Sunday, December 19, 2010

Break Political BANdates, Boycott Outdated Assessments, and Empower Students to Learn

Innovative educators are frustrated when forced to follow political BANdates (i.e. a mandate banning something) such as one that has taken hold across many cities in the nation requiring students to power down at school. In New York City, the largest of these districts, the iPad toting Mayor, Mike Bloomberg relies on the same tools he refuses to let students bring with them to learn in school. While he purports wanting to develop students who are prepared for the 21st century world of career and academic success his technology BANdate prevents students from bringing any personally owned digital devices they may rely on at home into school. There are even metal detectors at schools to ensure the devices they (and he) could depend on for learning are not be used in the classroom. If we really wants our students prepared for the 21st century, then we must speak out against political BANdates. Educators not politicians should be empowered to make the decision about whether they want to allow students to use the tools they need to know how to use in the real world to succeed. Here is why this is so important.

6 Reasons Political BANdates Should Be Broken
  1. BANdates Result in Dropouts
  2. Schools Can Not Offer Real World Opportunities When BANdates Are Enforced
  3. Saying Yes To Students Means Saying No To Political BANdates
  4. Outdated Assessments with Tech BANdates Results in Students Prepared for The Past
  5. Educators Who Think Outside the BAN Are Penalized
  6. Political Bandates Shouldn’t be Driven by Success on Outdated Assessments
1. BANdates Result in Dropouts
If you ask educational visionary Marc Prensky, he’ll say, “Let’s admit the real reason that we ban digital devices is that, given the opportunity to use them, students would vote with their attention, just as adults would ‘vote with their feet’ by leaving the room when a presentation is not compelling.” But students don’t have that option. Unfortunately as NYC DOE Innovation Design Director Jonathan Skolnick, shares, “A traditional compulsory education requires students sit through 12 years of classes they never signed up for.” With
drop out rates nationwide at about one third with many cities having rates hovering closer to 50% of students leaving school, many secondary students are indeed exercising the option to leave. The top reason motivated students with high GPA gave for leaving school is that class were not interesting and students suggest school offer opportunities in alignment with the real world.

2. Schools Can Not Offer Real World Opportunities When BANdates Are Enforced
Without technology, without the ability to connect, without the ability to use the tools necessary for success in the real world, school becomes a place where students feel trapped and disconnected which is why many innovative educators are morally opposed to enforcing political BANdates. Although New Jersey Principal Eric Shenninger knows that “
Banning certainly is the easy way out”he knows educators didn’t get into this work because it is easy. When we ban, nobody has to change the way they do business. Teachers teach the same way. Testing companies test the same way. Politicians measure students the same way and most disturbingly, students are assessed and prepared for a world that no longer exists. When the world inside our schools looks so different than the world in which we live, do we make it our priority to think outside the ban and prepare our students or to we accept our charge to make our students easily and inexpensively measurable political pawns?”

3. Just Say No Is Fine for Drugs, but Not for Technology
Educators and parents who care about preparing students for the 21st century, know it’s time to stop fighting and start allowing students to use the tools they love for learning. If we did we would instantly have an influx in the availability of technology reaching millions if not billions of dollars. Like in the real world, schools would not need to provide tech for everyone, but instead follow the model of internet cafes, libraries, or coffee shops where device-agnostic internet is provided for those with their own equipment and additional devices are available for check out with those in need. Forget the the scary and faux excuse of the needing to secure student data. That can and should be housed separately. Forget hiding behind filtering laws. The internet can be configured to the schools specs. Schools that prioritize this like
The School in Harlem figure it out.

4. Tech BANdates Result in Students Prepared for The Past, Not the Present or Future
When we continue to
assess students using outdated measurements we are imprisoning them to a school life stuck in the past. Sadly, all too frequently I have walked into schools I know have ample technology resources and have not seen a single computer being used. Instead I’ve see kids writing on paper with pens and pencils because “that’s what is used for the test and that’s how we’re judged.” Even schools with the best intentions require students to duplicate efforts because they are judged on outdated assessment. In these schools students are told, go ahead and do your work on the computer as you like, but you must also get practice with paper /pencil since that’s how we are judged. Why are we wasting student’s time? Why aren’t we boycotting outdated assessments created for industrial workers?

5. Educators Who Think Outside the BAN to Empower Students Should Not Be Penalized
Our current system not only is doing a disservice to our students but research shows that innovative educators are being penalized. If teachers empower students to use technology they intuitively know that they will see a dip in the outdated bubble sheet test scores. Though Generation Tech has been scapegoated by some as the reason for declining test scores, when digging a little deeper we can see the research indicates (you can read more
here and here) students who have become proficient using technology will see a decline in paper /pencil tests scores that use outdated assessments. The outdated assessments are keeping our students stuck in the past. We must start to acknowledge that we are not doing what is in the best interest of our children, but rather doing what is easiest and cheapest to provide quantifiable data for politicians and testing companies.

6. Political BANdates Shouldn’t Be Driven By Success on Outdated Assessments
Let’s face it. The impetus for using outdated tests that are no different than those used when compulsory education started in the early 1900s, is that it’s just plain easier and cheaper. It’s easier for testing companies to administer and for politicians to measure the results. When put in perspective it all makes sense for them.
Lifting the ban and allowing students to use technology would make the job of measuring students, teachers, administrators, and politicians more difficult and more costly. Weeding out those teachers who don’t have a passion for test prep is easier than measuring teachers who have a passion for real student learning.

These political BANdates result in the establishment of a workforce of educators that look no different than the those who taught our silver-haired politicians and prepared students for the industrial age of the last century. In fact in our current system innovative educators, creative thinkers, and tech savvy students are severely penalized. They are banned from 1) using technology on the test, 2) working cooperatively as you would in the real world or 3) connecting with those in their personal learning network to solve problems. Can you imagine if the iPad-dependent Mayor of New York City had his technology taken from him prior to a speech? Can you imagine if he was told to prepare for work with out the help of his learning network? If it’s not right for the politicians, then it shouldn’t be right for our students.

Break the Ban and Give Schools The Authority to Empower Students
We will never prepare students for success in the 21st century when we 1) follow political BANdates that prevent students from using the tools we all need to succeed, 2)
filter them from accessing the sites they need to learn (YouTube is the #1 educational site) or 3) prevent them from developing their personal learning networks using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs they need to connect.

What’s good for the politicians IS GOOD FOR OUR STUDENTS. The do as I say, not as I do mantra of the past is no longer acceptable for students who want to spread their own wings doing as they want to say and do to pursue the passions they want to explore.

If we continue abiding by BANdates cultivating students to be prepared for the outdated world that is mandated to exist inside schools, we may make politicians happier, we may making testing companies richer, but we will not be preparing our students for their future or even their present. It’s time to let our students come out of the dark and allow them to power up for learning!

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