image made from student blog5th graders in Georgia, affectionately called the Blogicians—

Anne Davis, an accomplished elementary Georgia educator—

Modeling, demonstrating; using podcasts for editing/proofing; holding writing conferences; developing a community of learners—

WordPress blogs—

And an unlikely connection with a Shepard blogger from Ohio—

Together, connecting, collaborating—

Students and a master educator with content knowledge about writing who has developed a 21st century pedagogy enhanced by technology, and connections–

Coming together in a sweet spot that enables authentic, exciting, sticky learning—

Essential ingredients in teaching for learning–

Some of which are sorely missing from current policy conversations–

Conversations extolling subject matter competence as the knowledge most needed by accomplished teachers–

From The Answer Sheet, one of many posts chronicling Congressional action to permit alternative-route teachers to be considered highly qualified—

And this:

“The absence of discussion about the complex interaction of content knowledge, pedagogy and dispositions indicates that policymakers were very focused on the more tangible elements—namely subject matter competence.”  National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Missing pieces: pedagogy, technology, student ownership

There is no question that subject matter competence is essential for teachers; yet a focus on that alone trivializes teaching and its intricacies. What if Anne Davis had focused solely on that?  Just imagine if Anne had lacked a 21st century pedagogy and knowledge of technology; the Blogicians likely never would have made the same gains in writing and reading—hear it from Eddie in his own words.

In the current policy conversations, where are students? Where is pedagogy? Where is technology? What has happened to a careful, deep exploration of the complexities inherent in teaching for student learning? Where is understanding deeply how people learn? Where is talk of the profound pedagogical knowledge, the theories of learning— knowledge that becomes internalized and conditionalized and then is fused with content knowledge in a sweet spot that adds an additional dimension to teacher knowledge?

Where is the exploration of a dimension in which teachers are competent in designing ways that content is comprehensible for groups of diverse students as Anne so masterfully accomplished? We need to consider the unique pedagogical strategies specific to a discipline; for example, paideia in the language arts, multiple representations in mathematics, or inquiry in science. We need to consider how to organize the content for our students in a way that honors the discipline and their current knowledge.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has captured the elements of this dimension in its core propositions with their focus on students and learning:

Proposition 1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning

Proposition 2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to Students.

Proposition 3: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning.

Proposition 4: Teachers Think Systematically about Their Practice and Learn from Experience.

Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.

This should be an integral part of conversations too.

And still missing from the dialogue: where in our ever-changing learning landscape are the insightful grasps of the affordances for learning offered by current technologies? Although many educators demonstrate knowledge of technology — although many master how to create a PowerPoint or how to build a spreadsheet — where is the discussion of the huge leap to utilizing that dynamic relationship where a complex, unique blend of technology, pedagogy and content transforms learning much as it did with Anne and her students.

Where are the difficult and consequential conversations that can help all educators aspire for and achieve that sweet spot from which can we grow our knowledge of practice? Our students deserve no less than this.

You, we and others, all of us, need to join in, engage in the current conversations, nudging, pushing, and if need be, more assertively agitating for a more inclusive, more meaningful, more weighty perspective on teaching for student learning.  We need to do it for Eddie, for all the Blogicians who are now in high school, for all our students.

Where are you now? How will you join us to make a difference in the current focus?

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Lani Ritter Hall

Lani is Community Leader for Powerful Learning Practice. She also serves as the “Newbie Maven”, helping along and nurturing newbies to the PLP experience, as well as facilitator for the Connected Coaches. Lani brings more than 35 years of teaching experiences in urban, sub urban, and independent schools at the middle/secondary level in the U.S and Canada to this work. A national board certified teacher, she and her students began collaborating globally in the late 1980’s. Lani has created and facilitated professional development around technology infusion into learning for over twenty years and served in a leadership role for the K12Online Conference for 2 years. She is co-author of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age.
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