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#BCed Chat Monday, July 25 at 7pm

Monday, July 25 at 7pm

Monday, July 25 at 7pm

“Social Media Super Man” @davidwees and I invite you to attend our second ever Twitter chat about issues in BC Education. We will be having these chats weekly/biweekly throughout the year and will be using the hashtag #BCed.

For Monday, July 25th at 7:00pm, you can tune in to voice your thoughts as well as hear from others interested in BC education on the topic: “What should personalized learning look like in our schools?”. This is a continuation of the dialogue started in our first BCed chat with Education Minister George Abbott.

David and I invite any person with an interest in education in British Columbia to come join us.  Also, if you have a colleague not on Twitter, this is a perfect opportunity to get them to join and see the power of connecting.

(Adapted from David Wees’ blog)

12

Meeting Old Friends For The First Time

Do you remember having penpals? I have fond memories of connecting with other kids from Japan and Australia as an elementary student. I also remember being so jealous when one of my classmates was able to actually meet his penpal face to face at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

I recently attended two conferences (well, one was an unconference) in Vancouver – EdCamp Vancouver (#edcampvan) and the Digital Learning Spring Conference (#edtechbc). My conference experience PRE-social media usually went something like this: I would arrive at the conference last minute, attend the keynote, listen to the presenters, take notes, and go home. I rarely knew anybody and I was not the person to just walk up to someone and introduce myself. I was a receiver of information and took part in very little educational dialogue.

handshake

From: http://bit.ly/lsRJUi

Flash forward to life after Twitter and blogging. For the past 2 years, I have connected with thousands of educators from around the globe; more recently I have connected with quite a few educators from BC. Prior to EdCamp, I posted a Tweet asking who was attending and I also posted some presentation ideas on the EdCamp site. Through this, I was able to have conversations even before the event started; I even arrived early to EdCamp because I was so excited to actually meet some of my Twitter friends face to face. When I walked into the library, I can think of no other way to describe it other than it felt like I was meeting my penpals for the first time. I felt I knew these people so well: I knew their values, their educational philosophies, and even a bit about their families. Instead of sitting in the corner waiting for the next presentation, I found myself seeking out educators and having powerful dialogue with people who I felt like I knew. I said to Heidi Hass Gable at one point “I have never met so many people for the first time… Whom I already knew”. There were plenty of smiles, handshakes, and even hugs as so many people were excited to connect with those who they had been “speaking” with for the past few months or years. (You can read more about my EdCamp experience here). I think this comfort level lead to the ongoing powerful challenging conversations that occurred throughout the day.

Two days later, I attended the #edtechBC conference which was keynoted by George and Alec Couros. George is someone who, prior to that day, had never met but have had endless chats through Twitter, blogging, email, and Gmail Video chats. I walked into the room just before he was about to present, he saw me, gave a wave and I think he wrote it best when he tweeted:

Tweet from @gcouros

I have always realized the power of social media as a professional development tool; I never could have imagined the resulting connections and face to face relationships. These relationships will never replace those within my school and district but social media has added so many passionate people to my professional learning network and, combined with conferences, truly has led to the feeling of meeting old friends for the first time.

Here is a list of people whom I connected with face-to-face for the first time (and a few whom I had the pleasure of reconnecting – if I missed you, I apologize!!!):

  • @davidwees – The man behind EdCamp. A math teacher in Vancouver and one of the most reflective educators I know.
  • @johnnybevacqua – An inspiring, reflective, energetic administrator from Vancouver. Encouraged by his reflections on student motivation.
  • @aakune – A passionate administrator and great leader from Delta. Only chatted with him for a few minutes but looking forward to the next time! Love his thoughts on educational leadership.
  • @remi_collins – A principal from Coquitlam, Remi and I actually completed the BCELC seminar series a few years ago but it was great to reconnect. I love his thoughts on grading and assessment. He is currently trying to pilot a project in his district that would see intermediates moving away from grades
  • @gmbondi A true family man and a guy who has a way with words around his powerful views on education. Gino is a principal in Vancouver.
  • @bsoong A senior science teacher in Vancouver – wish I had Bernie as a mentor to me when I was teaching high school science.
  • @aaronmueller You cannot help but smile when you hang out with Aaron – just a positive, happy guy who also happens to be an online educator in Vancouver.
  • @grantfrend An administrator in Maple Ridge who does it all. I love his reflective views on motivation of students.
  • @5_alive I love what Jaki, a teacher from Vancouver Island, is doing in her classroom around assessment! Her movement away from grades has significantly increased learning in her class.
  • @darcymullin When Darcy, a principal in Summerland, speaks, it is like he saying the words that I wish I knew how to say. Love his views on motivating students and his thoughts on assessment.
  • @tomschimmer The Assessment For Learning guru. District Principal from Penticton. #nuffsaid
  • @hhg One of my mentors on parent engagement in schools. The DPAC president in Coquitlam, Heidi works tirelessly to be a voice for students and parents.
  • @bryanhughes Passionate teacher in Vancouver – great views on EdTech.
  • @alissalu Energized administrator from Vancouver Island. Eats a mean burger.
  • @scienceworldTR Katie is just beaming with positivity – and great resources from Science World.
  • @teachingtammy A reflective, positive teacher from Vancouver.  Love some of the stuff she is trying with her class this year.
  • @millerblair Blair seems to do it all – math, tech, business, coach… an inspiring educator in Vancouver.
  • @emcavin Love the conversations Ed, a teacher in Vancouver, has with his class around motivation and education reform.
  • @fionade A lady that has been part of some key changes at our school. She is another mentor to me around parent voice, engagement and education reform. Fiona is about as passionate as they come and a member of @4moms1dream.
  • @cyberjohn07 The MAN when it comes to websites and distance learning. Check out his site for cool education sites. Love his energy.
  • @malchkiey Malcolm says it like it is – gotta respect that. Never even caught on that he was at EdCamp until it ended!
  • @stephenhurley All the way from Ontario, Stephen writes a darn good blog with powerful thoughts on ed reform.
  • @clthompson A science teacher from the Okanagan – cannot help but smile when you are around Claire.
  • @gcouros A man that needs no introduction… George is an online mentor to me. Creator of Connected Principals, principal in Alberta and social media guru, Roberto Luongo impersonator.. I just wish he would stop making fun of my phone.
  • @courosa Alec has been leading the way using social media to connect in education. I have never seen a man eat a burger that quickly. Poor younger brother George never had a chance growing up.
  • @chrkennedy One word: ENERGY. Wow, no wonder he became Superintendent of West Van at such an early age. A truly inspiring leader in BC Education and a leadership mentor to me.
  • @erringreg Erinn just oozes passion in education, especially around what she is doing with her “connected classroom”. Great sense of humour too!
  • @jbellsd60 District Principal of Technology in Fort St John, Jarrod is doing some awesome stuff with social media and schools.
  • @mthman Came up from the Washington and immediately liked this dude. Math teacher with a great future in educational leadership.
  • @mrmosesdotorg This guy blew me away with his thoughts on education technology. All the way from Vegas, he spread his ideas throughout BC at the EdTech conference. He is more than about technology, he is all about kids.
  • @tysune Tyler is a UBC student – I love this guy’s critical nature of his thoughts. A great perspective on education.
  • @learnbyliving Julia is someone who you meet and you just cannot help but stay and chat. Love her thoughts on education reform and overall learning. Reflective is a word that I seem to be using a lot but I must use this to describe her.
  • @4moms1dream A fantastic collaborative effort to change education with parent power. 4 BC moms with a purpose.
  • @g_kima Goran calls himself “just a parent” (is anybody “just a parent”?) 😉 . Although not a teacher, he is a true educator for more than just his kids. I love his perspectives on assessment and motivation. Organizer of TEDxKids in Vancouver.
  • @amy_stephenson A new Tweeter and teacher – another person you cannot help but smile when you are around.
  • @khforkids Her Twitter name says it all – Kimberlee is a mom with a purpose to encourage more parent engagement in schools. Another member of @4moms1dream

Thank you to all those that helped (and continue) to make my learning experiences so powerful!

17

School Choice: Maintaining the Hierarchies

“Neo-liberal policies involving market solutions may actually serve to reproduce – not subvert – traditional hierarchies of class and race” — Michael W. Apple

Christy Clark, the new Premier in British Columbia, has long been an advocate of increasing the opportunities for parents to choose schools for their children.  Most people’s response to this is that it sounds good – parents should be able to make a decision on which school best meets the needs of their child.  In an ideal world, this may work but more questions arise as we look deeper into who truly benefits from school choice.

As most of you know, I believe the autonomy to choose is extremely important in life.   Students, staff, and parents need to be provided with equal opportunity to choose how to do things in life.  The key word in the previous statement is EQUAL.

When we think about school choice, who does it actually benefit?  If a parent is to choose a school away from their neighbourhood school, they must have some of the following:

  • a school nearby (within driving distance)

    Only if you have the capital....

    Only if you have the capital....

  • the cultural capital to discuss school choice and knowledge of options
  • a vehicle for transportation to another school
  • a parent available to drive to another school
  • the finances to be able to pay for private schools or academies (ie. sports academies in BC) as well as transportation

So I ask the question again: who does school choice truly benefit?  The answer: students from middle-class urban households.  It would be fantastic to be able to drive across town to participate in a Sports Academy – but the student must have access to a number of assets before he/she can even consider this option.  I do not blame any parent for making informed decisions that best suit the educational needs of the child; in fact, I think parents need to be MORE involved in educational decisions.  But how does school choice benefit a child from a family without a vehicle? One that cannot afford the tuition to a private school or BC academy? One that lives in a rural community in which the next school is hours away? One that has a single parent working two jobs?  From a different angle, if students are choosing to attend schools outside of their neighbourhood, what does this do to the community sense of schools (although this argument will be discussed at another time)?

At my previous school, I attempted to bring the Hockey Canada Academy to my school (at a cost of almost $1000/student each semester).  The idea is fantastic; students are provided with the opportunity to participate in something in which they are passionate.  Unfortunately, as I grew as an educator I began to realize that not ALL students are provided with the opportunity – only those that have the capital.  Why is it acceptable that only students who can afford choice schools are provided with the opportunity?

We are now seeing schools and districts compete for students.  Parents are provided with Fraser Institute Rankings, ‘standardized’ test scores (that are often marked by their own schools), a variety of academies (that often come with an tuition cost), specialized schools, ‘traditional’ schools, and an option of attending an independent school (based on religion, culture, specialization, etc).  Schools that refuse to market themselves, teach to the test, or compete with others schools are sometimes seeing parents choose to send their child elsewhere.  Apple (2001) states that there is a “crucial shift in emphasis… from student needs to student performance and from what the school does for the student to what the student does for the school.”  He also goes on to say that “more time and energy is spent on maintaining or enhancing a public image of a ‘good school’ and less time and energy is spent on pedagogic and curricular substance”.

As stated, I am not against choice in education.  However, this choice must be available to ALL students so every student in BC is provided with equal opportunity for a ‘personalized learning’ experience.  This means that if districts are going to provide specialized schools and academies, all students within the district must be provided with access – in particular, transportation and funding.  This also means that rural schools must be provided with funding to be able to provide students with learning opportunities comparable to students in urban communities.

Premier Christy Clark’s education plan includes (from “Christy Clark’s Education Vision: More School Choice”:

  • Support independent and faith-based schools, and promote public-school academies focusing on sports and arts. (She has long been a strong proponent of school choice; her nine-year-old son attends an independent school.)
  • Keep the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) (our provincial standardized test that is used to publish and rank schools)
  • Enhance and emphasize math and science, including promoting province-wide competitions to recognize excellence in those fields.
  • Publish detailed information about school programs, achievements, operations and facilities on school-district websites so parents can make informed choices.

I see similarities from Apple (2001), in discussing the US situation, when he states “We are witnessing a process in which the state shifts the blame for the very evident inequalities in access and outcome it has promised to reduce, from itself on to individual schools, parents, and children.” Ball (1993) also states “markets in education provide the possibility for the pursuit of class advantage and generate a differentiated and stratified system of schooling”.    A great blog post from Ira Socol also touches on this issue as he writes,

So parent-based systems reward the haves. They have choices because they have funds, knowledge, transportation, the ability to even home school. And the have-nots are punished. Those children have parents without access to information, without access to transportation (and thus charter choice), without access to their own successful educations as a support system.

School choice, as it is now in BC, does not solve the real problems of the hierarchies of class and race that exist within the current system – they actually maintain them.  Unfortunately, we often only hear the voices of those with the cultural capital to speak on behalf of their children and we don’t hear the voices of the marginalized.   When we hear that a solution to our education system challenges is school choice, we need to question where this voice is coming from – is it a voice that speaks on behalf of ALL students or just his/her child?

Clark also goes on to say, “My proposals are designed to involve all the stakeholders in creating a kindergarten to 12 system that truly reflects the needs of students.”  I am not sure how providing school choice is a way to involve ALL stakeholders and meet the needs of ALL students.   Ravitch (2008) writes that “Democratic education [means] that everyone must be educated as if they were children of the most advantaged members of society”.  I realize that the funding formula in BC currently encourages schools/districts to compete for students so they are often forced in the direction of promoting school choice.  Most will agree that our system needs to change but school choice, the way it is currently designed in BC, benefits primarily the students from advantaged families; schools need to collaborate, rather than compete, and be adequately funded so programs are not cut but are created so as to offer ALL students within each school REAL choice in their education.

References:

Apple, M.W. (2001) Comparing Neo-Liberal Projects and Inequality in Education, Comparative Education, 37(4), 409-423

Ball, S.J. (1993) Education Markets, Choice and Social Class: the market as a class strategy in the UK and USA, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 14(1), 3-19

Ravitch, D.R. (2008) Education and Democracy: The United States as a Historical Case Study, in Coulter, D.L. & Weins, J.R. (Eds) Why Do We Educate?  Renewing the Conversation, pp. 42-57 (Blackwell Publishing, Mass, USA)