The day opened with a talk devoted to the shift in education to a more digital, technological realm. Some of the points were interesting, but I don’t agree that students will learn to read from cds. Nor do I think this should be the “shift” of the education world. Technology is an imperative factor in today’s world, yes, but if one doesn’t have the basic skills required to utilize that technology, what’s the point? Reading, in whatever form it may be, will always be a critical element in ALL areas (and not just English)…at least in my opinion. Thus, I don’t see reading from a disc as the ONLY source of developing reading skills…and I’m a technology person, too.
But now, onto one of my favorite sessions: Adolescent Literacy: What Works Best [with powerhouses P. David Pearson, Barbara Flores, Donna Alvermann, Ernest Morrell]. If you haven’t heard of these powerhouses, I suggest you look them up. Their work is amazing and they are incredibly knowledgable in their areas. I think it will be easiest to list the questions and the respective answers, so here it goes…
Question 1: What are the most pressing issues for educators building literacy plans for “problem” adolescents?Pearson: Too often the focus is on students as the sole problem (then we send them to remediation), but teachers are as big of a part of the problem, too! They need more PD, more strategies…But most importantly, schooling is too boring! We need to tie in out of school literacies to engage our students…and remember that every one can be an emerging reader.
Flores: Students are already labeled with names based on “standards” that do not necessarily hold true. Why not re-frame and view as a positive instead of only seeing the negative?
Alvermann: Finding a way to make school relevant is a major issue. Students are living in a different world than we can even imagine. We focus on 21st century changes, but the 21st century is already HERE. And tying into Flores, what do labels really mean? We can’t label all immigrants as struggling.
Morrell: “Schools are institutions set up to create social inequity.” Students have skills, but we need to help them with the skills needed to change institutions that have caused so many problems for people of the past and people today.
Question #2: How can we create safe/productive learning environments?
Morrell: We need to situate learning through meaningful practice (ex. service learning). Also, tie into other engaging methods/multiliteracies, such as youth/popular culture, interpretation/debate, and narrative/film. Also, we haven’t solved the problem of integrating innovative pedagogy into classrooms — the achievement gap still remains. We need to focus and research on what IS working in pedagogy instead of only on what’s not.
Pearson: Mentioned the SLI (Strategic Literacy Initiative) which helps students understand their own motivation. Ultimately, the STUDENTS are the solutions to the problems (and they are sitting right in front of you!).
Question #3: What message would you take to the new administration?
Pearson: change assessment –> performance based; teachers deserve respect; kids who are being ill-served by schools should be given a voice; and it is never too late for any student!
Flores: eliminate scripted curriculum; eliminate testing/gate keeping for becoming a teacher; teachers need more support (PD and in the classroom); help create teacher connections –>right now, everyone is working individually
Morrell: need a PR campaign to highlight positives in pedagogy/classroom; education is imperative to civic duty (“Yes, you can…have computers in every classroom); fund programs for teachers to do research on innovative practice and dissemination of this information (more classroom research); a need for focus on civic engagement on literacy
Alvermann: focus on critical thinking and how media places you within society
All incredibly thought-provoking…I’ll let this sink in for now…