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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Questions and Answers Following Don Leu's Presentation

Keynote Debrief: Global Issues in the Classroom

Question from audience member
As you were talking I was thinking a little bit about some challenges that we have—I work with DC Public School System—and how do we train our teachers to bring this information to our students? That's one of the challenges that I encounter with my program.
Dr. Leu
You know I keep thinking of that elephant picture. These are huge challenges right? These are not simple. You know it's not like you get a package and put it in, because our teachers have to acquire these new literacies themselves, and then they have to acquire new instructional strategies to teach them, and they have to know what the skills are. That's a triple-whammy; that is very hard. We're going after federal funding right now for a three-year project next year with the state of Maine to develop a professional development to do this, and we think we can do it when we have job-embedded professional development, and we have pure coaching going on, and we have online coaching resources for them to use; but the trick is, at the end of each year of the professional development they look at the data and then they change the professional development model that they experienced so that it fits their needs better. They have to be involved in that so that we meet their precise needs. But there isn't an answer right now. It's a huge issue; anything you can do is going to be great.
Question from audience member
Hi there, I am Jonathon Charney with the Visiting International Faculty Program and this is fascinating, it's alarming, and there is clearly a sense of urgency. In a lot of your examples you give with other countries, there's a national initiatives that really push this. Do you see any of that happening in our country? Any examples of hope and how we can support that?
Dr. Leu
It is starting to come; it is gradually starting to come. There is a group being funded by, there is a 21st Century Skills Group of course, but there is a group being funded by Microsoft Intel, an international consortium of people looking at this. John Bransford from the University of Washington is on it, it is being headed up by a professor in Australia. They're doing, they haven't published any of their papers yet but they are coming out, they'll come out with a series of white papers. Keep your eye for them. It'll be very profound, it'll have a tremendous impact on things but there's a lot of inertia from the last ten years in our schools where we've been so focused on reducing skills down to factual kinds of knowledge and simple, testable kinds of things rather than the more complicated kinds of skills that are required in a high end workforce. We are getting there, I think this administration is starting to understand the issue, but we are just starting on that journey, so it's that elephant thing. We've got to be patient, keep pushing, keep moving; we'll get there. But start now, in your classroom connecting with other classrooms around the world.
Question from audience member
Hi, Kimberly Daly, I am from George Mason. I also teach in Fairfax County and the question I had was, have you seen any research or is there any coming down the pike, about maybe using online reading skills as an emphasis in teaching remedial students, those who struggle with regular off-line skills and maybe by emphasizing the online skills and playing up to what they like you can see the off-line skills go up, and they would have better success with passing things like state assessments which they typically struggle with?
Dr. Leu
I love you. [Audience Laughing] The answer is no but we keep pushing on this. Our plate, it is so full right now but that is such a hot issue to study and even if you studied it and had a case study and wrote up an article for special education—a special educator practitioner journal—and publish it, it would be awesome. It would start the ball rolling. We talk to our Special Education friends about this and they are so focused on other issues they haven't quite gotten the internet yet but it's hugely supportive for our weakest readers and yet those are the last kids who get access because they have to finish their homework or complete the assignment before they can go on the internet. They should be the first. That's a principle we make in every classroom. If you bring in a new technology, help your last become first every time: take your weakest reader and teach them that new technology so that they are literate in it and they are the experts, they're literate, nobody else is, and they are empowered in powerful ways.

About the Author

Dr. Don Leu

Dr. Don Leu spoke in Coverdell World Wise Schools' conference—Global Issues in the Classroom—on October 15, 2009. He is a Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology at the University of Connecticut and a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Micronesia from 1969 to 1973.