Can school districts tolerate “zero tolerance” policies?

Can school districts tolerate “zero tolerance” policies? (Via BoardBuzz: NSBA’s Daily Weblog.) I’m glad to see the tide turning on this particular trend:

A new resolution from the American Psychological Association released yesterday says that zero tolerance policies are backfiring and “are not as successful as thought in creating safer environments to learn. These policies, which mandate that schools severely punish disruptive students regardless of the infraction or its rationale, can actually increase bad behavior and also lead to higher drop out rates.”

By the way, if you’re not reading the BoardBuzz, it’s the National School Boards Association blog… a good information source to keep an eye on.

In Patient Pursuit of the Possible

I have a new favorite Bruner line. I first came across this and dropped it in my outliner months ago, but rediscovered it as I wrote tonight. (And I’m happy to report six pages of draft completed tonight). From my outliner:

“The political process… is slow, perhaps, but is committed to the patient pursuit of the possible.” (Bruner, 1966, p. 23)

I’m often less than thrilled by the political process, especially with respect to education, but I am sympathetic to Bruner’s perspective. It does, after all, sound quite a bit like Bono’s perspective. (With respect to his two careers, the rock star turned political advocate has said that U2 is about the impossible, while politics is about the possible.)

Primarily, though, I fell in love with the sentiment of being in patient pursuit of the possible… a feeling that I think often gets educators (and educational technologists) through many of the rough spots. It’s also not a half bad philosophy for someone pursuing a dissertation. I was even tempted (for a moment) to change the tag line of this blog. :)

It would even make a good title for a blog… or a book. Hm.

In the meantime, perhaps it will make a good way to sign off at the end of a post or an email.

In patient pursuit of the possible,



Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, Ma: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Library Journal – Meet the Gamers

Library Journal – Meet the Gamers (Via kurt’s research.) One more before I get back to work… I had to create a separate post to share this quote from Squire and Steinkuehler, comparing gaming culture to the culture of libraries, and to the Wikipedia:

It is impossible to resist imagining a library built on gamer principles, where patrons decide which materials and services are offered and which are not. All discussions of the library’s future direction would be open, with full transcripts digitized, searchable, and part of the permanent record. Mechanisms would be put in place so that patrons are welcomed as new users but encouraged to participate in decision-making and, eventually, contribute their own materials. Library users would be linked to their relevant social networks through a variety of tools.

To an extent, Wikipedia shares many of these ideas. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia built collaboratively by users. Anyone is free to create or edit a page. Through their collective intelligence, users have built a knowledge base that numbers 480,000 English entries, with separate versions in 187 languages. Any user can edit any post on the site, yet vandalism is caught quickly. In a 2002 study of the “history flow” of Wikipedia entries (available at, IBM found that most acts of vandalism are caught within five minutes, with the page then restored to an earlier edition. Consumers become creators. There is open access for everyone. And information is freely available anytime, anywhere.

This IBM quote will now be a part of my read/write web presentations when I discuss the Wikipedia, even if I do have to note that it’s a bit dated. Also, I would definitely get behind a movement to create libraries like this. I even occurs to me, and I think this was the point of the article, that even without being replaced school libraries and librarians can move in this direction. So can teachers in their classrooms. The values are close to the heart of constructivist educational philosophy. Naturally, I feel that teacher and student use of blogs could facilitate just this sort of change in classrooms.

As an aside… I just counted 86 draft posts in the queue. I need to find a better way to manage this, or else switch back to FURL. I know I need to settle for FURL like annotations here, but feel compelled to catch up first. I’m sure I’ll sort it out soon, because having a hundred drafts is just ludicrous. More soon…

Bruner on “and Life” in 1996

This is not a new problem: “We have become so preoccupied with the more formal criteria of performance and with the bureaucratic demands of education as an institution that we have neglected [the] personal side of education.” (Bruner, 1996, p. 39)

Jerome Bruner on 2006… in 1986 and 1996

After the CUE conference, I’m back to working on phd outlining tonight.

It’s amazing, this excerpt from Bruner’s 1986 Actual Minds, Possible Worlds sounds quite a bit like something an edublogger like Will Richardson might write today:

We are living through bewildering times where the conduct of education is concerned. There are deep problems that stem from many origins – principally form a changing society whose future shape we cannot foresee and for which it is difficult to prepare a new generation. (p. 121)

This bit a few pages later was also striking:

A culture is constantly in process of being recreated as it is interpreted and renegotiated by its members… Education is (or should be) one of the principal forums for performing this function – though it is often timid in doing so.

This is not quite as shocking as reading Dewey write about these things a century ago, but it still makes me sad that we haven’t been able to address this fundamental problem in the last 20 years when it was so apparent so long ago.

Bruner returns to this theme in the preface of his 1996 The Culture of Education, where he asks these questions, familiar to a 21st century educational technologist:

Given the revolutionary changes throuigh which we are living, [would schools] do better to didcate themselve to the.. risky, perhaps equally quixotic ideal of preparing students to cope with the changing world in which they will be living? And how shall we decide what that changing world will be and what it will demand of them? … education is not just about conventional school matters like curriculum or standards or testing.

It seems Bruner was quick to rebel against standards, too. He was certainly suggesting an affirmative answer to these questions, but how long will it be before those in power feel the same way, and what can we do to create the social change necessary for that to happen?

At any rate, I hope to post more (and get some exercise) later tonight. Oh, and I hope to sleep. ;)

Assert yourself and learn

Assert yourself and learn (Via Dorine Rüter Weblog.) Dorine Rüter offered this bit, which I found striking:

… I was thinking a lot of these rights are very essential for learning.

These three for instance:

  • The right not to know about something and not to understand.
  • The right to make mistakes.
  • The right to change our minds.

Read Dorine’s reflections on this, and the meaning of these things for learning in organizations by reading her original post.

Is Your Firm Ready for the Millennials?

Is Your Firm Ready for the Millennials? (Via elearnspace.)

a positive article expressing “what’s right” with learners now entering the workforce/higher education system (the focus is not on the technological proficiency of millenials…but their social makeup). Millennials, according to cited research, are personable, committed, team-workers. Are we, as educators, able to adjust to needs of these learners? To what degree should we as educators adjust our approaches…and to what degree should we expect Millenials to adjust? (via Jay Stone)

I refer to this site in anticipation of the upcoming Orange County High School summit at which my colleagues and I are presenting on Educational Technologies. The summit is focused on the book Millennials Rising: The next generation, which is cited in this article.

Some of the conclusions of the article were surprising to me. For instance, after all of my research into how the gamer generation is better at taking risks than, say, the boomers, this article suggests that millennial’s risk aversion will be higher… and their justification for this claim seemed reasonable: “this group, which has had such a structured life so far, may have difficulties if they run into situations that are less structured and ambiguous than their life experiences have been thus far. ‘They don’t do very well in situations of ambiguity.'” I have no doubt this is a very complex generation. I also, of course, have no doubt they’re gonna do fine, but have their own neuroses… which is not to say we can’t try to do the best we can with them. That’s “with them,” not “for them.”

Teachers work 11 hours unpaid, figures show… but change is possible

Teachers work 11 hours unpaid, figures show (Via Guardian Education .) This is a powerful reminder of some of what’s wrong with public education these days, especially on the wake of the last post. I never thought I’d be the type to write this kind of stuff, but when I talk to my colleagues who still teach High School English, it sure seems as if things have taken a turn for the worse even since I left, in terms of what they are being asked to do. My wife, Eva, a kindergarden teacher who actually follows the Houghton-Mifflin program rather religiously was so frustrated with a recent CCR-based request to also include standards on all her “lesson plans” that she said she felt like quitting… keep in mind HM is a state adopted, explicitly standards based program, and that she never-the-less felt compelled to do this extra work on her week off.

I’ve always had something of a unique relationship with authority, and I’m now encouraging her to resist, because like Nancy McKeand, I too believe change is possible.

Incidentally, I think 11 hours is very low, particularly if you are considering teachers “billable” hours as the six or so they are usually expected to work on campus. I’d say most teachers I know work 11 hours beyond the 40 hour normal work week, anecdotally. Also, as I moved out of the classroom myself, and later to the district and county level this didn’t get any better for me. In fact, I started my phd in order to force myself to work less! And it’s working. :) I worked easily 60-80 hour weeks as a site tech coordinator. 60 was still not unusual at the district level, and at the county I have learned to jealously guard my time, but I’m afraid there are still 12 hr days and longer when deadlines (or potential disaster) are upon me. And, I’m ready for that to end. Sense a theme for the evening?

Real Change Happens One Person at a Time

Presentation post-mortem along with wiki and audio (Via StigmergicWeb.) Rob Wall: “I tend to be somewhat skeptical about the effectiveness of workshops for changing people’s behaviour. Workshops and presentations are great for raising awareness and generating interest, but real change happens one person at a time.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, though I’ve tried on many occasions.

When I first started teaching, I remember recalling Wayne Gretzky’s autobiography in which he said that hockey (in which there are 12 guys on the ice and easily 24 more off the ice) comes down to two on one situations – that is where the game is won – and Gretzky spent his effort trying to create two on one situations. Even in my days as a student teacher I remember realizing that education (in which there are 30 or 40 people in the room) comes down to one on one situations – the individual attention a teacher gives, even when a student raises their hand and asks their particular question* – and so I’ve always put my energy into creating one on one situations. This is one way technology can be effective. If students are working with computers (which is a sort of one on one situation), the teacher is free to walk around and help individuals one on one, and thus effecting real change.

*Note: As a former English teacher I find the gender neutral singular “their” that works so well for us in spoken English to be perfectly appropriate in written English, at least in my blog.