Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

July 17, 2010

What should be the first two problems addressed in order to begin educational reform?


7-13-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST


Our thanks go to Colin Graham (@ColinTGraham) for this week’s #edchat summary. It is a very frank and honest resume of his thoughts on both the topic and the progress of the discussion. He invites comment and it will be interesting to see how other edchat participants react to his point of view. Colin is a regular and enthusiastic edchatter and his committment to education is very clear (see his bio at the end of the post). It is a great post and I hope it will spark some further discussion.

I have to say I approach this post with a good deal of trepidation. Although flattered to have been asked to summarize the discussion, I have to start by saying that I was not engaged with the choice of topic – and that was before the discussion started.  I started into the Twitterverse almost exactly 40 days ago, at the time of writing, and seem to be finding a way to keep my head above the flood.  Those who know me or have experienced my style of tweeting, will know that I tend to jump into chats or discussions but for some reason I held back on this one.  In fact, it was almost two-thirds of the way through before I decided to make any comment.  I had to ask myself why.  Having had time to reflect and also having gone through the transcript several times – more than I would otherwise do – I think it was because most of us lost sight of the topic which had been voted on, and went off into our separate rants/hot buttons/sound bites, etc.  There were some valiant attempts made to return, but we failed to reach a conclusion about the what the first two problems are that need to be addressed.  I did not really see any discussion of what was meant by educational reform – most of the comments seemed to be directed towards attacking a local system (the US system is local in relation to the rest of the world!), complaints about lack of funding, sound bytes taken out of context because they were attached to a ‘name’.  Not everything was negative but the topic was basically gone.  People were tweeting about the first step, but with all due respect, the first two problems were never really identified or agreed upon. If you can find them in the transcript, please point it out, I would love to be proved wrong!  My first tweet was totally ignored.  I rephrased it 11 minutes later, it was retweeted twice without comment. About 40% of the discussion was retweeting without any comment or addition.  I really see that as a lost opportunity, unless you were moderating the discussion.  What the first problem is, I don’t know: we never discussed it fully.  Maybe the first step in educational reform, however, begins with a re-assessment of the purpose of the scheduled #edchat discussions and where they are headed in the future.  They should not be seen as an opportunity to be noticed, to act as a place to release stress, or to subvert the discussion towards personal or local issues.  Yes, use #edchat to do that at other times, but not during the scheduled discussions, please!  I would suggest adding comments to RTs, and try to keep in mind that there is a topic for discussion.  The topic at 12:00 EST is always the 2nd choice from the poll.  I know, because I asked how the decision was made during my first #edchat.  You wouldn’t come into a lesson unprepared, and I think we should all try to adopt the same attitude towards participation in the scheduled #edchat discussions, with allowance made towards first-time participants.  If we can’t manage to stay on-course in a one-hour discussion, then our chances of bringing about the reforms we would like to see seem to be less achievable.  I have selected tweets that caught my attention (with no apologies for including my own, either!).  For me, as a discussion of the chosen topic, this was – almost – a failure, you are welcome to disagree…

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • localization of response, UK/Europe responding to UK, US responding to US…
  • calls for action to be taken, without any agreement about what needed to be changed
  • funding issues are a general problem, not just in education
  • administration, or resistance from it, is seen as an issue
  • educators need to work as individuals in their own schools and communities if change is to be effected
  • goals need to be clearly defined before any action can or should be initiated
  • any action needs to be clearly directed towards specific goals in order to provide opportunities for success and building on it

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

 @skipvia:  The first one surely must be “to what end are we educating our students?”

@StarrMatica:  I agree with @johnccarver 1. Vision/Plan 2. Buy In from Staff, Parents and Community. Parental support is critical.

@hshawjr:  We need to know the mission of K-12 education and empower educators (its practictioners) to be active in the direction it goes.

@sguditus:  Problems with education reform: 1. Pace of change 2. [lack of] Buy-in from all members (staff, parents, community, admin, kids!).

@Parentella:  One of the 1st problems we need to deal with is the mindset of the school staff. They have to be prepared to embrace the changes.

@smitha834:   Sir Ken’s point is valid but we still have parents that want blue grammar books & math drills.

@malcolmbellamy I agree with the mindset problem there is a need to breakthrough or go backwards!

@ShellTerrell:  One of the main problems is who leads education reform! Educators need to take the lead vs. politicians.

@21stcenturychem:   We really need to decide what our goal as educators is: to help students learn, or to train complacent worker bees.

@phsprincipal:   We have to get to the point where we have definable and actionable goals.

@PTPIPaige:   Education should focus more on [learning about] world cultures, language proficiency and community service (i.e. citizenship!).

@billgx:   Worker bees are highly valued in our society, but they do not create, invent, etc.

@drtimony:  Education reform will only happ with [money]. Standards for teachers and administrator quality have decreased because of need. This is a bad move. It will be a long recovery from that.
@CrudBasher:   As long as schools are essentially extensions of politics, there is little hope of reform or transformation.

@samchaltain:   In the spirit of educational renewal (not reform), Finland has some useful lessons to offer us.

@mrdfleming:   The subject is overwhelming for one teacher.  It needs to be narrowed.  How can you effect change in your school, or school district?

@L_Hilt:   We need more involvement from actual educators in political roles.  Government influence isn’t disappearing… we need to be in it.
@Parentella:   I hate to suggest this, but perhaps it’s easier to “talk” about changes than actually stepping up and following through.

@briwcarter:   Stop trying to convince people, and move forward with those on board.

@tomwhitby:   In order to change education, we need to change the culture. That cannot be done behind closed doors. Engagement with parents is key!

@RushaSams:   In schools where powerful reform is happening, the changes come from within, by the teachers individually and collectively.

@altucker:   Parents have to start showing some anger about what’s being done to their children – teachers’ voices are not going to be enough!

@teachersnet:  How many teachers believe it is others who need to reform, that they are already doing what students need?

@ColinTGraham:   When we talk about reform, we need to be clear about whether it is a systemic reform or an attitudinal reform which is needed.

 To follow the complete discussion see here 

 For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 As ever, there were some great links shared:

graingered:  @jorech So totally agree “Tchr centered” =budget crossd w/social engineering. Would apprec UR perspectiv@ http://tinyurl.com/35eox5f #edchat

MatthiasHeil: RT @gpinard: Sir Ken http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html regarding education revolution #edchat

PTPIPaige: @4thGrdTeach We match classes for international collaboration!! Register today – http://bit.ly/16UQFL 

 @gpinard: i’d highly recommend http://bit.ly/9sIcjY regarding education revolution #edchat

graingered:  @MatthiasHeil Completely disagree- wrong POV–>causes flashpoint emotional wheel spinning. Pls comment @ http://tinyurl.com/267bpcd #edchat

susayoun:  RT @edutek: 5 Ways to Teach Cyber Safety and Digital Responsibility | #ISTE10 #EdTech #EdChat http://ow.ly/2aqox

dallasm12:  Questions to ask leading to quality Instructional Design for online learning #edchat http://post.ly/n1ft 
davidwees:  One way to start ed reform is by signing up for the action you are going take for educational reform. http://is.gd/dqghx #edchat

samchaltain:  In the spirit of ed renewal (not reform), Finland has some useful lessons to offer us. See http://bit.ly/cd2yK6 #edchat

Parentella:  RT @cybraryman1: Yes, I have an Educational Reform page: http://bit.ly/diXT0v #edchat {Of course!}

StephenLazarOtC:   http://bit.ly/9AtAs5  NY seems to have it backwards. They’re talking about changing the assessment, but we don’t have a curriculum.#edchat

graingered:  @kelalford As long as politics funds ed (& it should B) we R prof respons 2 work together@ http://tinyurl.com/3yncsvw #edchat

graingered:  @DrTimony Change is best when incremental in MHO- also like concept of morphic resonance- idea tipping@ http://tinyurl.com/257vvsc

graingered:  @Parentella Systemic change happens best (most efficiently) when its incremental. See morphic resonance @ http://tinyurl.com/257vvsc

markbarnes19:  The Innovative Educator: The Innovative Educator’s Building Learning Communities ( BLC10 ) Picks http://ow.ly/2aJup #edchat

jorech:  What DOESN’T work is having students write for teachers as audience.Solution: http://bit.ly/aJnbVp  #edchat

LHSSchmidt:  RT @samchaltain: My newest blog post: How to Build a School System That Nurtures Creativity – http://bit.ly/cd2yK6 #edreform #learning #education #edchat

Slewth:   [Resource] HEA Research Seminar Series: Access and Success for All. 2009 materials now online at http://bit.ly/dD8h8i #disability #edchat

followtheleague:  Creativity spawns innovation! RT @malcolmbellamy: http://bit.ly/an2WvJ important article on importance of creativity in #education #edchat

GeofferyKehrig:  Success stories lead the way … Let your class be a success story … Ex. PS22 Chorus (public school) http://youtu.be/o0LKRuOLTsQ #edchat

graingered:  @drtimony @ewellburn 100yrs ago arg-silly World hasnt chngd(then&now)-it nevr stops chngin! Shift thinkin http://tinyurl.com/267bpcd #edchat

graingered:  @jgmac1106 I am admin-I embrace change/understand it HAS 2 come fr/within- http://tinyurl.com/368zuvs -aligns/leads 2 systems change #edchat

Colin Graham spent eight years as a statistician and computer programmer before deciding he preferred working with people rather than machines.  After retraining as teacher of Secondary Mathematics (11 -19 years old) in the UK, he taught a wide variety of students across all levels of ability, from basic skills to advanced level statistics, including IT when it was still 1.0 (actually more like 0.5!).  His exposure to ESOL students helped convince him that the language used in teaching is almost as important as the subject being taught, and he diverted his career towards teaching English as a Foreign Language – in Japan, for eleven years!  In Japan, he became involved with teacher development and, in his spare time, participated in missions to developing countries to help with teacher training. Having recently returned to the UK, he is continuing his research into the impact of the use of language on learning, particularly in Mathematics.  He is about to complete an M. Ed. in Applied Linguistics, before moving on to a Masters in Mathematics Education.  He believes strongly that the best student is one that takes responsibility for their own learning. Labelled by his friends and colleagues as a ‘perpetual student’, he takes this as a great compliment.  He adores music and loves singing, composing and arranging.  He’s probably most known by current Tweeps for being (deliberately) provocative, having a quirky sense of humour, being Scottish, poking his nose into #musedchat and kick-starting #mathchat.  He’d also like to think that he’s helped from time to time, too!

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!



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