Wednesday, September 26, 2012


From my perspective, probably the most important digital divide is not access to a box. It’s the ability to be empowered with the language that that box works in. Otherwise only a very few people can write with this language, and all the rest of us are reduced to being read-only. Elizabeth Daley as quoted by L. Lessig, Free Culture, p. 37

I tweeted this earlier.

I think it connects with what Elizabeth Dailey is quoted as saying in Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture. Consistent empowerment is more important than any literacy lesson we might offer, for alongside empowerment are the beliefs we have about learners, as well as the beliefs about self that learners compose, in part, based on our actions.

It is alongside these beliefs that children's intellectual lives are fueled and sparked or diminished and underfed. This is what rests in adult hands. What we make of it is most telling. We need only be constrained by our own imaginations, dispositions, faith. Not even the CCSS need constrain us (or them).

In Franki Sibberson's (2012) The Joy of Planning, she writes, "The Common Core, or any standards for that matter, give us a goal--what we want our students to be able to do at a certain point in time. What they do not give us are the ways to help our students meet those goals" (p. 13). I see hope in that statement.

If you think of the CCSS as goal statements (impoverished goals in some ways especially as we think about new literacies, but that is another post), then maintaining local jurisdiction with regard to the methods one uses to learn should remain a priority--one that is shared between learner and teacher. In accepting that, we must remain wide open to the fact that we know so little about each learner. In an unstable and ever changing world, our understandings must be seen as yesterday's news (at best) and within that slim and present space, possibilities abound.

That's where we need to reside.

I don't doubt that I will fail to see the bright shine of a learner.  I am often dull and fallible. This is why I keep myself wondering when I work alongside children.  I know I will underestimate them and so I resist knowing best.  It is from a stance of not knowing and wondering that I remain most open to what I failed to see at first (or second...) glance.

The children never fail to teach me, so long as I remain teachable.


  1. That one tweet made my day. Well, actually seeing it here in your blog post did.

    I believe that at all levels of education, we underestimate not only what our learners know, but what they are capable of. We construct very safe passages from them and lose track about the greater leaps of growth that can happen via challenge, struggle, and achieving.

    A resonating concept that has stayed with me comes from history professor Jeff McClurken at University of Mary Washington who spoke about deliberately making his students "uncomfortable, but not paralyzed". It seems to me most of education is structured too heavily on the comfort side.

    1. Beautifully stated, Alan. I would love to get beneath this notion of safety. There is a wonderful text about children that I think was edited by Henry Jenkins that I have. I recall a section of the articles focusing on children and our notions of safety now and in earlier times. Will have to reread that I suspect.

      The culture f a place norms our expectations. As an outsider at the schools where i work, I do believe that I bring a different set of expectations. Curious about this.

  2. Mary Ann,
    Love this: "This is why I keep myself wondering when I work alongside children. I know I will underestimate them and so I resist knowing best."

    I also think it is the problem with labeling students and placing them in boxes. When I look out into the faces of the students in my classroom I see a myriad of strengths and possibility. It is also true that all are working to accomplish something. I talk with them all the time about how what is easy for one of us, is hard for another. Working together we can all learn from one another.

    In today's world of technology, young learners have a voice now. That is as it should be.


    1. Agree, Cathy. Operating from a stance of not knowing and being open to learn makes significant differences and allows me to hear (sometimes) the voices of those young learners.


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