Updates and Insights: Vol. 2, No. 1

Mailing Date: 
January 20, 2006
Education/Evolving
Vol. 2, No. 1January 20, 2006Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to this latest edition of Education|Evolving’s electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.

IN THIS ISSUE:
NEW E|E REPORT DOCUMENTS STUDENT ATTITUDES/BEHAVIOR ON TECHNOLOGY

Today’s students believe they are tech-savvy. They also believe their schools are more text-savvy and are not yet effectively integrating digital technology and student learning.

These and other findings are presented in Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools, which summarizes available literature reporting student attitudes, perceptions and behaviors when using digital technology, particularly for learning. The new E|E report also highlights what students want adults who influence education policy decisions to know about how students use technology and how schools could better meet their tech-savvy needs.

This new E|E report is the latest in a series of publications developed as part of E|E’s initiative, "Real Impact: Student Opinions for a Change." This initiative, managed by E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg, is designed to link the opinions of today’s young people with the decisions being made by our nation’s education policy leaders. Farris-Berg is also the author/editor of the latest report on student attitudes and behavior relating to technology.

It seems only logical that decisions about the future of education be informed by those most directly involved. Yet the hands-on perspectives that get heard -- and get responded to -- are almost always those of adults. Those views deserved to be heard. But, not exclusively. E|E’s "Real Impact" initiative is designed to offer -- and promote -- better balance in whose views get expressed and have influence.


VIEWS, EXPERIENCES OF YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ALREADY INFLUENCING E|E

The value of this initiative is evident in the impact the views of young people are already having on Education|Evolving’s focus and on its work on broader education policy issues.

Three E|E reports have now documented the attitudes and opinions of students in Minnesota’s alternative, charter and district high schools. These reports and parallel writing and research done by others have enhanced E|E’s own understanding of the vital role that school culture plays in motivating and engaging students and their families. The reports are all available in print versions -- contact info@educationevolving.org for your copy. They are also on E|E’s "Real Impact" web site:

The third report summarizes the results of research by a team of students at St. Paul’s Avalon High School. It was published as the culmination of a seminar developed and led by E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg and Walter Enloe, professor of education at Hamline University.

During the seminar, students learned survey research, analysis and reporting skills and then applied those skills through a survey they conducted on attitudes of their peers in selected charter, alternative and district schools. The results of their research were published in the E|E report and then presented at a public forum sponsored by the Twin Cities Citizens League. Several of the students were also invited to present the results of their research at a meeting of school district officials in San Bernadino County, California in October, 2005.


IMPORTANCE OF SCHOOL CULTURE, OTHER KEY FACTORS HAVE HELPED SHAPE E|E VIEWS ON THE NEED FOR FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

E|E’s growing understanding about the importance of school culture has, in turn, helped shape the initiative’s views on the need for new and fundamentally different kinds of schools. Such schools are expected to produce much higher levels of academic achievement with the most diverse cadre of students this nation has ever been expected to educate.

More recently, E|E’s views on the need for very different kinds of schools has also been influenced by:

  • Growing awareness of the use and impact of technology on today’s young people and
  • The serious disconnect between that impact and the traditional way in which most adults continue to define how both teaching and learning take place.

One resource that’s helped shape E|E attitudes is the work done by Marc Prensky, the writer and consultant who coined the phrases, "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" to describe the varying capacities in today’s society to use and benefit from new technologies -- in learning and in everyday life. A number of Prensky’s writings, including one provocatively titled, "Engage Me or Enrage Me -- What Today’s Learners Demand," are available on-line at http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp.


THE NEXT EVOLUTION IN E|E’S THINKING FOCUSES ON HOW WE DEFINE ‘SCHOOL AND SCHOOLING’

E|E’s interface with the views of young people on education has also helped shape its growing realization that policy makers -- and all of us -- must be prepared to fundamentally redefine what we mean by both "school" and "schooling."

This strikes hard at the traditional definition of "school" as a place -- most often brick, with traditional classrooms, its own gym, library, cafeteria, etc. It also strikes hard at the traditional notion of "schooling" as something that mainly involves the transfer of knowledge from teachers to students, who are expected to learn subject matter in a prescribed sequence through traditional courses taught one at a time. And it challenges the notion that the only kind of learning that matters -- that get’s counted and for which students and adults are held accountable -- happens in the place we traditionally have called "school."

Some of this evolving E|E thinking on how and where students learn is influenced by the research on how students think about and use technology, including the research reviewed in the latest E|E report.

It’s also influenced by the work done by Marc Prensky and others on the technological proficiency of today’s young people and the informal learning that takes place through computer games and through out-of-school learning opportunities like those described in a draft E|E paper: "Student Academic Competitions: Should students’ choices about their outside-of-school activities influence how adults design schools and education policy?"

And it’s hard to ignore the degree to which young people -- all of us, for that matter -- have come to expect the products and services we buy to be customized in ways that are very different from the manner in which education continues to be standardized -- one size expected to fit all.

The implications of this re-thinking for policymakers are enormous. They involve the need to place much greater emphasis on the creation of new and fundamentally different schools. They also force us to rethink how we measure school and student success. And they force us to rethink how we determine qualifications for and train the adults who work in this rapidly changing world that places much greater emphasis on students and on their learning.

Particularly as we define school and student success, we would be wise to consult with students themselves. There are widely varying student attitudes, of course, but one interesting set of student opinions -- is reflected in a new E|E publication: "Students question standardized testing: Sampling of articles that support using other learning measures."


LATEST E|E REPORT SURVEYS RESEARCH ON STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS AND BEHAVIORS ON USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

Today’s students believe they are tech-savvy. And they also believe that their schools are more text-savvy and not yet effectively integrating digital technology and student learning.

These and other findings are presented in Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools, in which E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg summarizes available literature reporting student attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors when it comes to using digital technology, particularly for learning. The new E|E report also highlights what students want adults who influence education policy decisions to know about how students use technology, and how schools could better meet their needs.

In 2005’s Educating the Net Generation, Carie Windham described one of the major contributing factors to the student-school dichotomy. "With information and accessibility lying effortless at my fingertips, I have grown accustomed to juggling multiple tasks at once, at lightning speed. In the average online conversation with a friend, for instance, I am likely to be talking to two others, shopping online at Barnes & Noble, laughing out loud at Friends reruns, and printing off notes from a chemistry lecture. It is only in the classroom, therefore, that my mind is trained on one subject."

What does it mean when students say they are tech-savvy? The new E|E report references of a series of studies that found:

  • Students’ computer-ownership and Internet use is sizable, and growing.
  • Many students say they use technology at "a fairly sophisticated level," especially when compared with their teachers.
  • To students, technology is not an extra, but an essential, when it comes to learning.
  • Students lament that despite technology’s importance to their learning, and the frequency with which they use technology to complete school assignments, their access to computers and the Internet at school is very limited. Students use computers and the Internet most frequently from home.
  • When students do use technology at school, it’s more often in computer labs than in classrooms and time-limited rather than integrated into the school day.
  • Students are approaching their life and daily activities differently because of technology, but adults still employ age-old learning programs. Adults design serial learning activities, while students are multi-taskers. Adults give students assignments with "how to" instructions, while students say they learn better by trial and error. Yet-unchanged school libraries and adults’ ideas about personal learning spaces are out-of-date.

The available research also suggests that students want to tell adults who influence education policy decisions to:

  • Increase opportunities for access to computers and the Internet, particularly in-school.
  • Allow students to use technology to learn, and in a variety of ways.
  • Allow teachers to employ technology to create challenging instructional activities. Students believe this would improve their attitude toward school and learning. Today, adults are using technology primarily for course management, which students find useful, but too one-dimensional.

Finally, as multi-taskers who value collaboration and hands-on learning, students want adults to move beyond using the Internet for its own sake and instead commit to using it to design and implement creative, challenging instructional activities.


WORKS CITED IN THE REVIEW ARE AVAILABLE ON EDUCATION/EVOLVING’S ‘STUDENT VOICES’ WEB SITE

Students rarely have a place at the table during K-12 decision-makers’ discussions about education policy and school design. Across the nation, however, it has become increasingly popular among research organizations and various media outlets to ask students their opinions.

Education/Evolving’s initiative, "Real Impact: Student Opinions for a Change," builds on these efforts by integrating student opinions with the decision-making process. E|E connects what students can do and what students want with implications for current debates about how to improve K-12.

As part of this effort, Education/Evolving maintains a clearinghouse of links to research and articles featuring student opinions on various education policy topics:
www.educationevolving.org/studentvoices/

For links to all of the works cited in "Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools," check out the electronic technology section:
https://www.educationevolving.org/studentvoices/links_electronics_technology.asp


OTHER NEW RESOURCES FEATURING STUDENT OPINIONS

Small Schools, Big Future: A Video Transcript (pdf)
A transcript of a video produced through a youth internship program at TALC New Vision. This transcript demonstrates the impact of small high schools in Milwaukee through the perspective of students and teachers.

The Coolest School in America: How Small Learning Communities Are Changing Everything, edited by Doug Thomas, Walter Enloe, and Ron Newell (pdf)
What is the experience of students who attend schools with project-based learning programs? This study of the graduates of MNCS, a 7-12 charter school that has no formal classes but rather supports student-directed projects, offers students’ perspectives about the school's effects on students’ project-based skills, individual responsibility, resilience/persistence skills, reflection skills, and relationship skills.

Minnesota New Country School: 2005 Senior Presentations Video (video no longer available)
This video produced by students attending Minnesota New Country School, a 7-12 chartered school that has no formal classes, demonstrates the substantive learning that goes on when students develop and implement their own projects. The content helps clarify the desirability of an open sector that encourages the creation of new and different schools.


COMMENTS WELCOMED

Education|Evolving welcomes your comments or questions on strategies for both tapping and acting on the opinions of young people in the design of education policies and strategies for the future. Please direct your comments or questions to info@educationevolving.org. Also, check out E/E’s unique web site at www.educationevolving.org. Past editions of "Updates and Insights" can be accessed at: https://www.educationevolving.org/email_archive.asp

If you do not wish to receive these occasional "Updates and Insights" from Education/Evolving, please e-mail info@educationevolving.org. Put "remove from list" in the subject line, and your full name and e-mail address in the body of the e-mail.

Education/Evolving
Vol. 2, No. 1January 20, 2006Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to this latest edition of Education|Evolving’s electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.

IN THIS ISSUE:
NEW E|E REPORT DOCUMENTS STUDENT ATTITUDES/BEHAVIOR ON TECHNOLOGY

Today’s students believe they are tech-savvy. They also believe their schools are more text-savvy and are not yet effectively integrating digital technology and student learning.

These and other findings are presented in Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools, which summarizes available literature reporting student attitudes, perceptions and behaviors when using digital technology, particularly for learning. The new E|E report also highlights what students want adults who influence education policy decisions to know about how students use technology and how schools could better meet their tech-savvy needs.

This new E|E report is the latest in a series of publications developed as part of E|E’s initiative, "Real Impact: Student Opinions for a Change." This initiative, managed by E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg, is designed to link the opinions of today’s young people with the decisions being made by our nation’s education policy leaders. Farris-Berg is also the author/editor of the latest report on student attitudes and behavior relating to technology.

It seems only logical that decisions about the future of education be informed by those most directly involved. Yet the hands-on perspectives that get heard -- and get responded to -- are almost always those of adults. Those views deserved to be heard. But, not exclusively. E|E’s "Real Impact" initiative is designed to offer -- and promote -- better balance in whose views get expressed and have influence.


VIEWS, EXPERIENCES OF YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ALREADY INFLUENCING E|E

The value of this initiative is evident in the impact the views of young people are already having on Education|Evolving’s focus and on its work on broader education policy issues.

Three E|E reports have now documented the attitudes and opinions of students in Minnesota’s alternative, charter and district high schools. These reports and parallel writing and research done by others have enhanced E|E’s own understanding of the vital role that school culture plays in motivating and engaging students and their families. The reports are all available in print versions -- contact info@educationevolving.org for your copy. They are also on E|E’s "Real Impact" web site:

The third report summarizes the results of research by a team of students at St. Paul’s Avalon High School. It was published as the culmination of a seminar developed and led by E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg and Walter Enloe, professor of education at Hamline University.

During the seminar, students learned survey research, analysis and reporting skills and then applied those skills through a survey they conducted on attitudes of their peers in selected charter, alternative and district schools. The results of their research were published in the E|E report and then presented at a public forum sponsored by the Twin Cities Citizens League. Several of the students were also invited to present the results of their research at a meeting of school district officials in San Bernadino County, California in October, 2005.


IMPORTANCE OF SCHOOL CULTURE, OTHER KEY FACTORS HAVE HELPED SHAPE E|E VIEWS ON THE NEED FOR FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

E|E’s growing understanding about the importance of school culture has, in turn, helped shape the initiative’s views on the need for new and fundamentally different kinds of schools. Such schools are expected to produce much higher levels of academic achievement with the most diverse cadre of students this nation has ever been expected to educate.

More recently, E|E’s views on the need for very different kinds of schools has also been influenced by:

  • Growing awareness of the use and impact of technology on today’s young people and
  • The serious disconnect between that impact and the traditional way in which most adults continue to define how both teaching and learning take place.

One resource that’s helped shape E|E attitudes is the work done by Marc Prensky, the writer and consultant who coined the phrases, "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" to describe the varying capacities in today’s society to use and benefit from new technologies -- in learning and in everyday life. A number of Prensky’s writings, including one provocatively titled, "Engage Me or Enrage Me -- What Today’s Learners Demand," are available on-line at http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp.


THE NEXT EVOLUTION IN E|E’S THINKING FOCUSES ON HOW WE DEFINE ‘SCHOOL AND SCHOOLING’

E|E’s interface with the views of young people on education has also helped shape its growing realization that policy makers -- and all of us -- must be prepared to fundamentally redefine what we mean by both "school" and "schooling."

This strikes hard at the traditional definition of "school" as a place -- most often brick, with traditional classrooms, its own gym, library, cafeteria, etc. It also strikes hard at the traditional notion of "schooling" as something that mainly involves the transfer of knowledge from teachers to students, who are expected to learn subject matter in a prescribed sequence through traditional courses taught one at a time. And it challenges the notion that the only kind of learning that matters -- that get’s counted and for which students and adults are held accountable -- happens in the place we traditionally have called "school."

Some of this evolving E|E thinking on how and where students learn is influenced by the research on how students think about and use technology, including the research reviewed in the latest E|E report.

It’s also influenced by the work done by Marc Prensky and others on the technological proficiency of today’s young people and the informal learning that takes place through computer games and through out-of-school learning opportunities like those described in a draft E|E paper: "Student Academic Competitions: Should students’ choices about their outside-of-school activities influence how adults design schools and education policy?"

And it’s hard to ignore the degree to which young people -- all of us, for that matter -- have come to expect the products and services we buy to be customized in ways that are very different from the manner in which education continues to be standardized -- one size expected to fit all.

The implications of this re-thinking for policymakers are enormous. They involve the need to place much greater emphasis on the creation of new and fundamentally different schools. They also force us to rethink how we measure school and student success. And they force us to rethink how we determine qualifications for and train the adults who work in this rapidly changing world that places much greater emphasis on students and on their learning.

Particularly as we define school and student success, we would be wise to consult with students themselves. There are widely varying student attitudes, of course, but one interesting set of student opinions -- is reflected in a new E|E publication: "Students question standardized testing: Sampling of articles that support using other learning measures."


LATEST E|E REPORT SURVEYS RESEARCH ON STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS AND BEHAVIORS ON USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY

Today’s students believe they are tech-savvy. And they also believe that their schools are more text-savvy and not yet effectively integrating digital technology and student learning.

These and other findings are presented in Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools, in which E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg summarizes available literature reporting student attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors when it comes to using digital technology, particularly for learning. The new E|E report also highlights what students want adults who influence education policy decisions to know about how students use technology, and how schools could better meet their needs.

In 2005’s Educating the Net Generation, Carie Windham described one of the major contributing factors to the student-school dichotomy. "With information and accessibility lying effortless at my fingertips, I have grown accustomed to juggling multiple tasks at once, at lightning speed. In the average online conversation with a friend, for instance, I am likely to be talking to two others, shopping online at Barnes & Noble, laughing out loud at Friends reruns, and printing off notes from a chemistry lecture. It is only in the classroom, therefore, that my mind is trained on one subject."

What does it mean when students say they are tech-savvy? The new E|E report references of a series of studies that found:

  • Students’ computer-ownership and Internet use is sizable, and growing.
  • Many students say they use technology at "a fairly sophisticated level," especially when compared with their teachers.
  • To students, technology is not an extra, but an essential, when it comes to learning.
  • Students lament that despite technology’s importance to their learning, and the frequency with which they use technology to complete school assignments, their access to computers and the Internet at school is very limited. Students use computers and the Internet most frequently from home.
  • When students do use technology at school, it’s more often in computer labs than in classrooms and time-limited rather than integrated into the school day.
  • Students are approaching their life and daily activities differently because of technology, but adults still employ age-old learning programs. Adults design serial learning activities, while students are multi-taskers. Adults give students assignments with "how to" instructions, while students say they learn better by trial and error. Yet-unchanged school libraries and adults’ ideas about personal learning spaces are out-of-date.

The available research also suggests that students want to tell adults who influence education policy decisions to:

  • Increase opportunities for access to computers and the Internet, particularly in-school.
  • Allow students to use technology to learn, and in a variety of ways.
  • Allow teachers to employ technology to create challenging instructional activities. Students believe this would improve their attitude toward school and learning. Today, adults are using technology primarily for course management, which students find useful, but too one-dimensional.

Finally, as multi-taskers who value collaboration and hands-on learning, students want adults to move beyond using the Internet for its own sake and instead commit to using it to design and implement creative, challenging instructional activities.


WORKS CITED IN THE REVIEW ARE AVAILABLE ON EDUCATION/EVOLVING’S ‘STUDENT VOICES’ WEB SITE

Students rarely have a place at the table during K-12 decision-makers’ discussions about education policy and school design. Across the nation, however, it has become increasingly popular among research organizations and various media outlets to ask students their opinions.

Education/Evolving’s initiative, "Real Impact: Student Opinions for a Change," builds on these efforts by integrating student opinions with the decision-making process. E|E connects what students can do and what students want with implications for current debates about how to improve K-12.

As part of this effort, Education/Evolving maintains a clearinghouse of links to research and articles featuring student opinions on various education policy topics:
www.educationevolving.org/studentvoices/

For links to all of the works cited in "Tech-savvy students stuck in text-savvy schools," check out the electronic technology section:
https://www.educationevolving.org/studentvoices/links_electronics_technology.asp


OTHER NEW RESOURCES FEATURING STUDENT OPINIONS

Small Schools, Big Future: A Video Transcript (pdf)
A transcript of a video produced through a youth internship program at TALC New Vision. This transcript demonstrates the impact of small high schools in Milwaukee through the perspective of students and teachers.

The Coolest School in America: How Small Learning Communities Are Changing Everything, edited by Doug Thomas, Walter Enloe, and Ron Newell (pdf)
What is the experience of students who attend schools with project-based learning programs? This study of the graduates of MNCS, a 7-12 charter school that has no formal classes but rather supports student-directed projects, offers students’ perspectives about the school's effects on students’ project-based skills, individual responsibility, resilience/persistence skills, reflection skills, and relationship skills.

Minnesota New Country School: 2005 Senior Presentations Video (quicktime movie, 45mb)
This video produced by students attending Minnesota New Country School, a 7-12 chartered school that has no formal classes, demonstrates the substantive learning that goes on when students develop and implement their own projects. The content helps clarify the desirability of an open sector that encourages the creation of new and different schools.


COMMENTS WELCOMED

Education|Evolving welcomes your comments or questions on strategies for both tapping and acting on the opinions of young people in the design of education policies and strategies for the future. Please direct your comments or questions to info@educationevolving.org. Also, check out E/E’s unique web site at www.educationevolving.org. Past editions of "Updates and Insights" can be accessed at: https://www.educationevolving.org/email_archive.asp

If you do not wish to receive these occasional "Updates and Insights" from Education/Evolving, please e-mail info@educationevolving.org. Put "remove from list" in the subject line, and your full name and e-mail address in the body of the e-mail.

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