Sunday, May 16, 2010

A New Way of Education - part 2

Friday's tweetup sponsored by the Edmonton Public Teachers Local 37, discussed in part 1, was a definite hit.  The organization created new standards of excellence in how people can become more engaged not only in Education, but also within the community. Patrick Johner added in a comment in part 1, which is quoted below (just in case anyone missed reading it) that clarifies the two official statements.
Just to clarify for your readers, about the reference of "The first two are official statements that our total membership agreed to last year." This refers to two of Local 37's Public Vision Statements. They are stated below for easy reference:

By 2012 the Edmonton Public Teachers Local will be:
1. A leader in promoting member (Teachers) engagement in the Local, the ATA and the COMMUNITY.
2. A respected voice that advocates for policies that address issues, trends, and conditions affecting public education.
Now that you are up to speed on the previous post, I think that it is important for readers to know that Education and Community were definitely discussed!  The gathering of people was impressive, and folks sat in various little groups carrying on their own discussions.  I was centered between two groups, listening to words from @stolenfire and @Tamara_Stecyk on my right..and @ChemCath and @britl on my left. There were also a few others in the two groups that I didn't get to know. (No one knows this about me until now, but I had measles as a kid, and my left ear was infected and the inner ear was destroyed, making "dual conversations" difficult for me at times.)

What really caught my interest, and what I wanted to bring up in this post, was the conversation I had with ChemCath.  It evolved around the idea of what kids today know... or maybe more importantly do NOT know, and I have to wonder why.  We talked about many things, such as community involvement, parents, camping, cooking, exams, and learning.  Our children for the most part, have lost the art of many of these topics.  The chances of these kids knowing about sifting flour, making dough, baking... are pretty much zilch.  The kids have been saying they know little about camping, etc, and I wonder why these family type events don't happen like they used to when I was growing up.  Unless they have a calculator, the mental math skills seem lacking, and they don't seem to know how to survive without electronics.

We also had a good talk about exams, and the NEED to have written answers instead of everything being multiple choice.  Unless our children can explain HOW they got the answer, we will never really know if they truly understand the question.  Yes, it takes more time to mark those types of questions, and we seem to be leading towards making things easier for the teachers.  With all due respect, this is the WRONG reason to remove written answers in exams.

As I write this, with twitter opened in the background, a very timely comment appeared from @DaveHancockMLA at 10:07 AM... "Students say they learn best by seeing and doing".  I can't agree more, so my question is... When will teachers be allowed to do what they do best.  Are we SO caught up in the minuscule finances, that we can't re-organize structure to allow the teachers to teach, and the children to learn?

There were several groups I didn't have the time to sit in with, the time went by SO fast.  Sadly, there were also a few people I didn't introduce myself to (shame on me) and for that I deeply apologize.  So many people were there, so many discussions going on...  Perhaps a "suggested format" for future tweetups might be something along the lines of the 'speed dating' concept, where people can get into groups of 4 or 6, and then after 20 minutes or so 1/2 of the group can move to another.  I admit, it is a rather insane concept to try, especially when you get such quality discussions going on like those of this event, you just don't want to break away!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A New Way of Education

On Friday, May 14th 2010, something new happened in Edmonton.  At least, I think it was new. According to a tweet from Walter (@fusedlogic on twitter), he is not aware of an event like this either.  So what was so earth shattering, so new, so un-tried?

Some might say "nothing".  Unlike the famous line from a 1967 movie called Cool Hand Luke ... "What we have here is a failure to communicate", was an organization stepping UP to the plate by sponsoring a tweetup.  (For those not aware, a "tweetup" is generally an informal gathering of people, usually from twitter and friends, where lots of coffee is consumed, and huge amounts of talking happens.)  And who were the hero's?  A group of people with the forethought to see and use the power of Social Media, to get engaged and provide a means and a place to communicate.

The group might surprise you, for clearly they are not "big business" looking to promote their wares.  The agenda was simple... just come on out, have a good time, and talk.  No stage, no speakers... just people.  Yes, this event was sponsored by the Edmonton Public Teachers - Local 37 (@EdPubTeachers on twitter).  Again, one would think that this was no big deal... but then one would be wrong.  The amount of effort it took to arrange this was no simple task!  Quoted below, with permission from @Patrick_Johner..

Edmonton Public Teachers- Local 37 is a democratically elected group of volunteers that are all teachers (example - classroom teachers, consultants, principals, etc). The Local voted to pay and host the tweetup for a few reasons. The first two are official statements that our total membership agreed to last year. But in a direct and very real way the teachers who sat on the committee that supported my request for $ realized that there parents, community people, advocacy groups, who can see the importance of allowing a grass roots citizenry activity that would allow all of us to engage in some dialogue that was not institutional, or political....BUT real. Allowing us to listen to each others idea, opinions, questions, concerns, stories, etc that was neutral.
Patrick went on to say
As well, we wanted to help inform the social media community that our local has become a part of social media, to develop community networks for people who care about our community in many areas. Not just in education.  I believe so deeply in our community being a sustainable one for all our citizens. Maybe we helped a few feel they can get involved, and feel more empowered to get involved. I know I do.
Now that's what I'm talking about!  Not only did this group of people, this organization... have the desire to do things better, they also went above and beyond what any other tweetup has done before.  They supplied not only a most impressive array of food (buffet cold plate style) but also refreshments, including a glass of wine!  At no cost.

While there was no "requirement" to discuss education issues, the desire by the people attending was clear.  Education problems, goals, the things that worked that we need to do more of, and the things that don't work and need fixed... were definitely the major focal point in the various chats I was having with several of the people there.

I came away with new insight, new determination, new friends... but most importantly, I can "feel" the need to get more involved, and to stay involved.  I could go on for literally hours, in writing this blog. But I know most of you will never put the time into reading everything.  So with that said, I will close this by saying a HUGE THANK YOU to the teachers and individuals from Local 37. You have the wisdom to see the future, a better future, not only for the children... but for the communities that you deal in.  You understand that as an organization, your need to be involved is critical. And in my opinion, what you achieved in last nights tweetup was a complete success.