I like this direction

The conversations going on in a few places: Twitter, the educon20 wiki set up by Chris Lehman, and in the blogosphere are rife with quotes like this one from Scott Elias:

I’m not an all-or-nothing techno-fundamentalist who believes that the
only way we’re ever going to improve our schools is by passing out
laptops and forcing every teacher to become a web programmer or
podcaster. One size does not fit all. All the techno-toys in the world
won’t rescue a poorly-prepared lesson.

Or this one from Steve Dembo, via Twitter:

After reading a ton of blog posts from NECC and EduBloggerCon, I’m starting to wonder if We (Edubloggers) are getting a little egotistical. WE get it, THEY don’t. And if people did things our way, then we’d all be driving flying cars. But WE are a distinct minority.

The worry here is a legitimate one–in all of our post-NECC hysteria and school change exuberance, are we beginning to forget our stakeholders? As I prepare for next school year by looking back at this past one, I can see bits and pieces of this mentality in my actions and interactions with people. “This is where we are going–jump on or you will be irrelevant!”

Does that really move us any closer towards accomplishing our goals of changing philosophy, physical structure, and learning environment? It actually continues to foster its own unique “digital divide” within our schools.

What’s the right approach? I have been promoting Ben Wilkoff’s work with the Academy of Discovery here in recent weeks, and his most recent post “The Ripe Environment” outlines 10 different situations that need to be in place for teachers to become successful users of instructional technology. Here are the 10:

  1. Have a genuine need to be heard by others and, in one way or another, receive feedback for contributions.
  2. See living examples of collaboration (not case studies or projects from a few years ago) that they can become a part of.
  3. Have the time to connect more than two dots together. (Rather than connecting: “My students need to know this” with “here is the information” they need to have time to connect “My student needs to know this” with “my students need to evaluate this for validity” with “my students need to know how to use this resource to find the information” with “my students need to create new information for others to use.”)
  4. See collaboration as an extension of their natural instincts as a teacher (opening possibilities for learning).
  5. Find the backchannels relevant to them (these backchannels must be encouraged and honored as vital sources of learning).
  6. Know that their products and ideas as valuable.
  7. Understand the marks of successful collaboration. (They have to know what it looks like.)
  8. Accept that questions are both for interdependent and interdependent learning. (All questions are serious points of inquiry in The Ripe Environment.)
  9. Believe that personal and professional change can never be institutionalized. (Individuals create change, not schools or districts.)
  10. Know that meetings, conferences, and workshops are not the places where the most powerful learning and change takes place.

I really appreciate how Ben focused less on creating a separation between what tech-savvy teachers are doing and what the rest of the profession is doing, but more on the pedagogy. That really does a service to what I feel is the true role of anyone hoping to facilitate change within a school district.

Image Credit: elo5’s Photostream on flickr.

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5 thoughts on “I like this direction

  1. Comment I left on Warlick’s blog:

    One of the things I am most concerned about after following the conversations at EdubloggerCon and NECC via twitter and those that blogged incessantly, was of that divide that Karyn spoke of. I posted about it this morning, for those that are interested.

    I agree with most of those above that we need to transcend concern for ego here and continue to push on the limitations of traditional education; however, for those of us that have spent the last few months or years working within buildings where change is viewed with heavy skepticism, our strategy needs to incorporate the needs of all of our stakeholders, not just our students. Teachers, too, need to be designing the future of education. Where do we start? I like the idea of curriculum design where teachers are writing curriculum side by side with tech coordinators/integration specialists. Let’s marry pedagogy with technology where applicable.

  2. RSS’d you not a moment too soon, it seems. It’s self-critiquing talk like this that’s gonna spare the blogsphere my by-now-obnoxious School 2.0 contrarianism.

    It’s just as you described, this syndrome of the recently converted, their heads flush with new discovery, new enlightenment. It’s a syndrome that lends itself quickly to us/them dichotomies, the villainization of people who really don’t deserve villainizing; I’m not innocent of this.

    It’s this syndrome that alienates the middle, a wide swathe where teachers work hard and would work hard towards the converted’s goals if a) the converted would propose some intermediate steps between where we are and where they want us to be, and b) they weren’t so self-righteous about their conversion.

    Your curriculum design idea sounds like a real winner. That’s the intermediate step. Technologically constructed lessons which pay (at least lip) service to most teacher’s need for standards, objectives, and assessment. I love how seriously Kim Cofino takes all that.

    Anyway, it’s comments like yours here and the one you link from Dembo that are so utterly rare nowadays and are nothing if not what’s keeping me at this table.

  3. Good stuff here, Patrick. I admit my thoughts are evolving much differently in this area than I expected they would when I started blogging back in January.

    I’ve started to re-focus my role as more of an evangelist of good, student-centered, teaching.

    Thanks for consolidating all this!

  4. Thanks for including me in this post. I really hope that we continue to reach out to everyone, regardless of if they have a blog or podcast. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and look at how we became interested in learning about how to create change within our own classrooms. I would say that, for the most part, it wasn’t by listening to someone who “had the answer” and just following their formula.

    We need to use our own “origin stories” in order to create authentic learning for others. That is what I am trying to go for with The Ripe Environment. Hopefully, I will be continuing with this theme very soon on my blog. I hope we continue this thread for a while because (to continue the ripe metaphor) I think it will bear a lot of fruit.

  5. Ben’s point here is, again, a crystallizing one: by telling our own stories of how we teach differently, we can bring more people along. What I love about this whole idea of school change is that it is coming from the bottom up, that no state agency is advocating this. I hope it stays this way, at least for the time being. There is nothing like home rule.

    If you haven’t checked in on Dan’s post from June 13th, “Dear School 2.0: Please Stop,” please do so. It provides a great counter-perspective to all of our zeal and the ego that Steve Dembo wrote about.

    Also, Chris Lehman does a great job of capturing much of what was trying to be said in this post in his new post entitled “Humility.”

    Still, I like this whole direction. Thanks again.

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