5th graders in Georgia, affectionately called the Blogiciansâ€”
Anne Davis, an accomplished elementary Georgia educatorâ€”
Modeling, demonstrating; using podcasts for editing/proofing; holding writing conferences; developing a community of learnersâ€”
And an unlikely connection with a Shepard blogger from Ohioâ€”
Together, connecting, collaboratingâ€”
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 learningâ€”
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 qualifiedâ€”
“The absence of discussion about the complex interaction of content knowledge, pedagogy and dispositions indicates that policymakers were very focused on the more tangible elementsâ€”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 readingâ€”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 â€” although many master how to create a PowerPoint or how to build a spreadsheet â€” 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?
Lani Ritter Hall
Latest posts by Lani Ritter Hall (see all)
- Through new lenses– - January 5, 2015
- Connected Coaching: Reflections & a new course starting soon! - September 24, 2013
- Virtual Classroom Visit — Sketch Up and Google Hangouts in a 3rd grade classroom - April 15, 2013
Lanni, you missed one more vital piece that is missing: the parental role. Very rarely do I see the collaborative role of parents in the Educational literature. This does not mean that responsibility for education should now fall on the backs of parents. Rather, parents play an important role in a child’s educational success. What you have described in your blog post is a shift in looking only at outcomes to a community discussion (teachers, students, administrators, policy makers, and parents) on learning including the starting point, how to get to the outcomes, and even if the outcomes (learning goals) are relevant in the learning process. We need to move from finger pointing to dialog and sharing, letting teachers use their expertise in teaching, but making sure that they are (or even allowing them to be)connected to students, parents, and the communities in which they teach. Technology can be empowering in some communities, but also the tools of discrimination in others. A connected teacher knows that.
I appreciate your comment. I believe we may hold the same perspective –that all stakeholders– parents, students, educators, and policymakers– must be engaged in collaborative discourse around learning for our children if we are to provide the schools our children deserve.
I had hoped in this short post to highlight the current focus on content knowledge that now drives most conversations around teacher effectiveness and how that really denies the complex nature of teaching.
As I had the privilege to watch the young people in Anne’s class which I used as an illustration, and my own students, I am convinced that technology infused learning is critical if we are to prepare our students for their future, especially those youngsters who are more at risk or marginalized. I really believe the affordances of the current technologies provide incredible opportunities to enhance learning and transform lives when we guide young people to become good digital citizens as they are learning. I’m wondering would you disagree?