As an outsider looking on, I find the events in the U.S.A. in education fascinating and I have to admit it, a bit strange.
As those who read my blog will know, I have become fascinated in the use and potential of technology to transform the way we educate. I have looked at the development of things such as social media, the use of touch screen technology and future developments like augmented reality and gesture-based learning. My wife wants to purchase an Amazon Kindle because she has seen the potential of e-books.
I regularly watch TED Talks which are presented by a majority of very able and powerful thinkers, many of them from the U.S. This place seems to be the home of innovation, it has a lot of very creative things going on. I have recently become a great fan of the San Francisco “Exploratorium” which is allowing children of all ages to discover, experiment and interact with the physical, biological and chemical world. There is a move to integrate the arts into Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEAM).
I am a great follower of Edutopia, which I regularly read to find links to some brilliant examples of Project Based Learning. I also follow very closely and have become very attached to a school district in Van Meter Iowa, with outstanding educators like John C. Carver (Superintendent), Deron Durflinger (High School Principal) and the amazing Shannon Miller (Librarian extraordinary). This small district has pioneered 1 to 1 Laptop use with their students and have recently set up links with schools in the U.S. and elsewhere for their students to collaborate and communicate.
The U.S. has some of the greatest universities in the world, producing some of the greatest developments in so many fields of human endeavour.
Yet, every day I read about the crisis in their education system. I recently read about the case of the state of Wisconsin and the way that teachers have been fired for he sake of balancing a budget. I have heard from a Facebook friend about the threats to a Professor in Wisconsin for writing his opinions about the changes in the state’s approach to education. But I am not just singling out Wisconsin. It seems that everywhere in the United States there is a push towards more high stakes testing, teachers being held accountable for results and in the case of Washington D.C.the “economic use of the truth” in respect to the test results!
I regularly read about disenchantment and it now seems to have gone towards despair for many. The education secretary Arne Duncan seems to be at the centre of many of these developments and even the President is now said to have some doubts about Duncan’s policies (see this article).
So here we have it….. a nation which has so many great thinkers, ideas and is promoting the education and indeed the world of the future. That has given us the social media like Facebook and Twitter that has so transformed our world, that has led the way with how this technology can transform education… which is firing its teachers and attacking them in their press on a daily basis. Which has a President who has doubts about the policies of his own Education Secretary.
You can see why I find this place strange…. but fascinating.