A Narrative to Accompany
the Initial Inquiry PowerPoint

I have trouble with the bell curve. I have this trouble because it allows for the loss of the top 16% and the bottom 16%. I see education as accepting mediocrity and promoting the maintenance of the status quo. The traditional class teaches to the middle and looses the extremes. I want to convert the bell curve into a home run curve. I want to show how the computer provides a vehicle to allow all learners the opportunity to realize their own way of learning and to practice it and to achieve succes.

The traditional classroom in which I was taught and in which I began teaching was teacher dominated and centered. In most cases students are empty vessels into which knowledge was poured by the teacher. Interaction was one on one between teacher and student. In most cases students respond to a question, they do not engage in inquiry. Walk around most schools and listen. The voice one most often hears is the teacher's voice: asking, answering, explaining. Rarely are classes without this teacher noise. Rarely do you hear students' voices unless you walk by a class with a substitute. Look into most classrooms and you see a teacher desk isolated and usually in the front of and facing the mass of student chairs in a row. The ecology of the classroom is not reflective of any real world application and it is certainly not conducive to education or its process as described by John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner and the other educators who have become the icons of education and promoting the notion of learners learn by doing and in multiple ways. Traditional education as we see it practiced in too many classrooms and in too many schools neither reflects this scholarship nor does it practice it.

Certainly I have seen in these same schools, excellent examples of just this kind of theory and practice exercised in rooms which do reflect an ecology of learning. Unfortunately it is too few and not growing fast enough.

Why is this? I think one of the reasons is that we have been told by everyone we aren't doing a good job. We are told our education system is not serving the country well. We are told we need to reexamine our practices and do it better so we can create better schools and scholars. So the new Standards across the country, a top down edict, has been forced on us and we in the schools have gone back into the classroom, not changed it or done anything differently except do what we have done for the past 150 years louder and more forcibly. In fact some of the innovative programs and teacher styles have been too often abandoned to address the Standards. Schools have become factories to teach to test and to create workers for the insatiable business world and placate politicians.

I'm not so sure we have been doing such a bad job. Compared to any time in the past our schools are graduating higher percentages of students, have fewer dropouts, have created a more educated populace and have been the backbone to the booming economy in this country. A case in point. Detroit a number of years ago almost went out of business because it could not adjust fast enough to compete with the Japanese automobile industry. It couldn't respond because it had bad business practices not because of education, but because of bad business practices. What saved Detroit and many industries in this country was education. These businesses retooled and went through a reeducation process. Across the country, businesses recovered, except the steel industry, through a process of education. Schools served as the model to this process. The constructivist model of having the young scholars construct and actively participate in their own education altered the process. We created an educational process which produced beautifully and quickly. Otherwise how do we explain the quick, sudden, and sustained economic growth. How else do we explain a more educated military, entertainment industry, business community which learned to work in cooperation, contructively engaging in problem solving skills learned in the schools over the decade of the 80's and early 90's. Some critics of education like Coleman, authors of the Nation at Risk, and the SCANS reports tell us that education is not serving the business comunity. On the other hand, many authors provide evidence to the contrary.

      Manufactured Crisis Berliner & Biddle
      Mismeasure of Man Stephen Jay Gould
      One Size Fits Few Susan Ohanian
      The Way We Were Richard Rothstein
      Setting the Record Straight Gerald Bracey
      Phi Delta Kappan May 1999

In the new Nation at Risk the authors contend we are still not helping the lower half of the students. The lower half, of course, is the underachieving students. The Forgotten half. Why and how are they forgotten in their estimation?

I want to explore the ergonomic and ecology of the classroom. The traditional classroom, certainly and obviously doesn't satisfy all students. One size does not fit all in education and that seems to be the message we are being given with the new Standards. We are seeing principals and superintendents across the country fired because of their poor test results. This is not the only way to evaluate schools. Cultures of schools are not being compared. Schools are reflective of all the cultures and classes and social startas of the word. The Standards is trying tocompare apples to oranges. Firing or threatening the leaders of schools is not going to improve education. Changing the school from the bottom up, notthe top down is going to change and improve education. Redesigning the school to meet the needs of all of the students all of the time will address the issue of the forgotten half. Considering the ecology of education will address the need for the community to be proactive in the educational process. Schools have been an isolated industry in this country for too long and to point ut its successes and its process it must come out of isolation and share with the critical world just how it proceeds, what its theory is, and how it practices its theory.

One of the ways in which this can be done is with the computer technology and with the use of the Internet in our classrooms. This is not the demise of the teacher, instead it is the morphing of the teacher into a cybrarian. The constructivist theory asks that we move from being the sage on the stage to the guide by the side. This morphing is a delicate process and a radical paradigm shift in practice, but the theory of education from Sophocles to Gardner supports this morphing and computers are a vehicle to allow it to happen.

From brain study of left and right hemisphere operations we learn about audio and visual learners, verbal and spatial learners. From Gardner we learn about multiple styles of learning, from Thomas Armstrong about our varied forms of genius.

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See complementary Powerpoint piece for this.