Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union: An Out Of Context Response

While I watched most of the State of the Union address live, I’ve been getting into the habit lately of “Wordling” a text, news article, transcript, etc. to get the gist from the most common words used. Sometimes the meaning is the same, other times it’s quite different. In the classroom, this lends itself very easily to comparative analysis and critical thinking...but for me, tonight, it’s a tool to target the discussion and my thinking. My response here to the State of the Union is coming entirely from my interpretation of the Wordle, versus the actual speech. I’ve got my “educator glasses” on, too, which will impact what I “see.”

Three of the biggest words are “new,” “jobs,” and “people.” My brain is connecting that to the videos that Karl Fisch and others have made that involve the assertion that we are preparing our students for jobs that have not yet been invented. How do we prepare kids now? Much of it is rote and traditional, the same model of instruction that prepared kids for factory jobs. With the Common Core impacting many of the states, rigorous learning and rigorous instructional design and practice will hopefully upend the old paradigms, and pave the way for the “people” to have the “new” “jobs” that Obama discusses, either as a projected, forthcoming, but as yet unknown vocation, or an immediate, economically necessary position.

Other stand-out words include, “future,” “innovation,” “technology,” and “success.” It’s hard to know what the future holds, but we surely know that what was valued yesterday will hardly be valued tomorrow. We do a lot of complaining about “kids today” but don’t recognize the skills that they are developing around socialization, transparency, and global collaboration. These are skills that will help them be global competitors if we can harness the connections and critical thinking and collaboration that may have a veneer of “playing” but are really rooted in “social adaptability” and “social evolution.” Their connections and willingness to participate in “technology” will breed the “innovation” of the “future” and bring the “success” that we hope for our children.

There are many layers here to discuss--whether contextual or not. When I was thinking about the speech itself in terms of an educational lens, I found my brain was responding in an emotional and sometimes defensive way. The Wordle gave me an opportunity to abandon the emotional, and focus on just the words. What connections can you make from the Wordle? What did you think about Obama’s speech?

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