I went to the strangest education conference of my career this past couple of days. Wikispaces invited me down to attend and what a learning experience it was. Surrounded by a struggling US education system that spends more and produces less than our own, I found it difficult to follow the circumstances they’ve invented for themselves.
Being a stranger in a strange land I wasn’t necessarily trapped by the expectations of the other people in attendance, though I wasn’t the only one questioning what I saw. There seems to be a clear split in American education. There are the Common Curriculum fans (check out that webpage, ride the hyperbole!), and then there are parents & teachers who are questioning the value of such a regimented, testing focused approach to learning. Strangely, very few education technology companies seem to be questioning this approach, though they all appear quite interested in education.
The whole thing occurred on the surface of a conference that was more an educational technology trade show than an examination of sound pedagogical practice. That politics and the business that feeds it drives the US education system rather than sound pedagogy became more apparent to me as the conference went on:
The only time I heard someone actually refer to pedagogical practice, best practices in teaching and learning, was when Michael Crow, the ASU president, gave a thoughtful talk on how we adapt to technology use in changing times. Everything else was urging people to get on board with the common curriculum (and buy our system that caters to it). That educational technology in the States is so focused on the politics of testing rather than best practices should concern every Canadian who adopts American technology in the classroom.
I’ve got a lot of notes and ideas I want to chase down from this experience. In the next week or two I’ll write to them after mulling it over.
In the meantime, here are some photos of beautiful Arizona in bloom…