“Too often school is the least engaging part of a student’s day”

That’s a pretty harsh assessment that comes from the recent report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit – A Global Imperative. It goes on to say,

“Students come to school equipped to learn on many levels … but today’s curricula do not meet their needs… Schools do their students a disservice when they fail to teach literacy in the expressive new language that their students have already begun to use before they even arrive.”  Download report (808 kb) pdf

Loads of teachers are working hard to create classrooms where  students can take on the challenge of intellectual work – rather than just look for the right answer. They want school to be more rigorous, relevant and engaging. Places that give students opportunities to learn how professionals approach their work – scientist, engineer, artist, historian, mathematician, writer, and musician.

But I couldn’t help but think that while teachers are fighting for market share of their students’ brains, Rupert Murdoch announced his purchase of MySpace.com. This two year-old site functions as a student lounge for an estimated 33 million young people. It has more page views than Google and is currently adding 4 million teens a month to its ranks of “addicts.” MySpace engages students because they are both the audience and the content providers. As one educator recently said to me, “my nephew loves MySpace. He posts his original music and artwork there and then uses the feedback from his viewers to improve his work.” All the strategies we’d love to use in our classrooms can potentially flourish there – cooperative learning, peer evaluation, differentiation, multiple learning styles, self-directed learning.

Students are used to controlling the flow of information in their lives. They can get what they want, when they want to – store it, catalogue it, alter it, and share it. What “market share” of student attention do our schools still retain? When students walked in the door this fall, did they feel more like they’re going back in time or into their futures?

We need to bring this movement into our schools rather than compete with it for the attention of our students. After all, I’ll bet our students are more concerned about their MySpace rankings than their school’s “adequate yearly progress” on state tests.

Reinventing your high school? Be sure to focus on instruction.

On October 1 – 3 over 2,000 education leaders from 35 states convened at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. to learn about exemplary high schools across the country and how to apply their successful approaches and strategies.

Over the course of the weekend I presented a six working sessions called “Focus on Instruction” to most of the attendees. My pitch was very direct – first forge a common view of teaching and learning, and then treat the organization as an instrument for accomplishing the vision.

On October 1st, my talk targeted creating a common vision for rigor and relevance. I included video interviews with the teachers and students at the Eastridge Ninth Grade Academy in Rochester NY. Download PowerPoint notes  (726kb) Visit my Small Learning Communities Website to see my Ninth Grade Academy Video and other resources.

On October 2nd  I offered insights into the elements of a common vision of instruction. Download PowerPoint notes  (934kb) Download PodCast (45 mb) 47 minutes

I was joined by Susan Gunderman, Principal of Kennesaw Mountain High School, Kennesaw, GA (also Dr. Mimi Dyer- Coordinator – Academy of Math, Science & Technology and Lenora Nyeste, KMHS Instructional Lead Teacher) Download their PowerPoint notes (831kb)

The Symposium explored in depth the successful approaches identified in schools involved in the high school initiatives being conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the International Center for Leadership in Education.

“Literacy in a Copy / Paste World”

Keynote Address
Learning Through Literacy Summer Institute
, Toronto, Canada August 11, 2005

Download PodCast (27.7 mb) 30 minutes

The new information technologies put all of us in charge of the information we access, store, analyze and share. They have unleashed individual and collective creativity. This 30 minute Audio PodCast redefines the meaning of literacy in the digitial age and explores exciting new opportunities to interact with students, colleagues and information in ways that can revitalize teaching and learning.