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JeffreySchulz

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“So, uh, what should I write about?”

As guest blogger coming off a Thanksgiving-typtophan stupor, I found myself asking the very question many of my English students have posed over the years.  A recent posting on Insidehighered.com  told about a curriculum redesign of  writing for frst-year students. 

Scott Warnock of Drexell University says about the redesign:

“The conventional way that assignments are presented to students isn’t always relevant to them,” Warnock said. “We can change that by trying to create context.” 

First-Year Writing Gets a New Look

Here is an example of educators collaborating in an attempt to move toward both relevance and context creation. 

Florida Virtual School Report

The following is a brief excerpt from an article in the Orlando Sentinel regarding a study of Florida Virtual School.

The Florida Virtual School is a good deal for Florida taxpayers. That is the view of Florida Tax Watch, which recently did a study on student performance and cost effectiveness at the virtual school. The conclusion? Virtual school students perform better than their traditional counterparts and cost the state less because their school doesn’t need buses or buildings. posted by LesliePostal on Nov 9, 2007 6:39:00 AM

The article is referring to a recent report by Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance and Accountability

While the results of this study, not surprisingly, focus on student outcomes with regard to economic efficiency, it is striking to note the remarkable lack of such words as “innovation” within the study.  While the study’s focus is efficiency, it seems like another example of traditional structures being replicated in an online world. 

If Shakespeare had been in my English class…

I shudder to think.  This notion came to mind as I watched this video, Do Schools Kill Creativity,  delivered by Sir Ken Robinson at a TED Conference in Monterey, CA. where he again raises the concern that our educational system is about the business of educating people out of their creativity.   Over the years, I’ve inspired many a catatonic state as I slogged through the cannon of American Literature with the ferocity of conviction of Jonathan Edwards.  

 Inspires Creativity, Doesn't It?“Students in the Hands of a Zealous Teacher.” 

Aye, but there’s the rub.  On the one hand, educators are accountable to bureaucratic reporting structures that demand accountability to standards that are not about building creative capital, while that is precisely what we all need as we manage change and create the future.  This tension bespeaks the need for leapfrogging.

The Virtual Teacher

Sometime ago, I had heard Thomas Friedman suggest that we often have 21st Century students and 20th Century teachers.  I felt indicted by this statement and hope that on my better days, that might actually be true.

I taught for years in an urban setting, teaching for St. Paul Public Schools, and I began to question the relevance of what I brought to the classroom and the manner in which I delivered it.  It caused me to reflect on my own education, training, and experience in a world where change is accelerating at ever-increasing rates.  It caused me to begin asking what we must do to address an educational system that is clearly “preparing” students for a world that no longer exists.  It caused me to ask, how might we prepare students for a world and workforce that doesn’t yet exist.

That brings me to my current role/s.  I am exploring these questions in both my academic life and in my work life.  It is an arena where theory and practice meet and often collide.  It is an arena in which I continue to evolve and ask the question: what does education need to look like for the 21st Century and beyond?

I have recently accepted the role as Curriculum Director for BlueSky Online Charter School, Minnesota’s first fully online public high school.  That said, it is often easy to be lulled into sense of complacency, thinking that simply being an online school is innovative in and of itself.  Simply delivering traditional curriculum in an online environment is not enough. 

For academics and the theorists, these questions are anything but new, and for the NCLB-strapped practioners, day to day survival often dictates something other, and the chasm between theory and practice is often substantial. So over the next few days, I will be musing about how we not only bridge that chasm, but leapfrog into the 21st Century.