A concise quote about what Web 2.0 can and can't do

In my many conversations about technology and literacy over the past few years – and especially since the Web 2.0 (or read/write web or whatever we are going to call it) phenomenon has taken off – I have heard about the wonders and wickedness of wikis, the boon and bust of blogging, and the power and puff of podcasts.

Also, there is much talk of digital natives and immigrants and what each one of these demographics can or can’t do with technology. Despite the general idea that this dichotomy creates – that kids “get” technology and adults don’t – there is more to it than that.

Thus, this quote tidily sums up the good, and bad, about these technologies as they relate to education.

“Kids automatically teach each other how to use technology,” says Howard Rheingold, author of the influential Smart Mobs and long-time Web observer, “but they’re not going to teach each other about the history of democracy, or the importance of taking their voices into the public sphere to create social change.”

Can Web 2.0 change the world? – The Practical Futurist – MSNBC.com

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Notes from “Journalism and Academic Research on Education”

Another great presentation today. Here are the official details with my notes below:

New York Times education columnist Samuel Freedman will visit the College next week. He will speak on “Journalism and Academic Research on Education” on Tuesday, September 19th at 2:00 p.m. in 252 EH.

Freedman is a Professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism. In addition to his regular Times columns, he is the author of several acclaimed books, including Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and their High School. Small Worlds was a pioneering study of urban education and teaching careers, still major interests of Professor Freedman’s. His talk will feature attention to relations between the kind of journalism he practices and teaches, which shares some of the qualities of academic inquiry, and university based research.

Just last week, Freedman recognized our colleague Lynn Fendler (and former colleague David Labaree) in a Times column on the uses and abuses of “reflection.” The column is posted at the College website. Professor Freedman‚s visit is sponsored by the Spencer Research Training Grant.

Notes from Session:

  • Opening from Steve Weiland: what can we learn about educational research from journalists?
    • Journalists look for their models in every great art, and researchers can look at educational inquiry as literature
  • Freedman
    • Intro
      • I spend much of my time teaching, so I enact education all the time
      • Also, to see my parents go through school and to work with their teachers, sometimes supportively and sometimes critically, I get to see a different perspective than what most journalists might see
        • I am constantly reminded as a parent that their is nothing more important than the education of your own children
      • As a journalist, I have done many different things in my career. Musically, Miles Davis and Neil Young have never done anything the same, and I like to think that I am doing something similar.
        • As a young journalist, I learned that people care about two main things: taxes and children. Education combines bot.
        • When I went to NYT, my various jobs have often brought me back to education in many guises
        • Small Victories was one of the outgrowths of this work.
          • This came about when I began in 1987 as a part of how public education was constructed.
            • A Nation At Risk and the Carnegie Foundation’s report on Excellence in Education
            • These both looked at the unexamined certainty that schools were failing, and that is something that you should always examine in more detail
            • If there is such a paucity of great education going on, I haven’t seen it. So many people who were critical of public education without every seeing it firsthand.
            • I had seen evaluators come into schools for two or three days and presume to evaluate the entire system. I wanted to write about a low-income high school in Manhattan to show the world the day-to-day practice of education.
            • These issues stayed with me even after I finished the book and then the ideal turn of events came 2.5 years ago when NYT asked me to come into the education column.
              • This has reinforced for me the inexhaustible source of materials in education.
              • I want to talk about the intreplay between education journalism and scholarship
    • Educational journalism
      • How do you get the reporter to go beyond simply calling the expert and having some level of mastery of the field yourself?
        • How do you connect with the scholars and the practitioners?
        • We generally go with the idea of being a generalist. We want someone who can be a “quick study”
        • What this celebrates is a facile well-written superficiality
        • It is rare that you get to be on the beat for a long time
        • Just as journalists get to know the beat, they move on or get a promotion
        • One thing that journalists need to do is to be aware of the scholarly discussions going on in the field
          • For instance, the new NCTM standards as an about face from constructivist learning to more directive learning ala Singapore — this is a far way off from the entire story
        • We need to acknowledge, humbly, that those who study and practice the field have something to tell us
      • At the same time, journalists serve a crucial purpose to put theory and practice to the test
        • The goal of a good journalists, particularly in education, is to show how ideas play out at the ground level and to show how thing are
        • You do this by using the journalistic power of observation and questioning
        • You also do this by asking the “experts,” students and then teachers and parents
      • This is not a perfect system, because articles fall into two categories
        • The article that you had enough time to report and not space to explain
        • The article that you had enough time to explain and not enough time to report
      • In Small Victories, I didn’t look at everything, and I couldn’t claim that I knew everything
    • For me, one of the other watchwords about covering education is that I have always imagined schools as a gigantic switchboard. There are plugs everywhere that can be connected. Schools are a social switchboard in which race, class, culture, language, gender, religion — all the parts of human experience — come together in school.
      • This is a great fulfillment in education and a great challenge
      • You can’t neatly divorce home life from school life
    • I have also explored commonplaces and tried to uncover some of the assumptions embedded therein
      • There is some evidence of corruption and failure, to be sure, but what I wanted to show that there were some schools achieving
      • There was great success with teaching and children going to college
      • Many tried to ask me the “gotcha” question about whether I would send my kids there. I said that I would love to have my kids taught by those teachers, but no one should have to be in a school that is at 180% capacity with a roof falling in on itself.
    • I look at many of the policies that the NYC schools chancellor is doing, and I am not trying to take him down a peg, but I think that the orthodoxy is that big high schools don’t work and I want to explore it.
      • There is lots of collateral damage to this decisions — kids get displaced from these small schools and end up in big ones, making them violent and disorderly places
      • Sometimes the small schools got put into big school and it made competition for finite resources
    • Mike Winerip was great at taking the agnostic view on testing, and he was able to show how there were all types of problems with testing
    • Going out and doing fieldwork is not just about the negative though
      • I tell journalists that you can’t ever forget that you are covering something magical; if you lose site of the magic, you shouldn’t be on the beat
      • I try to make sure to come back to pay homage to the magic, as well as to keep people’s feet to the fire
      • Doing the journalistic version of field work can bring back upbeat stories
    • One other question that came up was “who do I see myself writing for?”
      • Good journalism has to speak to experts
        • If it is too simplistic and reductive, then I haven’t done my job
        • It needs a sense of subtlety, nuance, and complexity
      • It also have to speak to the general public, one who might look at the education column casually
        • If it is only for insiders, then it won’t appeal to others
        • You need to pull these people in and invite them to get the knowledge as part of the reading experience
      • I don’t get this in every column, but I try
  • Q&A
    • Q: Spellings report coming out today, what are your thoughts?
      • A: There are some many media reports that come out, and most of them are worthy, but only some of them get the attention at a higher level of visibility. It is a filter up and a filter down system — from the Chronicle of Higher Ed and other aggregators — it works backwards. It goes to scholarly and specialty publications and then starts to spread around. For instance, I missed the report on the NCTM report, but people sent me emails about it. what I find interesting to do is not to simply rewrite the executive summary, but to have them as resources that I can use later to add depth to my writing.
    • Q: Blogs and podcasts in journalism and then in classrooms.
      • A: There are two parts to the blogosphere : as delivery and as value system. As delivery, I have no problem, because experts can give a great deal of information in real time. It lets people get well-researcher ideas out into the world. As a value system, it bothers me that there is no journalistic integrity to it. It can look spiffy, yet their is no commitment to doing accurate reporting or exploring the world. There is a disdain that one can go out and report upon human experience as compared to saying “here is what I think.”
      • I think that it is great that when things happen, good or bad, that people can tell about things firsthand from cell phone pictures and first reports. Items on YouTube from Iraq is just raw material, and that is where a journalist comes in to synthesize and critique that.
      • In the long run, I hope that there is a sorting out that the audience can discern.
      • I know that the schools and teachers are using blogs and even the NYT has teachers writing for them.
      • This isn’t journalism, but this is a fun way to understand the sense of agency that you get with writing.
    • Q: Thoughts on the think tank phenomenon
      • A: You, as a reporter, should know what the think tank is about and report that in your story. You need to point out who has a horse in the race, other wise you are not doing your job as a journalist.

Comments on “Learning a language to welcome the future”

Like many of you, I have read The World is Flat, and — while I agree with many of the points that Friedman makes in the text — I have been searching for a more nuanced argument, beyond reasons of pure economics, about how and why our children should become more technically proficient and multilingual, especially if that language is Chinese.

I was looking for a way to articulate points that the New London Group argues for in their seminal essay, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures,” as it relates to recognizing linguistic diversity, both within and across languages, and understanding technology and new literacies from a critical perspective. In other words, we might want to teach our children another language because it can make them a well-rounded person, one who is better able to communicate in a variety of contexts not just a money-maker. That is my approach to literacy as it relates to technology and, I feel, a perspective not shared amongst the dominant discourse of literacy learning in American schooling. Our lack of K-5 foreign language offerings is proof to that.

So, I was happy to see the argument that the The Star Tribune developed with the topic, especially since it was on the eve of 9/11. Here is their entire editorial:

Want to do your bit to shape the future? Walk over to your neighborhood preschool and sit the teachers down for a chat: Teaching the kids to sing and get along is great, but what they really need is a daily dose of Chinese. If your listeners blink in bafflement, just explain: Chinese is the language of tomorrow, and today’s tots can learn it in a twinkling.

Preschool is the sensible place to start since children’s brains can easily absorb languages (many at a time, in fact) before age 6.
But it makes little sense to have preschools do this if grade schools won’t continue, and there’s reason to worry they won’t. The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require consistent foreign-language instruction starting early in grade school.

A survey from the Center for Applied Linguistics shows that fewer than 15 percent of elementary kids study a foreign language. The proportion rises to just over half among high-schoolers.

Beyond the educational system’s blindness to the science of language acquisition are a few other snarls: One is the fact that very few of the U.S. students working seriously to learn a foreign language are studying Chinese — let alone Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Farsi or any of the other “emerging” tongues.

And if demand for learning these languages were suddenly to rise, U.S. schools couldn’t come through — for teachers of languages are desperately scarce. Sorting out this situation will require acknowledging with sincerity the merits of multilingualism and a wholesale excavation and recasting of the country’s approach to introducing new learners to foreign speech.

The consequences of the country’s linguistic lassitude have already proven ominous: Because it lacks an adequate supply of proficient speakers, the U.S. government often displays clumsiness in diplomacy and cultural outreach, sends garbled messages to foreign media outlets, fumbles in gathering intelligence and warding off terrorism — and insults nations overseas by staffing our embassies with officials ill-equipped to communicate.

By the time today’s toddlers become globetrotters, monolingualism will compromise not only American pride, but American livelihoods. Before long, competency in Chinese could very well be the key to forging friendships and averting needless enmity. The ability to speak the world’s most common language will likely open doors and job opportunities. And though America’s linguistic layabouts seem not to know it, speaking as others speak has always been the key to opening minds.

Editorial: Learning a language to welcome the future

Now, why did this one really strike a chord with me? Well, today, our daughter started her first day in preschool — half the day in English, half the day in Chinese — as part of a partnership with MSU’s Education for Global Citizenship Schools. As parents, my wife and I wanted her to be a part of this so she could have the experience of learning a new culture and language. As the Star Tribune notes, this is about more than just money; instead we need to view learning a new language as part of the cultural experience of being 21st century citizens.

I know, I know. Even that argument can come back to economics. I am not here to rewrite the rules for what Jim Gee calls “fast capitalism” and to try to subvert the system. I am aware of it, and that, for now, is enough. Besides, I realize, much to my chagrin, that my daughter’s participation in this full program (with a waiting list) just adds to the list of data supporting these types of arguments.
But, just for a day, just for my daughter, I want to believe that this is, indeed, about more than money. I want to believe that it is about her learning another language and culture. I want to believe that she will be engaged as a global citizen because it it ethically responsible, not just fiscally prudent. Before we went into the school today, she told me that she was afraid she wouldn’t understand anything that her Chinese teacher told her. By the time she got home, she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had, even if she only knew how to say “Ni hao.” I believe that this is a start.

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