Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Year

This blog began as a blog for a class. And although I think that, as I began blogging, keeping this blog with that class blog was appropriate, this year, I'll run it differently.

Here's the link to my physics blog.

And here's my chemistry blog.

(Confession time: I would like to move over to WordPress, but I really don't want to bother with rolling over this blog yet, and really don't want to use two different platforms at the same time. Maybe later.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Do You Trust Me?

There's been a lot of talk about student-designed education. For example, this post. And, of course, you've all seen Shawn Cornally's TEDx talk.

In case you somehow missed these ideas, they're about giving students less of a rigorous, pre-defined curriculum of things they MUST learn, instead allowing students to take their education where they want to go. (To get the full effect, I really recommend that you go read/watch the original presentations.)

Now, sure, this idea of giving students more control over their education sounds like a great idea--and it is. But it has a major catch: For this to have any chance of working, there has to be--HAS to be--an element of trust between the teacher and student. For this to be implemented on a larger scale, this trust has to exist between students and administration. And to be accepted on that larger scale, this trust has to exist between the public and the students, not to mention the school.

At least where I am, I wouldn't say that this trust really exists--with, of course, a few notable exceptions. Perhaps Chris Ludwig's implementation of a student-designed physics course will help, but that's only with a handful of students. We have to make this work on a larger scale.

If you need more proof that there are apprehensions about loosening restraints on students, look at this letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal. In particular, consider these two paragraphs:
Businesses are governed by their owners and not employees. The school system is governed by rank: teacher, supervisor, principal and superintendent. So where do students fit into this organizational environment? They are at the bottom!

They do not have a voice in what they are required to learn. They do not have the option to decide if they will do an assigned task. They do not have voting rights. They do not have an elected representative to bargain for them. They are to do what they are told, the same as the military, businesses and at home. So when we change our thinking in this matter, we see that the First Amendment of free speech does not apply in any of these situations.

Arnold D. Seligman, the author of this letter, is not arguing for a change in this hierarchy. He is suggesting that this is the proper way things should be. I think it's clear that he does not trust students to take a part in their education.

Somehow, this perception has got to change. How can we make this come about? One obvious solution for the smaller level (trust between students and teachers/administration) is a suggestion box for the school. This would be a chance for students to, if not prove themselves, at least demonstrate that we have valid ideas. For that matter, I'm honestly not sure why we don't have one already. I don't see any valid reason not to.

On the larger level (trust between the public and students), I think students have to start using their voices more. Recently, via Twitter, I've met two other students around the globe doing exactly what I'm doing. Over on Cooperative Catalyst a while back, I read (on a post that I could not find) about a student wanting to start a blog much like this one. And I know that John Burk wants to see his students do this as well.

It won't be a short process. But I think that, with time, it can work. And, I'm afraid, it will have to.  
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