Been trying to get my brain around last week’s NECC experience for a few days now, reading some of the other post mortems, thinking about what the lasting impressions are and will be for my own thinking and learning. For a variety of reasons, mostly personal, San Antonio was not a home run for me, not like last year in Atlanta when the energy and ideas seemed to be flowing more intently, more spontaneously. And before anyone starts throwing things at me, let me just say that was my experience; I’m sure that many, many others found this year’s event to be a celebration, perhaps a transformation in their thinking about teaching and learning and education. In that regard, I’m sincerely happy that more voices have been added to the chorus, and that more practitioners have entered the conversation. We need more voices. We need more good pedagogy and thinking.
I came to NECC in a bit of an edublogger funk, and that funk continues in some respects. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that’s not unusual. My interior monologue is fills with peaks and valleys, and right now, I’m once again struggling to define and focus where the best use of my time and thinking is. For the past two months, I have read very little from the education folder in my aggregator; simply, not much has been resonating. To be honest, very little in the last six months or so has felt new, a view that a couple of others at NECC seemed to share. I’ve been drawn to reading outside the usual suspects, thinking hard (once again) about the scope of this community and its reach. Thinking hard about change, about what is and isn’t changing, and how maddeningly slow it all seems.
The good news is that the level of passion among those that count themselves in this community is, in a word, amazing. It was evident from the conversations I eavesdropped on in the Blogger’s Cafe to the late night debates on the River Walk, to the back channel chats, the sessions on how to put the tools to good work, to the collective efforts to capture as much of NECC as possible for those who couldn’t attend. I don’t think it was possible to sit in on the sessions or walk by the Cafe and not simply admire the level of engagement of both long standing and relatively new participants in this conversation. All of us, whether evangelists or practitioners or even the naysayers, are deeply invested in trying to make sense of these giant shifts that are occurring, and that is all good.
And there was an international flavor to NECC this year that seemed stronger than in years’ past. (BTW, I don’t count the Canadian contingent as international, thought I know I should.) It was great to see folks from Australia and the UK and many, many other far flung spots around the globe. We need more of their perspectives as well, and that seems to be happening.
But for me, at least, at the end of the day, I’m still left wondering, “what’s really changed?” And, where will we be a year from now?
NECC is the echo chamber writ large and in living color; more than any other conference, it’s where we feel “big.” But the reality of it is, as Dean suggests, the powerful learning that most of us experience in these online communities is still little more than a blip on the radar screen. (I wonder what percentage of the 8 million+ educators in this country are aware of these shifts on a basic level.) And this is a tech conference. As I read through some of the back channel conversations, some were asking about presenting to school boards or parents or even town councils. Others were talking about getting out to non-edtech conferences. Some were, again, searching for that elusive tipping point that will get the conversation jump started outside the chamber.
And I think it’s time we get serious about all of that. No doubt, the vendor floor in Washington will be filled with “Web 2.0 in a Box” and “Safe Social Networking” and control, control, control. And I’m going to guess that, like this year, “Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts” will be “Hot Topics” as well as a few other new tools. And we’ll be talking once again about new standards and 21st Century Literacies and all of that. But while we as a community have no control over some of that, is that what we aspire to? Is that what we want the emphasis on NECC 09 to be, once again? Or do we want it to be more?
I hope it’s more. More about learning and figuring out what it means to be connected. More about what we can do to begin systemic change. More tangible, non-toolsy, results oriented thinking. More models that work, models that provide realistic options for educators to wrap their brains around.
More like what Chris Lehmann presented in his session, a session that since it had a “specific pedagogical focus” felt like it was “high stakes,” in an of itself a comment that should get us thinking. More like the conversations on leadership that Scott McLeod and Chris and others tried to have at EduBloggerCon on Saturday. More about ideas and connections.
And in general, without speaking for others, I again think I need to do more to try to get these ideas and these questions outside the walls of my learning community. I’m afraid we’re stalling because without some larger force or lever, these ideas have no where (or very limited routes) to go in a comprehensive discussion about what schools need to be and to do in response to the scale of change that is upon us. (That thinking is influenced heavily by Sir Ken Robinson’s latest presentation to the RSA, btw.) For me, at least, I think it’s time to start writing. (I know; I’ve said that before.)
Change on any level is not easy, and I’m not suggesting that there is one way to change or one thing that needs to be changed or that we all need to change in one particular way. It’s all incremental and personal, I know, but it’s also about doing what will create the most change, do the most good. I’ve been thinking about Lessig a lot and his attempt to attack the root cause of the smaller problems. I wonder what the root impediment for school change is? And, reffing Sir Ken again, we are at a moment where we all must change if we’re to sustain this existence. Along those lines, I’ve also, strangely, been thinking about all of the devoted carnivores that I hung around with last week in steak and barbecue land, thinking about how much healthier they would be and how much better off we’d all be if they and everyone else, for that matter, ate lower to the ground. But that is tough change as well.
Anyway, proposals for NECC ’09 are only a couple of months away…
Christian Long says
Bravo to you, Will:
And so happy that you’re spending more time seeking gems outside the edu-blogosphere. Metaphors and tangibles alike abound. Silly to be so locked into one silo in this day and age, even if ‘ed’ and ‘tech’ are still bread-n-butter allies for you (me, us…).
BTW, thanks to you and your reading list, Lehmann meme-tagged me to add my own reading list to the foray. As an English teacher on summer break, this is either real gold or fool’s gold…so I’m feeling some pressure. Thanks! (smirk) Can I include my kiddos nigh-nigh-time storybooks? Or do I have to appear more eloquent than that?
Stephanie Sandifer says
Some of your thoughts are similar to the ones rumbling around in my head — although I have yet to sit down and write my “NECC 2008 Reflections” post (it’s in draft form right now)…
What struck me very strongly was the “leadership” and get-out-of-the-echo-chamber issues. By the end of the day Saturday I was focused on our next steps involving more “outreach” to education leaders and more of us moving beyond edtech conferences. However, by the end of the day Monday — with the convention center full of people, thousands of people who were still grasping at vague understandings of Web 2.0 and it’s potential in the classroom — I became much more aware of the need for us to continue our involvement at local, regional, state, and national/international edtech conferences.
We are a minority and if I had forgotten that because of the intensity and passion of the people within this network, the realization of that fact came back to me in full-force last week. We still have a ton of work to do if we hope to realize our vision of a transformed/reinvented education system for our students.
Having said all of that, for me NECC 2008 was a very positive experience and I so enjoyed having the opportunity to have so many great face-to-face discussions with many brilliant and passionate educators.
I’ll share more of my thoughts in a blog post that I hope to publish later today.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment Stephanie. I agree that many still need to see the tools and the basic ways of using them, no doubt. I wonder what the collective “vision of a transformed/reinvented education system for our students” is, however, and assuming we can develop a narrative we can all get behind, I wonder how best to give that some weight. Of course, I’ve been wondering that for a while now… ;0) Was nice to meet albeit briefly, and congrats on the great feedback on your session.
I agree with your comments. For myself, next year, I am looking at attending more conferences focused on pedagogy and curriculum, rather than ed tech. I’ve participated in enough “preaching to the choir,” and none of this is going to amount to much consequential change until it is more mainstream and more focused on curriculum.
Selena Ward says
NECC gave me a sense of excitement of the possibilities of Web 2.0 and my school. I wanted to get home and build a ning or some tutorials on new tools I learned while at the conference to share with my less-techy staff. Then reality set in……
Instead of advancing forward, I will probably be blogged down in trivial requests to help with the new student information system or the new data website. My district has given our teachers and administration another excuse why that don’t have time to learn, because they have new systems to use.
As I had discussions with others from other states, districts, and countries I realized that my school is fortunate because the amount of hardware available to teachers and students. It also made me feel guilty and shameful, because we don’t utilize what we have in a meaningful way.
I don’t want to quit the fight to move forward, but I need a different strategy. Suggestions welcomed!
I loved the unintentionally meaningful “blogged down”…
Tracy Tarasiuk says
“(I wonder what percentage of the 8 million+ educators in this country are aware of these shifts on a basic level.) And this is a tech conference. As I read through some of the back channel conversations, some were asking about presenting to school boards or parents or even town councils. Others were talking about getting out to non-edtech conferences.”
As a 6th 7th and 8th grade English teacher/reading specialist I would encourage you and others who are so passionate aand knowledgeable about transforming education through technology to please speak at conferences where we teachers meet. I read your book during the last school year and I feel my teaching and my students connected in ways that never occurred when my focus was on reading and writing as ‘autonomous’ skills. My own connecting and relating has changed my teaching, for the better. I know that some of the work I have done is only a start, but I plan on sharing my work with teachers,and I am hopeful that more classrooms and media centers can combine for more than typing research papers or ‘surfing’ webquests. Thank you for all your guidance.
Will Richardson says
Thanks Tracy. I would love to come to more conferences with regular old teachers (as opposed to just tech types.) That happens when I visit schools, but not so much when I get invited to conferences.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 on Twitter/Blogging (Finally Coming) says
I hear you, and I believe as well that “things have to change” and it needs to move beyond the echo-chamber. However, the million-dollar question is how do we move it beyond the echo chamber and not run into the conflict-of-interest (or maybe better said “conflict of approach”) like we witnessed at Saturday’s EdubloggerCon meets Corporate Spotlight?
If we want to make change, then perhaps we need a little more organizational structure with clearly defined goals. That is what is making Lehmann magic at SLA. And I also think that is what differentiates EduCon. Both have had the right scale in the past (that magic 150–interesting to watch how things change as they scale) but alongside that size are the clearly defined goals. The essential questions.
My great concern, and I blogged about this just now, is that things fall apart for grassroots organizations when they want to go viral yet aren’t well organized (I struggle with that word now) and don’t have clearly defined goals. In order to scale, things fall back on the simple things (tool show and tell) instead of movement towards answering the bigger issues (essential questions). We’ve got to put together something that has the commitment and community and leadership like the team at SLA, or else we’ll be eaten up by the ISTE/Pearson corporate “let’s make a buck at this” mentality.
What do WE want the social object to be? Learning. What do they want it to be? Money masked as education.
Will Richardson says
So, I’m hearing something from you and the others that it might be time to all get on the same page and think about organizing this in some way. That’s what I was referencing Lessig about. It would be interesting to see what a “Change Schools” organization might be able to do as a hub for the conversation and some planning. Just got changeschools.org in case…
Let’s keep kicking it around…
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 on Twitter/Blogging (Finally Coming) says
OK, that is a step. Just bookmarked it. I just set up a wikispace under that name as well that we can use for planning and link to the domain later. Changeschools.wikispaces.com (Protected for now.)
On a similar note: I’ve got a group of school heads here in Atlanta meeting in early August to discuss how we take this “shift,” this “change,” and our desire to rethink our schools and approach AP/College Board/universities. Let’s consider how this group might mesh with this “organization.”
On another, another note: Add “The Art of Possibility” to your reading list. It was another social object of NECC (actually the author (Zander)’s TED talk was) and it appears I’m the only one who has read the book. I’m working on a post right now.
Christian Long says
Will — This reminds me of many parent/community groups who allow such a question to spark the creation of a new school (private, charter, etc).
For most, the ‘change’ must be local for it to ‘stick’ and truly be meaningful on a personal/life level.
For others — as you’re implying here — there is a chance to create leverage via a larger organization more tightly wound.
I do wonder, however, what the semantic difference is between a brand/org-name/URL that focuses on “changing from the less desirable/adequate” to “building something specific”. Likewise, I’m curious if everyone has a clear vision of what you/others/all of us are trying to “change” to.
Since Lehmann’s example is so easily pointed to by all of us with familiarity, what seems to really work is here NOT the semantics (i.e. Microsoft’s cleverly branded/marketed “School of the Future” — Ooops, has anyone heard from them recently?) but the tangible mission and programmatic execution.
Question for you: what is the “same page” that you have rolling around at gut-level these days? What is the ‘goal’ or tangible mission or concrete program (idea) that a wide audience can get their arms wrapped around that is not about ‘defeating’ something that ‘fails’? I ask these with a real desire to see how this goes to the next step, not to quench the move forward.
Anxious to see what it looks like in your imagination at this point.
Thanks in advance, my friend.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 on Twitter/Blogging (Finally Coming) says
“[What works is not the semantics] but the tangible mission and programmatic execution.” Amen. And I agree, Christian, that it is one thing to build from the ground up based on a vision, and another to “renovate.” I also think it is important to begin defining the changes we are seeking, make sure we’re singing off the same song sheet. What could an overarching mission statement look like, a loose but well-considered organization, with local execution?
Sure, it’s idealistic…but I think we’re all tired of seeing the trees instead of reimagining the forest.
Christian Long says
Will & Laura:
Curious about an intersection of language/metaphor (knowing this larger convo is happening ‘on the fly’ right, brainstorming rather than project stamping):
I think I know what you’ll both say in spirit, but the conversation so far seems to beg for clarification on this for it to move forward. Do you agree/disagree, or see something I’m missing?
Again, I’m really curious. And I assume that both of you have a specific concept in mind (semantics aside) that fits a long stretch of conversations, clients/projects you’ve seen first-hand, etc, as well as something that is a moving target in its earliest beta version.
Thanks again in advance. Very interesting thread here.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 on Twitter/Blogging (Finally Coming) says
I don’t know (and I cannot speak for Will) if there is a specific concept/framework in his mind as yet. We haven’t talked about this other than what you are reading here. We’re just moving with a similar mindset I think…
I think there is this incredible desire–and need–to figure out exactly what you are outlining. All those questions are out there. Right now you are witnessing the hands-down “I’m in” for taking the conversations to the next level of possibility. Long process ahead, and who will be crafting the strawman (if that is the right approach–though I tend to think a small but representative group of educators needs to do that early on) hasn’t begun to be considered–unless Will is already off on a mission!
Will Richardson says
So this is the tail wagging stage, where the dog can smell the cookie and will do whatever he thinks is necessary to get it. Sit. Roll over. Speak. Create a wiki. Etc. ;0)
In short, I have no idea what this looks like aside from it being something more glue-y that what we have now. Again, I defer/refer to Lessig, who has been able to a) identify the larger problem, b) create a compelling narrative around it, and c) offer a concrete action for change. Unfortunately, the root problems in this conversation seem less distinct, have a hugely ingrained narrative to compete with, and defy step 1, step 2, step 3 solutions.
Having said that, if nothing else, it might be good to have a brand. “Change Congress”, “Ed in ’08”, “Change Schools.” And if the brand had at least had a “product” (text, video, combination, etc.) that articulated a narrative and supported it with a focused set of resources…something we can all take to the streets with.
Or not. (The brain explodes.)
I don’t mean to be glib, though I guess that’s what I’m being, but we’ve been here before, considering group action (now that they are easy to form) but falling back on our own personal avenues shortly thereafter. Is there something that makes this moment different? More voices? More awareness? What are environmental factors that might sustain a change movement (assuming we can define the change) more today or in the near future than yesterday?
Dave Powers says
To the community,
I have read a few posts like this since I have been back and I had a very similar feeling last week. This was my first NECC but I attended the November Learning conference last year which I felt was amazing and shifting the way I thought about schools and education. My issue last week was NECC was much of the same content, but without the great conversations.
My computer broke on Sunday so I spent much of Monday and Tuesday reinstalling Vista 🙁 and getting reorganized. After the Monday sessions, I reflected for a while on my bad experience after the first two days and I came to the realization that some simplification might be what the edublogging community needs, including myself. I then spent much of Tuesday simplifying my personal digital stuff.
A few of my conclusions after the conference,
NECC is too large. It is like sitting in a college lecture hall vs. a classroom or twenty engaged learners. With smaller groups you can actually be hands on and use technology while learning instead of discussing it in theoretical terms. There was virtually none of this at NECC even though the numbers were too large to hold quality discussions out loud.
The main problem that all tech literate teachers are having isn’t what web tool should we use to do the next great project. It is the fact that there are not enough computers in students hands. I believe that this is where the plateau feeling is stemming from. This being said, one of the better sessions I attended was by Dr. David Thornberg about solving the 1 to 1 student per computer problem in the United States. He described how using Linux could help this problem by cutting out the cost of the operating system and office suite which along with the web browser which is free on any computer, make up 99% of what people do with computers.
As my colleagues that attended NECC know, I spent a great deal of time on Wednesday trying to figure out a way to ask the great bloggers and founding fathers and mothers of this ed tech movement to organize their brains and energy in ONE place.
I have seen almost fifteen Ning networks, fifty or so blogs, twenty good wikis, and two different ways to bookmark it all (Diigo which was not present at NECC, and Del.icio.us). Currently I use an RSS reader to keep up, but I have always felt that if there was a way all of you could still make your living with your content but it was all in the same place and organized in the same categories, tags, and/or pages then it would be much easier to get something done.
We need you all to work together to advocate for the one-to-one initiatives that the schools really need.
If this sounds like a rant, I apologize. I would love to hear if anyone else has been feeling this way or came to different conclusions.
Will, ten years ago I remember how excited I was that I could actually hear my virtual colleague in Adelaide, South Australia as he was speaking with me via MSN messenger. Well, to be honest, he could hear me speak but he couldn’t respond with audio so he resorted to texting the responses. Nevertheless, we were in awe that we had that much success. We exchanged audio files back and forth so that our students would be able to hear each others voices. Though the files were small, we eventually had to purchase online storage space because we started to exchange movie clips that far exceeded our maximum attachment size in yahoo. A few years after that I remember my first video conference with my students and my virtual colleague in Taipei. My students were singing with his children. No problem with audio or video. And this past school year I had my first virtual classroom experience with a teacher from her tent in Ross Island, Antarctica. She spoke with my students about her research on Adelie penguins and shared images in realtime. This would have been unheard of even five years ago This year I sat in my livingroom on the east coast and listened to your presentation via UStream and texted questions as quickly as the person sitting right there in the room. My colleague in Taipei sat in a session earlier that morning with a perfect connection for audio and video. The technologies have improved dramatically in only a few short years. I’m encouraged by the increased networking that is going on with teachers across the planet as they share ways that they can collaborate with each other locally, nationally and internationally. A lot has changed in the past decade and I expect that in the next five years the technology will be transparent and we will be energized by the collaboration that will continue to take place via blogs, podcasts, wikis and who knows what possibilities lie ahead.
I think presenting at non-tech conferences is a wonderful idea! Let’s all seek to present at one non-tech conference as JWagner suggests.
It seems the call to go outside the echo chamber is an old one-hasn’t this been said for a while now? Isn’t that the entire point? Why so many are settling within the safety of circles with people just like them is beyond me. Maybe I am just too different anyway.
Possibly an economic catastrophe needs to occur before drastic change in our culture can take place? Certainly hope that is not the case.
If we truly want change what is it we must do?
Nancy White says
I did not attend NECC but followed as much as possible through Twitter, UStreams and back channels. I also had a sense of this being nothing new â€“ primarily focused on tools â€“ and a lot of preaching to the choir. I absolutely agree that this community â€“ from the â€œin crowdâ€ presenters all the way down to the tech-savvy classroom teachers need to take what they know to the teaching community â€“ educator conferences, and also their parent communities. Show the evidence of how this can transform learning in the classroom. If the educational objective is to help students with critical thinking, then show which tools can do that, and how well they do that. If the educational objective is to develop lifelong learners, then show which tools will motivate students to continue their learning. Until we focus on the learning, I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll see much change in education. Until we get the message outside of the educational community, I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll have the community support that is vital to implement change.
This morning, my local paper featured an editorial that was touting the same statistics that pretty much every ed tech workshop Iâ€™ve ever attended uses â€“ usually to show the need for more â€œ21st century skills.â€ This being that â€œhalf of Americans don’t believe schools prepare students for adult life. â€œ (Associated Press). The editorial staff of this newspaper seemingly took that data to make an argument for school reform â€“ but not the kind that I envision. They focused on the need for students to â€œknow materialâ€ as if we are still in the 20th century, “preparing factory workers” model of society. They are using this data to justify more standardized tests. Yes â€“ I think it is definitely time to break out of the silo of ed tech people and share a little of our vision and evidence of positive impact on student learning with those who make decisions about the direction that educational reform will take.
Stephanie Sandifer says
After reading all of the comments above, I wanted to share the following with you:
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and I talked about this last week at NECC and we both feel very strongly about continuing to develop these ideas. We are both very interested in opening a school (virtual or some hybrid form), and I can see this eventual framework being something that others can take and customize based on their location/population/needs.
This was worked on a bit in an afternoon session at EduBloggercon and both wikis are really in “brainstorming” mode — in need of more organization & cleanup (yeah, I’ll get right on that!) — but feel free to pull whatever you want out of either one to put into the changeschools wiki.
On a related note: Are any of you reading the recently published book “Disrupting Class”? I think there is information in that book that is relevant to this discussion. I’m in the middle of reading it right now.
Final comment — I agree that there is a need for some/all of us to be on the same page and to be working on concrete action plans to facilitate change on a variety of levels.
Some of the needs that I see:
Actions/Action Plans — involvement in other academic conferences, while also staying involved in our own confereneces
Research — we need some hard data, not just anecdotal (How are these emerging technologies improving student learning, and how are we measuring the impact?)
I’m sure I can come up with more, but this is enough for now I think.
Will Richardson says
Re: “Disrupting Class” Not reading it, but thinking about it. The snips I’ve read seem to propose a pedagogy that doesn’t take full advantage of the potentials we discuss here, however. What do you think the authors’ understanding of the impacts of social tools is on the conversation?
Christopher D. Sessums says
I have enjoyed reading your comments and those of others.
I am reminded of a saying that goes something like, “I don’t know the true face of my town, because I live there.” The changes we all seek are happening all around us; they are just happening on a much smaller scale.
One of the major issues with the types of changes we’re looking for is scale. As you noted, 8M educators in the US make small changes seem almost imperceptible. But change is happening and will continue to happen.
I too am wanting to shift my focus on how I participate in this extensive learning community. Given the scale of educators and edublogging, I see how small groups can be more effective in working toward meaningful social activity.
I see school change happening the same way, in small pockets that someday will be more loosely joined with other pockets, networks, and communities. We’ve only scratched the surface, Will. It’s our job to share our visions and create road maps to get us there.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment Chris. I know change is happening, just not at the pace my kids will benefit from. ;0) So how do we create, identify, and connect the pockets???
Debra Baker says
I was at a friendly neighborhood 4th of July barbeque and got into a heated conversation with someone whose children attend my school district. She was complaining about this and that within the District and finally I said something to the effect that parents in our District (considered one of the top Districts in the state) should be storming the Board meetings questioning the limited technology (and limited vision) within the walls of our very wealthy District. I essentially told her that her complaints were far misdirected.
Parents should be outraged.
I wish that we had taken a core group of parents from our District to NECC, so that they could get a firmer grasp of how lagging we are. Teachers in my building wait weeks for computer lab availability, there is not nearly enough available teacher training, and we work with a network where once we get students in front of computers, too often they stare at frozen screens. Frustration reigns.
Parents (and their kids, of course) are our clients. Where is the parent version of NECC?
In fifteen years of teaching, I have yet to have a parent approach me with a question about technology (hardware or usage) within my classroom or within our building. That is truly amazing.
How do we get them to a level of outrage whereby it might actually impact the terribly slow rate of change within our schools? Do others agree that that might make a difference?
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment Debra. More and more I find myself lining up in the parent camp. It’s amazing how little they connect what’s happening in the world to their kids’ educations. Your comment motivates to explore the ways to address this more effectively. Thanks.
Some of us (parent educators) ARE working within our own districts to promote change. I was a founding member of a Educational Technology Foundation in my town where we fund teacher-initiated ed tech grants. I was on the grant funding sub-committee as well. Do you have something like that in your community? Get involved!
In addition, I asked my kids teachers to please use the technology that the district provided them – but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Minimal technology integration occurred despite the present of interactive whiteboards in every classroom. ( I know, IWBs are not a panacea.)
Because it starts with one, I decided to run for school board in my community although it’s too late for my kids (my youngest just graduated from HS).
We can impact change. Impact on local levels, show students the possibilities and get them and their parents on board, present at teacher conferences, teach at teaching universities (where old pedagogies die hard)and get involved on state educational committees.
Will, have you considered getting involved politically?
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, Karen. And kudos on your activism. If more people followed your lead, we’d probably be further down the road.
In answer to your question, I haven’t thought with any seriousness about getting involved politically. I’m not sure that would be the best spend of my time, even though I love politics and often thought of working behind the scenes.
21CT: Franks' Blog says
Or rather than inch along, how about a view such as Clayton M. Christensen’s “Disruptive Innovation” that:
* Customized learning will help many more students succeed in school
* Student-centric classrooms will increase the demand for new technology
* Computers must be disruptively deployed to every student
* Disruptive innovation can circumvent roadblocks that have prevented other attempts at school reform
* We can compete in the global classroom-and get ahead in the global market
With globalization and rapidly changing technology and culture .. and we afford to inch along and connect things little by little until there is a critical mass? Maybe not!
Reference: Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen
Steve Dembo says
A few comments: How many sessions did you attend at this NECC that had a presenter you didn’t know personally or read regularly? Don’t think I’m trying to be critical of you, but I realized myself that I was doing that. Surrounding myself with like minded people, going to sessions where I knew what I was going to hear before I even stepped into the room, and then I wondered why things seemed fairly predictable.
Maybe reading blogs outside of your education folder isn’t a bad thing? Maybe your blog folder no longer contains ideas that will stretch you personally.
I agree with you that we need to continue to extend our reach though. Podcasting isn’t the answer, and yet there were about 1800 people in our Podcasting for the Absolute Beginner panel discussion. That puts some perspective on things to me about the state of technology in education. But I’m not so concerned about that. I’m more concerned with the sheer number of schools that choose to “Block it and forget it.” And the knee jerk reactions that occur in government when issues arise. And so on…
And yet, what I still keep coming back to is the same problem many have with the Obama campaign. Yes, we all want change. But what will the change be? What will it look like? What do we want to actually happen and what can we do to get there? It’s the details that are the challenge.
So who would we need representatives from to lock into a room in order to try to identify what that change could look like? EduBloggers? Administrators? Politicians? Reps from the business world? I don’t know, but I’m thinking that the biggest problem I see with in the EduBlogger world is too much talking and not enough action items.
Will Richardson says
Thanks, Steve. In answer to your question…none.
Finding the lever is three-quarters of the battle. And identifying the change, obviously. It goes back to Warlick’s attempt to frame the new narrative. If you haven’t watch the Sir Ken vid, you should. He gets much of it right, I just don’t know how widely it will sell…
Cathy Nelson says
I said this in our session at NECC, we need to stop preaching to the choir and spread the message around. I personally have chosen administrator conferences in my state, but I’m just one person. I’ve also chosen teacher conferences like my state middle school org AND my state library association conference. Who did I read recently who said of all the people at NECC, only about 300 seemed to “get it” that we need to change the way learning happens-embrace the tools–facilitate learning in the 21st Century?
Stephanie Sandifer says
I think you might be referring to the recent blog post by Dean Shareski regarding the numbers. Darren Draper and I also discussed this issue while we were at NECC — we are a minority when you look at the # of people who attend EduBloggerCon vs. the number of NECC attendees. I also looked at the NECC Ning tonight and there are only 2000 people registered — out of a total of 17,000+ attendees?
Kudos for you for choosing to become involved with state-level administrator conferences. I found out recently that one of my sessions has been accepted for the 2009 ASCD National Conference (but with no media projector or wifi/internet connection at the time of writing this comment — that’s a whole other issue), and I was also recently invited to present a session at the NASSP 2009 Convention (they are looking into getting internet access for my session). Chris Lehmann and I have discussed the need for more of us to be submitting proposals at leadership as well as academic conferences at the state and national level.
However, based on my experiences last week — remember those numbers that indicate that we are the minority — there are still many people who attend the tech conferences who we need to continue to reach. The message might be feeling old to many of us (hence the sense that NECC didn’t seem to offer anything new), but to thousands of attendees, the things that we discuss are still very, VERY new to them.
I spent a few hours serving as a “mentor” in the Blogger Cafe and in the few conversations that I had with some people that I spoke with during that time, it is so very clear to me that we need to do a better job of getting out of our “echo chamber” to speak to more people one-on-one at our tech conferences AND within our own districts.
As I watched the recording of the wrap-up session held by Steve Hargadon I felt that there might be a need for those of us in this “community” to spend a little time as formal mentors at “topic tables” where people can stop to learn more about specific tools/strategies/concepts or get one-on-one help on the use of certain web-based tools/resources. Just a thought…
Larry S. Anderson says
As I have read and pondered each comment posted here, I feel heightened.
It’s not because I sit here and nod my head in agreement (see: bobblehead robot). It’s because I sit here and twist/lean my head to one side, a bit troubled.
Maybe we need a revolution — a real revolution. Boat rocking on a grand scale. A psychological tsunami. Something to shift us off the comfortable shelf upon which we have perched ourselves and our well-fashioned opinions.
My spirits are lifted because I am troubled by this conversation. At least, I’m thinking. Maybe that’s been what’s lacking: a revolution in thinking by decision makers and visionaries, alike.
Now, beyond thinking, there is a need for action. However, action in the absence of incisive thinking is a collective outbreak of folly.
So, I encourage each of you to keep thinking. Keep proposing wild, but bold, ideas. Keep questioning the status quo. Keep pushing (remember one of my favorite songs from the 60’s — “Keep On Pushin’?). Maybe it’s okay to make each other a bit mad, at least in the beginning. But, there’s no need to be “maddening” (learning to disagree without being disagreeable).
If all we do is sit in each others’ presence and nod our heads in agreement, we’ll continue to get what we’ve gotten already. I agree with the question that comes from so many of you, but initially from Will: “Is that what we really want??”
What one great thing would we dare to do if we knew we could not fail? — and if we had only one chance to accomplish it?
OK, now you can turn off your “Larry filter”! 🙂
Richard Kassissieh says
As I work with teachers, I find the obstacle to innovation to be the relative lack of clarity about the pedagogical usefulness of Web 2.0 tools. Most teachers don’t fall for the novelty factor or clever demonstration. They want the answer to a simple question: “How will this help my students learn better.” And they are sophisticated consumers as they evaluate one’s reply to these questions.
For my part, I now include some discussion of learning theory (e.g., constructivism, connectivism, rhizomatic education) in every presentation I make to teachers about Web 2.0 tools.
We need to demonstrate more “evidence of learning” in our presentations, and this needs to be more than just some sample student work. Our explanations of the effectiveness of new tools needs to be detailed, persuasive, and comparative. I like Konrad Glogowski’s descriptions on his blog, for instance. The Apple Learning Interchange and George Lucas Educational Foundation do a decent job, though the quantity of content is sometimes difficult to filter.
Let’s treat teachers as informed consumers. More marketing. Less evangelism.
Keep up the great work!
Eric Langhorst says
I attended NECC last week and did find myself talking and visiting with many of the same people I have seen at other national and regional tech conferences. We have become very good at connecting with each other but does this impact what happens in the classrooms of our peers back home?
I have had the unique opportunity this year to present at a variety of meetings, functions, banquets, etc. and people outside of education have no idea how these tools could be used – for free in most cases – to improve our instruction and create a more complete citizen. I think if the general public had a greater understanding of what could be done with a change in direction of curriculum philosophy and available tools, they would be outraged that teachers across the country and not using them and that each of our students does not have a computer in their hands. One to one can be done if we as a nation think it is important enough – but we don’t need to be sold on the idea, the rest of the nation outside our network needs to be convinced.
For me right now that is my central question – How do we educate the general public about what could be done if we stop teaching our students as if we are preparing them for 1908 instead of 2008? The lack of real discussion about education in this presidential election speaks volumes for the apathy in the general public toward moving forward. How do we “enrage the masses” to force a fundamental change in the way we educate our students? What is the tipping point that will move us past “the way we have always done it”?
This is a little out there but are there any comparisons to the “green” movement that seems to gaining traction right now? The green movement has been around for a long time but now seems to be making an impact on the average American in some way – slowly but at least it is on the radar now. I would think education should be on the same level as the environment.
Just some ramblings after a long night of attending some meetings….
Will Richardson says
Thanks, Eric. I think one of the “unknowns” out there is that, assuming we develop sound pedagogy and choose Web tools well, the cost factor is dropping precipitously. Free and open source software combined with smaller, laptops, for instance, make this more possible. More bandwidth both at schools and at home are still a major issue, however.
Re: the green movement. I think the two are connected in that unless, as Sir Ken says, we create a much more imagination based school system, we’re gonna be SOL in terms of solving the larger problems.
Clay Burell says
NECC is pretty far away from Korea (and air travel for a tech conference is a wildly ironic eco-no-no anyway, but I digress), and I was moving into a new apartment the very days it was held, and so couldn’t even attend online, but I had the feeling it would generate weird vibes from all the hype preceding it and the massive size (and also from a lot of generally weird social snarkiness in the eblogger boomtown in the past few months).
If I have anything to add to this thread, it’s this:
1. Tools don’t fix a rotten building. Maybe Shirky’s “platform” should be entertained as a replacement for schools, and the idea of schools themselves abandoned. I’d be much keener to contribute to wikis and networks to those ends than to devoutly schoolish ones. (To switch metaphors, you don’t waste a good defibrillator on a long-dead corpse. Let Lazarus lie.)
2. Whether tools are used in classrooms is pretty unimportant, compared to what type of learning is expected in the classroom. Most classroom learning doesn’t deserve the budget outlay for increased technology. Extra cash would be better spent on redefining what’s worthwhile for the young to learn. I’m a techie too, somewhat, but find educational philosophy far more vital than technology.
3. Is it me, or is the silent majority in education even more invisible this year than last, in all of these NECC talks? I mean the end-users – the students. There has to be an army of educational malcontents, volumes of witness testimonials to the farce of current schooling, and brigades of compelling material witnesses in high school student bodies around the world – all untapped. 18,000 adults at NECC is good – but 18,000 students on YouTube would be better, IMHO. Why is it so difficult to see student-centered educational activism, when it’s talked about so easily? Or am I missing something?
My two kwai. Nice catching up on your blog.
Will Richardson says
Hey Clay, Thanks for stopping by. Once again, I’ll ref the Sir Ken video since I think he agrees with the long-dead corpse metaphor. (If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it.) But I also think that we have to at least try to use the paddles even if the result is a slow recovery.
No doubt, the emphasis has to be on learning, but I wonder whether these tools require us to think differently about learning i.e. collaboration on a global scale, transparent publishing, etc.
I wish I shared your optimism for galvanizing our students as a political or advocacy force. Unfortunately, I believe there are at least three factors that prevent students from vocalizing their discontent.
1. Learned passivity – they have been taught EXACTLY what to do and how to play the game of school, since kindergarten (“Your name must go here.” “I told you the heading must look like this!) Points are taken off for not following the exact directions.
2. Teachers hold all the power – students know they are dependent upon how the teacher feels about them and their work for the grade. The grade is vital for the GPA. The GPA is essential for getting in to the “best” colleges. So, overcoming this power imbalance is crucial if we hope to see any type of involvement from students who currently attend public schools
3. Students don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know about instructional methods that improve their learning and tool or method choices that best help them demonstrate what they know. They (and their parents) rely on the knowledge of the professionals in the room – the classroom teacher. Militancy from a position of ignorance is difficult if not impossible.
4. School is a game – students know the rules. And for many students the rules mean make as few waves as possible until real life (graduation) begins. What do they gain through their advocacy? What are the cost/benefits? For many, the cost is too great when they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Clay Burell says
Great response. Why am I thinking that a conference (or something less logistically challenging) for students, in which your points formed the beginnings of conversations for students (and parents?), would be worth the effort?
Anonymity for student participants would take care of point 4; as for point 3, I’ve had countless conversations with students who are fully aware that classroom instruction is often a waste of their learning time, so I’m not sure they (high school students, anyway) are as ignorant at that age.
Good food for thought.
Will Richardson says
I agree, this is a great line of thinking. I see much of this in my own kids, even though I’m trying to help them to not play the game as much as possible. And let’s not forget that parents learn to play the game as well.
Lots to think about here…
Carl Anderson says
What if we empowered our disenfranchised students to effect positive change in this way. There is a growing horde of students in the US who are dropping out of school not because they possess any of the normal risk factors but because they have seen school as unimportant. They have seen school as a place where learning is inferior and have chosen not to play the “school” game. These are students who want to learn, who want to have opportunities but do not see our system as their best possible option right now. If we had a system to empower these students to effect change in the system everyone could benefit. The students would be more likely to stay in school and the school would become a more productive 21st century learning environment.
What makes you think teachers aren’t feeling the same incredible sense of powerlessness to change the system?
The decisions being made are not reflective of the needs of the classroom instructor. Too many ed tech discussions go on at meetings between technology integrator types, business managers, and superintendents-there are other voices that matter not in the conversation. It is nice to think students come before teachers-but that is putting the cart before the horse.
Clay Burell says
@Linda, If I said students come before teachers anywhere in the above, I can’t find it. (And let’s not kid ourselves about many, many teachers who are more than happy to push the worksheets after the wannabee professorial lecture, punch the clock, and go home to watch Lost).
There’s no logical reason I can see to say either teachers or students should be included in the conversation.
My point was simply to note how absent students are as a force in these discussions and in this “movement” (if that’s what it is).
That being said, I’m with you on the importance of teachers joining discussions – that’s easy enough to see. It seems less easy to see that students should.
William Kist says
I’ve been encouraged to read here the comments from those suggesting the need to present at non-tech conferences. I agree totally and would suggest that those of you who are English teachers check in with the National Council of Teachers of English. This is not an advertisement for NCTE, because I am not 100 percent in agreement with everything that happens at NCTE, but if you look at the sessions at the upcoming San Antonio conference in November, or the upcoming Indianapolis conference (even though I’m not a fan of the “21st Century Literacies” title), there are an amazing number of presenters who will be talking about new ways of teaching and learning English, broadening our conception of what the English classroom will be for the English teachers who will be attending these conferences. NCTE’s Commission on Media is also sponsoring a day-long New Media Gallery in San Antonio November 21 that will be completely interactive and a non-talking head safe place for sharing new ways of teaching and learning in the language arts classroom.
Tom Hoffman says
What’s in your Education folder? There has been a noticeable uptick in the quality of progressive(-ish) education (not ed-tech) blogs lately.
Will Richardson says
Tom, Pretty standard fare. If you want to throw some links my way, they would be much appreciated…
Julia Osteen says
Organized movements on a more global level can only have so much effect. Real change occurs on a local level, in local schools. If enough local schools make the change, then you have a change movement. Chris Lehmann’s story with SLA is so powerful because he has made the change happen on a local level. The real question is how to take the lessons learned there and apply them to other schools. What we need are more models for school change and how the local people made that change happen.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 says
I agree that we need more models for school change–Chris’s isn’t ‘school change’ as much as it is a new school vision from the ground up, scaling year to year. At your school and mine we don’t have the luxury of breaking it down and starting over. We’re “renovating”, “rethinking”, “re-visioning.” But what is that vision exactly? What is the change we are seeking as educators and leaders? We’re going to fail if it is left to NECC-like, new tech tool mentality. That was what was so powerful about Lehmann’s preso at NECC and the EduCon experience last year. It had nothing to do with tools per se. The tools are transparent when the pedagogy is clear and leadership makes sure the environment is focused on learning–with the “oh, by the way, isn’t it wonderful that the tools enable this kind of learning”!
How do we develop more models for school change? You’re doing great work at GAC, I hope we’re doing some good work at Lovett, and I believe other schools are as well. But I don’t believe the efforts in many of the cases are coming “from the top.” Generally speaking, I think it is more like one teacher at a time–often in isolation within their school–pushing uphill. We need more school leaders with vision. How do we get that? How to we help them “vision”?
Julia Osteen says
I think sometimes school leaders have to “see” the change in action before they can share in the vision. Not everyone can gain vision from philosophical or even pedagogical discussions. That’s why we need more models that we can send people to see in action.
I agree wholeheartedly with you about the tools. Your statement above is exactly why our school has changed “focus” from working on a 1:1 initiative to working on a 21st century learning initiative. The pedagogy is what has to drive the change, the laptops or whatever other hardware are simply the tools to meet the 21st century learning objectives.
I did not attend NECC this year but do plan to go next year. I would hope that more people who are making strides on a local level whether as a school effort or on a classroom level would apply to present. If people don’t apply to present on pedagogical topics, then NECC will continue to be the “tool fest” that it seems to have been this year.
Scott McLeod says
Good gracious, youâ€™re a comment-gathering machine! Weâ€™ll see if you can top 150 with this oneâ€¦ =)
1. Iâ€™m increasingly in agreement with Clayton Christensen (author of Disrupting Class; he also wrote The Innovatorâ€™s Dilemma) that the disruptive innovation â€“ personalized learning for students â€“ is going to come from outside the school organization. Think online schooling, charter schools, home schools, video games, 1:1 programs that force schoolsâ€™ hands… Itâ€™s going to sneak up on the existing system and then completely surpass and overwhelm the current status quo. The only question is when, not ifâ€¦
In the meantime, if you think the existing K-12 system in most places is capable of more than evolutionary / incremental change – even while surrounded by a revolutionary environment â€“ then quit now or get used to being disappointed.
2. This post sounds a lot like Karl Fischâ€™s recent post about being stuck. My comment to him may be helpful to you too (or it might not!):
3. Call Dr. Mary Ann Wolf at SETDA sometime (tell her I sent you). SETDA is doing awfully important work at the policy / legislator level that may speak to some of your bigger picture issuesâ€¦
4. Yes, Iâ€™m going to say it again: You can do anything and everything with teachers â€“ and it might even be amazing – but if the leaders donâ€™t â€˜get it,â€™ itâ€™s not going to happen.
And by â€˜it,â€™ I mean long-term, substantive change. There are 125,000 schools and another 15,000 school districts in the US alone. Better get crackinâ€™!
Peace, my online friend.
Steve Ransom says
@Scott – very true. I think we need to frame all of this in a larger perspective. Step back and look at educational change in general. We get far to frustrated when we think that these technology-based tools are not rapidly revolutionizing education spheres. For goodness sake, we are still trying to get effective math, language arts, science, and social studies instruction more widespread. Of course, all available tools should be part of the “effective instruction” approach, but that is not likely to happen when so many are still religiously following the table of contents in the textbooks and pulling material out of those tired, dog-eared manila folders. I have noticed that most of my recent blog entries have been touching these issues as well (http://ransomtech.edublogs.org/). Leadership, school by school, teacher by teacher, is what is needed. Large conferences may benefit those who attend in some small ways and more rarely, in more significant ways. However, those who attend such conferences are typically part of the “choir”.
It is now time for the “choir” to recruit new members. This can’t be done in choir gowns from the choir risers. It is time to take off the gowns and go into the audience and get dirty. And, if local school leadership does not make meaningful change a priority, then very little will ever change. IMHO, we need to stop “running schools” and start revolutionizing learning.
Jean Tower says
Thank you all for your insightful comments about the NECC 2008 experience – many of my colleagues from Massachusetts had similar reactions. We found ourselves wishing for more substantive uses of technology in sessions that really focused on student learning AND leadership strand sessions that were further ahead of the curve than we are, rather than a little behind. It was very clarifying and affirming to read the post and comments here (as well as many of those mentioned here). I have three things I’d like to add to the discussion.
1) William Blake once wrote (and I paraphrase, perhaps poorly) that he tells the truth less to convince those who disagree with him and more to defend those who do agree. I suggest that sometimes the “echo chamber” and techies groups and conferences of like-minded colleagues provide a necessary conclave experience where we can “defend” each other. We may be relatively alone in our schools or districts, but these forums help us to know we are not alone and we are working as part of a large group.
2) I agree that we need to reach outside of these groups to make progress – we won’t become unstuck by talking only in the same circles.
3) Here is one of the small steps we have taken in Massachusetts to combat getting stuck in the echo chamber and to get the message wider – our state ISTE affiliate, MassCUE, has made outreach to school administrators a primary focus for the last couple of years. One thing we did was send invitations to school administrators to attend our annual conference for free. Our successes have been that we have an increase in administrators who attend the conference, we have a number of principals and superintendents who present at our conference, we added a one-day Technology Leadership Conference that has been resoundingly weel received, and we are now working hand-in-hand with the Massachusetts Superintendents organization to help them plan their own technology conference for 2008, and there is talk of combining the conferences in 2009.
These milestones are evolutionary in nature rather than revolutionary, but are nonetheless steps in the right direction.
John Peters says
This was the first time for me at NECC and overall I enjoyed the experience very much. Having said that there were things that I liked and things that I didn’t.
I think what I enjoyed most was Edubloggercon, the Bloggers’ Cafe both listening to the sessions there and meeting many of the Eubloggers that I enjoy reading. I’m sorry that I did not get the chance to meet you there because I have been reading your blog for some time now and would have enjoyed the opportunity to meet face to face.
Being a relative newbie in the Edublogoshpere, it was educational, informative and in some cases even inspiring to me to have the opportunity to take part in some of the sessions and the chat that transpired at the Bloggers’ Cafe. I think I made a few new friends and definitely made some contacts that I hope to continue into the future in order to help me explore my professional development in the area of Web 2.0 technologies so that I can share these tools with my students.
“I donâ€™t think it was possible to sit in on the sessions or walk by the Cafe and not simply admire the level of engagement of both long standing and relatively new participants in this conversation.”
I really appreciate your comment above. This positive attitude towards us newcomers to Edublogging is what I found every where at the Blogger’s Cafe and is what has encouraged me to continue my own efforts, feeble as it may be, at blogging about education.
I agree that we will see a lot of “Web 2.0 in a box”, as you said, in Washington D.C. next year from the vendors and I don’t necessarily agree with their motives for entering into the Web 2.0 world just to sell more of their product. I know that vendors are necessary to help fund conferences such as NECC and many do have some very good products to market to the education world, but…