In a Perfect World Part One

In the age of Obama, there have been few things that people on the left and people on the right agree on. The health care bill (aka Obamacare) had elements deemed unconstitutional after a relentless effort by Republican governors/attorney generals to get the entire bill overturned. Congress has been at a virtual standstill on whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich in this country. However, one thing that many Republicans and Democrats agree on is the need to eliminate or stifle the power/influence of teacher’s unions.

Some of the popular thought about teachers unions include:

“[Unions] are major obstacles to reform.”
-Newsweek – March 19. 2010

“The unions… are ‘special interests protecting the status quo’…pillars of ‘a system that too often rewards mediocrity and incompetence.’”
-City Journal Spring 1997

“This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.”
-Houston Chronicle, 2007

And who couldn’t learn to hate teachers unions without seeing this YouTube video:

A fellow blogger, Sabrina, from The Failing Schools Blog responded to some of these notions in one of the most poignant pieces of writing I’ve seen in a long time. While I agreed with 100% of the arguments she made in her blog, I figured that I would take Jonthan Alter’s advice.

“It’s very, very important to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time.”
-Johnthan Alter, Newsweek Columnist, on Waiting for Superman

I have decided to take the position of reformers like Rhee, Broad, Gates, and legions of other people around the country and think about what it would be like to live in a perfect word. A perfect world? Yes, a world without teacher’s unions.

Over the next three days I will posting stories of hypothetical teachers. Read there stories and vote on what should happen or what these teachers should do…IN A PERFECT WORLD.

Rachel Wood
Rachel Wood is a fifteen-year tenured veteran teacher. She works in a Title I school where 85% of the students receive free and reduced lunch. She has been teaching AP British Literature for the last five years helping her students get an average of a 4 on the final advancement placement exam. Mrs. Wood’s work in an inner-city school in Baltimore is very surprising to the people who knew her since she was child. She grew up in northeast Louisiana. Both of her parents were members of the local white supremacist group there. When Mrs. Wood told her parents that she was going to be a teacher in a inner-city school, teaching mostly African-American and Hispanic students, her parents essentially disowned her.

One day in late March she was excited about an activity that she was going to be doing with her class. She new that the AP examination was close and she wanted to get her students prepared for the writing response. Unfortunately, the period before her class the students participated in an assembly where a famous music artist came to school. When the students returned to class they were still very excited about the events of the last period. Mrs. Wood tried to get the class to settle down as she was ready to get started with the class. She tried turning out the lights, standing silently in front of the class, and even pointing out individual students on their behaviour. She became more frustrated as time went on. All of a sudden she screams loudly, “Please be quiet! We need to get started! What’s more important? You passing the AP exam or a nigger singing a song?” The class goes completely silent. She apologised for the remark and awkwardly returns to teaching.

Later that day she got a note from the principal in the mailbox to see him at the end of the day. The principal called Mrs. Wood in the office. He asked her, “Is it true that you used the “N” word during your AP British Literature class?” Mrs. Wood answered, “Yes, and I apologized for the remark soon after. I was very frustrated and the frustration got the best of me.” The principal explains to Mrs. Wood that there is no room for a racist at this school and she was fired.

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Observance or Oppression: Should School District’s Ban Web 2.0 Tools like Social Media?

Twitter

Battle of the Day: Monday, 16 August 2010

I ran across this article last night regarding the filtering of Web 2.0 tools that exist in most American public school districts. The article suggests that filtering is akin to content filtering used in China. While, I can see someone drawing that conclusion, the restrictions are rooted in different agendas. However, the result of both restrictions is the same.

The rise of Web 2.0 tools has changed the way people work, interact and publish content.  Having a Facebook, Twitter, Blog or E-mail account is just as important as having a phone number in the 21st Century. It shouldn’t be far-fetched that some of the more techno-savvy teachers would like to harness these tools to use in their classroom.

YouTube

Especially when tools like Facebook and Twitter has made it cheap and easy to communicate with a large group of people. The filtering of these sites has major negative implications on student learning and development.

Many schools offer basic computer classes that include desktop publishing, browsing the web, and research techniques. While these skills were adequate in the years leading up to the 21st Century, the continued focus on these skills are setting up students to be far behind. Web 2.0 gives students a variety of TOOLS using technology. These tools cross a variety of different platforms like social media, collaboration, and digital media. Students should be trained to properly use these tools in the classroom. When I was in school the use of computers was relegated to practice, to supplement, or to remediate the skills learned in the classroom. Most teachers/administrators had the idea that the use of computers was “something nice to have.” However, in the 21st Century the use of technology (including computers) offers a use of tools that students/teachers should be using to enhance learning. The use of these tools isn’t “something nice,” but is the same tools that are used by academics, business people, etc. The use of these tools in the classroom will give their students the opportunity to pair their learning with technology.

Students are using Web 2.0 as a means for communication and collaboration. Should teachers harness this trend?

There are a variety of reasons why districts choose to filter Web 2.0 sites including the fear of “inappropriate activity” to it being a distraction. While the fears of administrators are valid, it is a reflection of the lack of training not the ability for teachers/students to participate appropriately using Web 2.0.

What do you think? Should public school districts limit or restrict the use of Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook?