I just read David Warlick's Blog Value vs Source.
My first response was a recollection of my own wood shop teacher in junior high, one Mr. Parker. One of the first teachers I had that recognized that I didn't see the world as others did, and had different goals. While most of the class made chessboards or drawing board that they would never use (they didn't have or make chessmen, and didn't like technical drawing) I was making a magazine rack in the style of my parent's living room furniture. He managed to make sure it was what I wanted to do, assisted me with things to try, but kept his hands off the project unless asked. And he did it without making me into a teacher's pet, while helping me to understand the power of drawing and planning - two tools I still use to this day in my own projects.
Second - I too would echo that I learned quickly that cheap tools and materials were just asking for trouble. And I'd add that a master can work with shoddy materials and still create something great - but its a truckload easier to work with the best.
My third response was to recall back a bunch of years when Logo was the programming language that was going to revolutionize education. Someone asked the question "What happened?" and the insightful reponse from the floor was BUTFIRST[REVOLUTION] ("evolution" for those that don't program in Logo).
I think that David's points are quite valid. We early adopters often wonder why the world didn't make the huge right turn with us. At least I find myself sitting in a metaphorical dead-end street wondering why everyone else isn't at the party. Early adopters often seem to "get it" but we are not in the majority. I think that in most years at my schools, at best there are 3 teachers that fit the description of early adopter. Three people isn't ever enough to carry a revolution, but its enough sometimes to cause a small evolution.
From time to time I also read about a school that has taken on some overriding theme or system, with all staff hired to be inline with that promising motif. You eventually hear about some award won by one of the staff or students, and then never hear about anything from that school again - unless it was "they tried but they couldn't do it." Funding is often blamed for the failure - and it probably played a big part. But that "evolution" thing is even more powerful.
I hope that we as teachers are working to identify and learn about the methods that work, examine and talk about why they work, and try to refine what we do from lesson to lesson.
Regrettably, what I see most often is teachers doing only what they find comfortable and/or timely, even when they are shown the results of other methods. We know for example, that graphic organizers help students to learn and retain information. We also know that it takes more time in class when graphic organizers are used in a lesson. Teachers are under pressure to teach to a long list of performance objectives, and teachers are understandably tense when presented with a method that seems to work well, but for which it is also clear we do not have the time to invest in learning ourselves how to implement graphic organizers. Instead of a widespread implementation, teachers pick and choose where they might use such a thing "when there's time."
That said, if nothing else is clear to me, it is clear that no one thing works for everyone. When I offer a class in the use of Inspiration to teachers, its always interesting to see how the room splits over the use of the webbed bubbles vs the outline view. You can almost see the tension ease from the faces of the "linear" folks when we view the outline, and the reverse when we shift to the more free form bubble/graphic view. Even better, there are usually a few that seem to finally get that no one version works for one class. The value comes in having the choice to match individual needs.
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