How will your students prepare for active engagement in democracy?
Last spring Christie Nold, a 6th grade teacher at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, was at Burlington’s Jazz Fest listening to student musicians when she got some disturbing news: someone had spray-painted racist hate speech on her school’s campus.
Overwhelmed by her own emotions, Nold also knew that she had to find a way to help her students deal with their own understandings and emotions about the graffiti. Like Christie, many teachers are wondering how to address a recent rise in racism and white supremacy.
“I don’t believe you can be an educator committed to student voice and not be a powerful advocate for equity.”
This past August, the University of Vermont played host to an international conference focused on ways to amplify student voice and increase student partnership in the classroom.
Attendees were lucky enough to hear an address by Vermont Secretary of Education Dr. Rebecca Holcombe, who spoke powerfully on the need for intersectional equity in Vermont, in supporting students.
On exploring flexible pathways to learning
This past August, Vermont Secretary of Education Dr Rebecca Holcombe addressed the 2016 Amplifying Student Voice & Partnership Conference on the topic of equity in education. She was also kind enough to allow us to record and share her remarks.
In the first of two installments, we hear from Secretary Holcombe as she highlights the story of one particular student from Randolph Union High School, who, along with support from his community, found a way to channel his passion for farming into work-based learning in Vermont, and from there, a world of high-level business skills.
Care about equity in education? Start with engagement
Educators care about equity. We all want to bring out excellence in our students, but the thing that keeps us up at night is our constant striving to do that for ALL of our students.
There are many systemic barriers to equity. Our students and schools mirror society, so the efforts of educators slam up against macro forces such as generational poverty, distressed families, institutional racism, and other forms of social injustice.
Yet we still have the power to light a spark.
Who are Generation Z?
The term Generation Z refers to teens and pre-teens born after 1995 and was officially launched in 2014 as part of a marketing presentation. The salient characteristic of their generation is its apparent fondness love of and comfort with new technology.
So, in order to find out more about Generation Z, we asked middle school students about theirs and their families’ relationship with technology. And found no easy generalizations.
And what does this all have to do with that pesky “digital natives” conversation?
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How does edtech affect extra credit?
Is extra credit still a valid notion as we move towards ubiquitous learning, and grapple with questions of equity in education?
If the goal is anytime, anywhere learning, how can we quantify certain activities as eXtraneous to that learning space?
How do we move all new learners to the deep end of the pool?
Photo by Cecilia Denhard. CC 2.0
As I walked through an innovation showcase at SxSw 2015 (one of the the largest convergences of creative and critical thinkers last March) I was struck by the juxtaposition of two tables that were adjacent to each other.
One offered “Creative Circuit kits provide girls with all of the materials to make 10+ arts, crafts, and fashion projects with technology” the other offered “opportunities for students to replicate experiments you perform in your classrooms using an Arduino kit and a sensor kit on a nano-satellite via Nasa’s CubeSat Launch Initiatives.”
As a long time advocate for initiatives that increase the confidence and skills of girls with technology, I appreciate that the “creative circuit kit” might provide a great opportunity to engage girls with technology, but I find myself concerned that it would be easy to gain a false sense of accomplishment if we don’t move beyond ‘bling’.
I find myself wondering what are the steps that connect the excitement from “blink blink” to the curiosity that leaves you wondering “what type of sensor do I need to create an experiment that I can test in space?”
How do you level the digital playing field?
How do you even start taking on a task like that?
Equity has always been a thorny issue for schools to deal with, and adding technology to the mix has added a whole new layer of complications.
As more research emerges linking technology to student engagement and decreased drop-out rates, the stakes get higher, and the consequences for students with diminished access to technology grow more drastic.
So what can you do?
What is the worst consequence of our best idea?
That’s a question that Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, asks his team when trying out new strategies in their high school. It’s a question I want to pose to all teachers when considering issues of equity in our classrooms.