Sunday Morning Reads

Actually, it’s a bit late in the day. I watched the Colts earn their 10th win of the season while my thoughts for this post began to come together and take meaning. I’ve written a few times about my experiences with Twitter. I feel kinda sad for professionals who say they don’t have time for Twitter. It really doesn’t have to be about posting your every considered thought and movement. Twitter can be an important way to network with like minded people.

As a media specialist, I enjoy finding out about innovative ways to use tech tools, communicating with authors and getting breaking news from a variety of sources. Tweeters during the recent AASL conference convinced me to go back to Animoto.com and pageflakes.com as they’re both incredible tools for the classroom. Tuesday, I was part of #edchat, discussing how to implement technology when teachers aren’t always eager to do so and Wednedsay I discovered  #yalitchat. Each of these has a group site on Ning for the further sharing of information. From these ‘tweetups’ it’s easy to connect to people and make meaningful additions to my friend list.  There are numerous other groups on Twitter, probably for any interest you can imagine. Classroom teachers could use this site to create classroom collaborations, discuss methodologies, virtually attend conferences and so much more! BUT I can’t teach this to my staff because my district blocks Twitter. Learning to network through this “microblogging” would a valuable tool for students, but they too are blocked.

Neesha Meminger and Zeeta Elliot have been blogging reactions to Brooklyn Arden and Ta-Nehisi Coats who discuss why people of color are noticeably absent on television, in movies and writing for either of these fields as well as writing books. Excuses like certain standards … small percentage of the population …history …it takes a particular person … not so much a lack of talent as lack of endurance …  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that too many in this country are still able to exist in a monochromatic world which allows the ‘one world fantasy’ to exist where it concerns those of color.

The ‘one world’ where Africa is one country and Latin American is another. The ‘one world’ where all black people are either Precious (Precious) or Michael Oher (The Blind Side), underprivileged, undereducated, homeless and hopeless. Oh, I know the Preciouses and the Michaels and I work with the educators and social workers (often of color) who help them. I work with administrators and educators who have taught verbal skills to Harvard educated students of color. In my polychromatic world, the ability to write and read and do ‘rithmatic are treated like the basic skills they are because there are people of color who create their own industries, develop treaties, enact laws and lead nations. But daggone if book publishers will ever want to unlock the doors and let our words be written, thoughts be shared with people who want to hear, need to hear what we have to say!

There’s a theme here. I’m talking about schools that filter Twitter and every possible social networking site rather than educating students on how to effectively use these tools, thus perpetuating a 21st century illiteracy.  While urban districts are stuck with scripted curriculum, teaching and reteaching basic skills, our counterparts are able to look at gaming (one of the latest phenomenons in education) and correlate character development, networking skills and plot analysis to improving writing skills.

Says the Unquiet Librarian

While some students are liberated by choice and free thought, others feel threatened by a learning environment that is inquiry driven and participatory in nature.    I can’t help but think that this phenomenon is easier to comprehend when you consider today’s students are among the first generation to grow up in a test driven school culture that is contradictory to inquiry.

Paulo Freire says the oppressed are often “hosts” of the oppressor (48) because they are so immersed in the culture of oppression.   Does this description fit today’s student who must buy into the testing culture so privileged (whether by choice or force) by public schools?  Does it also apply to many classroom teachers whose careers are judged by test scores and perhaps even our profession as school librarians as we are called upon to tie our programs to student achievement in order to “survive”?  How does the assimilation of the discourse of testing impact how students transactions with information and how they construct knowledge?

The current test driven culture values knowledge banking and correct answers; standardized curriculum and conformity to ways of knowing and learning are the hallmarks of contemporary American education.  In many schools, students and teachers feel pressured to “cover” knowledge precisely and efficiently.  Contrast these values to those Freire asserts:

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other”(72).

We’ve got to be able to prepare our urban educated students to be more that that particular person. Urban schools? Pick any major American city that is trying to figure out how to stretch a dollar, retain highly qualified educators,  and motivate students. Too many urban schools share common problems, but many also are finding ways to overcome the barriers to our students’ success. Giving us a level playing field helps our students find their voice and write their American stories. The excuses aren’t for the students, they’re for the institutions.