The World Really is Changing

I couldn’t resist FINALLY a reason to link to one of the best West Wing scenes:
“Nothing is where you think it is.”
“Yeah, but you can’t do that, because it’s freaking me out.”

This week’s reading:

Guy Standing – excerpt about the Precariat from Eurozine. Entire PDF here.
Diana Hess – chapter from More Controversy in the Classroom.
Beth Simone Noveck – chapter from Wiki Government.

Two notes: 1) I love that I can just link to the book on Amazon and not have to type out the APA citation. 2) I just discovered the paste text toggle off feature and it will save me from having to type

into the code to format my documents, which I write in Evernote then transfer. #smallvictories

This is my last course reading reflection of the semester. Hooray! If you haven’t already read my wikipedia page that I wrote for the class (although at this point it is a mixture of my writing + copy edits by another wikipedian), then you should check it out at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_Leadership

The Future of School Leadership

I get caught in between wanting to believe the world is radically changed, which is why schools need to change, and wanting to believe that things are the way they’ve always been. Standing and Noveck, this week, both made me feel like the world is radically changed.

Standing’s article about the precariat made me wonder how much education responds to the changes going on socially in the world. Clearly teachers all live in society, so they experience it and are part of it, but the process of educating kids can feel so insulated (in a bad way) from the world. (I think Dewey said something like this.) I would see new teachers as fitting into the “proficians” category, in the sense that I don’t think most young teachers look at going into teaching as a life-long career. It is something they are interested in and will do for awhile until other interesting opportunities come along. I think this would also mean they lack a “work-based identity,” and learning the craft of teaching is not seen as a lifelong endeavor in the same way that it was for my parents.

Standing ends with a brief mention of commodification, “a central aspect of globalization…[that] has been extended to every aspect of life,” including the education system. By this, Standing means “everything can be bought and sold, subject to market forces, prices set by demand/supply, without effective ‘agency’ (a capacity to resist).” How does this work for information? It seems that the expectation for information is for it to be free, of which many examples are seen in Noveck’s chapter excerpt from Wiki Government. It made me think about Open Educational Resources, where people share a commodity for free.

Noveck mentioned Delver, the network based search engine. Unfortunately it does not appear to have continued to be funded, but thanks to the internet archive (archive.org), I got to see a video of their CEO, Liad Agmon, explaining it. Maybe it was before its time because people still do not see their social network as something they could mine for helpful connections.

I like the idea of every piece of information as a potential community, where data is seen in relationship to the groups who use it. This reminded me of our early discussions of data creating a Discourse (Gee). “By making information more visual, we make it easier to understand” (Noveck, p.127). This made me think of some of the work I did collaboratively with our art teacher around visual culture. Most of us know when we see a graphic we understand but we often don’t know why we understand it. Take a look at how terrible most research posters are. Clearly they do not follow a functionally transparent model of making sense! Who researches and teaches about the properties of how visual displays communicate? Artists.

The world is a dramatically different place than when our schools were founded, and yet schools still look very much the same. How much are we, as educational leaders, really willing to change? We read about double loop learning (Argyris) where single loop was feedback on what we did but double loop was how we did what we did. Maybe we need triple loop that puts how we did what we did in contemporary context.

Finally, a quick story came to mind after reading Hess’ article about discussions of controversial ideas in the classroom as a foundation of our democracy. One of my strongest and earliest teaching memories was a spontaneous debate with my first class class of 6th graders. We were discussing hunting as a way to manage wildlife populations. After they had all shared their views and counterpoints, they kept asking me what I thought. Instead of telling them, I asked them what they thought I thought. They started debating what they though I thought! I never told them my views, and I remember a sense of victory that I facilitated the discussion in a way that I could push from both sides while letting their voices be primary. When they walked out of class, they were still questioning the right answer, rather than putting the thinking away with my opinion.

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