1. The most important element of good schooling in the 21st century is the same as in the 19th and 20th centuries– really it is the same as it always has been from the earliest human societies: the quality of the teacher. Michelle Rhee, for instance, in Washington DC is putting her eggs in this basket– she is not obsessing over textbooks nor scripted Open-Court style “teacher-proof curricula” but rather on eliminating teacher tenure and ensuring every classroom has an excellent instructor. Rhee comes out of Teach for America, and this is certainly the underlying philosophy of T4A– the teacher matters most.
That said, we must not make the mistake that only the intelligence and personal qualities of the teacher that matter. It is wonderful, it really is, that when I ask students at independent schools what they like best about school they tell me it is the relationships they have with their teachers. But it is not enough, to prepare our kids for this new century, that they like their teachers and feel they have a true personal relationship with them and feel they get a lot of individual support from them. We need kids to reply that they like their teachers because they are really creative in their lesson planning, that they really inspire their students to care about what they are learning, that their teachers really empower the kids to do the work of learning.
On the topic of teacher quality is a blog from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (or NCTAF). The group is a bit corporate for my taste– a blue ribbon panel style– but the blog has some good hits on the central role of 21st century teaching in achieving 21st century learning.
2. Wordle is new to me, and I really like it. Two of my favorite bloggers have referenced it in the last few weeks: Josie Holford at Compass Point recommends it, and uses it to display her school’s high school curriculum, and at Angela Maiers’ blog, she offers some great suggestions for using wordle in the classroom, such as for offering new insights into the classroom rules and mission, or for seeing what is most important in a student’s autobiography, or for helping students identify what is the “big idea” after a unit of study. She also gives a link to another site’s top 20 uses for wordle— all of which are great. Below is a “wordle” image of my own blog.
3. Great piece published in the always useful Edutopia on the question of internet filtering in schools. The author reinforces my own view, which I learned at Urban School this past summer, which is the best approach is to eliminate filtering while supervising students closely and holding students accountable for inappropriate use. In my 13 visits so far, I have encountered on multiple occasions teachers greatly frustrated by the way their hands have been tied in prohibiting their access to youtube and many other sites that can be incredibly valuable for classroom learning– note that this is what the teachers are telling me. The article’s author is also the author of a book and blog on the very interesting topic of “re-inventing project based learning in the digital age”– something to keep an eye on.