Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This far in...

A milestone: I'm halfway to retirement (!), and I have few observations this far into "Education the Profession"....

The size of a school may be the single most important factor determining student success

Well, not the only one, but ...the only school system in Alabama that regularly bests us is larger, but has zero poverty. We have thirty percent free and reduced-price lunch...but we are a third its size. And the school system where I work is truly ideal in that most adults know most students. And our guidance counselors hand-schedule classes. And the classes are tiny. And it works.

In a decade, my last school grew from 800 students to 1500. I spent some time working on a U. S. Department of Ed Smaller Learning Communities grant, a program predicated on creating learning environments of optimal size, which gets at the affective aspects of learning. Sure, the lure of the big and economies of scale are tempting. At 1000 students, high schools in Alabama are allocated a third state-funded guidance unit, a third assistant principal, and funding for a second librarian. But I don't think more people is the answer.

Social services creep is real

And I thought attendance robocalls were creepy... things we have now we didn't have when I started teaching: school nurses, school resource officers. Heck, there are even nurses required to be on every field trip. But it begs the question, what is the role of school?

Obsolescence is often used like a weapon with school librarians, as with librarians in all settings

With the Internet and Wikipedia, who needs a building filled with dusty old books, right? I believe the faculty should be dazzled with your librarian skills, soft skills as well as technology integration and information sources. Show them your hard work. And help teachers get started with the tools that meet their expressed needs. If you can't do that...there's not too much hope for you.

Advance some radical thoughts about technology

Virtual field trips are not field trips, elearning is not learning, current assessment systems are ridiculous. It boils down to the fact that demonstrating the mastery of standards is simply not the same as experiential learning. So let's get back to learning, constructivist, project-based learning. It's what will stick with them.

I should never be the youngest person at the table

I'm excited for more millennial school leaders and their out-of-the-box thinking. I like it. This year, I've shifted to a different way of thinking about hardware... educational technology as an ongoing expenditure, not a one-shot investment. When you really look at the total cost of ownership, it becomes apparent why education likes Mac -- that overpriced, idiot-proofed, walled garden. It shifts costs from manpower to hardware, and Mac even amortizes hardware through leasing. It's access versus ownership, that generational tension again, but I use a nine year old laptop, so I'm definitely not the one to ask...

I love this work, especially watching our seniors graduate and go on to bigger things.

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