular surgeons.
  • You don’t have a job. You have a platform.
  • Lead, connect with people, and know the destination even if you don’t know the directions.
  • RT @GardnerCampbellThis is the chance of a lifetime.” – S. Godin (Is higher ed looking for this? Do we even believe this? I worry; I wonder.)

A few thoughts:

First, I think it’s true you can find information for yourself now. Maybe college isn’t as important anymore. Lots of kids are going out there and finding their own path. But I think there is value in lessons from the past. If they don’t have the discipline to learn what’s come before them – art, literature, business, history – will they have what they need to be successful? Maybe. Maybe not. I think there is value in traditional education. I’m not sure I completely agree with his assertion that school is for churning out workers that fit the system so that we can ignore them. But I do love his idea that education can be a place for students and teachers to work together to solve interesting problems. I think that’s already happening in the most exciting classrooms.

Secondly, I love the idea that you don’t have to wait for someone else – you can make it happen. I know my lizard brain is strong – I have to work hard to silence my inner critic. But that work is worth doing.

Lastly – and this is an area worthy of discussion I think – the idea of “giving it away.”  Open source, open content, open universities – I think it’s awesome. Some of that will be top notch. But…and this is a big but…I think that people need to make a living. In the long run, will “free” resources be able to maintain the quality if no one is paying the authors?

I think about one of my favorite organizations – my roller derby team.  Everyone involved loves it! But only about 20% of our members are willing to put in an extraordinary amount of time to keep the ship afloat.  Sure, everyone helps out to some extent. But the vast majority of the work is done by a few. That’s the nature of volunteering. And that 20% tends to get burned out quickly. After all, they have to have some energy left to go to work, which is where they get paid.

What do you think? Maybe I’m not thinking big enough!

Day One Wrap-up at Educause 2011

Yesterday, when I stepped into the Educause Exhibit Hall for the first time in 2 years I realized how much I’ve missed it! The noise, the color, the people – it’s overwhelming and exciting and familiar all at the same time.

This is my eight time visiting Educause. (I think. It could be seven, but I’m pretty sure it’s eight. Either way, I’ve been to the con a few times). I know Educause is putting on a great online program for those who can’t attend this year, but I thought I’d share what I’m finding out.

If you don’t attend the pre-conference sessions, Educause kicks off with a reception in the Exhibit Hall. It’s a chance to see old friends and connect with new folks and new vendors. I don’t know about everyone, but I think a lot of folks spend the first evening talking to exhibitors whose products they already use. I know I spend the evening connecting with old Blackboard pals (some of whom have moved onto their own companies or joined new ones) and former clients I have known for years.

That’s not to say I didn’t meet anyone new! Here’s a recap of my time at the Exhibit Hall.

  • CLOUD is the word of the day, kiddies. Everyone has an booth session on something happening in the CLOUD. Write it down.
  • MoodleRooms has the best footwear – orange chucks.
  • Gilfus Education Group has a really great line-up of speakers in their booth. If you haven’t checked them out – do so. Some of the topics look very informative.
  • David Yaskin from Starfish seems to be everywhere I look at the conference. You’ll want to find him if you’re thinking about student retention. And who isn’t?
  • Connect Yard is interesting – its software that helps instructors connect with students on social networks, using whatever tools the students/instructors prefer. So an instructor can email something out and it will go to the student via Facebook/Twitter/whatever. And if the student responds back from that network, it will email the teacher. Interesting. And somewhat weird! But not in a bad way! I’m going to go to a session Thursday at 8am in room 105A/B about how a school is using the tool. I’ll report back.
  • Knewton – making a splash on Twitter with their Educause Twitter Guide – has adaptive learning tools on their minds. They gave me an Arizona State University case study to review. Seems to be a smart group.
  • Nuance offers printing solutions on campus. Not sexy, but probably important for many institutions. 🙂
  • Unanet has project management tools for IT departments and other groups on campus. Again, not so sexy – but a tool to look at none the less, especially for larger departments with multiple, multi-year projects.
  • Pearson, of course, is drawing folks into the booth with their new OpenClass offering. They’ve started to answer questions that the community is asking and there are a few sessions today that I’ll attend to get more information.
  • Blackboard is talking about CourseSites, their free course offering. One thing I have to say – Blackboard has some of their best education-focused people working on CourseSites. Jarl Jonas and George Kroner are two of the most dedicated advocates for educators within Blackboard. It will be interesting what they do with CourseSites over the next few months. I’d keep an eye on it.

Today – full schedule, lots of sessions to report back on!  By the way – TweetUp! Thursday, at or in the lounge at the back of the exhibit hall to the left of start-up alley, at 9:50am during the break. Come join us!

PS – forgive any grammar imperfections or typos – I’m blogging this on the fly here at #edu11 🙂

The Power of Twitter (A Follow-up Regarding OpenClass)

I love Twitter. I’ve said it before, I’m a huge fan. I like it because I learn something new every day. Sure Facebook is great, but Twitter is “where it’s at” for me. Why? Read on.

Thursday and Friday were busy days on Twitter, thanks in large part to the Pearson announcement of OpenClass, their new free LMS service. Obviously the announcement of any new LMS might be news, but one coming from such a large, well-funded and respected company as Pearson makes an especially big splash. And the fact that it’s free…well, start the presses. 🙂

There are tons of questions, of course, some of which I brought up in my blog post about the announcement last week. But the fact is, this is exciting – will Pearson’s OpenClass change the LMS landscape dramatically? Or just be another choice among many corporate and open source options, without enough of a change to make a difference?

So…why does Twitter matter? When I first saw and started tweeting about OpenClass, I found many others talking about it too. The community was interested – and searching for more information. At first, only two sources had any real information at all – articles from Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle. As the day went on, a few others offered commentary. Like my post, there was lots of speculation and lots of questions. We also heard from a few pilot school users: University of Wisconsin – Extension and Central Piedmont Community College.

The bottom line? If you wanted to learn more about OpenClass, Twitter was your best source

Pearson hasn’t released a ton of information yet. Most official communications brought you directly to the OpenClass page which had an engaging video with Adrian Sannier, SVP of Product. The video is fun and has some basic information, but doesn’t really tell you much beyond what we knew from those two initial articles. On Twitter, Mr. Sannier did tweet at me about content –OpenClass will accept content from all sources, not just Pearson. And @Joinopenclass did jump into the conversation, but without too many details.

It’s not every day that people come to you to ask about a product you want them to use. I hope Pearson uses Educause 2011 answer more of these questions.  I’ll be there and I hope to learn more!

On another note, one side effect of the OpenClass announcement was that several other open products were brought to my attention. First, @coursenetwork pointed me to their recently-announced LMS project:

“The latest brainchild of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis computer scientist and serial entrepreneur Ali Jafari, CourseNetworking (CN) is a free, online platform that connects teachers and students from around the world based on shared interests and class subjects. It combines the social component of popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter with similar functionality of existing learning management systems (LMS) used at many colleges and universities.”

And @nixty, another free LMS start-up option also tweeted me. They also wrote a blog post detailing some of the same questions many other folks have about OpenClass. From their website:

“NIXTY combines powerful technology with open education to meet the audacious goal of empowering education for everyone! NIXTY provides an educational platform that students, educators, and institutions harness to meet their learning goals. Primary products include ePortfolios, courses, and continuing education courses.”

Most of the questions I have for Pearson are applicable to these folks as well. Who will drive use? What about add-ons? What about internationalization? All important questions that “free” LMS systems will have to answer just as fully as those that cost real dollars if they want to compete at the same level.

See you at Educause! I’ll be tweeting and blogging throughout the conference. You can follow the back-channel at #edu11.

Pearson Announces OpenClass, a Free Learning Management System

Just in time for Educause 2011, Pearson announced a new offering, OpenClass, a free Learning Management System (LMS) in partnership with Google. That’s right. Free. But unlike most open source offerings, there are supposedly no additional costs – no hosting fees, no maintenance fees, no support fees.

Really!?

I first saw the announcement via Kimberly Arnold on Twitter – sharing an article from Inside Higher Ed. Wired Campus also posted an article and since this morning many more have been written. And Twitter has been aflutter with speculation and information.

Wow! My brain is spinning. This will be a game-changer!

<pause>

Or will it?

There’s a lot that goes into the LMS planning at institutions. Here are just a few questions and thoughts that came to my mind:

Who will drive use? Instructors or Institutions?  Instructor buy-in is hugely important when considering LMS choice. High adoption by individual instructors on tools like CourseSites** (by Blackboard) and other free or lost cost software often drives institutions to centralize e-learning under one LMS system.

Once they’ve made a centralized choice, institutions spend a huge amount of time and money to train their instructors on how to use the technology they chose, no matter how “easy to use.” They also spend money to customize software to meet specific institutional needs – integrating with student information systems, third-party add-ons like blogging, wikis and more. All this money and training translates into “stickiness” for the software. No institution wants to invest all that time, money and all those resources just to make a massive change later.

However, most institutions are loath to force a tool on a professor. So if instructor opinion sways dramatically on LMS choices, institutions will revisit the issue. Especially if those instructors start using different LMS tools individually, taking away the benefits of a centrally managed solution (single log-in for students, central grade collection, integration with campus systems).

So, will institutions move toward a free solution that doesn’t involve the maintenance and other costs associated with open-source options? Are they so entrenched in costly LMS solutions that the cost of changing would be too much?

But let’s ask a more important question:

Does any of this even matter?

Perhaps the very idea of a “Learning Management System” will change fundamentally. The LMS has become a huge administrative tool in addition to a learning tool. It’s not exactly a technology that’s ‘light on its feet.’

If OpenClass can provide meaningful learning experiences that instructors love, at little or no cost with little or no demand for central resources – well, that could actually be the disruptive technology everyone seems to want. Traditional LMS software, social tools, mobile devices all changed the way we think about learning – maybe OpenClass will do it again.

Check out the video at http://www.joinopenclass.com. Pearson’s Adrian Sannier, Senior Vice President of Product is speaking at Educause about OpenClass. Wednesday, Oct 19th, 3:30 PM – 4:20 PM in Meeting Room 104A/B.

I know I’ll be there to hear more.

**Post-script**

I’ve seen many of my old Blackboard colleagues tweeting about CourseSites, essentially calling it Blackboard’s version of OpenClass. CourseSites is Blackboard’s free offering for instructors and institutions getting their feet wet with an LMS system.

An old idea (available to instructors when I first joined Blackboard almost 10 years ago), Blackboard shut down CourseSites a few years after I came onboard, then upgraded and re-launched it recently. Years ago instructors could use it for free and then pay a small fee to continue. Now completely free, Blackboard undoubtedly hopes that instructors will find their tools awesome and use their influence to affect intuitional buying. It is a great strategy – Blackboard’s tools are easy to use and there is a whole community of instructional designers and experts out there sharing best practices.

However, Pearson doesn’t need to sell LMS software to survive. Blackboard probably does. What if OpenClass manages to change the very idea of what an LMS should be? What if institutions do move from a centrally administered, heavily invested-in LMS to a cloud-based free tool like OpenClass? Things could change dramatically for a company like Blackboard.

One Teacher’s Viewpoint on Discipline

So I was so excited to see a comment on my “Discipline” blog post from Melisa Mitchell, a college friend of mine who is a 11th and 12th grade English teacher in Baltimore, MD at inner-city school.

Amidst all the talk about standardized testing, how to evaluate teachers and students, and city-wide benchmarks it is nice to hear from one teacher about what is and isn’t working in her classroom. So I wanted to share her comments more widely. So, here it is, from Melisa!

I think about this topic a lot because I was over-disciplined as a kid and am now a teacher who is accused by her administrators of under-disciplining her students. (I teach 11th and 12th grade English in an inner-city school in Baltimore.) However, I do not have even HALF the classroom management issues that other teachers in my building have: Kids don’t talk back to me, don’t cuss me out, don’t throw desks or get into fights. They participate, think about things, disagree with each other (and learn how to do so respectfully), and disagree with me (sometimes without the level of respect I’d prefer, but they are works in progress). And this “works in progress” thing is something I think adults tend to forget: Kids’ brains are wired to make them act like kids, and teenagers are no exception–just because they look more like adults doesn’t mean that they’re capable of acting like adults. Kids act like kids but want to be treated like adults; adults want them to act like adults but treat them like kids. They need to be able to make their own mistakes so that they can learn from them and become, as your dad and his siblings did, healthy and successful adults. People who are sheltered from making mistakes by adults who attempt to control them never learn the critical things we must to be functional members of society and tend to become so fearful of making a mistake that they aren’t capable of functioning. There need to be mistakes, and there need to be realistic consequences, but getting put out of class for not having a pen or for falling asleep is not appropriate. WHY does that kid not have a pen? WHY is that kid sleeping in class? The causes of their behavior need to be addressed as much as the behavior itself.

There are so many factors that go into making us who we are, and I want so much as an educator to be one of the adults my students come in contact with who helps shape them into functional citizens NOT by raising my voice every time they do something wrong but simply by holding them accountable for their choices; by not judging them and accepting that they are flawed people just like I am; and by continuing to guide them in making good choices without making their choices for them. It’s hard to care so much about kids and not want to fix all their wrongdoings before they occur, but it is our obligation to let the mistakes happen. No one ever learned everything she needs to live her life from cautionary tales told by someone to whom she can’t even relate. Certainly we must have some behavioral constraints and clear expectations, but letting kids fall is critical to their growth.

I feel like this is a little rambly, but as I sit in my classroom at lunchtime reading your post and watching the nuts run the halls outside my door, you really got me thinking. Thank you for that!

Melisa, forget rambly! This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you are just the kind of teacher we need out there. Here’s hoping you get the support you need and deserve.

This is an important conversation. There is much to be considered and even more at stake. Are you a teacher or an administrator struggling with this issue? Please share your thoughts!

Discipline: It’s not personal (until it is).

Talking about discipline stirs up some serious emotion for me. And I’m clearly not alone, especially when the subject is disciplining kids and teens in school.

I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post because it’s such a sprawling topic. I’ve seen a bunch of articles about it recently (which I link to at the end of this post). From classroom techniques to racial bias to zero-tolerance…there are so many angles to consider. And discipline goes to the very heart of raising children – it fundamentally helps them define their morality and hopefully becomes their guide when making choices throughout their lives. Johnny shouldn’t hit Jane. Jane shouldn’t cheat Judy.

No wonder it’s so emotional. I think it might be important to remember that. Now that I think about it, maybe this topic needs a series of blog posts. And if it’s going to be a series and it’s going to be emotional – I might as well start with a story about my family.

<cue 60s background music>

I grew up listening to my dad’s stories of growing up in DC and the near suburbs with his 7 siblings – six brothers and a sister. My grandfather died when my dad was 12 and my grandmother (Mema) was pregnant with her eight child. The math:  4 kids under age six; the oldest brother was only 14.

If I were my Mema, I might have thrown myself off a bridge. Luckily for us, she didn’t.

Those four older brothers? They were pretty much on their own. “Single mother” Mema had to focus her energies on the babies. So growing up, my dad came home when he wanted, played pool, drank too much and got 3 tattoos before he turned 14. His brothers were the subject of regular visits from the police. My Mema protected her boys – always assuming their innocence –and was a place of refuge for other neighborhood kids who needed a place. But in the stories I hear, discipline wasn’t nearly a priority when compared getting food on the table. She stepped in when she felt she had to, but for the most part she let them figure it out on their own.

My dad dropped out of school after 10th grade. I haven’t asked him about discipline at school – I need to – because I assume that school wasn’t nearly as meaningful to him as working to help put food on the table for all his siblings (and maybe goofing off at the pool hall too). My dad’s brothers had similar experiences. Most got into a fair amount of trouble, even with the police. Most wouldn’t have been considered “college material” today.

Imagine this for a second! If you had asked my grandmother where my dad was on any particular afternoon, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Think for a minute about your kids, if you have them – do you EVER not know where they are?

So where are my dad and his brothers now? Well, they all are upstanding members of society. They are successful businessmen (some blue collar like my dad; some white collar like my Uncle Tom; some military like my Uncle John). All save one had children of their own who have grown up to be fine adults.

Nice story, right?  But what does this have to do with #EDU and school policies and the national conversation about how to manage discipline?

Well, I’m going to speculate for a second.

<cue current urban soundtrack and fuzzy dream sequence montage>

Today we have zero-tolerance discipline. Kids like my father would probably be seen as a huge problem. I imagine he would most likely been expelled from school early on. He might even be serving jail time, instead of occasional visits from a local police officer. My grandmother might have had to pay fines as a result of his misbehavior – taking more food off of an already spare table. She may have been arrested for her boys’ truancy. I don’t think it’s a very far reach to imagine that she may have had serious intervention from social services. How might this have affected my dad and his brothers?

Speculation! It tends to be scarier than real life. I’ll stop now.

My point is that my dad’s infractions might bring very different, more serious and longer-term consequences today. If this happened today, would harsher discipline “turn him around” earlier? Would it be better for him and his family today? Or worse? Would his wayward youth affect him as an adult? Would he be able to be the successful person he is today? Or would his past haunt him? Make him un-hireable?

I don’t know. But lots of the issues inherent in this story inspire blog posts from strong advocates (on one side or another). These are just a few of the articles that started me thinking:

Is this just a media thing? Is there really an issue here? Articles tend to be of two varieties: “OMG we aren’t allowed to discipline students” or “OMG we are disciplining students too harshly, look at this insane example.”

But wait. In Texas (which has taken a huge step toward helping us make sense of this by making so much data available),  31 percent of students were suspended or expelled at least once in their middle and high school years. 31 percent! Would you have guessed that many? I didn’t. That’s a lot of bad kids.

Or are they? Bad I mean. I think we assume they are bad – or troublesome, a nicer word. But they probably deserve it, right?

I don’t know. There are too many questions to have one answer. But it’s on my mind and I feel like it needs to be talked about in multiple forums and from multiple perspectives. So check out those articles I linked to above. Share any resources you have. And share your thoughts!

What comes to your mind first when you think of discipline in school? Do you worry about teachers who have to deal with the possibility of violence? Do you worry about your kids’ safety? Are you concerned that a good kid’s academic life will be ruined by a single mistake? Do you think parents hinder or help discipline at school? Do you worry that parents and teachers are at odds over discipline? Do you think zero tolerance is the right way to go? Is there a “right way” to do zero tolerance?

How will our choices for children today shape their futures?

Best Post I’ve Read this Week. Read it.

(From me: Thank you Peggy Zugibe. That is all.)
Copied from The Washington Post’s blog, The Answer Sheet (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet)
Find this article here: http://wapo.st/nYrXYq

Why public education must be preserved

This was written by Peggy Zugibe, a member of the Haverstraw-Stony Point (N.Y.) Board of Education. She is also a member of the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services and a member of the board of directors of the New York State School Boards Association.

By Peggy Zugibe

People often ask me why I’m a school board member. To be sure, it is an unpaid and largely thankless job. You make decisions that affect people’s wallets and their children, and emotions can run high. No matter what forms of academic progress our students achieve, some will say our schools are failing and call for radical changes.

But I love being a school board member because I believe in public education. I believe that all of us associated with public schools – school board members, administrators, teachers, students and involved parents and community members — are working to preserve one of our nation’s greatest assets.

Our Founding Fathers believed in public education. In 1785, John Adams wrote, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

In the 1800s, when our country took in more immigrants and it became more diverse, education reformers saw public education as a means of creating productive citizens, ending poverty and crime and unifying an increasingly diverse population. Those societal goals are as relevant today as they were then.

Polls show that the American people value public education.

But the current political climate is downright hostile to public education. Teachers are viewed as underperforming, administrators as overpaid and school boards as overly contentious if not dysfunctional. In certain cases, the criticism might have merit.

But overall, schools and school boards do vital work. This is what democracy looks like.

Political scientist Benjamin Barber has argued that our public schools don’t merely serve the public but actually create the public: “Public schools are not merely schools for the public, but schools of publicness: institutions where we learn what it means to be a public and start down the road toward common national and civic identity.”

As a nation, we need to remind ourselves of the value of public education. This has been recognized by national education organizations such as the American Association of School Administrators, which has a terrific campaign called “Stand Up for Public Education.

Also, the Center on Educational Policy has a great publication called Why We Still Need Public Schools that covers the history of public education and explains how public schools are linked to the common good. It cites six missions that our country has expected public education to fulfill. Our schools:

*Provide universal access to free education.

*Guarantee equal opportunities for all children.

*Unify a diverse population.

*Prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society.

*Prepare people to become economically self-sufficient.

*Improve social conditions.

Are those not worthy goals? Like our Founding Fathers, I believe that that my district and public education in general is serving the public interest. How else can we offer an equal chance for success to all students?

We owe it to future generations to preserve the ideals which have served our nation since its beginning. Our public schools have produced presidents, statesmen, scientists, sports and entertainment figures. We can’t let outside forces result in public education becoming a system of haves and have-nots. We must make sure that we remember what our Founding Fathers saw: that public education is essential to our country’s common good.

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What sessions are “must see” at Educause 2011?

I’ve made my reservation. I’m attending the face-to-face Educause 2011 program this year. It’s been two years since I last attended and in the seven years that I attended before that, I never went on my own! I’ve always gone with a company (ok, I always went with Blackboard). For the first time, I’m going to be able to make my own schedule, see the sessions I want to see, focus on what I want to focus on.

Ok. So. What do I want to focus on?

Ha! Yes, it’s exciting to have freedom. But it’s a lot more work! While I don’t have the restraint of a booth schedule or required events, I am going to have to spend some time working through the Educause schedule to figure out what I want to learn.

I’m also thinking about this blog and how I want it to develop. Obviously, two posts in, I’m still in the early stages of figuring out exactly what I want this blog to be. Heck, what do I want to be? 🙂

So I’m starting on the themes and domains page. I’m also taking a good look at the speaker list. A very early look at the sessions that jumped off the page, in no particular order:

There are many, many more and as I make my way through the program and refine my plans I’ll share what I’m thinking. I’d welcome your suggestions! Which sessions and meetings are “must see” for you?

PS:  I wish the program could be customized by non-Educause members. I’m an independent – so I don’t have access through a university or college and I’m not at a point where I can afford a corporate membership. But I am paying to attend so it would be great to be able to use the program planner tools.

What does it mean to be held “accountable?”

Can we talk about accountability?

I instinctively cringe when I hear the word. Probably because it’s usually used by managers asking me to figure out data that measures the success of my work. I want to say ASK MY CLIENTS. They like me. We talk a lot. They’re happy. What else do you need to know?

Which is probably not the best reaction.

Then I read and tweeted this post by Jay Mathews in his online column, Class Struggles, a few weeks back. I think it’s important so I want to revisit it. And to be honest, it makes me feel much better about my reaction above.

The post is called “We may have accountability wrong.” I assumed it would be another article on the education reform debate and the struggles to figure out how to hold teachers accountable for student success.

Well…it is, sorta. But only sorta.

The column references a new report from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation called “Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government and More.”

Wait, an OVERreliance? Isn’t data king? Aren’t we supposed to measure, measure and measure some more?

Turns out, there is a disconnect between how the average joe defines accountability and how leaders in business, education and other organizations define it. I’ve linked to both Jay Mathews’ commentary and the report itself, so I won’t regurgitate. The report itself is about 50 pages and I’ve just started to read it. But the link takes you to a very fine summary. Here’s an quote:

 “The upshot is that the strategies many leaders rely on to persuade the American public that they are being ‘accountable’ are almost certain to disappoint.”

 The report found that more information does not lead to more trust by the public. Often it leads to less. They also found that responsiveness matters to people more than benchmarks. This speaks to me. Personally, I don’t really care about your numbers. I care if you take my call and try to help me.

This is pretty dramatic stuff if you think about how it applies to the debate over teacher accountability. What if your school is hitting all your marks? Getting great testing numbers? And what if your community still feels that you aren’t doing the right thing? Wow, that kind of stinks.

But maybe it’s a matter of perception. Maybe your benchmarks aren’t what your community needs to know in order to trust and believe in your teachers. Maybe it’s just as important to reach out and open the lines of communication.

So how could the conversation about school accountability be affected by this information? Should the focus change? Stop worrying about numbers?

Probably not. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for data – and I’m fairly sure the report isn’t saying that either. I think that organizations need to measure themselves, push themselves to improve. But it is worth examining why our trust in public institutions is lessening even as many provide us with more data and “transparency.” As Mr. Mathews said, it is a little depressing when you think about the gap, which is just getting wider.

I have a thought. You know when you go to that local store you go to…the one that sells those really awesome cat toys (or baseball bats or pianos or garden tools) that always seems to have exactly what you need? Where the gal (or guy) behind the counter always knows what questions to ask so that she can give you exactly what you need? She’s never pushy, she just knows her stuff and is willing to share her knowledge? And it’s local. You just…trust them. Why? Because you know them. Maybe that’s what we need here – a little more local, a little more direct conversation, one to one or one to small groups. Maybe the answer is as simple (and of course, as complicated) as that.

So what do you think? Comment away please! I feel like this needs to be discussed 🙂

Do you #Edu?

Well hello!

Welcome to my first blog post! Well not really my first – after all I wrote a pretty fun blog at http://gokerryjo.wordpress.com for a while (and will pick that thread up again one of these days). But this is the first post for my brand new “Do you #EDU” blog.

If you are reading this, it’s likely you’re going to try and make an educated decision (is that a pun when written in an edu blog?) as to if you want to read it. So I’ll share who I am and what I plan to do in this space.

Me

I’m Kerry Jo. Some of you may know me from Twitter (@kerryjor), where I tweet on a variety of subjects including education, geek stuff and Star Wars. Others may know me from my eight years at Blackboard, an education technology company. Most of you probably don’t know me at all. But hopefully we can get to know each other through this forum!

My years at Blackboard were formative – I worked with colleges and universities all over the world. I built a client advisory group to help Blackboard develop products and managed a client reference program which connected clients with each other. I also put together the programs for BbWorld, a wonderful series of events which brought together educators using Blackboard technologies. These events gave me an amazing view into the interworkings of education technology departments in a very wide range of schools. And I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of people making a real difference in education.

I’ve since moved on to consulting. I help clients with community building, social media marketing and events. But I’m still connected with many of those folks I got to know at Blackboard. And I find the challenges being faced by educators to be fascinating – complex and difficult and utterly important. I love to read about it. I love to talk about it. And I love to share what I find!

Do You #EDU?

So what is this blog all about? Well I hope it will be a place where I can share some of the wonderful articles, research and information about education that I find. I’m very connected to the EdTech community and technology in the classroom is always top of mind. But I also am keenly interested in the debate around reform, accountability and topics like discipline, testing and creative teaching.

I also hope to share stories from some of my favorite folks in the #EDU community. Best practices, innovation and more.

But most of all, I want to encourage you to connect with others in the community! Share your comments, your content, and your links. If you are using an amazing new technology or testing out a new idea, tell me about it – I would love to share in a post. Generally I find the folks in the education community to be marvelous sharers 🙂 I hope to make this an attractive forum to do just that. And if you’re just someone who cares about education but doesn’t work in it? That’s good too! Considered (and polite) discourse from all is welcome.

Be an #EDU Evangelist

Merriam-Webster defines an evangelist as “an enthusiastic advocate.” Well I’m absolutely an advocate – I believe in education as an end unto itself, a way to improve ourselves and our society by fostering critical thinking. I also believe in education as a way to develop specific skills. Who doesn’t, really? But I’d venture to say I’m more enthusiastic than most. So while I don’t bring a masters degree or classroom experience to the party, I’ll bring that enthusiasm, my eye for a good story and undoubtedly a bit of humor to this blog. I hope you’ll find it both enjoyable and informative. And I hope you’ll join me in being an #EDU evangelist!

So do you #EDU? I know I do!

PS – I hope you will connect with me on Twitter. I’m sharing a lot of content there, and it’s really a companion to this blog!