Free-Range Media = Free-Range Learning Innovation

At this year's Educon I had the opportunity to collaborate with some wonderful librarians (Michelle Luhtala, Joyce Valenza, and Shannon Miller) and a fantastic student (Michael DeMattia) to share our experiences and have a conversation about teaching and learning in a no ban and no filter zone. The conversation is important because around the nation there are schools that are making the choice to do what is most convenient rather than what is right for kids. Rather than thinking outside the ban and empowering children to use the devices they own and access the internet they encounter outside of school, students are being banned and blocked. 


During the conversation we shared ideas, experiences, and looked at questions such as the following: 
What is the difference between students in schools that filter aggressively and ban and schools that dont? What evidence do we have to demonstrate that there is a difference at all? If there is, is that difference relevant? Meaningful? Important? What do students have to say about it? Do they care?


Below is a presentation outlining what we shared.
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What should every citizen know? My Answer.

What should every citizen know? That was the topic of a conversation that passionate educators were grappling with at this year’s Educon. Educators got to work quickly to make their case for what they felt must absolutely, positively be included (visit this link to see some of the thinking). Some educators went as far as to outline when each person should acquire the knowledge they believed was most important.

A math educator shared…
math students would need to know to think critically. They need this math just to function in the world and do things like balance their checkbook, cook, and tell time.
·         A history teacher shared…
what every citizen should know is American history and how it relates to that of other countries as well as have an understanding of the political system and how issues become law.
·         The English teachers explained…
why their subject was the most important if citizens wanted to be able to understand, communicate, and share ideas.
·         There  were science teachers who told us…
science was of utmost importance because we would never know how our world and universe works without an understanding of science
·         There was also discussion around topics like empathy and compassion…
because we need to ensure there was a good dose of that mixed in too. But how since it’s not a subject? Maybe modeling.
·         That prompted a conversation about the importance of knowing religion and the bible…
which is the foundation of much of what made America the country it is today. 
·         Then, was an educator who shared that we shouldn’t be teaching the subjects in isolation…
We need to teach thematically!

There was a lot of head nodding in response.

This moment reaffirmed for me that my beliefs about learning often make me feel like I’m in a foreign land.

How is it that other people should have the right to decide what everyone should know? Why does everyoneneed to know all the same things? Do people really think we need to know all these things to be successful? When we have so many (too many) things is it any wonder we've forced teachers to teach to the test? Do we really believe a free and democratic society has the right to tell others what they need to know or should such a society provide the “opportunity to choose to learn?”

It came as no surprise to those who know me (thank you to the wonderful conversation orchestrator, Dan Callahan) that I was given the go ahead to blurt out: 

“’WE’ don’t all need to know all these things and anyone could be perfectly fine, and even successful, without them.”

“Not true!” someone said and he explained why he thought a citizen must know each of these things. 

It was at that point I shared something that many educators are afraid to reveal…

I KNOW VERY LITTLE OF WHAT THE EXPERTS (AND THESE EDUCATORS) SAY I NEED TO KNOW.

I expected the response I got when I revealed this.  While there were some that understood, and even agreed with where I was coming from, there were others whose answers, understandably, helped justify their existence and their jobs.

I was told, “No! That’s not true.  You know things. You just don’t realize you know them.” I appreciate their belief in me, but the truth is… I do not. I used to be embarrassed by this. I mean, I spent more than a dozen years in the school system and I excelled! I was an honors student who started college at age 15, while I was in high school, and graduated college at the top of my class when I was 19…but the truth is, during that time, I learned nothing that was important for success in my life. Wasted years lost to a system that could have been spent with more meaningful pursuits.

Instead, I was forced to take classes from teachers who used the "sit n git," "memorize n regurgitate (onto a test or into an essay or project meant for the class, not the world)" method of learning. As a result I don’t know the science, math, history, or the religious foundation everyone said was necessary for an informed citizenry.  In fact, I have no doubt I would fail the standardized high school tests given in my state on each of those topics today. I do happen to be a proficient reader, writer, and user of technology, but that is despite, not because of, school.

I pushed further asking, “What about all the people who, like me, don’t learn from teachers talking, textbooks, or tests?   

Some of the responses to that were predictable. We need to expose students to these things or they will never know about them. My response: “Schools don’t expose. They impose.” It is one thing to expose people to a variety of wonderful possible choices. But that is not what we’re really doing. Instead, there is a curriculum that students are forced complete in a standard and often boring way at a time that doesn’t honor the student’s readiness, interests or include any of the elements that lead to effective learning for many of us. What’s more, there is often little to no explicit connection made to their real worlds

 Ugh.

I realized I was sort of derailing the conversation and felt thankful that I was in an environment where this was okay and even welcomed. Sadly, though when we discuss what an informed citizenry should know, even innovative educators often revert to the familiar content areas and carry on about why the one they are responsible for (or passionate about) is of utmost importance. This mindset is supported in our current climate.

We have Common Core
with the not so secret agenda to federalize education with a national curriculum
with the not so secret reality that political interests drive the Core
with the not so secret agenda of being pushed by corporate greed to produce compliant workers and dutiful consumers created
with the not so secret agenda of publishersand testing companies who are positioned to make a bundle off what we make teachers force these kids to do.

We have become a society that is quick to follow orders of a government that imposes their agenda into families dictating how all our children must be raised. Teachers and parents are going along with this, even though many realize what they do is hurting children.  The government imposes force in the form of "do what we say (such as teach to and take the tests) or we’ll cut off funding" and the sheep are forced to follow.  We’ve become a top down nation where our president wants to force young people tostay in school until they’re 18. This makes a nice sound bite for the na├»ve, but the informed know that he is not addressing the problem. Most young people leave school because it has little to no relevance to their lives. Students are seen as numbers and data, not human beings . If school is so wonderful, why make it compulsory? Why must we force people to go there rather than ensure it is a wonderful place that people want to attend? 

We now have the common core standards designed to push EVERY child down the same narrow path to college, even though it is necessary only for few, and the mentality has cost us to lose due respect for many. This decision however will result in huge profits to the government via the student loan scheme (our next bubble to burst). It’s ironic when many of our nation’s founding fathers, our nation’s leaders, and our most successful businessmen never graduated college themselves.

The conversation came to an end with the usual, well, there’s a lot more to figure out and discuss and we won’t be able to come up with all the answers in one workshop.

I disagree. This is not a new conversation. The answers are right in front of us. It’s just that many of us are not ready or willing to see them.

People are not widgets and no one should try to coerce individuals to become part of a Stepford citizenry. Our students are rebelling with dropout rates at 33% nationally and around 50% in large cities like Las Vegas, New York and Chicago.  Our teachers are sick and tired of being forced to engage in a test-based curriculum that lines the pockets of publishers while killing the passion and creativity of students. Many of the good ones have left or are leaving.

An informed citizenry is made up of many people. Every person does not have to hold all the knowledge that a group of strangers thinks is important for their success in moving through the conveyor belt at the same rate and exiting on the same date.





We need to stop with the force, coercion and imposition of knowledge upon others. We must give people the freedom and trust to pursue the learning that “they” value as important. We need to spend some time learning more from the unschooling community and Democratic schooling environments where we’ll find out that when given choice and provided with necessary resources, along with a supportive and caring environment, people will discover and learn what they need to know for "their personal success."  This all comes without force, coercion or even traditional teachers, tests, textbooks or classrooms.

We need to stop trying to figure out what everyone needs to know and let our nation’s young people take ownership and make decisions about what they want to know. 

We must move away from the industrial model of testing for the standardization of students when they get off the end of the school conveyor belt and move toward customization of what each individual chooses for their own personal success.

The role of the educators in a building must move from imposing knowledge to inviting curiosity, discovery, and providing support in helping young people determine an individualized plan for success.

Personal success does not mean participating in a system that creates a bunch of standardized cogs who meet the manufacturer’s specs.   

It means we must realize one-size-fits-all really only fits some and strips the uniqueness and creativity from most. We want more than turning our children into processed and manufactured cogs in a system that sees them simply as uniform producers of data to be analyzed and tested in ways that reap huge profits for those providing and measuring a one-size-fits few solution to an informed citizenry.   

It means providing environments where the mechanics, farmers, game designers, home builders, stunt people, Olympic snowboarders, artists, adventure travel operators, soldiers, football coaches, television directors, winemakers, talk show hosts, poets, firemen, chefs, restaurant owners, wildlife conservationists and more (note college degree not required for any of the aforementioned) can have the freedom to discover and explore a customized learning experience that honors and respects them as the successful individuals that they have the potential to become. It’s time we stop trying to produce graduates that all look the same and are prepared to follow the herd and start empowering young people to discover, choose, and pursue their own paths.
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Conversations in the hall...better than a workshop or keynote?

I was surprised when my best friend said that unlike me she loved highschool. Really? Why? Everything she went on to explain about her love of high school had NOTHING to do with classes or teachers. It was all about the fun she had in the halls, passing between classes, laughing with friends, checking out what people were wearing and gossiping about who thought who was cute. In other words, what she valued wasn’t what was happening in the classrooms, but rather the relationships she developed in the halls. It was this part of her high school experience that led her to the successful career she has today.

As I reflected upon my time at Educon this year I realized that sometimes we don’t give enough value to our time in the hall. In fact, my buddy   even apologized to me for it as she encountered some friendly detours as we were moving together in the hall from one thing to the next. 

In our rush to get to the next session, workshop, or activity, sometimes we don’t stop and savor the smell those discussions that might be the roses that help our learning and personal growth bloom.  Instead of rushing off to sessions, what if instead we rushed over to people who had ideas we loved and wanted to explore further?

As I was hurrying off to a session on Saturday I saw   camped out at a table in the hall. He seemed to be holding court as his fans passed by and shared ideas. I did the same and said, I was surprised to see he was not leading any conversations this year.  Instead, it looked like he had found quite a satisfying way to spend his time, though he told me he did indeed plan on attending sessions. I happened to notice a few tweets between Will and another Tweep who was critical of conferences and conference goers. Will shared that what he valued at conferences wasn't necessarily the sessions, and certainly not the vendors (Educon has no vendor floor), but rather connecting with new and old friends, face-to-face. Where does that happen best?  While it can happen in a session whispering in the back of the room, sometimes this leads to others sending a sneer your way.  The reality is it often happens in the halls.

My Educon "halllights" included my chat with Will Richardson to catch up on what is new and glean any new ideas from the cool things he was doing, a few moments with the host of the conference Chris Lehmann where he shared that he felt this year's conversations were the deepest so far, and a couple serendipitous conversations with David Ginsburg @CoachGinsburg who had some insightful advice and ideas about supporting learners outside a school environment.

I'm thinking at my next conference instead of sessions or workshops I might just plant myself in the hall and put out a shingle that says, “Come talk to me about…” If I do, I hope you’ll reconsider rushing off to that next session or event, and giving me a chance to be your conference "halllight."  
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Cell Phones Optimize Learning Time

Guest post by Joyce Long, Colorado educator | Cross posted at Teaching Generation Text

Use phones to take pictures of important information on the board

In my classroom I see cell phones as a time saver and tool of engagement rather than a distraction.  For example, in my health class we were on a roll discussing the possibilities of making our own anti-alcohol/tobacco video, improving on the one we had just watched.  The students were excited, motivated, and full of ideas.  I knew they needed to get the ideas off of the board down before they left.  I didn't want to stop their thinking.  So, I waited until the last second and then asked them to get out their phones and take a picture of the board.  For the ones without phones I posted the photo to the class website and printed out a picture for those without computer access.  This allowed us to continue the brainstorm while on a roll, right up to the last seconds of class time.  





In the past I would have had to stop the storm so that everyone would have time to write down what was on the board, or ask them to write as we go, constantly interrupting the flow of ideas.   Now the ideas will be at home too, ready to look at and text adaptations, new ideas, specifics, details, etc. The kids who were absent go the picture texted to them and came back ready to go the next day. Creative energy is such a powerful force.  Having cell phones as a tool to increase the energy simply aids great educational experiences.

For more ideas about effective ways to use cell phones for learning, including research-based strategies, lessons, and more order Teaching Generation Text.
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The Hottest Posts This Week!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Aug 24, 2010, 21 comments                      2,034 Pageviews
Jan 20, 2012, 13 comments                         1998 Pageviews
Feb 5, 2011, 22 comments                          1634 Pageviews
May 10, 2010, 37 comments                        1628 Pageviews
Nov 22, 2009, 33 comments                         1546 Pageviews
Jan 22, 2012, 15 comments                         1388 Pageviews
Jan 19, 2012, 3 comments                          1382 Pageviews
Jan 23, 2012, 4 comments                          1344 Pageviews
Jan 25, 2012, 1 comment                           1334 Pageviews
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Students Unite to Provide a Platform for The Missing Voice in Ed Reform

Join The Student Union
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheStudentUnion


Education reform has been a hot topic this week in general and in particular it took center stage in our nation’s State of the Union address. But there’s an important voice that has been missing from this conversation. That is the voice of students.  There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to hear student voices in the education reform conversation. 

Here are some of the articles I’ve read and written on the topic this week.  
There is now a place where young people who want their voices heard can come together to connect, communicate, collaborate, create, and come together to strategize on ways to transform learning in our country.  These young people are writing books, publishing in online spaces and magazines, organizing protests, and more. They want adults to start hearing what they have to say before it’s too late.  They welcome supportive adults to the group as well. The role of adults in the group is to listen and spread their message to other adults who care about children.

If you care about our shared future and want to help our youth, please invite any young people you know to join this incredible group called "The Student Union" at http://www.facebook.com/groups/TheStudentUnion.
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Education: not ready to listen?

Guest post By Adora Svitak | Cross posted on Adora's blog

Editor's Note: This is the third post published at The Innovative Educator on this topic. The first post was Do we really want to listen to our children?  The second post was Listen to the students before it's too late.

The customer knows best.” It’s an adage seemingly old as time (for us young’uns, anyway). While it’s not always the case (as anyone who has worked an intense over-the-phone customer service job before may know), it’s certainly always valuable for businesses to listen to what clients are saying–whether surveys, market research, or feedback cards, many businesses have some structure in place to listen to their customers. And public feedback can have an important impact–Bank of America cancelled its $5-a-month debit card fee before it even began due to customer backlash.
In almost every area of the private and public sectors (think of representatives meeting with constituents or city hall meetings), there are ways for “customers”–those receiving the services or being represented–to make their voices heard. So why should education be any different?
Education? you might think. Surely there are those school board meetings or PTAs? But a crucial voice is missing in education: that of the student’s. How often do classroom teachers ask students to provide them with feedback on how their teaching could be improved so students learn better? When was the last time administrators sat down with students and gave them decision-making power or at least input–no, not just over the theme of the Homecoming Dance or how to decorate the school for the holidays, but important issues like curriculum, required courses, or assessment?
I’m asking these questions because of an email from a prestigious education membership organization that my mom recently received in response to talks about a potential book I was hoping to write (that would bring issues of student voice, reciprocal learning, and education technology to the forefront). It said that based on their research, the education community “is not yet ready to receive the message from a student.”
If the education community is unable or unwilling to receive a message about education from a student, I think we have problems. We’d find it unacceptable if our representatives suddenly started refusing to meet with constituents or if companies like Bank of America kept on charging ridiculous fees despite public uproar. Yet we accept that education doesn’t want to hear from students? We are the “customers” of our nation’s schools. It’s in our interest to learn in the best way we can–many of my fellow students have plenty of wise insights that I think could help change education for the better–but that simply won’t happen if the adults in the room are covering their ears.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————
A prolific short story writer and blogger since age seven, Adora Svitak (now 14) speaks around the United States to adults and children as an advocate for literacy and education transformation! Adora just started The Student Union  a group she started to bring student voices to education reform. She believes “Students + education leaders = positive change :) If you’re a student with insights to share about your education or education leader (teacher, policy maker, educational service district administrator, librarian, media specialist, whoever can have an impact on kids’ education), ask to join”
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Parents Debate the Ban on Cell Phones in Class

Guest post by Lisa Cooley | Cross posted at The Minds of Kids

An interesting conversation took place this morning between my daughter, her two middle-school-age friends, my husband and I. It was about cell phones in school; the general complaint from the girls was about the ban on using cell phones, even at lunchtime.

The conversation turned to the ban in classrooms, and my husband, who I have apparently failed to bring up to speed on cell phone issues, brought up what he felt to be an issue of common courtesy: that kids should have cell phones turned off when in class, and their attention turned to the person who is trying to teach them. Reasonable, right?

My riposte: if a teacher can't hold someone's interest enough to keep their eyes away from their iPhones, what are you accomplishing by banning them? At first he was held up by the common courtesy thing, but I hammered away at the whole give-and-get-respect thing, and if he wasn't a quivering mass at the end of it....

Nah, he wasn't a quivering mass; he still holds that until the great education transformation,when all kids are pursuing their passions in and out of the classroom, we should still ask kids to be courteous to the teacher by leaving cell phones off.  

A lot of people haven't yet considered that when kids sneak peaks at their phones, when their fingers itch for the keypad during a lecture, it isn't a story that begins and ends with teaching simple manners. Yes, we need to expect common courtesy, but we also need to read the signs when we don't get it.

The message is that what kids are being asked to learn doesn't interest them. The attractive immediacy of connecting with their friends matters more. Contact with the living, instead of the dead material they are supposed to be learning, matters to them.

So what, my husband asks, if half the class is distracted by the other half that are texting away?
Why does that other half have to be in a class that doesn't interest them?

Unfortunately our whole system of education is based on kids learning stuff they don't care about.  Oh, sometimes there is a connection between kids and the content; a stopped clock is right twice a day, too. You can't defend a system because once in awhile a kid is genuinely engaged.

The first job of education is to find out what learning trajectory kids are already on. Ideally, it'll happen so soon in their educations that they won't grow up completely negative and pessimistic about the relevance of anything that might happen in the classroom.

If they don't seem to have a learning trajectory, it really isn't rocket science to find it. 

Not only do we need to design schools that allow kids to connect to learning that matters to them, but we need to allow them to do it with their cell phones. I'm not an expert in how, but there are some good minds who are, (See Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb, who wroteTeaching Generation Text) and kids probably could come up with some ideas of their own. This is one of those things that also falls into the category of "not rocket science."

My husband's reaction is a very easily understood one. When we look at a problem or issue (especially in education), we don't always look under the hood and see what's really wrong; sometimes an issue seems clear, and we take it for granted that we have a good grasp of it. We don't associate the problem (a simple avoidance of classroom rudeness) with another problem (we're not producing learners).

It seems excusable for adults to be rude to students in big ways (i.e. an institutional disregard for what they believe to be important), but not OK for them to be rude to us in little ways (fiddling with cell phones in class).

There are lots of problems in schools that can be associated with a disengaged student body. This one not only has a solution, but one that has potential to teach the teachers as well as the students. Don't make kids power down when they go to school. Allow them to power up and pursue their learning with the technology that our generation provided and made irresistible to them, and that they love.



Lisa Cooley is a parent, violin teacher, glass beadmaker, school board member, and school change agitator from central Maine. She blogs at http://mindsofkids.blogspot.com
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Help NYC Public Schoolers with GrayMatter



Guest post by Jeremy Meyers

Last year, my friends and I were NYC public high schoolers who needed resources for our own educational interests. Soon after we learned that many of our friends at different high schools similarly needed resources to ace AP tests, research microbes, and attend debate conferences. We had to made due without the materials we needed for our classes and extracurriculars and then focused our time on creating GrayMatter so that other innovative students like ourselves would be able to get the resources they need to learn.

GrayMatter enables anyone to help NYC public high schoolers get resources they need for school. All they have to do is visit www.graymatter.it to contribute to a project of choice, and get photos and thank-you notes from the students you reach.
Above: Screenshot of GrayMatter’s website. Choose a project to donate to and give--it’s just like an online shopping cart. Current projects are requests from NYC public high schoolers, and we look forward to reaching more students in the future.

An innovative teacher seeks creative ways to impart her knowledge onto her students. However, as students grow older, moving into secondary and higher education, they need to be innovative for themselves. As students develop into unique people, they develop unique ways of learning along with unique goals and interests. Sometimes those interests aren’t represented in the curriculum or in the selection of existing after-school activities, especially with budget cuts demanding larger class sizes and fewer extra programs. Innovation on the part of students is required.

Expressing these unique interests requires resources and funds. Tausif of Staten Island learned this when he realized that his school couldn’t afford to quench his yearning to enhance his knowledge of the bass. Tausif soon realized he had to be innovative to embrace this interest which was gradually becoming a passion. He turned to GrayMatter for help. Other students who have used GrayMatter have similar stories and came to the same conclusion: schools are not capable of catering to individual needs, aspirations, and interests. GrayMatter channels students’ innovative ideas and interests into an effective way to bring them into reality.

Jim, president of a community service club at his high school in Brooklyn, wanted to improve his club’s reach and leadership by attending a regional training conference. His school couldn’t provide him with the funds necessary for himself and a fellow officer to attend. Jim visited our website, www.GrayMatter.it, signed up for an account, and created a project by writing an essay about himself, his school, and how participating at the conference would impact himself and his club. After Jim’s project was approved by a the club’s teacher advisor, our team reviewed it and posted it on our website for anyone to contribute to.

So far 19 donors have contributed almost $400, all of which goes to Jim’s project (and none of which goes to support our organization). When Jim’s project is fully funded in the next few weeks, our team will use its funds to pay for the two students to attend the conference. As they attend the conference, the pair will take pictures and upload these pictures and a thank you note to the donors on our website. GrayMatter enables anyone to become a philanthropist and directly see the impact they have made and the educational innovation they have sponsored.

Please help these students in need: www.GrayMatter.it/projects
Like us on facebook: www.facebook.com/GrayMatterfdn
Follow us on Twitter: @GrayMatterfdn
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Listen to the students before it's too late


Our country has made many advances when it comes to human rights, equality, and discrimination. Women and minorities are allowed to vote and own land. Salaries of men and women are coming more into alignment. People of different races are given the freedom to marry and states are moving toward giving marriage equality to couples of same sex. We still have a way to go when it comes to discrimination, but we are making progress in a number of areas with the exception of one group that is making no progress at all.

This group’s rights are being horribly violated.  They are being denied the right to have a say in matters directly affecting their daily lives. They are being forced and coerced into doing things they don’t want to do and are having harm inflicted upon them in more and more ways. They are having their belongings confiscated from them like prisoners and are banned from things that free members of our society have access to. Those who stand up and speak out are often drugged into compliance. They are being silenced and told their voice does NOT matter, they have no say, and our nation is not ready to hear them. They are our nation’s second class citizens.

The group being discriminated against is school children.  

Ironically, the refusal to hear and consider the voices of children, may very well be what leads to the demise of the public schooling institution as we know it.  Kids are smart. In many ways, especially when it comes to technology and social media, kids are often smarter than the adults who are trying to control them. Students are using social media to connect and take a stand on a variety of issues.  They are staging protests and boycotts. They are telling educational software providers that they hate their product. They are starting their own student-led schools and they are uniting to opt out of high-stakes tests.

Now there’s a new way for students who want a voice in ed reform to have one.  High school student, international speaker, and author, Adora Svitak has formed a new group on Facebook called The Student Union. This group is designed to bring students (and adults who support them) together on issues that affect them. In many cases these will be the issues where they have been silenced for far too long.


The first issue they are uniting on is this:
Adora Svitak
Alright, how about this for a first topic:
Technology in education.
Students, how do you want to see technology being used in education? How is it being used (badly or well) in your current learning environment?

Here are some of their conclusions. Adults should be listening.
Technology Implementation in Education
1. Replace expensive schoolwide solutions like interactive whiteboards with more easily accessible, properly functioning technology (laptops to check out/bring your own device)
2. Live streaming and recording classes so that students are not hampered by inability to come to class in-person/can watch lessons again any time. (Ustream, Livestream, YouTube, etc.--all free).
See all responses are here.


Adora was inspired to start the group after a series of rejections by education organizations who were shutting her out of the ability to take part in the education conversation. Can you imagine that? Educators and educational institutions are telling students that they have no place in the conversation about matters affecting them. I’m not surprised by this as my own efforts to include student voice in the education conversation have frequently been dismissed.  Most recently in the conversation of teacher evaluation I have brought up the point that students must be included in this conversation. Below is a typical reaction this idea receives:

Lisa --in a perfect world I would love to have student input as formal components of the evaluation; but it's silly to merely lambaste an approach for a specific school district culture because student input is not formally incorporated.  

Lambasting an approach for a gross omission is not silly. What is silly is to even consider any approach to teacher evaluation that doesn’t incorporate students. Sadly, I stand in the ed reform minority. In the national conversation about teacher evaluation, you rarely hear students mentioned.  

The silencing and discrimination against students is is not by accident. It is by design. The students know it. They want to be heard but feel helpless in a system that refuses to consider them as these two high school students shared on The Student Union.

Blake Copeland
If only the teachers and administrators would include students in the process it would accelerate the whole process and make it smoother. The schools do not see the students as an untapped resource like they should.

Ethan Perrin
A while back a bunch of students and I were frustrated with the curriculum of our social studies and English classes so we wrote a letter voicing our concerns. Not even a class discussion followed, though we requested it.

It is no longer acceptable to leave our, capable, brilliant, creative, and passionate students out of the conversation.  They have a voice and a right to be heard. If the adults in the world won’t bother listening, there is very little stopping students from taking matters into their own hands. There are people already doing this like Dale Stephens whose Uncollege movement is providing the world with an alternative to the often over-priced and inadequate services offered by colleges whose diploma is no longer the key to employment. Students know today’s industrialized model of school where they are ranked and sorted by their ability to compliantly memorize and regurgitate will do nothing to lead to their success in life. Families across the nation are supporting their children in leaving school at higher rates than ever before and finding that they can have very successful lives without school.  

There is nothing stopping students from taking ownership of their learning when it comes to secondary school as well. While all the adult ed reformers and unions are fighting over how to analyze, rather than inspire, today’s youth, the students may very well take matters into their own hands and leave behind a system that doesn’t value THEIR voice and THEIR success. If you want to be a part of this solution, join your friends at The Student Union.
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