The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

On February 15, 2010 at 12pm (Noon) EST (Convert To Your Local Time Here), members of the EDU PLN Ning and participants of #edchat will have the unique opportunity to join Alfie Kohn in a conversation about Education issues. Mr. Kohn has graciously agreed to take questions from members of the Ning. Tom, Shelly and I will choose a handful of questions that we will then ask to Alfie during a 1 hour Elluminate session. Before proposing a question please visit to familiarize yourself with Mr. Kohn and his perspective. (The link to the session will be placed on the Ning and tweeted out several times before we begin.)

When writing your question please include your first and last name, Twitter name and location. 

Please limit the discussion here to questions only. 

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Given that test scores are bad feedback indicators of student learning, what thoughts do you have about unambiguous process metrics that could be useful for administrators and teachers.
A recurring message in some circles of this education discussion is that the American education system isn't fixable, that it needs a complete rethinking and re-inventing. If you were taking that mythical elevator ride with someone in a position to make that happen, what would be your "elevator speech" bulleting the crucial components of a new student-centered and radically rethought system of education?
Having dabbled a career in K-12 education and pushing hard for reform, I found that the relatively small number of reform efforts that worked didn't last very long. The larger system detected a "virus" and killed them over time.

Even those changes that stood out as effective and lasted for a longer time were never successfully replicated for long elsewhere. With over 16,000 school districts and Boards, over a 100,000 schools and a complement of millions of teachers, how can we sell them all on models that work?

PS: There are some tentative answers to this question, but few would tolerate the upheaval. Thanks for your consideration
"At the high school level, the correlation is weak [between homework and positive benefits]and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied." from Rethinking Homework.
I can not believe that this statement is correct. Perhaps the data has been collected to inadvertently add some bias....
In my own experience- even before I was a teacher - I observed a student improve their math mark by 30% by simply completing daily homework. ( The student had several physical disablilities and her scribe was not set up for the introductory unit at school. At the begining of the second unit she had a scribe at school and at home. She simply completed the required homework daily for the second unit and improved her test restults from 50% to 83%.)
I have seen other examples of homework improving retention in my 10 years as a teacher too.
It only makes sense to me that homework improves learning in terms of the theory of learning as neural pathways reinforced with use. If the subject is reviewed independently the neural connection is strengthened.
I heartily agree that homework is not a time for busy work, nor is it a time for learners to travel a path they have not traveled with their teacher; but, doesn't painting all homework with the same brush - that homework has little value - let teachers off the hook of creating valuable, meaningful homework and give parents the "Get Out of Jail Free" card instead of confronting an issue in their students' lives?
What will the url of the Elluminate room be?
After reading Unconditional Parenting, I am trying to wean my 5-year-old daughter off rewards and praise. I have tried techniques described in the book, such as discussing her artwork with her rather than just saying it's "great." But I'm afraid she's become quite a praise and prize junkie. She frequently asks me if I'm proud of her or if I think her work is good. She seems disatisfied when I ask her what SHE thinks or if I try to steer the question into a discussion. The problem is that no matter how hard I try at home, she gets so much empty praise and "prizes" at school and in after-school care. I'd like to discourage this practice but it seems hopeless as it is so ingrained in the educational system. Any suggestions on winning over educators and childcare providers?
Many homeschooling parents have raised their own children and are looking for ways to improve education for others. How can we facilitate their usefulness to a system that often perceives homeschooling as an enemy rather than an alternate training program for humanitarian teachers?
I'm thinking about what it looks like to raise and educate kids today in this technologically rich and fast-paced world. I'm wondering how it relates to educating and parenting this current and future generation of children. As an educator who supports many of your views on the myths of homework and the dangers of overpraise, I am curious about your thoughts on what personal learning networks look like for kids both in and out of the classroom. I am fully (if not overly) invested in my PLN, and I push my students (8th graders) in the classroom to create their own network that allows them to follow their passions with thoughtful and engaged learning on the web.
What does it look like for students to be engaging in this medium? How will this affect their social, emotional, educational and brain development? How is the multi-tasking required and used by their not-fully developed brains affecting their development as learners, and is it setting the stage for them to be successful and well-adjusted adults?
The link for the session will be posted both here and on Twitter 30 minutes before we begin. Be sure to follow @web20classroom, @shellterrell and @tomwhitby to catch the link.
A hot topic in Race to the Top is that of teacher quality. Most agree that quality teaching impacts student achievement but what makes for quality teaching and how to best prepare great teachers are quite contentious. This especially seems to be the case in looking at traditional teacher prep programs and the 'alternative' routes to licensure that I've heard union leaders describe as "mix and add water."
1. Do you agree with this either/or lens of teacher prep?
2. As the reform conversations focus on teacher prep, what are the winning strategies that you see in ensuring that students have great teachers in their classrooms?
How can you counter the fact that when I taught for 32 years in the inner city I was able to get the students I taught and coached to succeed by making sure that they had and did daily homework assignments to reinforce and build on what they learned and I used praise? Middle School students loved seeing their names on the 100% Homework Club signs I posted each quarter. It encouraged others to try to achieve that status. These inner city students appreciated the praise and encouragement I gave them because they rarely received it in their homes!
Jerry Blumengarten - Cybrary Man - cybraryman1
I'm conflicted about the argument against homework that it's too much work for kids because they've already put in a 6 or 7 hour day. From my observations few of my students, mostly the high achievers, are actually on task for the whole period for which I have them. My 6th, 7th and 8th graders spend a majority of my Science period socializing, texting, or goofing around. And this is whether they are doing a lab, creating a wiki, making a glog, or reading some websites for research. I work at giving my students fun ways to learn and create yet many of them waste class time so often. I spend an equal amount of time redirecting off task behavior as I do working with students helping guide their learning.

Now I personally don't assign much homework aside from having kids blog about what we are learning in class, but if a student doesn't finish in class what most of his or her classmates finished in class, it's homework. I will not keep the whole class behind for those students who waste class time being off task. So it seems to me that students are getting a chance to learn or at least struggle with what they didn't learn in class if they have homework. Or they can struggle at home with what they didn't take the time to struggle with in class. Yeah, I'm confused hearing so many reasons for and against homework. I am constantly disappointed at the fact that a large majority of my students don't complete the five or six blogging assignments I give them every three months but with ten computers in my classroom it takes a lot of class time to have 30 students finish a blogging assignment once or twice a month.

So are we really asking too much to have students finish work at home if they don't do it in class? And what can we do when our students don't have an internal locus of motivation and rely on outside sources? And what can we do about students who are getting attention for not doing school work and getting in trouble at school? I have some students who work real hard at getting nothing done, which is why I'm afraid to stop giving grades. Won't students take advantage of not getting grades and do so little work that they won't learn and still get something like, "not at standard?"



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