Change Issues in Curriculum and Instruction/Final Assignment Links/Stephanie Sugioka

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1. Reform in Reality: How can educators' good ideas actually be implemented in the real world?[edit]

All one has to do to know that educators have good ideas is to sit in on one class meeting of ECI 841. We have wonderful ideas about how to making learning interesting for children and relevant to their lives, about how to devise authentic assessments that will truly reflect the level of students' knowledge, and about reforming policy so that teacher and student alike will find fulfillment in the educational process. The question is, Just how good are these ideas if they do not go behond the classroom walls of ECI 841? The answer to this question is, Not much, and for this reason I've chosen"reform in reality" as my most important change issue. The first discussion question in the wiki I wrote with Frank Stonier on the topic Curriculum and Instruction Reform: Making America Competitive in a Flat World deals with this issue. In my answer to this question, I insist that teachers must work at all levels to acquire more power over their professions and their lives—in their classrooms, institutions, communities, and the political arena. To do this, teachers must insist on better working conditions, become politically active on behalf of their own and their students' interests, cooperate and collaborate with their colleagues, promote curricular reform within their schools, reach out to their communities, and instill a sense of social justice in our students, empowering them to take charge of their learning and improve their lives. Unless we do these things, all our brilliant ideas become empty talk.

2. Moving up the Food Chain: Become comfortable with questioning our own / the system’s assumptions and traditions about the way education should work (Previously ranked as #1 by Frank Stonier)[edit]

The first step in the process of effecting any reform is self-examination, and for this reason, I've chosen questioning our own assumptions about the educational system as my second most important change issue. No matter how well-educated we are or how rich our life experience is, we all come to education with a relatively rigid, narrow set of expectations about how the system should work and how we as educators should function. Especially because we are in the business of teaching, we must attempt to broaden our limited notions of the possibilities of education and to take advantage of the many opportunities for change and improvement that come our way. A recent example of one of these opportunties is the chance to use technology to enhance both our teaching and our students' learning. Web 2.0 affords us vast resources for exploring new content and using new methods of acquiring and increasing knowledge; we owe it to ourselves and to our students to explore and become adept at employing these new resources. In so many ways, our educational system has become obsolete; its methods were perhaps effective in the previous two centuries, but they are ineffectual in the twenty-first. Most of us have been conditioned to accept and to conform to traditional educational standards, and questioning them tends to make us uncomfortable. However, we need to examine our prejudices and expand our perspective so that we can envision an educational system consonant with a world that is constantly being reshaped by the forces of globalism, multimodalism, and multiculturalism.

3. Professionalizing the Teaching Profession: Teacher and Administrator Accountability and Effective Motivation[edit]

In recent years, standards, training, and certification for teachers have become increasingly demanding and rigorous. Public school teachers must have degrees in their content areas and take the education courses necessary to be certified to teach in those areas. They must pass the Praxis exams and pursue coursework throughout their careers in order to remain certified. As far as I know, no such requirements exist either for school administrators or for university professors. Why then, despite all of the training and credentials they must acquire, are public school teachers often neither regarded nor treated as professionals? Because I think this question needs to be addressed pointedly at at many levels, I've chosen it as my third most important change issue. One part of the answer to it has to do with image. Until recently, most teachers were not expected to have many qualifications beyond a bachelor's degree; the public perception simply has not yet caught up with the reality of the many new and often rigorous demands of teachers in terms of their academic qualifications and professional activities. Another reason for their relatively low status has to do with political power. When students do not perform well academically, the first person to be held accountable is the teacher. However, teachers actually have relatively little power over their own working conditions and over many of the policies that determine their practices. The final piece of this puzzle concerns the lack of motivation for teachers. Teachers are generally not rewarded for asserting themselves as professionals or demanding changes within their profession; rather they are more likely to be praised by administrators for helping the system to run smoothly if not effectively. Without monetary or other extrinsic incentives, teachers have little motivation to promote their professionalization. If this situation is to change, teachers must make major changes in their own attitudes and in their relationships with the systems of which they are a part.

4. The Digital Divide: The various issues that surround access to technology have a major impact on the extent to which and ways in which technology can be effectively employed in today’s educational system in American and beyond.[edit]

It is generally ackowledged that technology can be a great boon to education, but we must be careful to avoid situations in which it contributes to rather than bridges the already large divide between haves and have-nots in this country. For this reason, I've chosen the digital divide as my fourth most important change issue. Access to technology remains a problem for our economically disadvantaged students, and they must not be further penalized as a result of this handicap. The only way to begin leveling the playing field is to ensure that students have full access to technology in schools, but we still have a long way to go in this respect. In the public high school where I taught last year, there was only one computer per classroom—for the teacher's use; and students were not encouraged to use the few computers in the library before and after school. Meanwhile, the well-to-do students went home to their large houses, flipped open their laptops, and proceeded to take full advantage of the educational resources at their fingertips. In a capitalist society, the bottom line invariably divides the upper socioeconomic class from the lower. If we can find a way to ensure ample technology access to economically deprived students, we can begin to use technology to bridge this gap rather than to widen it. Through the Internet, these students can tap into the same resources available to their economically privileged counterparts. However, technology costs money that schools in poorer neighborhoods do not have to spend. Only reforms in school governance that make substantial funds available for technological improvements in these schools can fully address the current inequities in our educational system.

5. Individuality's Relationship to Isolation: Does the "American way" set us up for isolation?[edit]

As a result of the cult of the individual and the related ideals of competition and economic success, a culture of isolation has become increasingly pervasive in our society. A recent study revealed that a large percent of the population lack close friends, and within the last year the number of households occupied by single persons exceeded those with two or more. The culture within our public school systems and universities mirrors this isolationism and alienation, and because I see this culture as not just counterproductive but downright harmful, I've chosen it as my fifth most important change issue. Interestingly, a sort of primitive territoriality seems to dominate the practices of many teachers. They close their classroom doors and regard any administrators, colleagues, or parents who might enter as a threat to their authority. Of course, this is not entirely without cause; as a result of the way the system usually runs, visitors in the class rarely come to help and support—but they should. Teachers and their students have so much to gain by communicating, cooperating, and collaborating with others in their community. Moreover, they owe it to their students to help them reach out to and make contact with the wider world, and technology affords them the means to do this with relative ease. Unfortunately, the system does little to encourage this practice; for example, the evaluation of teachers by administrators is often an empty and even alienating exercise rather than a true attempt by administration to support the teacher's efforts. However, if teachers could collaborate with administrators and colleagues and invite parents to participate in the education of their children, everyone would benefit. It should, in fact, be a mission of education to break down the barriers constructed as a result of the apathy, prejudice, and corruption of society.