The Major Disconnect

I had such selfish reasons for choosing to do this workshop at Franklin Lakes School District today; not only was it a great opportunity to talk about some really fun topics and make some extra money, but Alan November was the keynote. Alan’s message conveys a sense of urgency like no one else I have ever seen, and I always leave feeling recharged.

Today’s presentation by Alan centered on student content creation, much like the last one I saw, but this was the first time I was able to see him interact directly with a small group. His ideas, juxtaposed against the usual smattering of teacher doubts, really resonate with “no excuses.” Counterpoints to every dissension. Creation in the face of doubt.

When I think of my own practice, I wonder if I am doing enough creating of community. Darren Draper posted about bloggers who create community, but focused on the online environment. How do I do it in my buildings? Alan talks about allowing students to create material that is public, debatable and viewable by people from a global environment. I was twittering about the amount of teachers in a room here that do not have Google Accounts, or how few of them have heard of RSS feeds, and wondering to myself whether or not I could say the same for my district where I had worked on this for almost two years. What have I done to create the sense of urgency that Alan does?

This is perfect fodder for thought as I enter the week before EduCon, and I hope I’ll be able to gather some resources for this there.

Looking back over the course of the time I have spent at Tech Coordinator and now as Director of Curriculum, I don’t think formal professional development worked to the extent that I expected it would. I taught classes which were not well attended, or attended by the same group of people. I held in-service days where teachers were exposed to applications and strategies to help them implement social technologies in the classroom. But where did it get us? Sitting here, listening to Alan push these teachers, a very receptive bunch no less, I can’t help but place myself in a daydream where this is my district. How many of my teachers would know what RSS means? How many would have a Google Account? Did I make a difference, or did I just keep the same model that has not worked and made it look nicer?

I am feeling the need to break the mold, to present a shift so sudden yet so necessary that teachers would look at it with both fear and longing–saying “I want to do this for my own development!” or “This has to happen!” But what it looks like is escaping me. How do you make someone feel like they need something?

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5 thoughts on “The Major Disconnect

  1. I would love to hear what you learned when you are at Educon as I am struggling with this with my students as well as inspiring other teachers to do it. I did not get it as an educator until I jumped on board.

    I would love our Admin to use the social technologies in communicating with us and maybe other schools in the district. Maybe use conferencing tools to post mini professional development that can be blogged about to get credit (that is a stretch to actually count for the state though). But wouldn’t that be good. I am sure teachers would balk at having to use it, but they would get it.

    We had a lot of aversion to online grading and information being on a docushare and they got over it. Sometimes modeling is not enough.

    Am I thinking crazy here?

  2. You aren’t crazy, but you are being driven crazy, it seems. I batted yesterday around in my head for a while last night and bounced ideas off of my wife and a buddy of mine. What I came to, with their help, is that for any type of adoption to take place, it has to be personal.

    When I heard Will Richardson speak last year, his big push was to help teachers find something they are passionate about and get them writing/blogging about that. Or get them reading blogs about that. Anything to get them to see the connective power and collective intelligence shared by the blogosphere.

    What I struggle with, is that the urgency I feel with regard to the change in pedagogy needed is slowly wearing on my ability to be patient and my ability to see the counter-arguments.

  3. Patrick,

    I would argue that you should be no more concerned that teachers don’t have a Google account or know what RSS than if they don’t know a specific cooperative learning strategy or one way to scaffold a note-taking outline. It is simply one way to do things. Not a deal breaker.

    I think you are looking small picture there. Google and RSS are tools, but tools for a bigger picture of communication and information dissemination. If one’s “network” works, why bother to change.

    Example: I know a friend who still uses a very basic cell phone. It dials. It receives calls. That’s it. No text, camera, wi-fi, music player. etc. Being a gadget guy, I shake my head an d laugh. His response, “I just need a phone.” His network for communication works for him. He doesn’t feel like he is missing anything. Sure, its not sexy, flashy, or cutting edge, but chances are, he probably isn’t missing much.

    I know you and I run- to use that analogy: Does it matter if I’m running a marathon in keds and cotton or nikes and under armour, as long as I finish the race and I don’t get hurt?

    In school, if a teacher is forging relationships with kids that engage them, make them feel cared about, and push them to do things that they would do or find on their own while employing good inquiry skills, does it truly matter if they are reading a blog or hearing a podcast on RSS?

    I would argue it doesn’t, and most parents would agree.

    Sure, pushing the envelope and forging to more effective tools is great and admirable and noble.

    However, I would rather see good pedagogy and good relationships than good individual use of tools. The optimum is all three, but in absense of the optimum, I go for A + B.

    Barry

  4. Barry,

    I guess I should have clarified my rant before setting it out in public. This is my favorite part of the blogging process: the revisions.

    My main ire was not directed necessarily at the lack of a particular tool, but rather on the lack of discourse associated with acquiring the tools. While you are completely correct in pointing out that the tool is not as important as the pedagogical strategy that lies behind its implementation, where is that whole discussion taking place–the one about what tool would match that differentiation method best? Being a part of Alan’s workshops yesterday made me realize that the skills we acquire in graduate school, and the tools we use to accomplish their implementation are quickly becoming obsolete as we look to the future.

    There are many teachers who I see that I would love my son or daughter to have who never even approach a collaborative tool, and may never in their careers. But they care, they push children to excel and be confident even in failure, and they love. All of those things are infinitely more important to me than whether or not they use Google Reader or Bloglines for their RSS feeds.

    I want discourse, though. I want teachers to discuss and want to discuss their practice so that we hold each other to a higher professional standard. I don’t see the urgency in that area, where I feel there is such a need for peer review in many aspects of our profession, even at the administration level.

    Thanks for that. It helped.

  5. Oh I sympathize with you Patrick. There are times when I feel like I am not making a difference, not moving forward and should possibly look for other work. I never expected the response we got yesterday. It was all Alan, inspirational and motivational. I sat there in amazement watching the enthusiasm grow. All I can do now is appreciate and capitalize on this opportunity he gave me and keep the momentum going.

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