Secretary of Education Discussion 1: The Most Important Issue

Carol Broos is one of twelve teachers who have been invited to participate in a round table discussion concerning the direction of education with the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Jan 21. She was sent five questions in preparation for the meeting. This is the first one:

What is the one most important education issue you wish Secretary Duncan to focus on during his tenure and why?

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No matter what happens with No Child Left Behind, schools must be brought into the 21st Century; full funding for equitable, current technology must occur. Rural areas, low social-economic areas, and non-taxable land areas prevent many schools from the ability to raise the funds for technology. Students today expect learning options, online investigations, and applicable tasks. In order to teach students who demand constant engagement, schools need to embrace the world in which students exist. Sitting in rows, changing classes every fifty minutes, and completing textbook learning no longer provides the vehicle from which students learn. Every school employs teachers ready to fly to guide students in personal learning networks, truly lifelong learning, since we have moved from cyberspace to interspace. Who will facilitate the learning networks and responsible, ethical participation if schools aren't part of the scenario? Please provide the technological infrastructure needed in all schools.

More information on why:
Web 2.0 is the Future of Education by Steve Hargadon
Perfect reference, the blog post by Steve. Certainly key in a discussion of the Most Important Issues.

How well you are making a case for moving to a new style of learning in your response here, Sheri. Bears repeating: "schools need to embrace the world in which students exist. Sitting in rows, changing classes every fifty minutes, and completing textbook learning no longer provides the vehicle from which students learn."
I would like to see boundaries erased. Just as the European Union has worked between countries to set standards and programs and elevate quality of life across several issues ... I would like to see the new Secretary partner more with Canada and Mexico, our neighbors. With so many Canadians and Mexicans integrating into American society, education, workplaces, etc. it seems like a smart thing to do anyway. Let's end the isolation and work together better. Education should always lead! We could benefit from a little connectivism and networking across these imaginary lines that separate and divide. We need each other.
I think it is making sure every student reaches their potential and leaves school as a citizen able to contribute to society in a way that makes them happy and productive. Thus we can't expect them all to learn the same things and have the same future. Technology tools can help all students achieve their potential, and we need to make those tools avialble for students on demand.
This article by Richard Rothstein, titled "A Nation at Risk, 25 years later" offers some provocative ideas for this discussion. It is one of many articles we host here and here.

I think that one of the most productive strategies that the Secretary of Education might launch, would be one where adults are encouraged to read articles like these, then reflect on them in discussion forums like this one. As more people from different backgrounds and different perspectives learn from the same body of knowledge, we may build greater consensus on actions that individuals, communities, businesses, faith groups and government might take.

Rothstein emphasizes the education gap between rich and poor. Adult learning, combined with engagement in hands on activities, such as volunteering as a tutor or mentor with inner city kids, or in on-line mentoring, can build a greater understanding of the issues, and a greater personal commitment to sacrifice time, dollars and talent to help youth living in poverty or with too little family and community support, come to school better prepared to learn, and leave school with a greater network to help them move to jobs and careers.

In addition to pointing learners to the thousands of articles that have already been written on this topic, I would point them to sites where they can learn how to use maps and visualization applications to better understand where the gaps between rich and poor are located, so to build better strategies that put more consistent resources into all of the places where poverty is a cause of poor schools.

I think he needs to revise the failing NCLB Act.Joseph Tramontana


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