This Rut We’re In

Yesterday I found the “Quotes” Flickr Group that was put together by Dean Shareski, Scott McLeod, Darren Draper, et al.  The power of the image to change and inspire is a tool that I need to use more of in my work with teachers.  In looking through the offerings and the work of the 11 members of the group on Flickr, you see the passion with which a great majority of us in education act with on a daily basis.  That passion, I must admit, has been missing from what I’ve been doing lately.  Not to sound trite, but it’s as if I’d lost my mojo, and with it any of the passion I was attacking my work with.

As usual, my wife sat me down and straightened me out.  She told me some very basic things:

“If you can’t find someone to buy into your ideas, look somewhere else. They are good ideas, backed by someone who is passionate about what they do.”

From that conversation, I’ve noticed an uptick in both productivity, and focus.  The WTF attitude is starting to return, and ideas are beginning to grow legs. I love that woman.

From shareskis photostream on Flickr
From shareski's photostream on Flickr

In that light, I found this item from George Siemens to be of significant import in my thinking lately:

The challenge many educators face today in trying to improve learning
is not one of technology or information access. The most significant
need is to begin envisioning a future reflective of the affordances of
technology now broadly available.

The biggest problem we face is not lack of access or technology or filtering, but rather lack of imagination and vision.  What can we do with what is available to us?  What can our students do?  A word I heard at Jim Burke’s englishcompanion Ning site (which if you are interested in helping build community with anyone in your English department, you should visit and invite them to it), is “withitness,” and that what every teacher needs to possess is the drive not to be cool, but to do cool things–things that make your students say something in response.  Whether they loved you or hated you, you want them talking about what they did in your room on any given day.

I think we are stuck, at least in my locale, on imagining the same things we’ve always done because we haven’t been brave enough to imagine what it might look like in the future.  I, for one, am going to start using my hands and my brain to create this vision.

MIT students build mobile applications in 13 weeks – elearnspace

11 thoughts on “This Rut We’re In

  1. How do you do it? Once again you are my inspiration and my shot in the arm. My attention is not very focused because of everything but I can always count on you to connect me with something that makes sense, gives me vision and is accessible… I do not know who doesn’t buy in to your ideas but please know that you have a profound influence in my corner of the world!

  2. Hi Barbara,

    It’s wonderful to see your comments on my posts at any time, but this one just makes me smile.

    I don’t have to tell you about what it’s like to be discouraged, and I am so honored that you and I can share inspiration. If this is something that I can do for you after what you’ve been dealing with over the course of the last month or so, then I am happy to do so.

    What really had been getting under my skin was the lack of focus on the students and what was important to them. That, coupled with the resistance not to change, but to vision was really pulling me away from my goals. The next challenge for me, as it has been before, is to make my goals the goals of those around me. And you know, it’s not because I am some huge reformer, but rather because I don’t see anyone around me coming up with anything. In this case of an idea vacuum, I think it is right to insert some decent thoughts and plans.

    All the best to you and your family this holiday season, and know that you are in our thoughts.

  3. Hi Patrick, thank you for this post. I can appreciate your feelings of discouragement and frustration. I think I’m coming out of a rut now, or at least trying to. And I agree with Barbara, you inspire me through your blogging and sharing of ideas. I’ve struggled in the last year to write on a regular basis.

    In addition to the kids, I see the adults in my building with the same lack of imagination and creativity. Very few people are willing to embrace change and see it’s possibilities, choosing instead to find reasons why it’s not worth experimenting or discovering something new. I used to think that I should try to inspire others and push new opportunities to my colleagues, but now I wonder if it’s better to simply do my own thing in my classroom and not worry about what the person next door is doing. I’d rather spend my energy on moving the kids along than on fellow teachers (who seem to resist a lot more by the way!). It might seem a little selfish, but sometimes I need that to survive.

    Thanks for your thoughts and excellent ideas. Keep the faith and have a wonderful holiday season.


    ps – Let’s hope SU football can turn it around too. 🙂

  4. Bing,

    I am glad you dropped in; I’ve been following your daily link posts for a while now and passing your bookmarks off to the teachers I work with.

    Here’s something funny that I’ve noticed happening around our buildings: students whose teachers are pushing the envelope and giving them access to relevant material that matters to them tend to want more. Students have begun asking teachers what’s going to happen to their blog when they leave their class? I’d say yes to your idea; focus on the kids and shifting how they think, learn, and teach themselves to learn.

    There’s a critical mass building within our students, I believe. It’s most likely not with the students we currently we have, but a few years down the line. They’ll demand something different than the model we offer them now. I say we should keep moving in that direction.

  5. Thanks so much for this post. I’m definitely inspired to take that next step. I find a rhythm to the change focus in us to be important. If we pushed all the time, we’d go crazy and drive others in our worlds nuts. It’s critical that we go through ebbs and flows of change.

    I’m looking forward to working with you to find focus “to begin envisioning a future reflective of the affordances of technology now broadly available.”


    – Alex

  6. For the record: Creating these slides with inspirational quotes has been one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever undertaken.

    One of the reasons I blog is for a creative outlet and combining these images with inspirational text has been as motivational for me as for anyone.

  7. I am reminded why I added your blog to my reader account. Keep pushing the envelope!

    As an older professional entering the schools after many years away, I am striving to discover “withitness,” that ability “to do cool things–things that make your students say something in response.” I agree that this is a prime capability of successful educators.

    With a grad student’s enthusiasm and ideas and an outsider’s frustration with entrenched inflexibility, I will look to innovators like you to teach me how “to make my goals the goals of those around me.”

    Keep up the good work! And thank you very much for the kind and supportive comment no my blog. I did not know how else to thank you other than commenting back on yours.

  8. Alex,

    Looking forward to collaborating on the NJECC workshop.

    Your point about ebbing and flowing is well-taken, and when you put it in print it makes perfect sense–I am having visions of myself annoying the people in my life with pleas of school change and curriculum. Sometimes we just need to chill and take stock.

  9. Darren,

    I used one of Scott’s images for a presentation in November and have been pulling from the pool since.

    The simplicity of the image, coupled with the depth of the quotes makes them compelling for the teachers I work with.

  10. Greg,

    Perfect compliment, and best of luck finding your “withitness.”

    I was thinking about this term today and how I would expect the teachers I work with to define it. It’s not so much that you are hip or win them over with your coolness, but rather that you’re empathetic to their condition. Not that they are afflicted with anything, but when we design what we teach, when we put together their course of studies, are we doing so with their best interests in mind? Is it relevant to them? If so, can we help them see it? We should always be able to answer the question of “Why do I need to learn this?” and so should they.

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