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August 23, 2008



great post - i'll comment more in a moment, but the first connection that comes to mind is Mitch Resnick's educational approach for a creative society:

Sowing the Seeds for a more Creative Society
video: video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6387780251240071146
and the 2008 paper:


I think you hit all the major gauntlets I would have come up with! Nice list!


I think you hit all the major gauntlets I would have come up with! Nice list!


You argue against standardized teaching plans etc. "To require a standard lesson plan that is one size fits all is just not the right thing to do." and i agree in principle - the key
problem is how to scale the personalized teaching as choaching approaches? In my experience good teaching needs time and in most scenarios there is not enough time to attend the needs of the individual student.

One suggestion i like is to open the classroom and have i.e. a retired rocket sienctists help in physics or a burned out stock brocker in math....

Greg A. Williams

Great post! Thanks for the heads up on your blog about this. So many great "talking points" offered. I always remind people that "differentiated instruction" applies as much to the teacher as it does the learner. Also, the bureaucracy of education is such an important discussion - pros/cons - administration/government/unions. Keep the posts coming!

Vicky H


First let me commend all the educator's out there. You do a great service to America, educating our next generation! I couldn't do what you do ~ and I'm glad your doing it.

Second, it must be so frustrating... being full of ideas, wanting to do great things, with road blocks in every corner. I'm not sure what the answer is, but it's so important that these questions are being asked! What a well written thought provoking article.

I think this type of article is also important for parents to read! Parents can help push changes in their schools, we have a voice, we need to use it!

Thank you for writing such a great article, I will be back to read all the other great comments.

I hope a great conversation get's started!

Vicky H


i really like your suggestion to make the classroom public (byu streaming what's happening in class)!
that would make it transparent for everybody and would make a lot of paperwork obsolete.

how would you think privacy of students & teachers could be dealt with?

later you write: "Students should respect the privacy of other students and should not have the right to film or transmit the image of another without their permission."

how does that match with above?

There is a great initiative on internet rights that works on establishing a discourse and define netizens rights in a evolutionary way

David Warlick

Vicki, I love your use of the term, "common Sense." So much of what I read in school initiatives these days is so "schooly." I'm afraid that our vocabulary can become a insulation between what we're doing, and what our students should be gaining.

My quote? "The best thing we can be teaching our students today, is how to teach themselves."

Vicki Davis

@Max - Yes, good teaching takes time. I have a 50 minute schedule but that is more than enough for me. What I don't have is reams of paperwork, my lesson plans are written for the students and I to follow, and hours of meetings that serve no point. Eliminate that and teaching will improve.

@Greg - Bureaucracy has a reason but when it becomes the customer, the entire organization suffers.

More comments in a moment.

Vicki Davis

@Vicky H - I applaud your efforts to get parents involved at a grassroots level. So many schools don't want their teachers blogging, is it because such things will "upset the applecart." Yes. But in this case, the applecart is being upset by those who have no clue about how to raise apples. It is time that educators speak out on what needs to happen instead of having others do it for us.

@Max - There is a difference between RECORDING with a webcam and streaming live. What I'm advocating for the special needs classroom is a private recording to be attached digitally to the records of the students in the classroom. If a bureaucrat wants to know what is happening in a classroom with the student, let them review the tape -- instead teachers could be required a twitter-like 160 character tag for the day's video footage to give an overview of the day with that student.

I don't advocate live streaming of classrooms out onto the Net without permission and intentional use. I've been asked to do this on numerous occasions, my classroom has to be a safe place where kids can make mistakes without being on the front page of a newspaper.

The problem I have is that some of the worst teachers are the best at filling out paperwork and because NO ONE goes into their classroom to see the travesty, everyone whistles along thinking that a good job is being done. Counter to this, many of the best teachers hate the paperwork and do it halfway and get in trouble w/ admin. Take the classroom to admin if we can't get admin in the classroom consistently.

Vicki Davis

@David Warlick -

Spoken well from the king of common sense! Yes, they need to learn to teach themselves, but it certainly doesn't come automatically. The things we should be teaching:

How to create a meaningful, customized PLN for the task at hand.
How to harness technology for productivity (including cell phones)
Digital Citizenship and Good Judgement for the right way to do things and handle disagreements online

So many of these things have been moved out of the classroom that is "too pressed for time."

Also, letting students solve problems and posing questions without answers. All of these things in "common sense" schooling are part of helping them become self directed learners.

And yes, self-directed learners should absolutely be our goal.

The struggle is that it is so hard to quantify - and what parent would ask for that? They want a high math score, science score, etc. and missing the main point of education.


touche! Take the classroom to admin if we can't get admin in the classroom consistently.

Vicki Davis

I'll check back in here later! Figure it is on to the next "speaker."

.hj barraza

Back in the early 90's (this is pre internet for mexico) i used to be in this school "American Institute of Monterrey" which decided to setup video cameras in every classroom.

They could only been seen from the directors office and a few other staff members.

Students felt invaded, some of them insulted (although when you are are 10 you can't really express how survaillance cameras made you feel)

Nevertheless parents loved, for it assured that nothing would go wrong without anyone noticing it and cheating at exams left evidence.

Eventually students got used to them and i dont know if they remain. I only know Beth Wagner now runs one of Latin Americas most innovative schools yet.

In overal, i believe that as with any other discipline and dimension of knowledge, we have to experiment.. and yes there will be mistakes, but as long as we share and learn from them they represent nothgin but progress.

.hj barraza

"They feel that they are educating industrial age workers, largely because the system is itself a product of the industrial age."

This is i believe the most important argument in education for the decade... In every education event people reach the same conclusion.

we need to stop educating with industrial processes and head towards mass customization, we need individuals, not clones...

Vicki Davis

@hj - What a great example to share. I think it depends on who is watching. However, if my admin wanted me to record video for him, I'd be happy to do it.

Gabriel Kent

Government controls in education, or otherwise, simply do not work.

I think a lot of the speaker's complaints, as well as the gauntlet, would be best solved by an increasingly private (competitive) school system.

Only an open education market will ensure the greatest freedom for educators to teach and students to learn.

Why? Because the education bureaucracy will always have imperfect information in which to derive policy.


Vicki Davis

@gabriel - I think there is a place for both - having checks and balances is so important in our society. Also, having competition is important. So, to get rid of "public" and privatize it all is to put in place another bureaucracy, is it not?

Leaner organizations are important, that is so true. But I've worked with both environments and they both have strengths and weaknesses. Smaller private schools have politics that can make it tough to teach. I believe empowering teachers to customize the classroom is the ultimate tipping point, whatever the model of the school.

Donna Williams

Oh my! This is the most hard-hitting, "tell it like it truly is" blogs that I have read in a long time. I admire and applaud your candor. My favorite statement is "let teachers teach". Amen. Can I have one day in which I have no paperwork? Ha. I also think that respecting individuality is crucial. I consider myself to be a creative person but I must adhere to a standard lesson plan and even a standard discipline plan (the clip system--please don't get me started on that).

I would throw down the gauntlet on teacher observations. I think administrators should observe more than one day/one lesson. I also think that teachers should be able to be able to be more involved with the process. I dread observations every year because it is a 30-45 minute glimpse of 1% of what goes on in your classroom. There is so much that they miss by only coming once and for such a short period of time. I also think webcams and such could be used in some way as part of the procsess.

Thank you so much for this post.

Donna Williams

@ Vicki Davis

I agree about the paperwork. Not to say I am one of the best teachers but I feel like a lot of the good things that I am doing are eclipsed by paperwork "issues". For example, my first year of school, I had no clue about any professional job. I had no clue about paperwork and what was truly expected. My paperwork was not up to par and I got in trouble. However, all of my evaluators stated that I had an awesome learning environment, rapport with students, and great lessons. But who cares about that because I filled out my form incorrectly.

Louise Maine

Looking that the vast American public cannot think critically on most issues, what will it actually take to change things. People have forgotten what is most important (in education and how we have failed the earth). Will it take something catastrophic to drive that point home? There is so much evidence out there.

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