2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Armchair Quarterbacks in Education

We all know Armchair Quarterbacks.

[caption id="attachment_246" align="alignnone" width="250"]My husband is a card-carrying member.  Are you? My husband is a card-carrying member. Are you?[/caption]


Those are the people who can solve all the problems of education with a wave of a magic wand.  The Armchair Quarterback has the brilliant ideas that NOBODY has EVER thought of, and without any research or understanding of education, he has just figured out what you were never smart enough to know.   My husband is an Armchair Quarterback.  His priority is usually saving the Browns (why won't they call him????), but on occasion, he graces me with his wisdom about what is wrong with education and what should fix the problem.  His solutions involve lots of uses of "they" ("Who are they?" I ask.  "You know, the people in charge.  Them," he replies, as if I am especially simple-minded during this conversation), and he talks at length about budgets.  I find it incredible that a man who can't drive past a Sears Hardware without dropping fifty bucks talks to me about budgets.

This post isn't about publicly ridiculing my husband.  I can do that the next time he tries to beat me at euchre.  This post is about people who think that there are simple, quick fixes to problems in education.

Our district has a school board election coming up.  For reasons that you have probably heard on the news or read about in the newspapers (if you live in Ohio), there will be many people who feel very strongly that they can "fix" the education in our district, more specifically the budget.  One of the candidates has stated publicly that online education will be the way to fix our budget. This disturbs me for many reasons, but I only have the space to explain one of them.  I am a Blended Learning Teacher.  I teach Blended Rhetoric and Composition on a rotational model.  The students come to class at least three days a week, and they can choose to "flex" the other two days by working on their projects from home.  They can also choose to come in to class during that time for conferences, help, or just because they would rather be in school at that time.  I monitor their flex time through Blackboard, our LMS, and they frequently communicate with me when they aren't in school.

My first thought is this:  If my course goes to full online instruction, how will that save money?  Will we require students to come to school and use our computers?  We need new computers, if that is the case.  Who will teach the children?  Will the board buy canned online courses and replace me with a "computer monitor" (see what I did there?) who makes eight bucks an hour and watches the students to prevent vandalism or other discipline problems?

On Friday I looked at my class, and I took a deep breath.  I had thirteen different projects going on all at once.  Some students were researching blogs, some were editing their previous writing, some were collaborating on a new project (a suicide prevention campaign), some were writing literary analyses about "Little Things" by Raymond Carver, and some were reading the next section of 1984.  All of them were practicing relevant, real-world skills that they will need when they leave high school.  All of them needed my guidance, direction, re-direction, and encouragement because they are still in high school and not ready for the real world.  Can a prepaid online course give them all of that?

It all boils down to this: when we devalue the role of teachers, we devalue our children.  My students deserve the best, and I want to do my best to give it to them.

Look, I don't know the answers, especially when it comes down to budgets.  For me, starting a Blended Learning class is one way that I can try to be a part of the solution.  You want students to be better prepared for life after school?  I'm trying to help.  Armchair Quarterbacks, I think it's great that you want to help.  Just know that the Facebook status of education right now might best be "It's complicated."  Please do some research, really think about the pros and cons instead of just dismissing or ignoring the parts you don't like,  and then share your ideas.


Stephani Itibrout

Rhetoric and Composition

Follow me on Twitter @itibrout

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