To Will Richardson, the word “reform” is inadequate in describing what needs to happen in education. “Transformation” is more accurate, and for years, he’s been actively proselytizing the need for a complete restructuring of the public education system. Richardson is now galvanizing his educator peers to send a loud — and just as importantly, clear — message to parents about “the new faces of learning and change in schools.”
His challenge to his peers: “Can we leverage the networks that we currently have to bring 10,000 (or more) parents together across the country next fall to hold a real conversation about education and change?”
I spoke to Richardson, the author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms about his views as an educator, about information control: adults (teachers and parents) figuring out their changing roles in children’s lives, and what it will take to move the needle. (Part of the conversation is in last week’s post “The Control Shift: A Grassroots Education Revolution Takes Shape.”)
Q. Being an educator yourself and spending so much time with educators, what do you think their perception is of this issue of control?
I talk about this a lot, and I help at least start conversations around why things are changing. The biggest shift that educators have to make is away from content expertise, and it’s a tough one for people to make. At the end of the day, we have to examine what we’re doing in terms of content in the classroom. It should be more about learning, helping kids get content on their own.
The control piece is really big because, if it’s acknowledged, it really leaves teachers and educators with this empty hole. “Well, if we’re not doing that, then what are we doing?” That’s where the conversation needs to be. And that’s not where a lot of people want to go. It’s a hard conversation to have. It’s very difficult for people to see themselves in a decidedly different role in the classroom.
But the interesting thing is that all of them will acknowledge that it’s happening. I don’t think there’s anyone fighting really hard for the idea that schools should be the places where we’re the ones who should mete out content, or that because content online is unfiltered and unedited, you can’t trust it. But it’s hard to take that next step, and say, “Okay, so we really do have to change the whole concept of what we do at school, and away from content delivery to learning, and we really do have to change our roles as teachers to co-learners and supporters and mentors?”
And the parent part interests me too.
I don’t think parents really have a clue, in general. I think parents understand that schools need to do something different – but “different” doesn’t equate to anything really different at the end of the day because they want their kids to pass tests, get to college, do all the things that we define as traditionally successful. It’s less on the minds of parents in terms of real change in schools.
[Parents say]: “There are places that are experimenting on that stuff, but don’t experiment on my kid. I want those grades. I want those scores, that diploma.”