Side Effects of NCTE

I intended on blogging about my entire NCTE experience, and I may still do that.  The holiday and family and the Cold to End All Colds have rendered me rather unproductive during this break.

I’ve been home from NCTE for a week.  I was rather anxious about attending, because I felt like it would be a watershed moment in my career.  I’m 10 years in, and in this past year I’ve realized the amibitions I had when I went to grad school can actually be fulfilled as a classroom teacher.  I went to NCTE, prepared for two possible outcomes:

1.  Become disillusioned with teaching English, go back to my job and do what I’ve always done.

2.  Become inspired with teaching English, go back to my job, and take on “The Man” to affect change.

Welcome to Outcome #2.

And now I can’t turn off my teacher brain.  So this morning when I read this column about how newspapers need to change to retain readers and to simply survive, I couldn’t help but think about public schools.

Sure, newspapers need a business model to make money, so a direct comparison to public education would be flawed.  However, what I gleaned from this article is that this International Media Consulting Group has provided publishers with some ideas to save their businesses.  Most of the ideas involve 21st Century Skills: critical thinking, collaboration, play, digital literacies.

So now it’s time to see what publishers will do with this information, just like our administrators are bombarded with ideas to improve education.  Change is scary.  It is uncomfortable.  It is so different from what many of us were initially trained to do.

At the risk of using another flawed analogy: my brother-in-law is an orthopedic surgeon. A hundred years ago, amputations were more common.  If you had bad knees, you dealt with the pain.  What would happen to my brother-in-law’s career if he said, “Amputation worked 100 years ago, so it’s the first stop today.”  Or “I’m sorry your knees hurt–if only there was a minimally invasive way to find the problem and fix it!”  Technology has propelled medicine forward.

Newspapers have to change, education has to change. But it has to change for the better.  Simply buying a bunch of shiny gadgets or loosening the death grip on Internet filters won’t do it.  These 21st century skills aren’t about the technology.  They are about how to use the technology for the greater good.  They are about how to collaborate between English and Science departments or Math and History, with a little Music or Drama mixed in.

Continued compartmentalization will kill us. Just like it’s killing newspapers.


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