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Teaching in a changing educational world
Barbara Schulz, Ed.S., ABD | 26 March, 2011 20:51

Teaching during the present day has certainly become challenging.  Recently I traveled with other union members to Annapolis to protest the wish of legislative leaders to cut back on teacher pensions. Another teacher in the same age category as I went mainly to support the younger teachers who have years to go before retirement. Since we are close to looking retirement in the face, and realize how challenging it will be for our generation who has been hit hard with the recession, and we know how challenging teaching can be, we felt it necessary for the younger folks to have something to look forward to in their old age.  It was a good experience, making us both feel that we had done our part, and we had dragged 2 new teachers with us, getting them excited about the political process. 

The present economical happenings are scary for all involved.  The economic crisis has hit many folks in the pocketbook, as well as the savings and IRAs etc.  But several states are threatening unions which have fought for years to get workers' rights.  It scares me that so many young workers don't seem to support the unions. I know that unions have done their jobs , and most people in this country get decent pay and conditions now are good so may have outgrown the need for themselves, but that could change at the drop of a hat.

 Just look at how the federal government has tried to change education in the last 2 decades, and only half succeeded.  The need to leave no child behind has garnered standardized testing out the wazoo.... and it's had its good and bad impacts. It has pushed for a standardized curriculum, which the virtual schools have grabbed and run with and I feel could be adapted to encourage individualized learning, but yet it has also made it so that kids are tested so much that teachers have to teach to the test, so kids are learning less about things like social studies,  STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering & Math), and liberal arts.

But the latest political climate that threatens collective bargaining has also pointed a HUGE finger at teachers blaming them for kid's failures. It's really scary!  There are so many factors that impact a child's ability to learn, particularly their level of abiity, background knowledge, home support, community support, whether they've had enough to eat, and whether they have bad things happening in their lives.  Yet the politicians have read a few research studies that state that excellent teachers make the biggest difference.  Well I hate to tell them that I've met very few "bad" teachers, yet some kids still fail. Most teachers work their tails off trying to offset the challenges the kids bring from the world and trying to help them learn. And some of the teachers in schools with the most challenges are the best teachers because they have to be to survive.  If they weren't they would have quit long ago.

But this latest political climate has turned evaluating teachers into a nightmare.  They want a good chunk of teachers' salaries to be based on what kids do on tests.  This has turned testing into a competition.  My school has jumped on the bandwagon, and had a pep rally for taking the tests, gave rewards every day, and huge rewards at the end of the testing days. 

I hope it worked and motivated the kids, as well as giving them confidence in themselves, or  at the least, relieved the stress of testing. But what exactly are we teaching kids ?  That their future world of work will treat them like athletes that get recognition and pep rallies?  Some fields like the entertainment field and sports do have those available for the few who make it big, but most of our kids will work in places that don't  have a pep rally before each client meeting, or give out awards on a regular basis.

It has mostly put extreme pressure on administrators to evaluate teachers effectively.  The sad part is that it has usually been several years since the admins have actually taught in the classroom on a regular basis, so seem to have lost touch with what a teacher really goes through and what kids are like today.  Every thing they do is based on test results (which if handled correctly could work to improve teaching), but it has caused a complete turn around in what is expected of teachers. 

Take for instance my latest evaluation.  While I was told it was a "Successful lesson", I still received a "Causing concern" in the category of student engagement because I didn't have  "100%" participation from all the students a couple of times during the lesson. The fact that I got 100% of the files where they needed to be (the main goal of the lesson) and that I was going above and beyond the call of duty as a computer ed teacher to work on their literacy skills, didn't seem to weigh as much as having all kids doing exactly the same thing at the same time.  It scares me that the latest trend, even in charter schools which are on the rise,  seems to be this concept of having kids being rote machines that react at the same time. It reminds me of the Chinese Olympic ceremonies where everything was perfectly timed and syncopated, which was impressive, but made people seem like automated machines of drilled armies. It's also like getting 20 birds of different sizes and species to sit perfectly in a row and sing the same note at the same time in the same pitch. Just about impossible.

 This need for  perfection makes me really concerned about how long I'll be able to last in education.  You see, that type of learning goes totally against my philosophy of teaching.  I believe strongly that students are individual learners and progress at their own pace in their own interests.  Teachers can't push learners to learn at the teachers pace, but they can be there to guide the student when they are ready to learn. And the world needs independent learners that can teach themselves, and motivate themselves to learn. We also need learners that want to develop skills and work in all kinds of different fields.  But these current trends feel like they are treating students as automatons.  Hopefully this phase will pass quickly.

After all, I've lived through open spaced classrooms, Dimensions of learning, Learning Styles, and a myriad of other trends that all have good points, but shouldn't be the be all and end all of education.  Hopefully, the powers that be will take the good parts of this current trend  and use the lessons learned to move to the next phase VERY quickly

Teaching with Web 2.0
admin | 30 September, 2010 19:18

?" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">While taking the Web 2.0 course, I wrote the following response to a teacher, but then retracted  it on the forum and posted it here, debating whether it really fits in the course forum.  The teacher was talking about taking a combined Media Literacy/Instructional Technology Master's degree, and I had the following thoughts:  

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?" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">Keep working on the combo degree.  Not only does it look bleak for our County getting Instructional Technology teachers in elementary schools, the current plan is to morph our Middle School positions to be Integration Specialists sometime in the not too distant future. However, with all the changes in education nowadays, including being able to vote for board members, and all the talk about new contracts in Baltimore City, who knows what will happen. 


?" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">Other districts I've been in do have ITs in the Elementary schools, and they do there what we do in Middle Schools. I have mixed feelings about morphing our positions.  I see the need for Integration Specialists, such as my colleague in the building  does, as it provides an invaluable resource  to teachers.  However, I also see the need for the basic skills like keyboarding, Office skills, presentation skills, etc. to be taught as they will need those for the world of work.  If they were getting those skills in elementary classrooms, in middle schools we could focus on the students applying those skills (higher level thinking) to their course subjects. However, without the IT's in elementary schools,  they have to depend on teachers who can squeeze in time the labs that are utilized more and more for testing and remediation. Therefore, the kids come to us with varied skills.

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?" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">So my thoughts were that so long as the kids are getting the basics either at the elementary level or in Middle School, we'll be able meet the mandates of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) to make students tech literate by 8th grade.  And I truly don't understand how our district can do away with our specialty particularly with the increased focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

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?" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">But the teachers getting their dual degree are smart.  Hope they continue!

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Observation of Student Engagement
admin | 20 February, 2010 01:24

This post will be for us to brainstorm what Jen is looking for in the classroom.  The focus needs to be on student engagement, and lesson implementation,  and since we'll be discussing lesson implementation and objectives in our meetings, this post will focus on student engagement, and what it looks like.  So please add to this discussion as we go... What does student engagement look like? 

Teaching Reflections
admin | 19 February, 2010 23:59

This blog will reflect my journey through a challenging period of my teaching career.  I'm currently in my 3rd year of teaching Middle School students computer literacy.  I've had over 30 years in education, mostly in elementary, and some in higher education. However, after almost 30 years in education, I find myself in the place where I need to defend my teaching practices.  This blog has been started as a "teacher reflection" during an "improvement plan" due to having an "unsuccessful" evaluation observation of a lesson. 

Part of my districts' purpose for having this process is pushed by the new focus on teacher accountability from the state and local levels.  So I suspect that many teachers will have to go through this process in the coming years as education morphs.  My situation is compounded by having a new principal doing the observation, and being focused mainly on "data".  I can understand, and partially agree with where she's coming from.  And if by going through this process, I can help the school figure out why certain kids are  not learning, then I suppose I'll have found the purpose for e going through this. And the higher ed person in me encourages me to go through with this process, and use my gained knowledge to find that info.

Dissertation Blog
admin | 08 February, 2010 11:47

Monday, August 17, 2009" title="external link">LearningByts? Blog: Higher Ed Vs. K-12">LearningByts? Blog: Higher Ed Vs. K-12

I'm Back! After reading the flurry of responses to">Sarah Fine's Blog on why she was leaving teaching, I decided to look back at my own blog of when I left teaching, and then returned. I had originally left because I felt stifled in the classroom, and that I couldn't grow as a learner with my district's permission. The original blog was started when I had returned to the classroom after a 4 year stint in higher education. That particular classroom position only lasted a year due to the fact that it was a one year contract. I then went to a large district as an Educational Technology Specialist, working with 14 schools to infuse technology into the regular classrooms. That position was heavy on politics, and wound up being another one year position. The timing was good for the end of that position, as I needed to return to my home state for family reasons. After 6 months of collecting unemployment and moving across country, I worked for an online school at the coporate level, as well as teaching for them. I also taught for an additional online school part-time when I finally returned to my old district.

I'm feeling much of what">Will Richardson stated in his latest post about schools that have been around for the last century (my district) and how they will make changes and move into the new millenium to meet the needs of today's students. He talks about redefining what they do and how most schools are just "tinkering on the edges" making changes to technology to meet the old curriculum. He makes the analogy of whiteboards being new wine bottles for the old wine. How apropo for my district! That's just what has happened during my 7 year hiatus.

And now that I'm back, what can I do to make a difference? At first, I thought I would just stay under the radar, and enjoy the teaching experience, not making waves, and getting through the next ten years until retirement. I had to earn my tenure back again, and adjusting to the middle school classroom, was not as challenging as adjusting to a new district had been 3 years earlier. They had changed all the acronyms (typical educators - give it a new acronym and it's a new education :-) ), and some of the positions, but the philosophy and administration was basically the same. Last year our superintendent passed away suddenly, and this year we'll have a new one. Hopefully, since he came from a district that is more tech savvy than ours, he'll be making changes that bode well for technology in the classroom.

The challenge is that with all my various experiences I also know what's out there, the potential for students, and the benefits for the district. In addition, with all my research towards that ellusive Ph.D., I continue to keep abreast of the latest and best. What do I do with the knowledge? I have so much that sometimes I feel that just my presence and sharing scares others. I've had to have my hand slapped already for "trying new things" that haven't been approved by the district (a wikkispace!) . And when I give academic reasons, and research to back up my efforts, the hand slapping stops, but the only approval is that my ideas get shared at PLC's later as their idea. Oh well, I've often thought of myself as a seed planter. Plant the seeds of change, step back and watch them grow in the minds of others until they own them, and then change happens. I just wish sometimes I'd get the credit.

So what do I think of Sarah Fine's post? I don't agree that she's self-centered as one person put it. Teaching is a VERY demanding job, and she could have quit much earlier on. However, she did stick it out for 4 years. When I left to go to higher ed, I thought that education should allow teachers sabbaticals as professors in college get. The years I spent in higher ed were validating to me as a teacher. I was reminded of the research that was behind what I instinctively was doing in the classroom. In addition, it allowed me to interface with education proffessors and keep up with the latest and best research on the educational topics. If I had not already had my masters degree, that would have been the perfect time to pursue it without burning me out. As it is, I was inspired to go for the Ph.D.

Think about this..... if we allow teachers a sabbatical every so many years, and have administrators rotating back to the classroom during those times, it will keep everyone up to date, and valued as learners. I believe I came back fresher each time to the classroom with more openness to trying new things with students. I think the biggest plus was that I felt that I have continued to grow, and now through blogs, tweets, etc. can still keep up with my field. The question becomes how can I best share my expertise in a system that hasn't quite caught on to "redefining" itself yet?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting Closer

Ok... it's getting a little bit clearer now. As I watch the discussions taking place within ISTE concerning the U.S. Department of Education's Technology Plan and future plans for Education through the new politcal administration, I become more convinced that the blending of face to face schools with online learning curriclums, is about to happen in the next 5 years, maybe sooner. I can see it happening in theory, yet while looking at the realities in school districts, we still have may obstacles to surmount before we can focus on individualized learning for students. That's the ISTE dream, and if it's going to come true, technology will be a big piece of it

So... that reinforces my thoughts that utilizing online tools for individualizing learning is a viable dissertation topic. However, seeing that happen in real districts still may be another 5 years away. But can I be instrumental in making that happen by doing action research on how online Web 2.0 tools can be utilized to impact student learning? I'm thinking particularly of using tools like Wikispaces, and iGoogle tools which hopefully won't be locked out in a classroom lab. I still have the challenge that my district doesn't fully approve of using Web 2.0 tools, but have the reassurance of those in charge that those tools will be at the top of their lists for September. That probably means it won't be unlocked until at least January and maybe not until June. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to research the topic in order to give those in charge some fodder for their arguments with the administration and OTIS (Office of Technology). I may even approach the system's head of assessment to see if I can get details from her.

So it looks like I need to focus on this research... now how should I approach it???? I'm thinking the topic should be something like Using Asynchronous Web 2.0 tools to Improve Middle School Student's Reading Comprehension. And that the problem is that Middle School students' comprehension skills are challenged and will improve through the us of online Web 2.0 tools. Then if I'd set up several classes with Language Arts teachers ..... or can I just compare the scores of my students in my technology classes both before and after the use of the tools? Would I be able to find a trend? Or maybe some statistical data to back up my theory?

I don't know.. but I'm off to find out how to do this..

Friday, June 19, 2009" title="external link">Narrowing down "The Topic"

In responding to another disseration student, I wrote this reply which is helping me narrow down my focus:

I’ve since taught at several different virtual schools and higher ed online programs during the last couple of years, as well as brick and mortar middle schools, and know that when we can find ways to use online learning to help all students, we’ll be on the way to making some positive changes in education.
Therefore, I’m hoping to add to the research base by studying the effects that using Wikki’s, online chats, discussion boards, and blogs with face to face students has on reading comprehension. Of course, my problem statement is that reading comprehesion in middle school students needs improvement, and I’m hoping that I can have several classes of students with the same teachers using online asynchronous tools with traditional students, and the same teachers using online tools with similar students. Then I’ll run the numbers, and see what effects (hopefully positive) it has on their comprehension scores.
Now I just have to find a professor in my institution willing to back my topic. Then find a way to state the goal of the dissertation so that it’s worthy of being “dissertation material”.
Best wishes for success with your topic!">Reply" title="Permanent Link to this Comment">1">Final Stages of Rob’s Dissertation Topic Journey « Virtual High School Meanderings Trackback on" title="4 days, 5 hours ago.">June 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

So now I've got to focus my research on comprehension of Middle School students, as well as any research to date on asynchronous tools either in higher ed or K-12.

I'm off to the research trail agan..

Thursday, March 29, 2007

One last try...

Ok... I've given myself one last semester to get this thing accomplished. After 2 years of trying to communicate with an advisor on a topic that is so innovative that it would be considered a "phenomena" study, and 1 year of spinning my wheels trying to get myself interested in topics other advisors might find doable, I've got limited time and funding to complete this process.

On the bright side, right now this semester is looking like one in which I'll have the most time to write, as my full-time job has turned to part-time online. So I have extra time on my hands for writing.

The challenge is overcoming my own feelings of inadequacy about not knowing what a dissertation is supposed to be (my advisor's words). So I'm going to sign up with that discussion group that has been e-mailing me for a year or two. Maybe I'll be able to get the insight from them on what a proper topic is, and can get this thing completed.

So I'm off to committing myself to that group, and writing in this blog on a daily basis. Look for more action on this blog.


Labels:">...,">Dissertation blues,">dusting off my boots

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Case Study Research

Now I've progressed to writing a case study on virtual schools as a new phenomenon. So I'll be looking for resources on case study research, as wells as on online programs in K-12 schools.

Please add to my list of resources below, if you have anything to share....


Thursday, February 10, 2005

What's a Dissertation Anyway??

In stumbling through the dissertation process, my friends and I are researching exactly what goes into writing a dissertation. We've found the following helpful sites.... Please add to them by clicking on the comment link below, and typing in your link, as well as your thoughts about what you found.

Useful Dissertation Links:">Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation by Dr. Joseph Levine">Dissertation Tips of the Month">Dissertation Glossary

So if you find any resources to add, please do! And if you have thoughts on the above sites, please add them here..... You can do that by clicking on the Comments link below. Looking forward to hearing from everyone! Barb

Friday, January 21, 2005

Writing a Dissertation

Welcome to the Dissertation Blog! This is a place to share your thoughts, concerns, triumphs, and resources during the dissertation process.

If you would like to join this blog, but have trouble accessing it, send an email to

Happy Researching!

Click on the Comment link below, then on Add a Comment ... you can post a comment as anonymous, or get your own blogger account.


Barb's Learningbyts Blog!
admin | 08 February, 2010 10:53" border="0" width="151" height="158" />

Welcome to Barb's Learningbyts Blog!

 Like everone else I've been learning byt by byt, so on these pages, you'll get a glimpse at my life through phases in my personal life, as well as my professional one. 

Professional Growth can be seen through the K12 Vs. Higher Ed Blog, as well as the Global CyberMall?, and  Emerging Technologies Blogs.

For a glimpse into my personal life, view the Spouse's Closet,  and the Blah, Blah Sisterhood Blog,

Enjoy!  Feedback is welcomed!