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Blog Watch

What education insiders are saying about technology, testing, obesity,

and opting out online.

September 2006

The site: Assorted Stuff

Instructional-technology specialist Tim Stahmer on teachers and tech: What should we expect teachers to know and be able to do with technology? We seem to ask that question every year as we plan for the opening of schools in the fall. And every year the answer doesn't seem to change a whole lot: Basically, a skill set that represents the minimum "standards" for any functioning adult in this country, a basic list of productivity applications (word processor, e-mail, browser, etc.), along with an extremely fundamental understanding of using technology in the classroom.

There is really only one overriding reason why we have not reached a tipping point in the number of teachers who progress past the basic skills level:

We don't expect them to. Our instructional leaders talk about the need to use computers in the classroom, but they don't require it. More important, they don't foster the fundamental changes to teaching and learning demanded by total integration of instructional technology. And any movement in that direction is far too slow, especially considering the pace of the world at large.

The site: Remote Access

Teacher Clarence Fisher asks about opting out. As the school year begins and blogs, wikis, Skype, and all sorts of other collaborative tools begin to roll into classrooms, I wonder about user policies. Many people have argued for informing parents of their children's online activities and for getting them to sign off on a permission form allowing their kids to blog and be in contact with other people through the use of collaborative tools. But what happens if you have parents who don't sign the forms? Do we ask the permission of parents before we give their kids pencils and paper and they give us their thoughts on other topics? If we are arguing that these tools are basic, and the use of them should be evenly distributed throughout society, should people be able to opt out of their use? Is that not like opting out of math class?

The site: The Education Wonks
On tests and trophies. Kids today get such mixed messages about their responsibilities in life. On the one hand, we prepare them for standardized tests while they're practically still in the delivery room, snipping off the umbilical cord and handing them a No. 2 pencil. On the other hand, we protect them from reality tests in ever-increasing numbers. Can you imagine how confused a child would be if he got the importance of high-stakes tests drilled into him in school, then went to his softball game and got a trophy for scoring no runs? Testing pressure may have reached detrimental levels in some schools, but the removal of all stakes in sports and popularity contests could have as far-reaching and negative an effect.

The site: The Daily Grind

A teacher asks, "Who sets the scales?" Students walk our halls holding 16-ounce cans of Monster energy drinks and venti cinnamon dolce lattes in order to make it through the early hours of public high school and junior high. The same students pack lunches with half a package of Oreos and another can of energy drink. Yet while parents neglect nutrition without accountability, the schools must create a "wellness" plan for their students. ... Are we holding the right people accountable? It is not to say that we don't want healthy students, but I thought we were about educating students. It seems that we have taken away the ability to choose while teaching them how to make those choices.

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