Education and Community:
The collective wisdom of
teachers, parents, and community members.
WHERE ARE WE COMING FROM?
President Clinton, in his 1998 State of the Union address, has given us a very clear mandate, no a challenge, to better education in America with what he calls a Call to Action for American Education: 10 principles. His 10 principles, discussed later, makes it very clear that the business of education is the business of the people of the nation. He has been interested in involving the community in education since he became president and before as governor of Arkansas. His vision for the 21st century is to have the community involved with the education of its people.
This sentiment is echoed by Richard W. Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education in his Fifth Annual State of American Education Speech in Seattle, Washington on February 17, 1998, titled "Education First: Building Americas Future."
And this I know for sure -- we are in a new time with new challenges -- and none is more important than this: never has this nation been confronted with the task of teaching so much to so many while reaching for new high standards -- that is the state of American education and America's first challenge. (Riley, 1998)
Schools, at the time of the birth of this nation, were the center of a community. (Kaestle p.29) With the dissolution of the nuclear family consider some statistics from an NEA report which cites another report from the Carnegie Corporation on the state of
children (GBN.org, New York Times, April 12, 1994):
The writers of the NEA report assess these facts:
"These are alarming statistics that weigh heavily on students' readiness to learn. But before laying the problems of education at the doorstep of a decaying family and social structure, shouldn't we take another turn around the chicken-and-egg cycle? Shouldn't we ask what schools might do to diminish the number of unwed mothers and fathers? Can education play a role in breaking the vicious circles carving out pockets of entrenched poverty?" (GBN.org)
In a recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll "Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public School" the number one reason some schools are successful and others are not is the support and involvement of parents in the school and with their child's education. Further evidence of this concern is being answered by the President who desires to make schools a better community for learning. In addiion, the recent formation of Americorps headed by Colin Powell to organize volunteer efforts to help communities and schools is further evidence. The general consensus is that the reform of schooling is a community project. The local community of yesterday is a virtual community today and tommorrow. Why this notion, which hasn't been successful in the past because of logistical problems, will work today, is that we now have the Internet which will permit schools to taste and experience the richness offered by other communities. The Internet will allow all communities to share their resources. The Internet offers the one main component all clamor for and that is equity. One form of bringing the community to the schools is through telementoring. My hypothesis in this research paper is that telementoring has a positive effect on the students and telementoring is a viable means of bringing communities into schools.
Three surveys were generated and distibuted to students, parents, and teachers. All respondents are involved in telementoring. Fifty-seven students returned surveys, forty of their parents, and ten teachers. The demographics of the students:
Economically 48% reported family income below $30,000 per year and 52% above $30,000. Academically 18% were in the top quartile, 49% in the second quartile, 25% in the third quartile, and 8% in the fourth quartile. Questions on the surveys were designed to gather students' perceptions of the effect of telementors and their expectations of telementors. Teachers were questiones about the pedagogy using telementors and of intrusion of telementors. Parents were queried about safety questions and values brought by telementors. The results of the surveys will be explored throughout this research paper at appropriate times and be analyzed against existing research and observations.
Educational policy is the combination of politics, pedagogy, and values. (Mann, Draft, p43) Policy is about community. In the ever-changing, turbulent times of school reform, part of its nature is recycling. We find some calling for a resurgence in community involvement. (Belluck, Blase, Clinton, Mann 1998, Rose, Spring) This revisiting of community involvement results from the dissolving of the nuclear family, desegregation, immersion of special education, and the use of the computer as a communications tool. Much of the conflict facing education today is that "schools have two missions that frequently collide, to change society and to conserve it." (Mann, Draft p20) How can we resolve this conflict and satisfy the needs of the community?
Education reform has been consistent in that methods for reform always seem to be sparked by an external force. (Blase, Cuban, Edmonds 1979 & 1981, Mann Draft 1978 1986, Spring) And yet the goals of reform have not been reached. Perhaps to get a better idea or inspiration to affect reform we should consider Viteritti's concluding remarks in his study Across the River:
Change on behalf of the poor requires tampering with relationships that already exist between the organization and its environment and violating the political premises upon which they are founded. (Viteritti, p 344)
We need to stir the pot suggests Viteritti. We need to look beyond ourselves or our microcosms of our schools and consider the macrocosm in which we exist.
Education is vulnerable to a host of internal and external forces. (Spring, p1) One of the external forces is political. The major political players in education are major government actors, special-interest groups, and the knowledge industry. (Spring, p3) Spring contends that this external force subjects the schools to many pressures and as a result schools retract and defend. Spring argues the politics of education is centered on who is in control of the knowledge being disseminated. The major conflicts in education are caused by competition among groups and individuals to influence the knowledge being disseminated to the students. Knowledge is power. He argues that in a free society information should be freely disseminated. For equity to exist information must pass both in and out. The trick is to balance the majority, special-interests, politicians, and the economics of education. (Spring, p217)
Micropolitics, says Blase, is about power and how people use it to influence others and to protect themselves. It is about conflict and competition. It is about cooperation and building support to achieve a desired end. It is what people in all social settings think about and have strong feelings about. This supports Mann's ideas espoused in his work. Establishing the policy of any school will require the members to come to terms on politics, pedagogy, and values. Blase reports on some micropolitical researchers. Burns contends that micropolitics is "the exploitation of resources, both physical and human." He further saw the conflicting and cooperating forces as working toward a self-interest and "across a division of values." (Blase, p4) We need to be both proactive and reactive. With this in mind we should remember that politics is the conscious exercise of power to achieve goals, expand power, or extend its effects. (Blase, p7) Blase provides some background as he summarizes the work of other micropolitical theorists. Iannaccone, sees micropolitics in two ways: as the interaction in the school of administrators, teachers, and students; and as the interaction between lay and professional subsystems at the school-building level. (Blase, p8) Hoyle suggests that the use of authority, beyond management, distinguishes micropolitics. (Blase, p8) Ball sees the political conflict in schools as a way to possibly reach consensus. Blase, p9) Gronn introduces an informative description of types of conflict based on an action-inaction continuum: overt conflict is in your face; covert conflict is when a group may suppress desire to dissent; latent conflict issues are "personal"; inaction through self-censorship finds groups refrain from political activity because of power of others; inaction due to idea failure is accepting lot in life. (Blase, p9) Blase concludes:
Micropolitics refers to the use of formal and informal power by individuals and groups to achieve their goals in organizations. In large part, political actions result from perceived differences between individuals and groups, coupled with the motivation to use power to influence and/or protect. Although such actions are consciously motivated, any action, consciously or unconsciously motivated, may have political "significance" in a given situation. Both cooperative and conflictive actions and processes are part of the realm of micropolitics. Moreover, macro- and micropolitical factors frequently interact. (Blase, p11)
The politics of education then includes macro-politics, the external forces, significantly influencing the micropolitics of the school. This conflict involves the politics and pedagogy components while the values of community are the macrocosm influencing the microcosm of the school. Providing an environment in which these two parts, macro and micro, can collide and bond is the trick to successful school reform. The microcosm, the school, is a political hotbed and bears close examination.
My research supports this notion of external forces influencing the micropolitics of the school. Of the same question asked of parents and teachers: Should parents be involved with their child's/children's education at school? Teachers responded 40% yes and 60% no, while parents responded 77.5% yes and 22.5% no. Results on a second question was relatively similar. I asked teachers: Are you comfortable about having a telementor with with your students? Their response was 30% yes and 70% no. I asked the parents: I am ___about having my child my child communicating on the Internet with a telementor. RESPONSES: 10% were strongly comfortable, 60% comfortable, 20% uncomfortable, 10% strongly uncomfortable. On further questioning of the parents who expressed any sense of discomfort, I was told they either trusted me or their children insisted and convinced them it was okay, but they still felt uncomfortable. These numbers tell me that teachers are weary of outsiders and parents are interested in outside influences on their children's education.
Much of the work about making more effective schools has to be attributed to Ron Edmonds. In his speech delivered at the National Conference of Teachers Corps in 1978, Ron Edmonds began by saying, "It must be a central component of any effort to make them (schools) more effective." (Edmonds, 1979, p.28). He goes on to cite Weber's 1971 study, Madden, et al 1976 California study, a 1974 New York State Office of Education Performance Review publication, Brookover and Lezotte's 1977 study of school effects "Changes In School Characteristics Coincident With Changes in Student Achievement", and his own research, "Search for Effective Schools: The Identification and Analysis of City Schools That Are Instructionally Effective for Poor Children." What was significant in his findings of these readings was that "schools share a climate in which it is incumbent on all personnel to be instructionally effective for all pupils." In answering the question of what makes for an effective school he summarizes that it is a tyrannical principal, a self-generating teacher corps, or a highly politicized Parent Teacher Organization. No single model, he warns, is the answer, and "fortunately children know how to learn in more ways than we know how to teach thus permitting great latitude in choosing instructional strategy." (Edmonds, 1979, p.32). With his concept of being committed to finding strategies that do work, I see telementoring as being a method to help all children learn. Telementoring brings in the sorely missing community element which will make for effective schools. Not only the immediate community of the school, which may be resource poor, but the "virtual" community which is resource rich. Telementoring will satisfy his idea that "we can whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us." Edmonds, 1979, p.32).
In another article, Edmonds is specific about micropolitics as he introduces five characteristics necessary for effective schooling. An interesting point of his article, "Making Public Schools Effective" is that Edmonds is not arguing for more money, he is simply asking for no reduction of educational funds and thereby suggesting better utilization of existing funds in creating effective schools. A neat trick, to make more effective schools with no increase in funds. It will get the attention of policy makers. The funds to which he is speaking are Title I funds which President Reagan at the time was planning on cutting. In proving the effectiveness of Title I funds, Edmonds concluded "that five instructional organizational characteristics consistently were evident in the effective schools and were absent in whole or in part in the ineffective schools: the style of leadership in the building; the instructional emphasis in the building; the climate of the school; the implied expectations derived from the teacher's behavior in the classroom; and finally the presence, use, and response to standardized instruments for measuring pupil progress." (Edmonds, 1981, p.58). Edmonds' conclusions were that student achievement was more dependent upon the school then on the family. His work in helping to create more effective schools was to analyze each school based on his five points, stated above, and to assist in making each of the five as strong and as effective as is necessary to raise the success rate of the students. Thus his argument is that this process of intervention does not alter per pupil expenditure or tax the system in any additional way. What it does do is helps the staff make better use of existing resources. Edmonds' five factors have become a foundation upon which others build.
In micropolitics the principals play an important role, and Andrews gives Edmonds a great deal of credit for bringing this fact to light, in creating a positive school atmosphere and climate for effective schools. Rejecting inservice and "site-based" management as not solutions but instead ineffective attempts at strengthening the educational leader of the school, Smith & Andrews offer a three phase model for helping create a good principal. (Smith, 1987) In phase one the supervisor and the principal meet before the school year begins to design performance goals, a method to achieve these goals, a means to evaluate these goals, and a calendar. In phase two, the two collect data throughout the school year about the principal's performance. Throughout the year the principal carries out the goals. The supervisor visits often and conducts interviews with the principal and the staff; attends school functions to gather school climate; and interacts with the parents. Important tactics such as preobservation conferences, observations, and post observation conferences are crucial in effective training throughout the year-long process. Phase three involves an evaluation of the year by both the supervisor and the principal. The year's performance is evaluated and new goals are set for the next year. This process also helps make good principals better. Although this is a specific model for a specific part of Edmonds' "five instructional organizational characteristics," it transcends just a use for principals but also carries over as a model for the other four characteristics. If we apply the micropolitics of the school as described by Edmonds and Andrews to the work of Harris, discussed later, we will have a fine model for all telementoring programs.
Besides a principal as head of the microcosm, Mann (1978) makes a modest proposal of his own. In defining the paradox of the user-driven system and the federally supported system, Mann introduces five categories initiating and sustaining change in our school systems. In essence change must be voluntary, user-driven, and reinforced by the authorities. This element of volunteerism is upon us again with Colin Powell leading a volunteer corps into our schools to assist in the education of our youth. Mann next provides a discussion of values as a driving force in helping change happen. In appealing to self-interest, natural entry points, learning theory precepts, a user-monitoring system, overdesigning, and disjointed incrementalism, Mann has outlined many important facets to telementoring. In the aspect of self-interest, survival tactics and learning to survive are the self-interest of the learner as well as to the teacher. Appealing to a base need as outlined by Maslow supports Mann's notion. Ambition self-interest and telementoring are very compatible bedfellows. Teachers and principals can use their charges to demonstrate the fine work being done at the direction of the curriculum leaders. And certainly self-realization, self-interest has merit as one teacher's work is imitated by others, provides professional pride, and verifies that teacher's work. Telementoring assists in early professional imprinting as student teachers are mentored and in turn become mentors. Making telementoring part of the process to become a teacher then facilitates its use in the classroom. Telementoring further helps to tap into slack resources by exploiting the facilities already available. Second circle emulation is telementoring. Using distant peers so as to not threaten a teacher is a prime use of telementoring for advancing teachers to becoming good teachers and in affecting a more practical form of professional training. Mann presents sound learning theory precepts which lend themselves very well to my own telementoring theories and practices. The participation hypothesis purports that as one participates in an innovative program one becomes more accepting of that program. Having clear tasks in a new venture can be "murky" as Mann states but nevertheless, having "components, requirements, and actions sharply delineated," make for greater successful implementation of innovative programs. Early and frequent success is crucial as success breeds success just as failure breeds failure. Non-aversive feedback or proper peer review becomes a new lesson to be taught and discussed in this new innovative program. Sense of fate control is the same as user empowerment. Empowering the user makes for more successful involvement and a better chance for success. User-monitoring system seems a bit vague and difficult to implement, however in the telementoring model there will be many users thereby facilitating better user-monitoring. In a final section on the reality of disjointed incrementalism, Mann methodically moves through the catalogue of reasons for failures in successfully implementing an innovative program. All of them should be heeded as the final supposition is that "Change must incorporate more attention to the users."(Mann, 1978, p. 407)
The modest proposal follows Mann's definitions and explanations of previous failures. His proposal is a call to "get out of the box" thinking and to consider the problem from a different view and to implement in a different way. Stop repeating the mistakes of the past is the clear message. Initially any proposal which is so far out will receive skeptical reviews, but upon reflection, on may find some of the ideas in the proposal quite sound and doable. To begin with Mann links schooling to society and the wall between the two seems to be a hindrance. Secondly he states that a user-driven system is project oriented. And thirdly students are the subject of improvement not schools or teachers. With this in mind he presents his proposal: identify a specific group, predict achievement, set a rate to pay students for improvement, pay the teacher for student achievement. three examples follow which illustrate how such a plan would be implemented. Many of the precepts are brilliant and inspiring. However logistically speaking quite impossible, especially as one has to deal with teacher's unions. However, with the proposal in mind and considering many of the elements necessary to make for successful implementation of a federal program and considering the reasons for failure, telementoring solves many of the logistical problems, provides for the bringing down of the wall between society and schools, is project oriented, and puts the onus of improvement on the user, the student. Mann's modest proposal may have met with the same rancor Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" was met. Swift suggested that the poor eat their own children to alleviate starvation. He almost lost his life. The readers of his time were not ready for this satire. Is Mann, being satirical? In 1978, Mann's modest proposal may seem satirical, but in 1998, it looms as a very real possibility, played out through telementoring. The paradox presented by Mann is very real but in 1998, it is not such a paradox considering the political climate of the times. On close examination of the user-driven system and the modest proposal, his ideas have credibility in a school system about to enter the 21st century.
Mann takes on school micropolitics in his "Little King" essay. (Mann, 1986) "Schools have rightly been criticized for being adult-centered, not child-centered. The politics of education has been too much about adults' working conditions and not enough about children's learning conditions." (p49) Making schools responsive and responsible to children must be the focus of schooling contends Mann. He continues by adding that "empowering teachers" unfortunately causes system's goals to be more aligned with their own goals. "The collision between the control by professionals and control by the public becomes more imminent as pedagogy becomes more definitive. (p47) So in a hard decision goal making arena, the leader cannot walk away and leave the teacher to his or her methods." Democracy is not a way to run a school is the message emerging. He continues to suggest that change is a challenge to authority, to the status quo. Any change is doomed to fail if it is put into the hands of the teachers. Why? They do not believe it, they didn't invent it, it hasn't been tested, what does my union say. In addition asking teachers to volunteer leaves out the mediocre to weak teachers and involves the better teachers who aren't the most needy candidates to implement the change. (p44) The problem as outlined by Mann is that the best teachers become involved while the mediocre and bad teachers remain untouched. Again the attention is put on the teacher for implementing. As Mann points out that is sporadic at best. Lots of conflict. Reform is solely on the shoulders of teachers, who have wrested it from everyone. Reform involves everyone and is for the benefit of the student. The politics involve teachers who want a higher salary, a school board which is trying to spend the least for the most, and parents who want a good return on their taxes spent. (p41) Buried in here is the message that the education of the child is the business of everyone, the community.
On the matter of change, Mann points out that change is a priority only if the current outcomes are unsatisfactory and could be improved. The new learning pill is the computer. Autonomy of teachers puts implementation behind too many closed doors. Problem is that solution is dispersed and not connected. If teachers control reform movement, Mann contends it will stand still. Too many players, unions, and comfort level are a few reasons why change will not happen if teachers are in control. Shift control of change. (p42) Change is related to knowledge, to attitudes, and/or to behavior. Changing requires that all three be affected. Knowing what is good, having a positive attitude about what is good and behaving in goodly manner. Change is not radical if it yields more of what public schools are about. The key is to provide the teachers continuing skills to solve whatever problems are presented, he calls 'capacity building.' (p46) Capacity building is telementoring, the Learning Society, the community.
My research supports this notion espoused by Edmonds and Mann that schools are for students and not for adults. Telementors may make adults feel uncomfortable, my 57 students this year and those students in the past two years never felt nor expressed discomfort with a telementor. In fact they rather liked having a telementor. My students are high school juniors and many as seniors continue corresponding with their telementors. A study of how long this telementor relationship lasts would be worthy of further consideration. Two questions asked of my students addressed the idea of positive attitudes towards student academic work. One asked about teachers' attitudes and the other about telementors' attitudes. Your teacher has a positive attitude about your academic performance? The students responded: 7% strongly agreed, 75% agreed, 15% disagreed, 2% strongly disagreed. When asked Your telementor has a positive attitude about your academic performance? 28% stongly agreed, 72% agreed, 0% disagreed and stongly disagreed. This data is stunning. 17% feel teachers have a negative attitude while 0% feel their telementor has a negative attitude. Could this contribute to some of the ills of education today like violence, dropout, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy? It is worth further study.
Community involvement actively in practice are reviewed in the next two examples. These examples provide ways and means of involving community. In Rochester, NY the parents are formally evaluating the teachers in their schools. The reason for this first of a kind program is in response to having parents be more involved and to improve education. This kind of evaluation will provide the impetus to the teacher to become more active with parents and thereby the community. This interaction will pave the way for more efficient community involvement in the schools. Add telementoring to this initiative and you have a whole new revamped community school. Will it work? Certainly a teachers union is weary, some parents think only the complainers will be involved. The idea is geared at the teachers where it belongs, since it is the teacher who is the first line of instruction. Once the teacher becomes accountable, then other initiatives will have a chance. (Belluck, 1997)
Involving the community in the business of education is the special project of Ron Bocinsky, Founder of SchoolNotes.com, an online community bulletin board for educators, parents, students and community members to post and discuss educational matters. In its infancy, SchoolNotes.com has already provided some communities with a forum to openly discuss their schools. Getting information out, having open forums for discussion, and providing a neutral place for all is just the beginning of involving the community is education. (Bocinsky, 1998)
Education is center stage. The clamor is for better education, competitive education. The President has provided leadership for better education and has acted on his rhetoric by putting education on the national agenda with Goals 2000, challenge grants, Kickstart, and in the ten principles from his 1998 State of the Union message. The states have been involved since the 1996 governor's summit at IBM, with a push on raising standards and with implementing technology into the curriculum. America is seeking to heal itself, revitalize itself, reawaken itself through education. The community is rallying around education. Everyone wants to be part of the education reform movement, especially as we enter the next century.
In Riley's Fifth Annual State of American Education Speech he extolled the Seattle crowd into action:
This is an extraordinary and demanding time for our nation's schools and I ask all Americans to pitch in. Our nation is prosperous and working hard for peace. Surely this is the right time to be optimistic, to roll up our sleeves and get serious about winning America's war on ignorance.
So now, my friends, let me close by urging each and every one of you to help build America's future. Invest in our children. Give young people who want to soar like Barbara Morgan the grounding and security of a quality education that prepares them for the 21st century.
Let's win this war on ignorance and make the education of all of our children this nation's first priority. Please find the solutions that strengthen this new American education consensus by reaching for common ground.
Our democracy can only be as strong as the education of our people in these new and challenging times. The power is in the people. If we truly educate the American people and unleash their creativity, our democracy will flourish in so many new ways.
This is America's first challenge and with your good help, we will succeed. (Riley, 1998)
In a democratic society, one must consider the power of the people. This is what Riley is considering and demanding. He is asking that the people of America pitch in and help, get involved, act. In this sense, values become the driving force in reform.
Hochschild certainly raises many points about popular control and values. "Popular control ensures that people in power know and respond to the interests and preferences of the rest of us." (Hochschild, p41) This notion of community involvement as seen on the issue of desegregation is resurfacing in education once again. What was popular control in the 1960's in regard to desegregation in schools may become a new popular control movement in the 1990's in regard to bettering education. That certainly seems to be the case as one surveys the climate of this country. The recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll "Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public School" tells us this. The President has challenged us on this. Popular control generates better teaching. This is an idea extracted from Hochschild's concept of popular control:
Finally come pure normative arguments for popular control, and here we return to the connection between democracy and liberalism. Participation in governance is an element of freedom and autonomy, as well as the best means of keeping government attentive to the pursuit of private interests. There is much more to say here, of course, but we can at least agree that if one believes in "rule by the people" one begins by endorsing popular control of government activities and actors. (Hochschild, 1984, p 42)
Here then is a battle cry for the reformers of education: "rule by the people." A conclusion to be drawn from the story of desegregation is that the education of the people should be done by the people. If we hear the clamor for national testing, then national education should not be far behind. So now we must consider how this will be accomplished. Telementoring is one way of opening all of the doors of all of the schools to all of the people.
My research supports this idea of "popular control." It suggests to me that the new "popular control" will be telementoring. Four questions were asked of my 57 students on the survey addressing this matter.
A telementor will help you graduate from high school.
11% strongly agreed, 60% agreed, 28% disagreed, 1% strongly disagreed.
A telementor helps you feel good about yourself.
14% strongly agreed, 60% agreed, 20% disagreed, 5% strongly disagreed.
A telementor helps you succeed academically.
19% strongly agreed, 63% agreed, 18% disagreed, 0% strongly disagreed.
A telementor is helpful.
25% strongly agreed, 65% agreed, 10% disagreed, 0% strongly disagreed.
The consensus among students is that telementors are useful and agreeable as seen in a roughly 70%+ approval rating on all four questions. This correlates with their parents idea of outsiders influencing their education and is inversely proportionate to their teachers' feeling about outsiders. Keeping in mind that it is the students who should be the focal point of of education reform and not the adults, it is a clear message, to me, that telementoring has a positive effect on students' academic performance and indirectly on matters such as violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and dropout rates since the students now have a positive attitude about themselves and their academic performance. This new found knowledge could be the basis of further study and could support further use of telementors if a correlation between telementoring and student performance and high school completion can be found.
In the January 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton provided us with values in his Call to Action for American Education, which is based on 10 principles. (Clinton, 1998) That he called them principles implies values is interesting. His first point was the matter of national, not federal government, standards and he asked each state to adopt high national standards. Here is an external force affecting the micropolitics of school. He continued with his other points: bettering the teaching force, using volunteers to tutor, providing learning to newborns and emphasizing family life, giving parents choice, adding values to instruction, improving the infrastructure of the schools, stressing learning across a lifetime, and providing access of the Information Age to every school. The substance of the President's message is community must be involved with education because communities hold the reins on values. Dovetailing on his wife's notion that it takes a village to educate the child, the President has now made it a national challenge. My research supports the importance of the community educating the child. Two questions addressed this notion. I asked In which categories would you expect a telementor to assist you. The students responded randomly: 23 basic skills, 21 Multicultural education, 20 learning to learn for life, 15 individual needs of student met and the rest were single digit results. A second question asked: To what degree will a telementor be helpful in each category: 1 being Not Important and 5 being Very Important. The responses about multicultural education were 4 1's, 9 2's, 11 3's, 13 4'2, 15 5's. This indicates to me, that students view telementors as ways to learn about other cultures, of moving beyond their immediate environment. This awareness is refreshing and encouraging.
One method used to predict success or failure of an idea is to create a simulation or a scenario. The purpose of studying scenarios for the Global Business Network was to help make the future of education more visible and to consider the importance of values in educational policy making. By examining certain trends and projecting into the future, reformers believe they can gather insight into modes of action. The four scenarios they created were developed from trends in education today. The first scenario Orthodoxy assumes traditional values, and expects educators to impose those values on any and all who might resist them. The second scenario, Orthodoxies plays out the reaction against value-free public education. In this scenario we consider all values with no one being the rule. The third, Wired for Learning revolves around new applications of information technology. That info-tech will influence education is predetermined. How, and how fast, is uncertain. This is reminiscent of Cuban's Technophile scenario (discussed in next section). Lastly, The Learning Society is a scenario where the pieces come together. Technology moves faster than in the first two scenarios, making this a radical change scenario. But the technology serves the ideals of inclusive community by facilitating a more participatory process than in the last scenario. Technology is a tool, not a driver. Technology fades into the background of the Learning Society. It is servant, not hero. (GBN.org) Now the purpose of these scenarios is to better understand and plan better for the future. One matter of great discovery in the scenario creating is the reliance on values. In the first two scenarios, value was key and was the reason for the importance of these scenarios. NEA reported that this was an important discovery the reliance on values. But that was already known from our policy equals politics plus pedagogy plus values mantra. The Wired for Learning scenario was valueless and was not popular with the teachers. In the Learning society scenario one astonishing fact did emerge which was how far from society the students are. However, it was in this scenario that many found much hope. It is in this scenario where telementoring has the greatest hope and potential for bridging the gap between society and the school. Telementoring can bring the community to the school which will provide the element of value in a non-dominant manner. The infusion of values into the schools is a tricky one as these scenarios point out. On one hand we see one value and on the other we see a pluralistic society which is valueless. In the technological scenario value is neutral. However in the Learning Society scenario, values are prized, shared, accepted, and respected. In this scenario we get a glimpse of what may be the future of education and telementoring may have a major role in fulfilling this Learning Society.
In my survey to my students, I offered a scenario of my own. I asked: If you had a choice, how would you like your education conducted? Indicate percentage of total education. Total must=100%. Students responded: 28% school, 24% home, 14% telementoring, 16% school/telementoring, 18% home/telementoring. Students were very clear that they would prefer educational alternatives to school. Students are saying that they could probably receive a better education in an environment with choice and with telementors. The matter of alternative forms of administering instruction need to be studied which my scenario question bears out.
In response to the President's address, Sandra Feldman, President, American Federation of Teachers, commended President Clinton for his agenda and tried to shift the focus to matters of pedagogy when she added that "smaller class sizes provide for better learning." (Feldman, 1998) Riley addressed these matters in his address. Then in Virginia, Governor James S Gilmore denounced the deplorable state of teacher proficiency in his state. In addition to standards, he is asking for teacher accountability. (Melton, 1998) Across the nation parents are becoming more involved in their children's schools. (EdWeek, 1998) Currently a word being bandied about is paradigm which means a set of rules that people use to guide their behavior. The term paradigm shift has been active in education recently in referring to adopting constructivism and in adopting computers into the curriculum. I find it ironic that on the technology side the term paradigm is being used in a similar manner. Thomas Wright wrote in March 1996 editorial, "Is Your Paradigm Shifting?" that teachers of technology will have to adjust their teaching to accommodate non technology applications. Although computers were slowly entering the field of education high technology areas were relatively untouched, until now. So just as some have to adjust their paradigm to accept computers, others have to adjust their paradigm to accept non-technology oriented users. The paradigm shift then is to the middle. (Wright, 1996) All this began in 1993, when President Clinton charged the United States Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure to evaluate education in this country. A by-product was the Kickstart Initiative which promoted the infusion of technology into every facet of American life. Schools, libraries, and communities were to be affected. The reports provided an outline for how and why we should proceed.
Reports and commentary on education now often argue that as our current system of schooling reflects the industrial age, so we need a new approach to learning in the information age. Thus a report published in 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences, Reinventing Schools: The Technology Is Now!, says postindustrial society "calls for a new, postindustrial form of education" — one that puts students in a more central, active role in their own learning, helps them learn "to ask many questions and to devise multiple approaches to a problem" instead of forcing them to come up "with one right answer," and encourages "critical thinking, teamwork, compromise, and communication." Similarly, the Clinton administration's "Kickstart Initiative" foresees innovation that "brings the world to the classroom," "enables students to learn by doing," and "allows educators to become guides and coaches to students, rather than be 'the sage on the stage.'" On the right, Lewis J. Perelman, the author of School's Out, wants to empower students to seek out instruction individually in the electronic marketplace. While significantly different, all these proposals call for use of technology to advance student-centered, project-based approaches to learning. (Kickstart)
The matter of pedagogy is continued in an important essay written by Larry Cuban in 1993 titled, "Computers Meet Classroom: Classroom Wins." In this essay, Cuban provided three scenarios (technophile, preservationist, and cautious optimist) of how computers would proceed into the next century. (Cuban, 1993) His arguments were logical and well founded at the time. However, the times have changed. It is interesting to note, however, in a recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll "Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public School" 71% of those responding believed that reform should come through the existing system, which supports Cuban's preservationist scenario. (Rose, 1997) In his summary, Cuban explains his projections because we do not have a national agenda and because we do not have the teachers, support, or infrastructure to include computers in our instruction. Well now in 1998, we have a national agenda and we have programs which are training teachers, providing the infrastructure and Netdays to do the wiring. At this point Cuban could write another essay titled, "Computers Meet Classroom: Students Win."
Pedagogy changes for Paul Starr who presents a different picture from the one Cuban paints. He contends that classes are more student centered and project oriented with the teacher serving as a guide. It is even suggested by Alan Collins, head of educational technology at BBN Corporation, an Internet services company for businesses, that we are moving in the direction of progressivism. Supporting this argument he cites a "shift from whole-class to small-group instruction" and "from lecture and recitation to coaching." Computers put the students at the center of learning. Further research of the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow found that teacher-led activities dropped from 70 percent in classes without computers to less than 10 percent in classes with computers, and that activities facilitated by teachers, rather than directed by them, increased from about 20 percent to 50 percent of class time. Other trends, according to Collins, include shifts "toward more engaged students," "from a competitive to a cooperative social structure," "from all students learning the same things to different students learning different things," and "from the primacy of verbal thinking to the integration of visual and verbal thinking." (Starr, 1996, p57) The fears of Cuban are certainly availed here.
Moving beyond Cuban's scenarios and into more constructive possibilities of implementing the national agenda, one need look no further than Veenema & Gardner, Turkle, Starr. With these researchers dealing with pedagogy we get discussions about multiple intelligences, simulations, and two-way communications, as methods to realize the new national agenda.
Within the Kickstart report, the reference to multiple intelligences is clear. They recognized early that the computer and Internet connection would allow the teacher to bring in outside sources to help a student understand a point or to experience different points of view, not available in the immediate community. Taking the idea of multiple intelligences further we need to consult Veenema and Gardner. They concluded their essay by saying that "technology in itself cannot alter our scholastic trade deficit. But by reorienting our educational mission and judiciously designing and using technology that meshes with that mission, the United States -and other nations- can achieve far more success with much larger numbers of students. "Technology that meshes with that mission" is a very key phrase and concept which will be used later." (Veenema, 1996, p 75) The premise of the work with multiple intelligences, or as some say: "modules of mind" or "society of mind," is that individuals have numerous mental representations and intellectual languages for taking in information, retaining it, manipulating it, and demonstrating mastery of it. (p 70) They argue that over time each of us constructs our own amalgam of intelligence. One teacher cannot present the various multiple intelligences needed in one class. Knowing this then a one-size fits all education is senseless. We should try to find ways to let all the students reach their potential contend these two. So the solution becomes the task of the community. Students who become dependent on the teacher and single answers. They become flustered when confronted with choices and different points of view. In fact there are many answers to single questions, depending upon perspective. Multiple intelligences allows for various interpretations. Students need to weigh evidence, evaluate sources, and come up with interpretations and justifications. (p 72) Telementoring will provide for those multiple intelligences to be manifest. Through telementoring the learner will be introduced to many different people and cultures and will be provided with a variety of lenses to view a problem or situation.
Sherry Turkle's work with the computer and with the user, especially in her The Second Self and Life on the Screen, provides a great segue into her essay on the use of simulation to coax out understanding from the learner. Simulations allow the learner to approach a situation from many vantages. It allows the learner to try one thing, fail and try it again. Astronauts use this method ad nauseam until they go into space. Simulations also allow teachers to provide material heretofore unaffordable. As Turkle says, "Today, the debate about computers in education centers around the place of educational software and simulations in the curriculum." (Turkle, 1997, p80) Simulations borrow from Dewey's concept of "learning by doing" as illustrated in this example:
Tim's approach to SimLife is highly functional. He says he learned his style of play from video games: "Even though SimLife's not a video game, you can play it like one." By this he means that in SimLife, like video games, one learns from the process of play. You do not first read a rule book or get your terms straight. Tim is able to act on an intuitive sense of what will work without understanding the rules that underlie the game's behavior. His response to SimLife—comfort at play, without much understanding of the model that underlies the game—is precisely why educators worry that students may not be learning much when they use learning software. (Turkle, 1997, p81)
This country has thrived on using the "on the job" training method especially in education. The power of simulation is that it can involve many other students and teachers. On the Internet learners can access the skills of many minds to assist in the construction of solutions to problems. Simulation also taps into the concept of multiple intelligences. The next step for simulations is to actually allow the user to challenge the assumptions of the simulation. This idea becomes very stimulating as one considers it in education. Coupling simulation with telementoring opens up grand possibilities for all learners. It connects people who might never be connected and allows for collaboration which could benefit mankind.
Starr introduces an idea of equity and access especially for lower-income learners. He compares today's technology availability with yesterday's technology and predicts universality. The idea of telementoring immediately as one considers the value of computer communications to schools. Teachers are able to reach more of the parents of their students and more students can use the systems from home. (Starr, 1996, p59)
In his Fifth Annual State of American Education Speech, Riley challenged the colleges to make their graduates more teacher ready.
Our colleges of education cannot continue to be the "forgotten step children" of American higher education. We need more rigor, more practice, and a much greater attention to grounding of new teachers in the pedagogy of their chosen profession. Teaching teachers really has to be the mission of the entire university. (Riley, 1998)
But, of course, none of this will answer the truly important questions about learning. Here Postman and the other skeptics are right. Ultimately, the qualities of education that we care most about are not technological; they are matters of educational philosophy and practice and in turn depend on broader moral and political judgments. In thinking about education, we ought not to be preoccupied with computers at all, and if the technological transition is successful, we will not be. Because of all they make possible, we must make computers part of education. Then they should "disappear." (Starr, 1996, p60) Education is clearly a job for the community and the question is how do we involve the community. My suggestion is telementoring.
My research bears out much of what Turkle, Starr, and Veenema and Gardner discuss. One of my questions asked the 57 students to rank order, with 1 being the most influential to 6 being the least influential, the POSITIVE influence each person has on your education. The results:
Of interest to me was that they considered themselves above parent and teacher as most influential. In addition that telementor was more influential than a mentor and was a competitive fourth behind teacher is interesting. That telementors scored so well with the students, again only after six months exposure, is remarkable.
The question is what form innovation may take. Some critics—such as Lewis J. Perelman, the author of School's Out, a 1992 book popular in Newt Gingrich's high-tech, free market circles—believe that the new technology demands the end of school as we know it. The new media and schooling are incompatible, they say, and schooling must go. This is a setup for failure; Americans are not ready to abandon the very idea of school, nor should they. But there are important changes in schools worth making, some of which have been on the agenda of reformers ever since progressive educators first proposed them early in the twentieth century. Ironically, the continued diffusion and evolution of the new technologies may finally help to bring those reforms about. (Starr, 1996, p 51)
This concept, of not abandoning schooling as we know it, supports Cuban and the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll "Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public School." Telementoring may be a way to ride this movement into the next century. Telementoring will help satisfy the politics, pedagogy, and values question while mollifying the paradox of changing and conserving society. Telementoring is a telecommunications version of mentoring. Mentor had its origin in Homer's Odyssey when a wise and learned man named Mentor was entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus. Mentoring is simply the advice, guidance, experience from a respected, experienced person provided to someone who needs help. Using the Internet, we can now use telementors.
An early function of telementoring was teachers using cyberspace to mentor other teachers. Telementoring was and is used as a means of aiding the teaching profession as seen in the growth of teacher-teacher telementoring sites. (Nellen, 1998b) In 1993, David Wighton writing about early telementoring practices in British Columbia reminds one of early accounts of pioneers to that region.
Telementoring, however, might be successful in enabling more pedagogical support to be given. Although educational telecomputing has been relatively recent in B.C., pockets of experienced teachers do exist. For example, a consortium of school districts in the central interior of the province has been using a telecommunications network for several years. In addition, there are a number of experienced telecomputing teachers in other districts. The telementoring idea underlying this paper, therefore, is that a cadre of experienced telecomputing teachers would be recruited to provide educational support to novice users who wished to be part of the program. Mentors would be both reactive (replying to queries) as well as proactive (contacting their mentees regularly). The support would be primarily pedagogical in nature, focusing on helping teachers to use telecomputing activities within the curriculum, as opposed to helping them to develop personal technical skills. (Wighton, 1993)
He further provides accounts of early pioneers of early telementoring efforts by teachers for teachers. Innovative uses of the new technology was quick to use the medium as a tool of education. This is important in light of the proliferation of commercial and entertainment sites on the Internet which cloud the original intent of this medium. The advance of a second Internet for education only is much needed and encouraged by Clinton. The early pioneers saw that telementoring was a valuable use for the Internet.
From 1993 to 1996, California explored telementoring in a project called Telemation. The three phase study recorded results of projects involving telementoring. The Milken Family Foundation oversaw the project and provided an analysis of it. Their report found that teachers on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being no significance and 5 being very significant, rated the use of telementors 4.3. Teachers also assessed the impact and benefit on student performance to be 4.0, using the same scale as above.
The extent of student benefits from the Internet was reported to be a function of the extent to which telecommunication was promoted as integral to the curriculum and in particular to specific student-initiated projects. Finally, over 75% of the Telementors reported that as a result of the Telementoring Program, "important student benefits were attained" and "the effort was clearly worth it". (Milken, 1997)
In much of the annotated accounts, teachers continually reiterated the importance of being able to provide outside resources which would stimulate even the most recalcitrant student. The message here is that schools just can't provide all of their students with the appropriate stimulation and as a result we see an increase in dropouts, violence in school, and an increase use of drugs. Much of this has to be attributed to boredom in school. On the other hand by engaging in telementoring, students become engaged and the negative behavior subsides. This, too, was iterated by the teachers in the three year program. My research, previously cited, supports this notion.
A fascinating and potentially lucrative project is the Hewlett Packard Telementoring Program run by David Neils. In 1996 HP decided to actually do something to support education. It undertook a project which would utilize its workforce to telementor to schools around the country who wished to use the human resources of HP. The results have been remarkable and are published on their telementor web site.
Both the quantitative and qualitative data appeared to send a strong message affirming the quality and utility of the HP E-mail Mentor Program. When it functioned well and even when it functioned only marginally well, the participants could clearly see its value, they liked it, and they could easily see its potential. Even when it did not function well, particularly for mentors and teacher contacts, there was a consensus of opinion about its great potential as an option in a school to enhance learning opportunities for students of all types and ages. Substantive, national scope innovations like the E-Mail Mentor Program routinely take years to develop, refine, and structure into their best operational form. This program is hitting its stride and deserves continuation and study. It has wonderful potential and its place as an important element of public schools in the future appears certain. (Neils, 1998a)
This tells us it is a positive and potentially powerful educational tool. In all accounts we do not see a negative aspect except for the lack of "stick-to-itness." Even lack of infrastructure was overcome. From the HP side, the weakest link was in the classroom, where teachers did not push this strongly enough.
In speaking with David Neils by telephone, I explained as a teacher one of the major stumbling blocks was keeping the telementors involved. After chuckling, we agreed that sustaining the program on all levels was the most difficult and we came to the conclusion that whoever was running the telementor program the other side was a weak link because the implementor had little effect on the other participant. We agreed to join forces to see if our hypothesis was correct. If we are both involved and have some sort of control over the mentor or mentee, then the shortcomings expressed by mentors at HP and by mentees at my school should disappear.
The significance of the corporate telementoring program is important. As part of the national agenda, the corporate side has been receiving much of the benefits as schools become more conscious about preparing its charges with skills to work and to purchase. It seems fitting that the corporate world be involved. HP has begun to advise other corporations on its telementoring program. This could be a great boon for education.
Certainly the most ambitious telementoring program is at the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, where Judi Harris is the project director for the Electronic Emissary Project. The project begun on 1993, matches telementors with schools. Their pool of mentors come from around the world and offer certain expertise a classroom teacher may need to fulfill curriculum demands. Each project is carefully monitored and overseen by a graduate student in the school's education program. Having an online facilitator was crucial to the successful or lack thereof of any telementoring project.
"This is easy!" you might be thinking now. "Just give people each others' Internet addresses and a few suggestions about netiquette, and the conversations are sure to be successful"
That's what we thought and had expected, also, nearly four years ago, during the pilot project. We assumed that if folks already knew how to use electronic mail and wanted to communicate with each other, all that we needed to do was to act as a virtual introductions service. We were wrong. We had overlooked the very real challenges of time, medium, and differing expectations. we quickly discovered the critical need and important role for the online facilitator. (Harris, 1996)
Harris supports what Neils and I had discovered in our projects. Facilitation is crucial for successful telementoring. Harris' discovery was that facilitation requires moderation, mediation, and facilitation. All mail correspondence goes through the Electronic Emissary listserver so that is how they moderate and monitor the projects. Mediation occurs seldom, but the EE facilitator becomes a "conflict mediator" when necessary. Facilitation is the most demanding part of the project. Keeping everyone involved, on task, and active is a demanding job. (Sanchez, 1996) Neils and Nellen concur on this point.
An important research paper, by Victoria Dimock comes from the Electronic Emissary Project. Dimock found that student interest increased, engagement with content increased, amount of content and depth of analysis increased in the projects she studied. (Dimock, 1998) The importance in the Electronic Emissary is that the work is being done in a academic research facility and will provide substance and credibility to other schools of education. this is very important to the future of telementoring.
Telementoring can be one to one or one mentor to a class. In my classroom, I use both types. In the one to one relationships, I find that the student becomes more involved and engaged. The results are quite remarkable and rewarding for the student. Students speak proudly of their telementor and come to rely on that outside voice. (Nellen, 1998) I find that telementors come from all walks of life: retirees, college students, alumni, business, military, and even other teachers. (Nellen, 1996) Perhaps one of the best by-products has been students communicating with their parents via email. Parents are able to view their child's web sites, see their work, comment on it and become engaged with their child's education. Hearing these stories is a highlight of my parent conferences.
THE MASSES EDUCATING THE MASSES
I think it is safe to say that "the gathering forces of pedagogy have made the politics of education the most important politics of the country." (Mann, Draft, p 206) We have a national agenda, (Clinton, Riley) as was asked for. (Cuban, 1993) Popular control is not new to education. (Hochschild, 1984) Picking up from the civil rights groups the new populist movement is keying in on education. It is fitting that the community take up the cause of community involvement in education. The logistical complications of involving community in education was unsurmountable. However, as we begin to harness the power of computers and the Internet, education has found a way to let the community into the schools without creating a quagmire. Utilizing the human resources of the country, the world, educators can now provide all knowledge to their students. The community can be involved in the education of its people. Values of the community can be passed on. Pedagogy will not be compromised, it will be enhanced. The politics will continue, but behind the scenes. Policy making will be open and based on the involvement of the community.
The preliminary work I have done merely sets a strong foundation for further study. Some questions were answered and more questions were raised or discovered, which further study. As a first step, I am pleased with the outcomes and see ways to improve this research study.
I have consciously left the matter of actual physical connectivity out of the discussion. On this matter, we must rely upon the local community to provide this aspect. The question of equity is becoming moot as communities use NetDay activities to wire schools and as school boards allocate money more needed hardware and as technology becomes more prevalent in our schools and homes. Rather than concentrate on the actual access question, I chose to concentrate on the use question. By providing data on how to use the Internet and telementoring, I could provide a strong argument fore wiring and investing in hardware. But then because this is a national challenge, I would expect communities to ante up.
In my research a couple of questions addressed the matter of equity of access. When I asked the students Do you have email/Internet outside school? The students responded 48% No, 26% some every week, 26% a lot every week. This correlates with family income, earlier cited, of 48% below $30,000 per year. The relationship of the 48% who said No to the 48% with family incomes under $30,000 is 93%. On another question I asked of both students and parents: Do you communicate with your parent/child via email? The students responded 17 Yes, 40 No; while parents responded 14 Yes, 26 No. I have found that parent/child email communication has been important. During parent conferences, parents who do communicate with their child feel more in touch and some have even said that this is the first time they have really communicated with their child since the child started high school. I feel the equity problem of access will be solved as were other communication methods (telephone, television, etc) were solved over time. Competition will lower prices and new technologies will facilitate alternative methods heretofore available.
Finally, many of the references used in this paper can be further explored at the telementoring web http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/mentor/ . There are references to many telementoring projects not mentioned in this paper but are worth reading to see the potential of telementoring. This web site provides links to the topic of telementoring which may be found on the Internet or at a local library.
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