Cross-Cultural Terminology: Competing Forces

Mark Heyward defines Intercultural Literacy as the unconscious, transcultural ability to empathize with another from a different culture, to take on their perspective and embed it into your own thinking, to be the dynamic, multilingual ‘mediating person’ who can navigate between and among many different kinds of people.

For Heyward there are many reasons to aspire to this high level of cultural competency; to make the world more cooperative, safer, and sustainable for all, while also ensuring each person’s economic competitiveness in a globalized world. It is not clear where his emphasis lies, but the economic security of being interculturally literate is not mentioned first and is not mentioned repeatedly in his paper From international to intercultural. In fact, Heyward is setting a very high aspirational goal for a new ‘global species’ of human who still occupies a plurality of identities, but has gone well beyond a nationalist or monolingual culture and identity and has instead become transcultural.

Of course, Heyward argues that international schools are uniquely positioned to provide the environment which shepards young students through their ‘crisis of engagement’ and onto progressively higher levels of mono-, cross- and intercultural literacy. This ‘crisis of engagement’ as Heyward calls it, is essential, for only through experience and encounter with the other can one begin to understand and then move on to integrate the other cultural and social imaginary. This eventual unconscious integration of bicultural and transcultural identity is problematic in a world that is in many regions and nations backlashing against notions of transnational economic cooperation and transnational pluralistic societies. Looking at the white nationalist movements in the US and Eastern Europe as an extreme, one can easily assume the virulent objections concerning the loss of culture, identity, and the dangers of a monocultural or multicultural society that would be raised. There are more legitimate concerns, of course, like those who would see this transcultural process as another form of cultural imperialism from the west, or those developing nations that use a national image and identity to spur growth and energy in its workforce.

 

Intercultural literacy shares an emphasis on experience as a philosophical footing with international mindedness (IM). The term IM is associated with Kurt Hahn and the International Baccalaureate programmes (IB), and the experiences are meant to engender the dispositions and attributes of an IB Learner; risk-takers, caring, principled, open minded and more.

Dr. Arathi Sripakash and his colleagues, in their study of six IB schools in Australia, China and India, found a significant association with IM and Hahn’s idealized traditional western education and the IB World Schools acknowledgement that they come from a humanist western tradition. In fact, many students and families enrolled in IB schools in these countries see IM as a form of “western cultural capital” intended to help them navigate the western higher education system. The study found that IM in these schools and cultures was more curriculum and instruction focused and put less emphasis on the constructivist or experiential learning that both Hahn and Heyward find essential to creating a student who can effectively navigate and contribute to a globalized world. Thus, Sripakash describes a very practical version of IM which is limited in its effect on student identities and does deeply engage students in the tensions between the nationalist project of developing China, say, and the international education pursuits of its highest achieving students.

 

In this practical vein, we move on to global competence, as defined by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson in the Asia Society’s joint publication with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) entitled Educating for Global Competence. In it, Mansilla and Jackson define global competence as “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” Action to “improve conditions” in the world is emphasized throughout the document, but most especially in the matrices for global competence in multiple subject areas. To build global competence in students all subject area teachers should follow the following learning cycle:

  1. Investigate the world
  2. Recognize perspectives, both their own and others’
  3. Communicate ideas, to diverse audiences
  4. Take action, to improve conditions

The notable verbs repeated in all the subject area matrices are the following: Identify, Analyze, Produce, Recognize, Examine, Explain, Explore, Use, Select, Reflect, Assess, Act

Aside from ‘reflect’, this comes off as a very western-oriented actionable matrix. Even in the global competence matrix for the world languages subject area it is all about the functionality of the second language. For example, “reflect on how proficiency in more than one language contributes to their own capacity to advocate for and contribute to improvement locally, regionally or globally.” This is all about the ability to “improve conditions”, not about the reflecting upon new awarenesses, interconnections made, perspectives newly understood and adopted, not much at the intercultural literacy level advocated by Heyward.

Screenshot 2018-02-17 at 11.30.37

In fact, there is a whole body of western imperialism criticism of international education, and particularly the international mindedness of the IB programmes, being the most prominent and common model of international schools worldwide. Lodewijck van Oord argues that there are three primary western liberal epistemological assumptions embedded in the IB Diploma Programme:

  1. Marketplace of ideas, wide range of valid opinions
  2. Questioning is central, fallibility is acknowledged
  3. Marketplace of ideas will lead to truth, the best ideas win out

Citing Blooms and Gardner, van Oord makes the case that our traditional western liberal values tell us that mean-making is the ideal end of education, and that conceptual knowledge has primacy over rote learning of quantities of content.

In addition, Barry Drake takes van Oord’s conclusions about the values found in western liberal education and how the IB programme reflects those values, and calls on education policy makers in non-Western, non-Eurocentric nations to deeply consider the implications and potential ‘cultural dissonances’ produced when those Eastern, African or Latin American nations adopt the IB programmes in their national schools. In terms of teaching methodology

the PYP is committed, unapologetically, to “. . . structured, purposeful inquiry, which engages students actively in their own learning, because it is believed that this is the way in which students learn best. The PYP believes that students should be invited to investigate important subject matter by formulating their own questions, looking at the various means available to answer the questions and proceeding with research, experimentation,  observation and other means that will lead them to their own responses to the issues.” This is the IBO basically declaring a constructivist theory of learning. Meaning making through first person experience, which is a western pedagogical approach and yet also problematic in the west with western students in some settings, high poverty and trauma communities. Thus, the adoption of this epistemology and pedagogy must be done intentionally, Drake argues, so that the environment for cross-cultural cultivation is set appropriately.

 

My philosophical beliefs in how children be taught and should learn definitely fall into the western liberal tradition. I believe in meaning making through inquiry and that truth will reveal itself in the marketplace of ideas. But I certainly acknowledge that these assumptions are fraught, or simply ineffectual, for many communities and cultures. Like I said, constructivist learning does not work for all students coming from the western tradition, direct instruction, rote memorization and deep content knowledge are aspects of teaching and learning that are important even in the western education setting and indeed work better for some students, particularly those coming from high poverty or trauma situations where uncertainty in learning is not desirable. The pitfalls for non-western students can be even greater, identity alienation and a lack of relevance and reflection of their own lives in the educational setting. That lack of practical connection between their own lives and traditions and the learning taking place in their school, is the opposite intent of the western tradition of educating, thus it can self-defeating.

That being said, there are value judgments made when deciding upon education policy, and in curriculum and instruction choices, and I would tend to the integration of IM, IL and GC into a school curricula because I see the need for a trained, culturally competent citizenry in a globalized world, I’ve experienced the joy of intercultural experience, and those ‘crisis of engagement’ have been the most important formative experiences of my life and continued education. I agree with Drake, that it is critical for policy makers, school directors and teachers to consider the effect and implications for adopting IM through the IB programmes in a non-western school setting, but that does not mean that the right environment, the appropriate considerations, and the positive, identity affirming experiences cannot be achieved in the name of higher order thinking strategies, meaning making and self-actualizing student imaginaries.

 

Sources:

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education,1, 9-32. Retrieved February 16, 2018

Sriprakash, A. (2014). A comparative study of international mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India(Publication).

Boix Mansilla, V., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for Global Competence: Preparing our Youth to Engage the World(Rep.). New York, NY: Asia Society.

Lodewijk van Oord (2007) To westernize the nations? An analysis of thevInternational Baccalaureate’s philosophy of education, Cambridge Journal of Education, 37:3, 375-390, DOI: 10.1080/03057640701546680

Drake, B. (2015). International education and IB programmes. Journal of Research in International Education,3, 189-205. Retrieved February 16, 2018.

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Planning for Action Research

Action Research

Action Research is conducted by a reflective practitioner in a given field. A professional who is determined to improve his or her practice, knowledge or skill base through “planned and systematic inquiry.” According to Nancy and Gary Padak, there are four stages of the action research process for an educator. These four stages encompass the seven step cycle that Richard Sagor defines as the inquiry cycle for action research. Below is a synthesis of both frameworks for education research:

  1. Identify the question – this should include three major characteristics:
    1. Importance, needs-based (clarifying theories)
    2. Relevance, addressing a problem (selecting a focus)
    3. Answerable, the criterion should be appropriately limited in scope (identifying research questions)
  2. Collection of information – student assessment data, record of observations, surveys, interviews, daily notes, demographic data, tallies, official documents, conversations with groups or individuals:
    1. Develop a clear set of questions in advance
    2. Acquire multiple independent sources of data
    3. Be effective and efficient in your collection of data, uses sources close to you because “data can come from almost anywhere.”
  3. Analyze the information and data – “You will know that you have gathered enough information when new data bring no surprises”
    1. “Data saturation” or redundancy
    2. “Triangulation” of multiple independent sources
    3. Follow these four steps once data is collected:
      • Reach data saturation, ie no surprises
      • Thorough review of all data collected
      • Categorization, ie sift, sort, rank and examine to FIND THE STORY!
      • Identify the answers in the data (answers to the question or problem)
  4. Reports results – Research can lead to more research
    1. Write and publish for documentation
    2. The writing process allows one to refine, deepen, and reveal insights from the research
    3. Sharing with fellow educators allows them to leverage your work and reduces teacher isolation
    4. Will allow for informed action to be taken in the future

 

Potential Questions for my Action Research

I recently read Walter C. Parker’s piece in the journal Globalization, Societies and Education entitled, ‘International education’ in US public schools (2009), and found his analysis of discourses used to justify the creation of international schools very intriguing. Specifically, the classification of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ discourses interested me. Along with the crisis and salvation education reform history to which the current IE wave is connected. This is relevant to me, as I will be assessing the mission and vision of international schools over the next few years in search of an excellent school community abroad for which my wife and I will teach. A school’s mission and vision are essential to its effectiveness, so the stated justification for an international curriculum or 21st Century Skills integration, will speak volumes about the school. Plus, I would like to be a school leader one day and lead an effort to infuse daily instruction with international mindedness, therefore I must be able to communicate our reasons for this effort to my staff. Below is a list of potential questions:

  • What are the discourses that drive this “international” school? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  • If not, what are they, and do they reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  • If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the curriculum and instruction?

 

Educatore Action Research Requirements

For our Action Research project in Module 14, we must follow the above mentioned steps of a quality and effective research project. We must produce a report of at least 20 to 30 pages with the following sections:

  1. Statement of Question or Problem – The scope must focused and it must draw on prior knowledge to achieve proficient on the evaluation rubric.
  2. Literature Review – References must current and pertinent to the topic or question. Must make clear connections between the literature gathered and the action research question.
  3. Proposed Methodology – “planned and systematic research” with consideration for privacy, safety and ethical concerns
  4. Analysis of Results – “The results were directly related to the research question…and followed a logical sequence.”
  5. Summary and Conclusion – “The conclusions/summary were based on outcomes and included some appropriate recommendations.” Tie to related literature and also question results against related literature.
  6. References – Academic level sources, ideally peer-reviewed
  7. Writing Mechanics – Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  8. APA Format – Bibliography is all in APA Format!

 

Challenges and Opportunities

I definitely feel comfortable putting together a research paper that ties the data collected to the action research question, compares and contrasts the data against the relevant academic literature in the field of inquiry, and draws logical conclusions and recommendations. I also feel confident in conducting a sufficient literature review, finding the relevant source material and gleaning the appropriate lessons tied to my action research question. However, the trick is going to be focusing the scope of my action research project in such a way that I am able to gather the data that I need. I know that I am going to have to leverage my professional connections in the the schools and districts in my area in order to interview the right people in the field of international education. I am not teaching at an international school, so my challenge will be access to data. Thus, I am going to need to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare my questions ahead of time in order to give myself the time necessary to access the data I need that is not readily at hand. I am thinking that I need to develop a survey, in short order, for international school administrators and teachers with the focused questions I desire answer. This way, I can give busy educators the time they need to respond to my inquiries, while not pressing me up against the wire of our early April deadline.

 

Sources

Sagor, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1. What Is Action Research? Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

Padak, N., & Padak, G. (17, September 28). Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm

The Semantics of International Schools

In an interview with Professionals in International Education News, Nick Brummitt, the founder and Chairman of the Board of International School Consultancy (ISC), defines an international school as “one that delivers a curriculum to any combination of infant, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country” for the purposes of market research and analysis. As an educator, based on my readings and understandings of the history of international schools and the current variations in definition of international schools, I would have to disagree slightly with Mr. Brummitt’s definition. And indeed, he does make mention of the exceptions to this definition, but neglects to mention the historical difficulty in defining international schools in the first place, and the modern dilemmas facing the field in terms of the need for an expanding definition of international schools.

According to Ian Hill, the history of defining international schools appears to start with Bob Leach and a report for the International Schools Association in 1962. At the time, Leach’s 7 typologies of an international school emphasized ‘overseas’ schools that were parent-owned, English-speaking, and American-programme-centered. This is the legacy definition of an international school as “national education abroad for expatriates”. These typologies sufficed for many years until the beginnings of the current international school boom which began in the late 1980’s, thus prompting the creation of ISC by Brummitt.

Another influence on the definition of international schools is the immortal Kurt Hahn. A German Jew, influenced by his experiences in WWI, his exile to the UK following his objection to the rise of Nazism, Hahn had a keen sense of the power of common experience and meaning in the lives young men during wartime. His aim in founding the Salem School in Germany, the Gordonstoun in Scotland, Outward Bound and the United World Colleges seems to be a response to this William James’ challenge to educators in The Moral Equivalent of War:

James hated war but he admits that war satisfies a primitive longing of men which will never be extinguished, to lose yourself in a common cause, which claims the whole man.

The intention was to develop an educational program that provided a positive outlet for that ‘primitive longing’ and an authentic physical test of self-discovery and ‘common cause’ to engender ‘self-respect’, esteem, challenge weaknesses, purge negative self-talk, and create compassion among diverse groups of young men. Speaking in 1936, three years after his exile from Germany, and at the precipice of the breakout of WWII, laid out the loftiest of aims of his vision for boys education in the 20th century, by which he laid the cornerstones of international education as a classless, multicultural compassion for all of humanity:

Nothing but goodwill between nations and classes can save this generation from wars and revolutions. And education can help to build this bedrock of goodwill as a foundation of the society to be.

The definition of international education thus remains clear and intact from Hahn’s time; an internationally ‘minded’ education which creates what we call today, a global citizen who possesses mutual-understanding with people of other countries and cultures, along with an ability for cross-cultural communication.While this entreaty failed to save that generation from the horrors of WWII, his work at Gordonstoun did serve as the philosophical impetus for the creation of international education initiatives like UNESCO and the pedagogical basis for many internationally minded programs like the International Baccalaureate curricula.

However, the definition and identification of international schools, while generally being related to international education, is not as clearly defined and continues to evolve. It started as elite education for families with a foreign affinity or living in an expat community in a foreign country. Terwilliger began a refinement of the definition in 1972, by identifying “four main requisites”:

  1. A student body made up of a significant number of students who are not nationals of the host country
  2. A board of directors which proportionally reflects the student body, thus foreign parents
  3. A teaching staff that ‘experienced a period of cultural adaptation’
  4. A curriculum utilizing the best instructional practices from all nations involved

These requisites have become complicated by the current landscape of traditionally international schools and also those schools newly claiming the title. Hill calls this expansion of the defintion in late 20th century and early 21st century the ‘dilution’ and ‘dilemma’ of international schools.

So the classic notion of an international school a la ISA/Leach becomes diluted with the establishment of other well-meaning and often perfectly sound educational institutions. The concept of an international school becomes complex and confusing if we consider the range of manifestations it can have…

The wide spectrum of international schools now includes market-based overseas schools serving expatriate populations (both for-profit and nonprofit), IB programs serving under-served populations in the developing world, ECIS, CIS and other membership association international schools, English-medium schools in Asia and the Middle East, cross-nation partnership schools like those funded by the U.S. State Department, transnational corporation schools for the children of employees living abroad but employing a strictly nation-specific curriculum, along with the government schools in U.S. combining IB programs taught in non-English languages.

International Schools Infographic

Hill first attempts a new definition of modern international schools by drawing distinctions between national schools and international schools:

Using this comparative definition, he then develops a continuum for the typology of schools:

Lastly, he created five criterion and the corresponding descriptors to allow educators and researchers to score the ‘purity’ of a national school or international based on a rubric:

  1. Raison d’etre – weighted by Hill, considered the hallmarks of national schools or IS
  2. Education programme – nationally or internationally minded
  3. Nature of the student body – nationals or wholly international
  4. Cultural diversity of governing body (board or proprietors) – all nationals or only 10% represent the host nation
  5. Student tuition fees – none to full tuition

Personally, I don’t have a stake in any particular definition, past or present, of an international school, and I do think schools like Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle, and any other U.S. school with a diverse immigrant population and an identified international or culturally responsive raison d’etre should be able to call themselves an international school. For me, the only non-negotiable for an international school is a mission and pedagogy that is international minded and matches the international makeup of the student body. This is a clear distinction from a national school which lacks diversity outside of student nationals and a curriculum reflecting national values and instructional practices. That distinction from national schools may not provide for a well-delineated international school definition, but it does allow for the diversity and innovation needed to provide quality education in a globalized world.

Citations:

Hill, I. (2015). What is an international school? International Schools Journal, XXXV(1). Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Hahn, K. (2018, January 25). Outward Bound. Address presented at Annual Meeting of the Outward Bound Trust in UK, London.

Hahn, K. (1936). Education and Peace: The Foundations for Modern Society. The Inverness Courier. Retrieved January 24, 2018.

International schools and international education: a relationship reviewed. By: Hayden, Mary C.,

Seattle Public Schools International Education Page

Hill, I. (2016). What is an international school? International Schools Journal, XXXV(2). Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Thoughtful Tech for Students & Teachers

I am on a serious podcast kick. My forty minute to an hour commute affords me ample time to consume almost a podcast a day. Vox editor, Ezra Klein, consistently refers to himself and his guests as “infovores” and while I wouldn’t dare put myself in a class with Ta’Nehisi Coates and Tyler Cowen, I would like to consider myself an infovore too.

Here’s what podcasts I’ve been tuning into lately:

  • S-Town – A strange saga of a small Alabama town and one of its eccentric denizens
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – Work and live smart, but don’t expect to be as successful or productive as Tim Ferriss himself
  • Recode Decode – Tech- and media-centered podcast featuring the incisive Kara Swisher
  • The Ezra Klein Show – The Vox editor interviews fantastically interesting and important thinkers and infovores (my personal favorite podcast)

Last, On Being with Krista Tippett has been a podcast and radio staple for years now. If you don’t know her soothing lilt and curious questioning, you should! Recently I listened to her discussion with Anil Dash, a serial tech entrepreneur turned thought-leader on tech ethics and purpose.

I was ignorant of Dash before listening to the podcast, and found it pleasantly surprising to come across an industry leader asking all the tough reflective questions that seem to go unaddressed each time a new iPhone iOS is released. Dash and Tippett cover the gamut too, including personal tech use and best practices, social media pros and cons, automation, self-driving cars and machine learning.

The whole conversation is worth a listen, but if you are an educator you should listen especially closely to the section where Dash describes his thoughts on how children should engage with technology. Below is a transcript of that section of their conversation:

MS. TIPPETT: So my children are, right now, 18 and 22. And even in those four years, there was such an acceleration. And it was interesting also in terms of the platforms they and their friends use completely shifted.

MR. DASH: Totally different tools. Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: And I’m actually — I find myself being really grateful that I’m not a parenting — we were still in that window where I could say, “No, you will not have an iPhone until you’re 14,” or something, which I just don’t think you can do anymore, right? And so they were already kind of formed before all of the technology entered their lives. And I know it’s changed so much now in the meantime, and you have a 5-year-old. I mean, I wonder how are you thinking about that question.

MR. DASH: We don’t have a very intelligent cultural conversation about how kids engage with technology at all.

MS. TIPPETT: No. No.

MR. DASH: I think…

MS. TIPPETT: It’s like a guinea pig generation.

MR. DASH: Yeah. Well, it’s also — I also think of the concept of “screen time.” When you’re with young kids, you’ve heard this, right? “Do you limit your child’s screen time?” And it’s like, no. I engage

with what he’s specifically doing. I don’t limit his page time. I just choose whether he’s reading a book or a magazine or whether it’s something that’s like a bunch of — he’s 5 years old, so he likes poop jokes. But — how much of that and how much of, like, smart stuff? And so the idea that they’re both on pages and are therefore equivalent is absurd, and yet we talk about screen time that way. I’m like, is he playing chess on the iPad? Or is he watching funny YouTube videos of animals falling over? Which is also awesome, but different.

And so that really — that always sticks with me because I think it’s a very unsophisticated way to look at things, and then we carry that forward. And that’s when they’re very, very young, right? 2, 3, 4, 5. They first start seeing screens. And my son maybe spends 15 minutes a day on the iPad, and he loves it, and that’s all he gets. But that’s always been the rule for him, so it doesn’t matter. And I limit it mostly just because we limit everything. I mean, you just don’t let a 5-year-old do whatever they want, or you end up in hell.

[laughter]

MS. TIPPETT: Are you saying — so, this is a radical idea. You apply the same wisdom you apply to other things to technology?

MR. DASH: Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, well that…

MR. DASH: Well, that’s the thing. It’s part of your life. I think that was the thing. I saw so many parents — and this is not judgment. I don’t judge other parents. Other parents are fine.

MS. TIPPETT: No, we’re all on this frontier, and we’re learning a language.

MR. DASH: But as we’re figuring it out, they treat it as if there is life — they say this — like, “This is real life, and then there’s computer world.” And I’m like, “That’s not the thing. That’s not how their lives are gonna be.” And I think I had an unusual perspective, in that I did start using computers before I was in kindergarten, just as my son has.

And he has way better programing tools. I was like, “Gosh, if I had these things.” He’s got — because we had to do these primitive blocky green graphics on the screen when I was a kid, and he’s got this Star Wars robot that he can go on the iPad and give it programming instructions, and it follows his directions to roll around the living room. And I’m like, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Like, you wait until they go to bed so you can play with it.

[laughter]

MR. DASH: And that’s — no, he’s going to listen to this I bet. So — I don’t do that. I don’t do that.

[laughter]

MR. DASH: But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MR. DASH: They were interacting with lots of humans all at once. And it makes me furious because I’m saying they’re being deeply social. It’s not in the mode that you know, but it’s actually better than when they were sitting alone at the diner with a book. And I think there’s been this misunderstanding and this misapprehension about what the tech is doing. It is connecting us to people.

And there’s so much attention paid — and with good reason — to the bullying and the other things, the cyber bullying and all those. A general rule of thumb is anything that begins with “cyber” is a lie. Like, if you say “cyber bullying” or “cyber crime,” it was probably — that’s one of those rare areas where they — it’s a behavior that existed before, and the “cyber” is not the issue. So children being unkind to each other…

MS. TIPPETT: Right. So nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.

MR. DASH: Right. And so being able to integrate it — now it can be worse because of the network effects. It can be amplified by the immediacy and the fact that it happens in your home. But the principles can carry across. And it has to be an integrated conversation, and that’s the key. It’s like, how much time do you limit your child talking to their friends? I don’t care if it’s on the phone, on the computer on messaging, in real life, in person, out in public, whatever it is. If you have a set of rules, they apply across these things. But that demands a literacy and a fluency that I think takes a serious investment in time and understanding your child’s context. And that’s the hard part.

A few key takeaways:
  • Screen time versus quality time on technology is the tech equivalent of blended learning versus traditional learning. We get tripped up thinking too much about the amount of screen time or the specific innovative model of learning, and forget that quality is key no matter what we’re talking about. I have always thought that I would limit the screen time of my own children, and I probably still will, but now I’ll remind myself that the important thing is the quality of time spent on a screen or in the neighborhood, and both can be positive for children.
  • “Nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.” However, the tech affect can amplify an experience in certain ways.
  • Mr. Dash: “But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

    I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.”

    This whole section gives me pause, because I’m not a digital native, nor do I desire to be. I want to leverage technology to serve me as a human, not the other way around, and maybe, just maybe, help create a technology that serves HUMAN learning, not machine learning. This leads me to bifurcate my life between the virtual, online world and the “real world”. While I realize that these two worlds are already indistinguishable in many respects, and I recognize that Dash’s son’s generation, the generation of my 2nd grade students, are going to see tech as a fully integrated part of life, I’m not yet comfortable with that. And I don’t know what this means for me as a teacher and ed tech user.

    Please let me know your thoughts on this tech educator dilemma if you can relate. And, if you know of any great and compelling education podcasts out there, please do share!

McCleary & the WA Ed Funding Debate

So both House Democrats and Senate Republicans have released their proposed budgets for the 2017-19 biennium, including $44.6 billion and $43 billion respectively for K-12 education funding. At this point I’m not sure I can add much to the conversation and debate over fully funding public education in Washington State, and hopefully, ending $100,000 per day contempt of court fine the WA Supreme Court is levying against the legislature for not meeting its “paramount” duty as ruled in the 2012 McCleary Decision. However, I can pass along a couple of resources for informing yourself and then reaching out to your local legislator, along with a couple other key House and Senate players.

First, check out this Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Seattle Times Education Lab reporters. This is a great primer for anyone trying to figure out how our complex education funding system works in Washington State.

Next, you can take action in multple ways:

  1. The Washington Education Association (full disclosure, I’m a member) has a great tool for easily contacting your representatives in the WA State legislator. Simply enter in your address and tailor your message and BOOM you have lobbied your local reps on an issue that matters to you.   Action WEA Link
  2. If you want to go a step further here is the message I’m sending to a few linchpin legislators and their contact info:

As an educator, I support Gov. Jay Inslee’s K-12 budget plan. Please pass a state budget that increases state funding for K-12 public education and fully supports our hardworking teachers and students.
If increased property taxes in the Seattle area are required for those increases, that’s okay with me. If a per pupil funding model turns out to be better than the current Staff Allocation Model, that’s okay with me too.

I strongly oppose the following parts of the proposed Senate bill:
1) Elimination of voter-approved I-1351 to reduce class sizes.
2) Elimination of voter-approved I-732 to provide Cost of Living Allowances for teachers.
3) The lowering of teacher certification requirements, we need more prepared teachers, not less.
4) Drastic cuts to the amount that local municipalities can levy to fund their local school districts. Thank you for postponing the “Levy Cliff”. 

And thank you for your consideration of these important issues.                                                                            

Dino Rossi           360-786-7672    Dino.Rossi@leg.wa.gov

Steve Litzow        360-786-7641    Steve.Litzow@leg.wa.gov

 

 

Teach-Now in Korea

This article originally appeared in the November issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Teacher Certification Debate

In America, there are two debates going on about teacher preparation programs; one is happening in the media, among education policy experts and at the highest levels of education administration. The other is happening around kitchen tables in the homes of career-changers, and in coffee shops with college graduates and undergrads, who are interested in becoming a teacher. Both debates are concerned with the structure, quality and quantity of preparation needed to sustain an effective teaching career in U.S. schools in the 21st Century. However, the latter debate also includes concerns about the costs associated with taking a year or two off from making money and instead taking on the prohibitive costs (read: student loan debt) of getting a teacher certification from a traditional school of education.

Case in point: my own path as a teacher has been varied and circuitous because I was most interested in gaining actual experience in the classroom over acquiring more formal theoretical knowledge in grad school. And I found many opportunities in my own community and around the world to get into the classroom, develop a style and a toolkit of my own and grow immediately as a professional. Adding to my uneasiness about grad school was the fact that I was debt free when I finished my undergraduate studies and vehemently wanted to stay that way.

Furthermore, I knew many alums of the many prestigious teacher prep programs at the local universities while working as paraprofessional in a Seattle public school. Many of those teachers told me that the experience I was gaining in the classroom as a teacher’s aide was preparing me as much as or more than a formal Master’s In Teaching program would by itself. I felt frustrated by the limbo between having the relevant experience and lacking a flexible, affordable and high-quality path to teacher certification. It turns out I had to come to Korea to discover the answer to my teacher prep woes!

We should not forget Martin Haberman’s research showing that long-serving “star” teachers are often from low-income backgrounds, have graduated from non-elite colleges, or are people of faith. Others, like Alex Caputo-Pearl, have somewhat radical politics. What makes these nontraditional teachers special is that they are mission-driven to help struggling students succeed, and they are enthusiastic about holding all children to high intellectual standards. Those are the attributes teacher preparation programs should seek.
-Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

Teach-Now, Literally

Emily Feistritzer worked for the U.S. Department of Education studying alternative-route teacher certification programs across the country. After 30 years as a preeminent expert on the subject, she decided to create a program which addressed the holes and inadequacies that she saw in many alternative-route teacher prep programs. Thus, Teach-Now was born; a rigorous, practical and affordable teacher certification program aimed at “preparing tomorrow’s teachers for tomorrow’s learners in tomorrow’s world”.

Apart from the student-teaching portion of the program, the Teach-Now classes and coursework are completed fully online. Assignments, readings, teaching videos, discussions, and professor interaction are all facilitated via the Teach-Now online learning platform which is similar to those of EdX and Coursera. Small cohorts of 15 or fewer teacher candidates and their module instructor meet weekly online, in real time, using the AdobeConnect video conferencing program. Lectures, discussions, flash collaboration mini-projects and analysis of exemplary teaching videos happen in the VC’s (virtual class) by the cohort members and their instructor who could be many thousands of miles apart. In fact, my cohort consisted of three English teachers in three different Korean provinces, five international school teachers in three different provinces of China, an American school teacher’s aide in Germany, and a paraprofessional working in an Arizona charter school.

Teach-Now relies on open source readings and resources from the web, as opposed to expensive textbooks. The resources range from podcasts about Lev Vygotsky and the importance of play in learning, Rick Wormeli YouTube videos on differentiation, and, of course, the writings of John Dewey on progressive teaching methods.  

Where the Teach-Now program really excels and differentiates itself, thanks to Ms. Feistritzer’s vision, is in the hands-on experience teacher candidates get with valuable education technology tools. Assignments ask teacher candidates to analyze and dissect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in an electronic mind map, create an academic data infographic, collaborate on a debate about blended learning via Voicethread, participate in an ed policy Twitter chat or develop a Pinterest board rich with lesson plan ideas. All individual and group writing assignments are completed, shared and submitted in Google Docs.

The final module or unit of the Teach-Now program is in the mold of a traditional student-teaching practicum in which teacher candidates need to complete 250 hours of in-class instruction in their subject area or grade level of certification. Similarly to traditional student-teaching models, teacher candidates need an experienced mentor teacher to support, observe and evaluate the candidate’s performance. What is different with Teach-Now, is that you also record a class once a week, upload the video to your Google Drive, share it with your instructor and cohort-mates, receive notes on your performance and discuss it at the weekly VC. This professional development method is precisely what the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project calls for in order to better identify and develop the best teachers and teaching strategies.

 

My Experience with Teach-Now in Korea

I had a wonderful experience completing the Teach-Now program from here in Yeosu. The opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a certificated elementary teacher while living and working abroad, and not going into serious debt, has been a huge gift for which I am grateful. However, there were a few key factors which made the experience possible, as well as a truly rigorous and meaningful preparation that was flexible enough to work with my unique teaching situation. Keep these in mind if you are reading this and are interested in the program.  

First, I had some great cohort-mates who were located in similar time zones in East Asia. They were serious professionals with years of teaching experience before joining the Teach-Now program. I learned a lot from them and received a lot of valuable feedback on my teaching as well.

Second, my Korean co-teacher at my elementary school in Yeosu is a wonderful, progressive teacher with nearly two decades of experience in the classroom as a homeroom teacher, head teacher, English teacher and low-level administrator. Despite her years of experience in Korea, she was eager to learn from my American-style teacher preparation and therefore allowed me to experiment with some distinctly Western-style teaching methods in our English classroom.

Last, I teach a few extra classes on my own, without a co-teacher and without a curriculum. This also allowed me huge amounts of freedom during the practicum especially, but also during the academic modules. I used those free form classes to complete an assignment or put into action an emphasized teaching method.

If you do not have these elements; solid cohort-mates in your time zone, a great Korean co-teacher and some flexibility in your teaching schedule, then you may need to think twice before applying to Teach-Now. Otherwise, go for it!

  

Teach-Now in the News:

Teach-Now as a great alternative-route certification option for military spouses abroad.

Teach-Now program revolutionizes teacher preparation.

Education researcher moves into the certification business.

On Twitter you can follow Teach-Now @teachnowprogram or via #tncohort.