The “Jerry Springer Effect” (Doing “Whatever I Want”)

I rarely just vent on this blog site.  Most of the time, I try to put my head on straight and “reflect out loud”; it’s more of a self-learning experience than a public commentary really.

However, I feel the need to get this off of my chest.  Here goes…

Main Point = It is possible to do “whatever you want” without degrading yourself or others.

America is losing its moral compass.  I blame Jerry Springer (and shows similar to his).  I really think that putting a spotlight on the outrageous and dim-witted has lowered the moral standard and created a cultural atmosphere of Americans who no longer understand the distinction between what is outrageous and what is normal behavior.

It seems that, recently, there are MORE celebrity “role models” than usual engaging in behaviors that are morally disgraceful and embarrassing. Many of them have taken the attitude that they are not, at all, responsible for any impression that they make on others because (they say) people have free will to be influenced by others.

GUESS WHAT. Adults and celebrities DO NOT GET TO CHOOSE whether or not they are role-models; they just ARE. If you live among others, you ARE being observed by others and are, somehow (directly or indirectly), always INFLUENCING others. The overwhelming existence of people who contribute an ongoing stream of negative influence is culturally TOXIC. Today alone, I’ve read stories about celebrities getting arrested, doing drugs, being implicated in murder cases, and the tipping point, for me, came when I saw pictures of rapper Lil’ Wayne dancing on the U.S. Flag. REALLY?!

Furthermore, within our OWN local media, there are people from this community that are violating paroles and/or being jailed for making bad decisions (not “mistakes”; but deliberate bad decisions). People who do dumb things affect us all; they provide negative examples to be followed by children who struggle with the constructs of “right” and “wrong”; in some cases, it makes people think that wrong IS the new Right! 🙁 People defend inappropriate with the argument that they are protected by the 1st Amendment. Sure, it’s constitutionally sound to act without dignity or respect. HOWEVER, let’s get something straight… Someone can make “a statement” and STILL demonstrate RESPECT for self, others, and his/her country. Using “shock tactics” to bring attention to yourself while disrespecting others is purely selfish and irresponsible. So, just because people have a right to make their own decisions does NOT mean that they should strive to make bad ones. Positive change starts with you and your own actions. I’d just like to see more collective responsibility … that’s all….

Posted in American Society, Cultural Influence, Jerry Sringer, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

21st Century Learning Is Not A Program

by William Washington, Ed.D. Scholar, Walden University

Perhaps the biggest misconception that one can have about 21st century learning is to think of it as a single reform program.

21st century learning is not a singular “thing” that can be plugged into an existing school environment and used as an easy upgrade to improve existing practice. Learning that teaches children how to think is a process with deep philosophical underpinnings and embraces new findings about how people teach, learn, and get motivated. This challenges educational organizations to incorporate new thinking into the ways in which we view the function and purpose of formal education; it implores us to move beyond draconian practices that are rooted in 19th century assumptions about learning.

Premise of 21st Century Education

The premise of 21st century education is very important. If we fail to acknowledge the notion that obsolete methods, approaches and educational models are failing to prepare children for a technologically-driven global economy, we may as well just shut down all of our schools; someone else will be running them for us anyway (Schlechty, 2011).  There is a growing concern that children are spinning their wheels in the midst of obsolete instructional content and methods.

The argument being made is that we are ignoring societal shifts and continue to teach to a target audience that doesn’t exist and we’re preparing them for a market that doesn’t exist (Marx, 2006).  Heidi Jacobs (2010) often uses the analogy of time travel in reference to the gap in current educational practice.  She says that students step into a simulation of the 1980s each time they enter the school and reenter reality once they step off of the bus. We can no longer afford to promote and sustain the status quo; it is imperative that we transform education because it is, morally, the right thing to do (Sergiovanni, 1997).

Many people tend to associate 21st century learning with digital technology.  This is an incomplete perception because 21st century education goes beyond mere trinket tools of the trade. Rather, it is a way of thinking- a rationale about what educators do and why they do it.

The overarching purpose of 21st education is to provide students with a set of critical skills that will be needed for success in a global market.  The Partnership for 21st century skills (2011) identifies these specifically: creativity, collaboration, critical-thinking, and communication.  In order to help our children develop these skills to a high level, we must incorporate modalities that are relevant to present times (e.g. social networking, mobile technologies, digital computing, gaming,) and also engage the student with instruction techniques that facilitate learning (e.g. pinwheel discussion, group collaboration, projects).   In other words, we need to put the student at the center of the learning and allow them to create their own meaning from experiences.

This is very different than what we’ve experienced in the past 75 years.  The education that we have all experienced is no longer appropriate for preparing today’s learner for a global market.  For this reason, proponents of 21st century education argue that we can no longer seek to reform education; we must transform it into something entirely different (Berry & Team, 2011; Schlechty, 2011; Jacobs, 2010).


Changing Our Ideas about a “Good” Education
It’s difficult to make something better if there is no agreement about the desired outcome.  Telling stakeholders that you want students to be “college ready” invites a great degree of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  I passed one of my former students in a grocery store yesterday.  She graduated high school at the top of her class and attends an Ivy League college.  She did everything that her teachers and parents told her to do in regards to behavior, extracurricular activity, and academics.  She dropped out of school after her first year of college.  Was she misled by her elders?  Did her experiences prepare her for a world beyond her local community and high school?  I would argue that the people around her may have a different mental model of an ideal student than one that meets the demands of today’s global economy.

Peter Senge (2006) coined the term “mental model” to describe our deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, pictures, and images that influence how we make sense of the world.  We all frame our opinions of education based on our own beliefs about what comprises a “good education.” These “mental models” are primarily based on our own experiences with participating and observing educational practices.  The difficulty of subscribing to 21st century learning ideology is that it requires a deep understanding of a student outcome that is unfamiliar to our own life experience.  We have to educate with less control and allow our students minds to … play.

Many educational leaders are culturally conditioned to attempt transformation through emulation and 21st century learning skills is an outcome of authentic learning. 21st century education is an ongoing process that involves authentic learning and an organic integration of modern skill sets; it cannot be copied or emulated.  Those who need real-life exemplars from which to copy will find it almost impossible to circumvent the required comprehensive understanding of the philosophy and rationale that drives 21st century educational practices.


21st Century Learning Skills
21st century education incorporates social skill sets that will be needed to help our children survive an economy that has yet to occur and do knowledge work that will require the highest levels of cognitive ability. We can no longer fashion our educational systems to produce skilled labor and depend on random acts of excellence to emerge in small pockets.  We have to strive to produce citizens who work with their minds rather than their hands.

Today’s educational system simply misses the mark in preparing children to think critically, independently, and at a high-level.  Instead, we have become a massive test-prep industry that is evaluated by how well our students temporarily memorize disjointed information.

Ask yourself these questions:
What is happening in current public education that can prepare a child to contribute to a Disney/Pixar film?

Can our students leave high school and become digital technology engineers? Choreograph an award show opening number? Program a new iPad app? Coordinate a wedding and reception?

A larger percentage of people are working from handheld devices instead of sitting in cubicles. What kinds of people can handle the responsibility of working without direct oversight? Who can be held responsible for generating knowledge-work from a distance that has the quality to compete on a global market?

Who is going to have the Communication, Collaborative, Creative, and Critical Thinking skills required to integrate global trends into their work in a manner that will offer something fresh and improve the world in some way?

I can assure you, modeling “sage on the stage”/lecture instruction and tossing around paper worksheets while commanding people to “be quiet and work” is a model that will not yield the aforementioned individuals. 21st century learning is about engagement and making learning an intrinsic process.

“Gist” is Not a Substitute for Comprehensive Understanding

As I traverse through the world of academia (i.e. practical experience, doctoral research, seminars, professional development, and conferences),  I can’t help but notice how so many people lack the desire to completely understand critical issues.  It is interesting that education deals with student comprehension, but those responsible for education often have a loose interpretation of the concept of what it means to be “comprehensive.”

This lack of attention to comprehensive understanding is leading to a great deal of misinformation in regards to the philosophy that undergirds common core, 21st century learning skills, distributed leadership, professional learning communities (PLCs), and future-focused leadership.  This is dangerous to transformational efforts because the stakeholders don’t truly understand what they’re signing up for; they’ve been bombarded with unfounded opinions and loose interpretations.

Ironically, we teach our children to get the gist of material (rather than truly gaining a comprehensive understanding of content) and measure their recall skills in the form of State Standardized Tests. 21st Century Education is about helping people develop the ability to gain a comprehensive understanding of things and then apply these understandings to other contexts.


Berry, B., & Team, T. 2. (2011). Teaching 2030, what we must do for our students and our public schools : Now and in the future. Teachers College Pr.

Schlechty, P. C. (2011). Leading for learning, how to transform schools into learning organizations. Jossey-Bass Inc Pub.

Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21, essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: Assn for Supervision & Curriculum.

Costa, A. & Kallick, B. (2010). It takes some getting used to: Rethinking curriculum for the 21st century. In H. Jacobs (Ed.), Curriculum 21, essential education for a changing world (210 – 226). Alexandria, VA: Assn for Supervision & Curriculum.

Marx, G. (2006). Future-focused leadership, preparing schools, students, and communities for tomorrow\’s realities. ASCD.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline;the art and practice of the learning organization. (Revised ed. ed.). New York, NY: Doubleday.

Sergiovanni, T. J. (1997). Moral leadership, getting to the heart of school improvement. Jossey-Bass Inc Pub.

Image attribution flickr users gammarayproductions, flickeringbrad

Posted in 21st century learning, edTech, Education, education reform | Leave a comment

Wait… I get to WATCH stuff for a GRADE??!

Are we Harnessing the Power of Instructional Video technology?

I spend many hours each day surfing the web, clicking on random links sent to me via Twitter, and responding to FaceBook messages in an an effort to get “plugged-in” to the modern age.

As an educator, I have taken the EdTech plunge. EdTech is the term we give to the eduGeek practice of finding ways of using digital devices and internet resources to promote student engagement.

New age constructivists (people that think students should arrive at understanding things by doing rather than passively watching/listening) have been promoting the use of digital videos to assist with classroom instruction.  This effort is commonly being dubbed “Flipping the Classroom.”

Here’s a 3-minute video that explains “Flipping” and what it does for teachers.

Makes sense doesn’t it?

While many of our nation’s classroom teachers feel pressured to deliver drill-and-practice/lecture formats of instruction to meet the demands of a high-stakes standardized testing atmosphere (created by state and federal legislation), a flipped classroom method enables teachers to return to activities that promote creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

Well, flipping the classroom makes sense to a lot of people because thousands of educators and school administrators are latching onto the new flipping craze.  In fact, there are websites that offer collections of pre-rendered videos that span over the entire curricular spectrum.  Even TED has jumped on the bandwagon with its new TEDed website.

This is great right?  I mean, people are starting to think about ways to engage children and get them interested in learning things on a deeper level!  With this method, it would appear that teachers are going out of their way to differentiate instruction and allow children to learn at their own pace.

Flipping the Classroom allows a teacher to use classroom time for student-centered learning (group discussions, collaborative activities, projects, problem-based learning etc).  Perhaps the instructional videos will deliver us from the aftermath of No Child Left Behind legislation and remedy all that ails public education … right?

uh… let’s reel it in a little.

With every great innovaion, there are certain realities and one of them is the fact that nothing replaces the teacher’s desire to teach.

The Flip lessons are effective if they are engaging. They will be engaging if the creator has a vested interest in helping students understand the content.  So, who will go to great lengths to create, compile, plan, and organize flip lessons?  In my experience, it’ll be those teachers that are doing a pretty good job without them.  So, you still need a good teacher to create them.

Flip videos are not able to replace good instruction; they will further supplement the efforts of good teachers.  If the teacher is driven to promote student comprehension, the videos will help drive instruction and student achievement.

Let’s recall what the Flip technique is supposed to do:

  1. The teacher’s “lecture” is replaced with a video presentation.
  2. The student views, takes notes, and studies the video.  (This part of the process actually turns NEW knowledge into PRIOR knowledge when classtime arrives!)
  3. The student arrives to class having constructed an understanding of the content/concept from the video.
  4. The teacher uses classtime to reinforce, remediate, and advance previously taught knowledge (i.e. the stuff on that video).

In a perfect world, the teacher’s lesson plans would consist of many activities that would allow students to engage and “get involved” in their own learning; kids would do most of the talking.  Classroom activities would include things like: pinwheel discussions, working in groups, higher-order thinking challenges, differentiated stations, group games, and digital technology driven collaborative projects.  So, the focus of a flip video lesson is not to show a video; it is used to free up classtime for opportunities to ENGAGE students in their learning rather to merely present them with an exposure to a variety of concepts.  The overarching goal is to make the learning meaningful.

This POSITIVE outlook assumes the following:

  • Teachers – Would be concerned about student learning, are already driven educators who understand what needs to be taught, and are acute detectors of the individual needs of their students.  They will plan so that every minute in the classroom is productive and conducive to learning.
  • Students – Would be concerned about their own learning.  They would find time to view the videos, study them, and arrive at the classroom with notes that demonstrate understanding and contain questions that will elucidate concepts.

Considerations: Things to Avoid

Sometimes, people overlook the fine print and cut right to the chase.  You have to be sure that teachers understand the rationale behind creating and using flip videos.  Otherwise, all of the purpose, intent, and philosophy of flipping would be tossed out and they would simply show more videos.

Here are some scenarios we want to avoid:

  • Teachers:  Do not show use the videos as a substitute for teaching.  If you find yourself quizing students on the content of those videos, you’re at risk of turning the videos into surrogate instructors.  The videos are intended to introduce the content and you are supposed to provide students with in-class experiences that fortify their understanding.
  • Teachers :  Do not use the flip videos as time-fillers during classtime.  That would take the “flip” out of flipping the classroom.
  • Students: They have to watch the videos.  Student who neglect watching the videos (or do not understand them) will arrive to class unprepared to participate in classroom discussion and activities. This is why it is good practice to create a follow-along question sheet that serves as homework.  If they do not watch the videos, no time would be “saved” and class time would need to be used to “reteach” the material.

Teachers that have been around more than 15 years have been experimenting with take-home work in an audio, video, or digital form for quite some time now.   Inexpensive mobile apps, high powered smartphones/tablets, and nanotechnology have made digital instructional supplementation an affordable reality.

Your Thoughts?

William Washington

Posted in Education, Internet | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

American Idol forgot about Teachers (and decency).

Deep Thoughts About: American Idol.

You may have heard the news that J.Lo AND Steve Tyler are leaving the show. The producers say that the ratings slumped last season and they want to “shake things up.” Those could be famous last words from a show that has continued to lower its bar with each successive season.

American Idol retrieved from Huffington Post

In my opinion, the ratings may have slumped because American Idol’s moral standards are set a bit low. Finding new, morally mature, judge experts and returning to a FAMILY-FRIENDLY focus may be a Do-or-Die remedy for the waning prime-time champ.

An overlooked (and long forgotten) demographic that helped with the show’s initial climb is comprised of School Teachers & Parents of 14-and-under children. Idol USED to be a good “sub video.” However, the combination of innuendo and foul language within the judge critiques, the outrages characters that are highlighted in the profile segments, and the number of middle-fingers and profanities that are issued in a majority of the episodes make this show IMPOSSIBLE to enjoy in a family-friendly context. Idol made its bed with the “family-friendly” demographic and jumped into the “rated PG13” realm rather abruptly. We didn’t leave Idol; Idol left us.


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The Internet got … Bigger!?

Imagine the Internet . Now multiply that by 10.

We are now living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.  Children are being besieged with information that pulls their attention from EVERY platform – computers, iPhones, 100s of Television channels, hoards of advertisements, and tons of video games. So, we send them to school and penalize them for getting distracted” from worksheets and practice tests.  Perhaps there’s no coincidence that, across America, the instance of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of standardized testing (Robinson, 2010).

There is a seismic shift in how our children learn, but we continue to do what we have always done to the point that we are no longer giving the children what they need to prepare for the future.  This, folks, is what you call a gap in practice.

My personal goal as an educator is to create a learning environment where educational experiences are worthy of a child.

How can I accomplish this?  I’m still trying to figure this out.

At this point, I’m convinced that the root of the solution lies within a comprehensive understanding of these things:

  • Technological Developments that impact education
  • Global Trends that Impact the Job Markets of the Future
  • Systems Thinking and How to Engage an Organization to Implement a Model
  • Understanding of theories (old and new) regarding the manner in which people learn.

Trend to Watch:  Internet Capacity implies a technological imperative.

On June 6, 2012, Google announced the rollout of a NEW internet pipeline called IPv6. Our current addressing system (IPv4) provides enough addresses for 4 billion. The new IPv6, however, will expand “the internet” to 34 + 36 zeros behind ( I think that’s a trillion, trillion, trillion). Why do you need to know this? Well, there are now 20 billion devices connected to the internet and you’re reading this message from one of them. From this, the internet is expected to freakin’ EXPAND almost 10 times over… from what it already is now! … dude….

iPv6 Pipline image

iPv6 will add 10 times the amount of address capacity to the internet.

As an educator … as a PARENT… I have to ask myself this question: What will my child need to be able to DO in order to even support herself 10 years from now? Will learning to recall textbook facts be enough? Shouldn’t I be teaching my child how to THINK and make HARD push for the ‘soft’ skills that have been inadvertently cast aside by current education (communication, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking)? Isn’t the REAL goal of education to make someone smart enough to thrive in an unforseen future economy? Man, I’m not concerned… I’m frightened by this thought!

However ridiculous you think the world will become with interconnectivity and global communication/gaming, automation, and abundance of product … MULTIPLY THAT thought … and prepare.

Insanely rapid advances in science and technology suggests that there will be an even wider divide in the workforce of the future. GOOD paying jobs will demand high-level “Knowledge Workers” who are equipped to THINK for a LIVING! Everyone else will simply take-on whatever is NOT already automated by computer technologies (even Lawyer and Doctor services can be purchased online or from a box… think about it…).  This is a notion that can be understood from Daniel Pink’s book entitled Drive.

Final Thought:

We’ve got to take our children BEYOND the textbook or they’ll be ill-prepared for the future (think 2030).
If you can’t predict the challenges our children will face in the future, the best thing you can do is help them prepare an intellect that can analyze, respond, and adapt.

Your thoughts?

William Washington

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment