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Monday, January 10, 2011

Is “education reform” too high a price to pay?

After being inspired (and reminded) by the Global Education Conference in late November, I spent the month of December immersed in the vibrant Web community from whom I had already learned so much about technological innovations in K-12 education. While I was teaching full-time, I was often frustrated (and distracted) that I couldn’t spend more time in this fascinating community. Since my daughter would be attending public school for the first time and I would be “retired”, I had resolved that I would volunteer more time than I had at the small private school which she previously attended while I taught full-time.

In addition to technological innovations with which I already had much familiarity, educational policy issues also got my attention. I was especially curious when I encountered the Foundation for Excellence in Education which was founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. As a new resident of Florida, I was especially interested in what Governor Bush had done (and was STILL doing) in education reform. I was especially interested in the release of The Elements of Digital Learning by its Digital Learning Council at its annual National Summit.

Since Florida has been a leader in teacher accountability, I had been paying a lot of attention to this aspect of education reform. Having witnessed the pre-occupation with standardized testing here in Florida, I was especially interested in Senate Bill 6 which was vetoed by former Governor Crist, but is sure to gain “new life” after the success of its supporters in the mid-term election.

The recent publication by the Orlando Sentinel of a story about the ambitious education reform agenda of newly-elected Governor Rick Scott motivated me to comment about whether education reform is stifling innovation.

In the course of my orientation to Florida public education, I encountered Florida Virtual School which appears to be one of the more comprehensive statewide online educational programs. Since Florida has already demonstrated its commitment to harnessing the Internet, I have wondered why I haven’t encountered much Florida-based innovation in the educational use of social media and other emerging technologies in six months of use of such technology to find Florida examples. Expecting that its practitioners would NOT be “shoemaker’s children”, I have used services such as Twitter and Facebook to find examples similar to my own experiments as well as others with which I am familiar. In addition, there is already ample evidence elsewhere!

The pre-occupation with standardized testing also detracts from more effective ways to assess learning such as electronic portfolios. I know that the University of Central Florida is hoping to incorporate e-portfolios in its next self-study for regional accreditation.

Clearly, there is much work to be done and I am wondering if the current environment is conducive to encouraging innovation. I have made some effort to share these innovations with my own school district and haven’t had any success in even getting any reaction so that is what has prompted me to write this blog post! Frankly, I haven’t seen much difference between my daughter’s education and mine (I’m 62!) except that Blackboard, the course management system which her school uses, doesn’t require chalk!

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