As do many of you, I spend a lot of time researching and teaching about a variety of emergent media. (These days I’m focusing on digital storytelling, geocaching and gaming (specifically, Second Life).) However, I continuously find the areas that I wish to work on interrupted by issues related to advocacy.
For example, I just read a fascinating article from Edutopia “Education at Risk,” which traces the much of the current NCLB debate back to the Regan years and the “A Nation at Risk” report. The Edutopia article written by Tamim Ansary makes it clear that the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report was actually a political document with spurious data used to support it major contentions, which ultimately shifted control of the U.S. educational agenda to the politicians. All this culminated in 1989 when Bush senior convened a commission on educational reform that contained no educators. As president, Clinton, who participated in the Bush summit as governor, did little to turn the tide. And we’re certainly aware of the educational agenda that Bush junior has set for us. It’s not entirely clear that even as Democrats have wrested control of the Senate and House that the current educational agenda will change much.
So, as I think games, stories and emergent technologies, I must also think advocacy. And it appears many of my colleagues in this blog are never too far from advocacy issues: from Niki Davis’s postings on international issues to Bonnie Bracey Sutton’s writings on the digital divide, we see strong arguments for us to consider the contexts in which we try to do our work, and how we may have to advocate for the reshaping of those contexts.
As I point out in a recent editorial in CITE, SITE, through the National Technology Leadership Coalition, has attempted to maintain a balance between finding a space for educators to use technology in effective ways and playing a role in current national, and even international, advocacy activities. For example, SITE will join with other organizations, such as ISTE, COSN, and AACTE, and participate in the Washington Education Technology Policy Summit this April.
The recent U.S. congressional elections and the current campaign for the White House, along with the reauthorization of NCLB, will once again place education at the forefront of the nation’s agenda. (And for most of us, education and technology go hand in hand.) While we continue the work that we all do in the areas that are important to us (as represented by the diversity of topics in this blog), please consider opportunities that the current political climate will present to us to allow our voices to be heard. And be aware of the efforts by some to devalue our work.
As I have a sense that many organizations are taking a stance similar to SITE’s—maintaining their core mission while supporting crucial advocacy issues, I’d be interested in hearing examples from other organizations that take proactive positions in making their voices heard as the educational agenda for the next decade is shaped. I’d also be interested in hearing from international colleagues on how politicized their educational systems have become and whether they must consider dual roles–educator and advocate.