Imagine one parent asked to weigh in on improving her child's school. "Things seem fine," she says. "I can't think of what I would change." Then she goes to a Network that shows her examples of children speaking two languages throughout kindergarten; of youth doing media-centered internships allowing them to prepare for 21st century careers; of teachers and 3rd graders learning mathematics through the arts. Suddenly she has a sense of what is possible. She comes to the parent meeting with links to examples.
Imagine another parent struggling with a Special Education policy in her district that seems to put Latino students, like her own son, disproportionately in restricted classrooms. What is done elsewhere? she wonders. Through a friend, she hears about the Network and logs on in her public library. She connects for the first time to parents who have learned their civil rights; they connect her to a local branch of a national disability advocacy organization that assists her with advocating for an IEP affording her children in-class special needs services.
Imagine these two parents finding one another when searching for a school that successfully serves children with disabilities, through the arts. Imagine them sharing struggles and successes, and questions.
Imagine a community organizer in one city finding a school board member in another, to share his ideas for lowering suspensions districtwide; imagine a young person reporting out his own experience of the charter school association getting media attention in his large urban district; imagine a teacher, frustrated with the level of math teaching in his suburban building, finding and approaching a principal in another suburb who has successfully implemented a program that engaged an entire faculty in enhancing their math instruction. Imagine many young people, organizers, and educators finding each other to discuss shared experiences of improving education. Imagine researchers dialoguing with all of these stakeholders, and with one another, as they share out worked examples of struggles and successes in local places.
Since much “what works” knowledge from research and practice never makes it to the public at all, stakeholders who could inspire young people’s learning or motivation on a daily basis too rarely get access to tried ideas for doing so.
Text from the Ford proposal
LIFTED/TWEAKED FROM FORD, LIKE THIS? The Network will engage professors, graduate students, and independent researchers along with practitioners, families, and youth in collaborative inquiry.
Such inquiry could be issue- or locale-specific. For example, specific sections of the Network would be organized for pointed discussion, designed to help clarify participants’ thinking about particularly complex interactions affecting young people’s everyday lives. The Network could also serve to connect researchers and practitioners who share localities. Finally, the Network could also support national collaborative analysis by researchers working together to clarify fundamental educational issues by simultaneously studying local educational systems across the country, and engaging targeted questions simultaneously in those multiple sites.
The Network would thus serve to link people to “what works” knowledge from across the nation, to researchers with particular expertise, and to people across the country who are inquiring into related issues in their localities.
USE THIS? WAS FROM FORD, TWEAKED SLIGHTLY Finally, we imagine that such a Network could spark users to convert particularly compelling ideas from research or practice into public tools, like online lesson plans for teachers or YouTube posts designed to spark inquiry between peers on neighborhood streets.
These examples are very broad. We should return to Use Cases again once we have a few more sections filled out and defined.