Four charts

[cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]

Chart 1: A discrepancy of beliefs

Here is a chart of some findings from the recently-released Speak Up 2007 surveys of nearly 368,000 students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The chart shows the agreement of each school stakeholder group with the statement that the local school is preparing students for jobs of the future. It would have been interesting to see the results for students with more basic technology skills…

Chart 1

Some questions I have:

  • Why are administrators so much more positive than the others?
  • Do students really know what it means to be ‘prepared for the future?’
  • If almost half of the teachers (and 40% of parents) feel that schools are not preparing students for the future, why aren’t they making more noise about it (not to mention doing something about it)?

Chart 2: We’re losing them

Here is a chart of how I think about students as they progress through the K-12 system. Almost invariably, they start out in kindergarten as insatiable learners. You can’t stop them from learning. And then, as the years go by, their intellectual curiosity – their overall engagement with their academic content – dwindles. By the time they leave us in high school, they’re often (primarily?) bored and apathetic. It’s probably not a linear process (line A). I think most students’ engagement levels probably stay fairly high into upper elementary school (line B). And then we start losing them.

Chart 2

Some questions I have:

  • Although some might disagree with the severity of the slope, few people I know would disagree with me on the direction. So, again, why aren’t we doing more about this?
  • Some people feel that students are less engaged than they were a few decades ago. Others feel that students always have been bored. Who’s right?
  • Is technology to blame for this? The recent generation of parents? Our media-saturated culture in general?

Charts 3 & 4: Is this all they expect?

Finally, here are two charts from an informal poll done of 76 graduate students in one of the departments here in the Iowa State University College of Human Sciences (okay, it’s my department but don’t tell anyone!). We asked them if they were satisfied with students’ and instructors’ classroom technology usage. Overwhelmingly they said yes. But when asked what they liked (or disliked), nearly all of the comments pertained to PowerPoint and/or WebCT, our online course management system. Nary a word of any other technologies, good or bad.

Chart 3

Some questions I have:

  • The age of the graduate students that we serve ranges from about 25 to over 50. Is good use of PowerPoint and WebCT all it takes to satisfy most of these folks’ expectations of classroom technology usage?
  • If so, how sad is that?
  • Are these results representative of other Education graduate students’ beliefs?

7 Responses to “Four charts”

  1. I’ve been reading (and blogging) about Robert Fried’s book, The Passionate Learner.

    He writes engagingly about what we can do as parents, educators, etc., to support students’ passions all the way through the levels of schooling.

    The book is really fascinating, and very reminiscent of what you write about.

    I agree–why aren’t we asking ourselves more questions about this.

    Karl Fisch and I were talking today with a group from our schools on a Skype call, and he was talking about how we get caught in these modes of teaching just because that’s where we got comfortable, and then we get “stuck” and that it’s hard to get unstuck. That’s a poor paraphrase of what he said, but it strikes me as quite true. And it takes courage to re-address those teaching habits and step out of our comfortable boxes.

    Anyway, fascinating post..thanks.

  2. Love the post. I had a similar experience recently. We are experimenting with a senior satisfaction survey in our high school and we have a section in the survey about technology usage in high school. I’m glad to see we’ve got powerpoint down. But at the same time I hope in a year or so those numbers will go significantly higher in the area of web 2.0. I’m tired of being powerpointed to death.

  3. About the top chart: students may or may not know exactly what “prepared for the future” means, but considering the national high school graduation rate is about 50%, I think it’s pretty safe to say schools aren’t preparing at least 50% of their students for the future very well.

    As to why the administrators are the most positive group of the four… I can’t help noticing that of the four groups, students presumably know best what they actually have or haven’t learned. Parents and/or teachers know what students have or haven’t learned second best, and administrators generally know it only third-hand. So the people with the best access to the student’s actual level of knowledge are least enthusiastic, and those with the least access are most enthusiastic. I wonder then if it’s simply a matter of looking good on paper where the administrators see it, but not so great in the actual classroom.

  4. As to chart #1 and teachers reporting low student tech. knowledge – if my school is at all representative, teacher input that is critical of current practices is the fastest way to get one’s self transfered to teaching driver’s education.

    I have a personal opinion that many teachers become administrators not to help more students, but because it is easier to (as was stated above) preserve student success fantasies and their own delusions of grandeur as social influencers that simply can’t be maintained in the face of the constant reality of the classroom experience.

    How is your school?
    Admin response: Great!
    Teacher response: well….

  5. Regarding chart 1, I wonder why the students with “advanced technology skills” aren’t making more noise about schools not preparing them for the future. Certainly that is the one group among the four who most likely understand the tools needed to ramp up the volume.

    As to charts 3 and 4, it demonstrates why we get so many teachers in our district who think PowerPoint and Blackboard are the epitome of high tech in the classroom. Neither are especially good communications tools, much less instructional tools.

  6. Here’s a thought on chart #2. I think that line “B” best represents the curiousity (Canadian, eh?) and enagagement levels from elementary to secondary school generally. Perhaps part of the reason stems from the transition from the interdisciplinary approach that is possible in elementary classrooms that becomes more difficult to maintain in later grades, as secondary schools are traditionally arranged in discrete subject disciplines, timetabled separately.

    I suggest that learning is more relevant and engaging when it takes place in a real-world type of setting – life is not often broken down into discrete, separate parts, but intertwined, messy and fascinating. Technology enables teachers to overcome the administrative barriers of the timetable to link and connect students across disciplines without having to rebuild the entire secondary school structure. Not enough time to do that – it’s too urgent to engage our secondary school kids now if we are to serve them well.

  7. Looking at Arnie’s perspective of administrators and teachers, it begs to wonder what response you would get if you ask each, “How are you today?”

    Administrator: Great!
    Teacher: Well…

    Although simplistic, I beleive you may find this to be every bit as true as the first example. I’m 100% confident that neither is fully accurate – I’ve seen teachers that would say “Great!” while their administrator would say “Well…” Why? You’ll have to know more than me to understand that one.

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