Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Value In The Teacher

Thinking Out Loud & Organizing Ideas My CUE2010 Concurrent Session: Defining Web 2.0 - The Skill of Strategic Socialization

Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California was interviewed in the PBS special Digital Nation. A colleague of his from the University of Buenos Aires, Ariel Glazer, mashed up the Pink Floyd and Jenkins interview. The complete video which Mr. Jenkins feels ...in many ways, captures some of his core themes and concerns better than the PBS documentary, is available here: http://henryjenkins.org/2010/02/_children_and_young_people.html

Though I thought this mash-up video clip would be a great introduction to the topic of strategic socialization, it and other ideas began to led me to investigate why we should be using modern tools in education in the first place. The recent EduCon2.2 Conference and Bud Hunt's session on The Caring Classroom , articles such as "10 Takeaway tips for Social and Emotional Learning" that were recently published in Edutopia, all lead me to begin thinking about what fundamental principles are at work in a class room when students are being successful. Though technology is great, it is not going to replace the teacher. The teacher will always be a key factor in the success of students. The effectiveness of that teacher depends on how well they can "teach." And when I think about the most fundamental aspect of teaching, it leads me to think specifically about communication. However, communication alone does not result in student learning. Effective communication results in student learning. So, how does a teacher provide effective communication and what is effective communication? Communication is only effective when the target of that communication values the communicator, in this case, the teacher. The following thoughts are ideas related to how a teacher and our institutions can generate value in our teachers in the eyes of our students. As related to the use of technology and strategic socialization, technology, as you will see, plays one role of many used to generate value.

A part of my job is to provide guidance and examples of ways that technology can be used to fundamentally change the way we teach students for the better. Obvious ideas that quickly come to mind are the ideas of improving communication and extending the time students are in "school." I'm not going to touch the latter, that one is a slam dunk in terms of the use of technology, however the first one is essential to the success of the second.

Communication is a big topic and in terms of education, effective communication is a necessity in promoting the highest levels of student achievement. In order for the communication to be its most effective, the message being received must be of value to the individual receiving it. In education, if the messenger is not valued is the message they are sending really considered communicating? A large part of the value placed on the message by the receiver is not necessarily related to the message itself. Most of the time the value comes from the message sender and not the actual information that is being communicated. In order to create effective communication in the "classroom," this value needs to be fostered between the teacher and the students, and vice-versa. There are many ways this value is cultivated by the teacher. It is not just generated between verbal exchanges between the participants, it is also built through external influences all of which are in our control. For example:


How does the information presented by Liz Coleman foster improved communication (generate value in the minds of our students for their teacher)? Teachers adopting a mindset that all subjects are worthy of study, beyond just their particular expertise, will be interpreted by students that their "expertise" or contributions are valued, even if their strong suit is not say, geometry or algebra. To carry on the math example see Dan Meyer's blog at http://blog.mrmeyer.com/ for examples of this concept in a math class. Dan brings in much more than math content into his math classroom. Marco Torres generates value in his work with students and video production too...http://www.edutopia.org/marco-torres-empowering-students-through-multimedia. Marco's emphasis on fundamentals of story telling, planning, and technique enable students to explore concepts that are of interest to themselves, besides developing an understanding of the core instruction.

The video of a student explaining their work is another example of a teacher that has incorporated multiple disciplines into a lesson to strengthen, in this case, the student's understanding of math but honoring the student's values and interests, all of which translate into value in the teacher in the eyes of the student.

The Old Stand-by Is Still Relevant Because it Generates Value Too - Expectations

The following video is a common story of disenchanted/disengaged student. Richard Florida is an author and popular speaker covering topics such as the importance of creativity in the world and education. Embedded in this clip also is idea of "value." He doesn't speak directly to it, but where does the idea of learner value for their "teacher" appear?

He makes some good points, but the underlining idea here is not that technology is the solution, its what the use of technology generates in students. In my opinion he's missing a very big point. He shares how he hated school, never went to classes even in college, but would have high level, intense conversations with his buddies over beers. He talks about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropping out of school, but now in adulthood being very successful. What is he actually saying underneath those words? He is essentially saying there was no value for him in what was being communicated in school. Would he and his buddies have benefited if their teachers had higher expectations? If students perceive teachers honestly care, have high expectations, and are looking out for their best interest, does that build value? Recent popular movies such as Stand and Deliver or Freedom Writers counter Mr. Florida's view of his own education by providing a ("Hollywood") view of teachers with high expectations and students that become successful by a large degree primarily for the development of value they develop for their teacher and ultimately for what is being "communicated" to them.

(Full Richard Florida video available here: http://bigthink.com/ideas/18102 )

Design and Environment Generate "Plus or Minus Value"

Larry Rosenstock, CEO of the San Diego's High Tech High

This clip provides the ideas behind the school environment at San Diego's High Tech High. It does not look like a school, it looks like an "incubator for a start-up company." There are glass walls, you can see easily into classrooms, and the walls of the place are hung with examples of student work. How does this create "positive value" in the students at this school for their teachers? How could we create this type of environment in existing school/classrooms if we didn't have a spare industrial building laying around to use? I'm not even going to address the issues of generating negative value. I'm hoping those examples would be pretty obvious after watching the video.

Another big point that I feel generates this "value" in students for their teacher, indirectly, is the idea of not categorizing students. At High Tech High there is a conscious effort not to segregate or separate out students.

When you segregate you are unconsciously, or consciously, assigning value. By not segregating your are creating value by affirming individual contributions and strengths. This is similar to the point about liberal arts mindset in the point above with the video of Liz Coleman.

The full video on San Diego High Tech High can be viewed here: http://www.mobilelearninginstitute.org/21stcenturyeducation/films/film-larry-rosenstock.html

Stefana Broadbent - TED Talk Video

I said I wasn't going to point out the factors that could induce "negative value" factors in our learning environments, but Stefana Broadbent outlines many of them in this excerpt from her TED talk video. How would the things she describes create a negative effect in how value is generated by a students for their teacher? These are factors that are not the direct result of the teacher's actions...by the way.

Stefana's TED talk is really about the emergence of some new phenomenons brought on by our advances in communication technologies. She says in the past, and right up to today, Imposed Isolation has been the norm ... in our institutions...however, that is changing due to technology. We school our children to this norm, schools mimicked the environments we would find in the work-world outside of school. This is changing and all institutions need to adapt. Imposed Isolation is no longer becoming the norm.

What kind of message does this send our students when we block the tools they use to communicate with the people who THEY value? If we are proponents of communication learning), high expectations, and student achievement, but yet we block students from communicating with those that THEY value, does that build value in ourselves as teachers in the eyes of our students? We need to invest ourselves in our students and strive to become one those 5-6 most influential individuals that Broadbent describes. We need to use these tools to build value. (The full TED Video by Stefana Broadbent is available here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/stefana_broadbent_how_the_internet_enables_intimacy.html )

Motivation & Value
Daniel Pink's new book Drive explores the topic of motivation. He breaks down the history of motivation into three versions, Motivation 1.0, Motivation 2.0, and Motivation 3.0. Motivation 1.0 are the basic motivators that include the need for food, reproduction, and survivability. Motivation 2.0 are the traditional institutionalized techniques he refers to as the "carrot and the stick." Motivation 3.0 is more related to intrinsic motivation. He uses examples of OpenSource software development where there is not monetary, or extrinsic reward. People create software just to create it in the hopes of helping others. He also uses the example of Tom's Shoes, http://www.tomsshoes.com/default.asp Where for every shoe they sell they give a pair to a child in need. Employees are motivated by the intrinsic reward of being associated with a company that is helping children. Altruistic? Maybe, but it motivates workers and buyers. Motivation 3.0, intrinsic motivation, which is tied to teacher expectations, builds value. Teachers promoting intrinsic motivation in their students promotes the idea of value in them, and in return add to the teacher's value (in the student's eyes).

As a side note regarding Pink's book, he claims that the baby boomer generation are all approaching their 60s. In his words he describes this generation as one who has worked very hard, but may be feeling like their work has not lead to any substantial achievements. He implies that they my be struggling with their intrinsic motivation drives. He claims every thirteen minutes, 100 adults turn 60. He says this will continue until 2024. Pink thinks the Boomer generation aging will result in a wave of volunteerism as they struggle with their Motivation 3.0 drives that have been neglected in the Motivation 2.0 work days. They may be a resource that schools will want to begin preparing to tap if Pink's prediction is correct. Would a program in our schools that takes advantage of this volunteerism generate value in teachers by their students?

"Caring about students is listening to them, learning about them from them."

Chris Lehmann the Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia made that statement earlier this year at the EduCon2.2 conference. That statement drips with value generating potential. A school culture that honors that philosophy will generate value in the eyes of students for teachers and learning. That philosophy requires a commitment that begins with the teacher and transcends to the foundations of the learning institution. Developing a learning organization that creates value does not happen over night, it takes time, planning, and a concerted effort.

Many strategies can be developed to bring about additional value in schools. The title of my CUE Concurrent session is Defining Web 2.0: The Skill of Strategic Socialization. Web 2.0 tools provide an easy entry point into establishing strategies to develop more value. The first is allowing modern communications tools in schools, and providing students and staff with instruction on effective use. The second is for teachers to model the use of these tools with their students, and the third is to use these tools ourselves to grow and learn as educators.

1 comment:

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