Things are looking up …

From the weekend SF Chronicle:

It’s been a busy week for Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor who heads back to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to preside over the start of what she hopes will be a new – and better funded – era for public schools …

The big concepts so far are about preschool programs, addressing the achievement gap, and college support. What would be on your list? Tell the transition team what you think.

National Day of Listening

What a great idea … StoryCorps is declaring November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that has helped more than 40,000 Americans record their stories. As one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, it is our mission to help people honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

Validation for a new approach to education …

This is so exciting – solid research that validates and urges new thinking about education from the MacArthur Foundation. The Reports on Digital Media and Learning have just published Living and Learning with Media: A Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. It’s an absolute MUST READ even if you only skim the executive summary. Perfect timing … I am reading the report just as I’m preparing to make a major technology integration proposal.

New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting. Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.

For some of us, no surprise there – kids’ social networks are powerful and provide them “just in time” learning that we know is more effective then prepping for summative standardized test.

Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.

And that means that educators have to try out some of the social forums. Once teachers get a sense of how personal learning networks enhance their lives, their attitudes towards classroom use will shift.

More on that point:

Rather than seeing socializing and play as hostile to learning, educational programs could be positioned to step in and support moments when youth are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest- driven forms of new media use. This requires a cultural shift and a certain openness to experimentation and social exploration that is generally not characteristic of educational institutions …

The problem lies not in the volume of access but the quality of participation and learning, and kids and adults should first be on the same page on the normative questions of learning and literacy …

It is important to understand the diverse genre conventions of youth new media literacy before developing educational programs in this space …

In these settings, the focus of learning and engagement is not defined by institutional accountabilities but rather emerges from kids’ interests and everyday social communication.

So, dare I say, no need for NCLB? We might actually think about what engages kids, rather than hold schools hostage to test scores?

Kids’ participation in networked publics suggests some new ways of thinking about the role of public education. Rather than thinking of public education as a burden that schools must shoulder on their own, what would it mean to think of public education as a responsibility of a more distributed network of people and institutions? And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement? And finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from an engaged and diverse set of publics that are broader than what we tradition- ally think of as educational and civic institutions? In addition to publics that are dominated by adult interests, these publics should include those that are relevant and accessible to kids now, where they can find role models, recognition, friends, and collaborators who are co-participants in the journey of growing up in a digital age.

Now there’s a vision for the future of education … and it keeps coming back to the need for adults to give up the death-grip on controlling what and how kids learn.

Reading First Flop

Interesting news from the US Department of Education yesterday … The Reading First Program appears to be a flop. No Child Left Behind established the Reading First Program (as part of Title I), “a major Federal initiative designed to help ensure that all children can read at or above grade level by the end of third-grade.”

Here is what Margaret Spellings said about Reading First:

“Reading First helps our most vulnerable students learn the fundamental elements of reading while helping teachers improve instruction. Instead of reversing the progress we have made by cutting funding, we must enhance Reading First and help more students benefit from research based instruction.”

However, the final report released yesterday found that:

“There is limited evidence that students in RF schools improved their reading performance more quickly than their counterparts in non­-RF Title I schools.”


“There is little evidence of a relationship between schools’ implementation of RF­aligned activities and their levels of reading performance.” (p126)

Interestingly, the executive summary stated:

“While this evaluation found no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension, Reading First had a significant impact on students — decoding, phonics, and fluency skills — three of the five basic components of reading. This impact means that scores of students in Reading First schools were higher by the equivalent of 3 months in a 9-month school year.”

That reminds me of the Hooked on Phonics program that gleefully portrayed a toddler reading the Wall Street Journal. Fabulous – but haven’t we learned by now that decoding is just an aspect of reading? That the most critical component is comprehension? There’s absolutely no point in beautiful and fluid decoding if a student hasn’t a clue what they just read. (For more on this, check out, I Read It But I Don’t Get It)

Back to Reading First, the program and research surrounding it was heavily criticized by the Federal Advisory Committee, not to mention by educational publications in the US. However, Margaret Spellings stuck to it and the end result is over $6 billion spent on a program that resulted in “little evidence” that it impacted student reading performance.

Said Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the outgoing director of the Education Department’s research institute: “I don’t think anyone should be celebrating the fact that the federal government invested $6 billion in a reading program that has shown no effects on reading comprehension.”

Hear, hear.

LIFE photo archive

Wow … and we can use these for educational purposes

The Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination; The Mansell Collection from London; Dahlstrom glass plates of New York and environs from the 1880s; and the entire works left to the collection from LIFE photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili, and Nina Leen. These are just some of the things you’ll see in Google Image Search today.

We’re excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive. This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

via the Official Google Blog

Who Should Be the Nation’s Next Education Chief?

Check out the blog entry in US News and World Report. Who gets your vote?

Besides improving access to early-childhood education programs and making college more affordable, two of Obama’s campaign promises, the next education secretary must fix the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act, which Congress has not reauthorized. The United States also faces growing competition from countries that are churning out more students who can compete globally. If Obama is serious about improving education, his choice for education secretary must be someone who can tackle all these challenges at once. That may mean breaking with tradition and appointing someone who not only has a background in elementary and secondary schools but brings something new and different to the table.

Will Google have ALL the info someday?

The New York Times reports that the high use of Google to find information about the flu has resulted in enough data to report trends faster than the CDC:

“This seems like a really clever way of using data that is created unintentionally by the users of Google to see patterns in the world that would otherwise be invisible,” said Thomas W. Malone, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. “I think we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible with collective intelligence.”

Check out – what other useful information can we learn from Google use? aspires to use the power of information and technology to address the global challenges of our age: climate change, poverty and emerging disease. In collaboration with experienced partners working in each of these fields, we will invest our resources and tap the strengths of Google’s employees and global operations to advance five major initiatives: Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C), RechargeIT, Predict and Prevent, Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services, and Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

Google Scholar

Where was this tip when I was in graduate school? If you like using Google Scholar but are frequently stymied by finding a great journal article – only to realize that you can’t access it without a subscription … follow this advice from the Google Operating System blog:

… go back and click on “All n versions“, below the search snippet, to find other versions of the paper from Google Scholar. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the paper in the HTML, PDF or PostScript format.

Click the last link on the lower right hand side …

Big Ideas for Education

Educators! Contribute to the Big Ideas for Education website.

The project will have four phases:

Phase 1
1. Think about the basic priority actions that might be taken by a new Department of Education that would promote shifts in education that are relevant to today´s students and their future. Scroll down to see statements that have already been posted.
2. Compose a statement that succinctly describes that action using no more than 140 characters. Be clear and to the point.
3. Type or paste your statement in the textbox to the left, no more than 140 characters.
4. Type your name and click [Submit]

Phase 2
The submitted statements will be linked together according to topic, reducing the final list to no more than twenty basic action statements — if possible.

Phase 3
The final action statements, along with their associated statements will be published here, with a request that education bloggers and microbloggers share their insights about their favorite statements, tagging their bloggs appropriatedly.

Phase 4
A Facility will be added that enables us to prioritize the action statements in order of importance and sequence. Comments will be collected.

I’m very curious to see the final action statements …