Tag Archives: reform

Animation + Sir Ken Robinson = Awesome

Back in July 2009, while I was working at Blackboard, I was called into an emergency meeting just before BbWorld 2009 was set to start. We were already onsite, maybe a day or two out from the event.

Sir Ken Robinson, our opening keynote speaker, was ill. He would not be able to attend. Cue event planner heart attack.

Luckily we were able to get a substitute speaker at the (very) last minute. Seth Godin stepped in and spoke to our audience. I didn’t actually get to see Mr. Godin speak that day, but I was lucky enough to see him speak at Educause 2011.

But 3 years later, I still haven’t seen Sir Robinson speak. So I found this animation fascinating and I’m more eager than ever to hear him speak in person. Take 11 minutes and watch – this is worth your time! It certainly made me think.

We’re getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. I think we should be doing the exact opposite. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.”

Thanks to Karen Yoshino, my old Bb colleague, who shared this on Pinterest where it caught my attention!


Civics Education in (Very Exciting) Practice

I really enjoyed the first day of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educause conference yesterday. Wish I could have stayed another day!  But I made the most of my time and took in some great sessions. I’ll buck tradition and start with the last session I attended, as it’s the perfect follow-up to the blog post I published Wednesday, The Case for Civic Education.

Session: Making Teaching and Learning Authentic: Engagement through Social Media in Politically Charged Times – James A. Jorstad, Director of Academic Technologies, University of Wisconsin-LaCross

Jorstad says that authentic learning focuses on real world, complex problems and solutions. Taking a look at this video, one of many he posted during the Wisconsin budget protests, I’d say that his choice of subject matter qualifies. One of the main themes repeatedly discussed during my session at the Brookings Institute earlier this week was making government studies more relevant – creating a disposition in students to want to learn about civics. Jorstad is doing just that. What a wonderful way to involve students – taking events happening in their backyards and bringing it into the classroom in real-time.

Jorstad is a regular contributor on CNN’s iReports and during his session he shared several of the videos he took during the 2011 Wisconsin budget protests. He uses his experience to help students understand the power – both positive and negative – of social media; it’s also an opportunity to discuss how to disseminate fact from fiction in new and traditional media.

His videos of the protests, posted on iReports started getting big views very quickly – he estimates 200-300 views every 30 seconds. As the views climbed,  CNN vetted the post. Then his video started showing up on other sites, including Forbes. As the video went “viral” and from iReport to actual news, eventually the attribution was lost (I think it’s like a game of telephone…the farther the video gets from its original posting, the less likely people will include the creator). He noted that attribution is one of the challenges of a social media-driven news report.

Jorstad highlighted some of the comments made on his videos. Many were extremely hostile – another symptom of the lack or ineffectiveness of civics education that was noted in the Brookings panel. In fact, his videos of the protest were often flagged as inappropriate (which, ironically seemed to work against those trying to get the video taken down; Jorstad believes that it actually raised the viewer numbers by making the video “forbidden” for short periods of time). The comments on his video of Jesse Jackson speaking on campus were openly racist. Jorstad decided to leave the comments there, instead of flagging for removal, so he could use them as discussion points in class.

Other notes from the session:

  • He uses media examples as a tool to teach about how to effectively critique news sources. He shared a Fox news report showing “union protest violence” that actually contained footage from an incident in California. Many accept what they see on the news as truth. He uses different news sources to teach students to view media with a critical eye.
  • He had an expert evaluate his videos and his estimate was 200,000 attendees at the protest. Press reported “10s of thousands.” Again a reason to look critically at our media sources.
  • Jorstad shared his videos with students in class and asked students if their mothers would have attended the event. Most said yes – and many said their mothers were at the protests!
  • Jorstad surveyed his students (I believe political science and English classes). Over half identified themselves as Republican, with a strong bent toward the conservative Tea Party. Yet when asked which news network they thought was most biased, Fox was the runaway “winner” while CNN was considered the most impartial.
  • Students seem to realize they may rely too strongly on social media, saying something to the effect of “we know we already have poor interpersonal skills”
  • He encouraged everyone to go to http://ireport.cnn.com/ and submit a story. A great learning experience for anyone!

Jorstad shared this link to resources from his session. I would add links to his iReports page on CNN, and his Learning Space blog.

All and all a great session – and I think any teacher might look to current events and social media as a way to engage students, especially in history, civics and government. I say steal this idea, teachers.   🙂

The Case for Civic Education

Hello everyone! Hope you all enjoyed your holidays. I, for one, enjoyed my semi-annual “quiet period.”

Yesterday I attended an interesting event at the Brookings Institute. Spurred by the publishing of “Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education,” several of the contributing authors came together to discuss the state and future of civics, government and U.S. history in K-12 and higher education. I was excited to see the event announced – I have a special interest in the topic.

I hate talking about politics. It’s gotten so bad in recent years that I find myself avoiding the news – even that haven for young news avoiders, the John Stewart Show. The hyperbole, the unwillingness to have civil discussions, the media screaming – it’s enough to make me want to hide under a table. Incredibly, it’s a problem should a politician ever have the audacity to change a position (or their minds) about an issue. Of course they do – and blithely pretend that they’d always thought that way!

But this avoidance is not a good thing. And I am the first to admit that I take many political conversations too personally. I remove myself rather than face challenging conversations. I am part of the problem! So I approached the panel with two goals – to hear from some experts how #EDU may hold answers to resolving the problem and to gain insight into how I might personally work toward being more civically engaged.

The panel included John Bridgeland, author and recently appointee to President Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions (he also served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under George W. Bush) and David Feith, Chairman of Civic Education Initiative. The panel was moderated by William Galston of the Brookings Institute.

In addition to some grave statistics about the lack of civics, government and history knowledge among both kids and adults, two key themes were touched on again and again: First, the current state of politics is marked by an unwillingness – and perhaps an inability – of government leaders to work together to solve problems. Secondly, the lack of knowledge in (and, more importantly, the lack of disposition to learn) civics is rampant, with no clear action plan to resolve.

The focus of the discussion was broad enough that specific #EDU action items are rare in my notes. But there are some good nuggets to share.

I’ll start by sharing a great #EDU memory from Mr. Bridgeland’s keynote. He recalls being asked to play the part of a lawyer for Dred Scott in school. He had to prepare a case and present it to the class. He still recalls everything about the experience…in the end, he won the case, winning for Dred Scott where history had failed him. This awakened an interest in government for him that was never extinguished.

Repeatedly, each panelist brought up the need for enthusiastic and passionate teachers in the subject. Adm. Michael Ratliff, President of the Jack Miller Center discussed his higher education-focused summer institutes where professors (perhaps focused on research) can re-awaken the passion that brought them to the study of civics.

I have to say that I sat up and paid attention when Seth Andrew, Founder and Superintendent of Democracy Prep Public Schools (absolutely the most passionate member of the panel) offered harsh criticism of K-12 education. Sounding a wake-up call that today’s civil rights issue is fixing our schools, he argued that reports, statistics and policies don’t matter if you don’t have a passionate, effective teacher in the classroom. His charter schools serve a diverse, almost 100% low-income student population. When he gets a new sixth-grader he can’t teach them civics right away – he has to teach them how to read.

More interestingly, he asserted that you must first create the disposition in kids to learn civics. He talked about taking his kids out to help sign up voters with hats that say “we can’t vote, but YOU can,” an activity that clearly gets his kids fired up and wishing they were able to vote. He talked about showing kids how they could be involved in the civic process even without the ability to vote. I really enjoyed his short remarks – he was one of the speakers I would most enjoy seeing again.

One of the more interesting moments of the 2 hour session was also the most fleeting. Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE and Research Director of Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University spoke briefly about his work on civics education. He clearly is up to his elbows in policy work. He opened his remarks with a thrown-away statement that he’s not sure at all that students don’t KNOW civics …implying that his reading of the data was different and somewhat controversial. But he didn’t elaborate!!! Tease. He did go on to agree with Seth Andrew that creating a disposition in learners to get engaged in civics was of utmost importance. But I am left wanting more. Much more.

The question and discussion period was short. There was a pointed question about the general white guy-ness of the panel. Mr. Feith struggled with the question but Seth Andrews came out swinging again as a self-professed white guy running schools that are serving a community of color. He feels that engaging these communities, which are currently even less likely to participate in the process, is of utmost importance.

Overall, the panel could have been a bit smaller so we could hear more about the actual work happening to improve civics education in their respective areas of expertise. I definitely wanted to hear more from Mr. Levine and Mr. Andrew. But all and all a good introduction to the topic.

But perhaps like many students leaving our schools, I’m left wishing I knew more 🙂 What about you? Do we have any government or U.S. History teachers among my readers? Share your stories! How do you inspire your students to get engaged in the civic process?

PS. I do hope I caught all the spelling errors in this post. I have discovered that while my new tablet does many things – it does NOT do spell check. And neither do the mobile versions of gmail, WordPress, or my document editing software. Sigh. 🙂 But I wanted to get this out to you and I am not at my home office today. Hope to see some of you at the regional Educause this afternoon in Baltimore!

“Rebooting” Higher Education

The fabulous Jan Poston Day invited me to an event at the American Enterprise Institution. The AEI is “a private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare.”

The panel was called “Rebooting Higher Education: Kaplan CEO Andrew Rosen’s “Change.edu” and the Future of Postsecondary Education in America” and, of course, featured Mr. Rosen. The panel was well moderated by Andrew Kelly, an AEI research fellow for higher education policy. Also on the panel were Diane Auer Jones from the Career Education Corporation; Jeff Selingo from The Chronicle of Higher Education; and Zakiya Smith, of the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Mr. Rosen’s book, “Change.edu: Rebooting for the new talent economy” was the impetus for the panel.

After a short introduction, Mr. Rosen opened by sharing a few quotes about higher education:

  • These colleges are resorting to all kinds of devices to get students.
  • These institutions are universities in aspiration rather than fact…they are pretenders to the title of university.
  • These schools are robbing the US Treasury.
  • These colleges compete unfairly with established colleges.
  • The students who attend these colleges are not college material.

In the first of a few surprises for me, these comments were NOT made about for-profit institutions like Kaplan. These were all directed at the “land grant” schools in the second half of the 19th century that wanted to teach the children of non-elites practical skills like agriculture, science and engineering instead of more classical liberal arts studies. Iowa State University, University of California and Rutgers were all land grant universities.

Really? Cause I don’t know about you, but I assumed these quotes were about for-profit universities. Don’t lie now. You did too 🙂

Mr. Rosen went on to talk about how higher education has a rich history of disruption. Oxford and Cambridge didn’t think much of Harvard at first. He asserts that today’s “pretenders” become tomorrow’s leaders. But history also says that higher education and government won’t reform themselves. It takes other factors to ‘shove’ them into action. And Mr. Rosen says that the shove is coming.

More to come! I wanted to share what I could write up in the wee small hours of the morning. In the meantime, check out some video clips from the panel here.