I’ve been growing more frustrated lately and I’m feeling more pessimistic about the prospects for any serious change in how we as an education system see teaching and learning, and I think I’ve figured out why. I hate to generalize, but the thing that seems to be missing from most of my conversations with classroom teachers and administrators is a willingness to even try to re-envision their own learning, not just their students. Many will say that they understand to varying degrees the changes that are occurring, that the Web is in many ways rewriting the rules of communication and socialization, that the world our students enter when they leave us will be much different from the ones we ourselves were prepared for. But it feels like there is this unspoken belief among most that we can deal with these changes without changing ourselves. And that’s is a huge problem.
Lots of teachers I talk to want blogs and podcasts and wikis. Without question, there are thousands of teachers, tens of thousands in fact, who are already using the tools with their students. I see new examples every day. But I’m still bothered by the fact that very, very rarely do I see new pedagogies to go along with them that prepare students for the creation of their own learning networks. That allow them to take some ownership (or at least envision the possibility of it) over their learning. That help them learn self-direction and get them to stop waiting for someone else to initiate the learning. And even rarer is to find one of those teachers exploring his or her own learning through the tools.
More than anything else, I think, teaching is modeling. As a writing teacher, I wrote with my students. As a journalism teacher, I wrote for publication with my students. As a literature teacher, I practiced and modeled reading for my students. Modeling is teaching, and never has that been made more apparent to me than when my own children act out and reflect my own bad behavior back to me. (It happens more than I like to admit.) My own kids, it has become clear, learn less when I talk, more when I do. And so it is with me.
We go back and forth in this community about whether teachers who use blogs should blog, or podcast or read RSS feeds. I’ve always hesitated to come down on one side or the other in that debate for a variety of reasons. But it’s become clear to me that the answer has to be yes. If you are an educator, I think you have little choice but to choose option 3 in the Marco Torres mantra: “You can complain, quit or innovate.” I know in many ways it stinks to have to be an educator at a moment in history when things are changing on a glacial scale. But what you signed up for is preparing kids for their futures. You have little choice but to deal.
Why won’t our kids be as well served if we don’t change ourselves? I mean we’re all products of the system, right? We all did ok. Things were changing when we went through school, right? Um, no. Not like this.
Our students will by and large have the ability to learn anything, anywhere, anytime (if they can’t already.) The level of their collaboration and connections with colleagues and peers in online environments will be of a type that is hard for most of us to imagine (myself included.) The information and knowledge that they will be awash in will require skills and literacies that most of us simply do not have. Their futures (and to some extent their “presents”) look very little like our vision of what it means to be educated. (And if you don’t believe that, spend some time reading “The Education Map of the Decade.”)
And so here is the friction: Recently, I had a teacher tell me that she spent about 10 minutes a day online and that frankly, that was quite enough. She said that she’s not going to sacrifice the other things that she already does in her life to spend more time on the Internet. I wanted to say, as Yochai Benkler says in the Wealth of Networks, you have the “greatest library in human history” at your fingertips. You have a billion potential teachers. You have an opportunity to learn in ways that you or I could not even have dreamed of when we were in school. And you have an opportunity to shepherd your students into a much more complex, much messier, and much more profound world of learning in ways that will help prepare them more powerfully for the world they face.
Many of our kids are already doing this without us. Many of them have much more of a clue of what it means to learn using these tools than we do. Imagine if we could teach them to leverage their connections even more powerfully, if we could show them how powerful they are in our own learning. That we are not just engaged teachers but engaged learners. That we’re not afraid of what’s ahead because we know how to learn.
Surely, that’s worth more than 10 minutes a day.
But the litany of reasons why this can’t happen are on the tips of too many tongues. Today, in our parent conferences, I asked my daughter’s teacher if there were opportunities for her class to work on extended projects, projects that in the end would have a purpose beyond the grade and the classroom. Projects that, to quote Marco again, would “have wings.” The response I got was this: with all of the objectives that must be met for the state tests coming up in the spring, there just isn’t time for it. When I asked my son’s teacher whether she had read his blog, her answer was that blogs were blocked at school and so, no, she hadn’t.
And so I am frustrated, and I am wondering what will it take to make our classrooms places of learning rather than places of teaching. And I’m wondering if teaching really is dead. And I’m wondering, like the survey question from a few days ago, what classrooms might look like 10 years from now, if they will be fundamentally different from what they are today.
My guess right now is not much.
technorati tags:shifts, learning, education, weblogg-ed
This might make you feel worse, but the college level is just as bad.
Although . . . I had a great workshop on Flickr today so maybe. I mean the 5 people in the room were really excited about it and that makes me excited, but . . . that was 5 people. There are 150 faculty. How to reach those people. I don’t know. Oh, and I had a conversation with 3 biology professors that I got hooked on tablets (in large part to reading about your tablet initiative) and they said it changed the way they taught.
In those moments I have hope but there’s still many more to reach and some of those people I’m trying to reach are actively pushing away these changes. They are the gatekeepers and they see the walls coming down and they don’t like it one bit.
Sign me up for the revolution!
audrey hill says
I think you ARE pessimistic today. But, maybe that’s what happens on some days to dedication and enthusiasm when it is confronted with the reality that the world will not comply with vision. I think I’ll depress you more, but what can I do? You made me think. So here it is:
The real world is notoriously inconvenient and resists. NCLB disrupts innovation and drains away time. When you grade not only the tests, but the multiple full dress rehearsal practice tests, time for blogs and learning curves fall by the way. And, if I learned nothing else from my administrative degree than this, itâ€™s that while I might think my vision is the more essential one, unless a district ponies up with the cash in the form of leave time and materials, itâ€™s not happening. So plenty of teachers won’t learn the new without mandates in the form of tangible district commitment. Itâ€™s a waste of time to complain that teachers donâ€™t just add new responsibilities onto full plates. The fact is, in order to have a life outside the school, some teachers are going to choose to just be adequate. And they aren’t going to scale the learning curves or blog or write for publication. They won’t perform lab experiments or try to solve pi or learn topology or whatever constitutes modeling in math… modeling maybe :). And, while they are missing a certain missionary zeal and some of the pleasures too, I donâ€™t really fault them for choosing family life over feeling like they have to be all things to all children.
Itâ€™s also true that not every dedicated educator has the same priorities. Quiet as itâ€™s kept, not everyone thinks that being able to upload to an ftp client, maintain an rss feed or podcast a book report is all that meaningful. Some donâ€™t think that publishing online is significantly more relevant than writing and sharing in the classroom. They may not believe that a real teacher has time to be a writer or artist or scientist or that childâ€™s only hope for the future is a complete paradigm shift or an emphasis on technology instruction in every subject area.
Even more disheartening, not every teacher who thinks that the internet is a revelation and the source of intellectual transformations still to come works in a school that has the material ability and unfettered access. Reality bites, doesnâ€™t it?
And, of course, there are those that think that the plugged in nation is a bad idea all aroundâ€¦ that too much time is spent online already and that the online culture borders on quasi-literate escapism and rank dependency. Some people think we err when we allow kids or adults to be plugged in all day and all night, too. And, I guess thereâ€™s a little truth to itâ€¦ a lot of us do spend too much time online. Maybe being online all the time is fine if you are an online guru or aspiring to be one, but what are the rest of us doing here all day and all night? It may be that the woman who spends ten minutes online is not wrong, sheâ€™s just got a different life to live. Maybe sheâ€™d rather learn to scuba dive, take a ceramics class, walk a dog, go on a weekend away, plan the school play, listen to her children talk about their daysâ€¦ Anything besides stay plugged in.
These are some of the things that occurred to me as I read your piece. As you preach the word of the read/write web that some will hear and some will not, I thank you for your vision, anyway. I read you because youâ€™ve been in the trenches… even if you are a little evangelical. I have the utmost respect for your work as a journalism teacher. Youâ€™ve really done some great things for kids. It matters to me because you arenâ€™t just another fast track careerist riding on the back of whatever wave rides into shore, and Iâ€™ve seen my share of those. You know the typeâ€¦ the inadequate teacher who did 3 to 5 and now gets to use district dollars to fake it in the faces of the better abled and harder workingâ€¦who for their hard work get to feel like proper fools because they work so hard while the fakes make the big bucks. So thank you for being the real thing. And buck up. There are a lot of good things going on everywhere and it will all look different on a different day.
Ewan McIntosh says
I have certainly found a desire to change in the way teachers think about teaching. They are excited by the new pedagogy and see how the tools will help bring that impact, whether the impact is making things more efficient, making better attainment a possiblity and so on. The world at your fingertips and “it only takes 10 minutes more” are not arguments that would work in my experience. I’ve always gone down the line that to do this something else which is less efficient, less motivating or unnecessary anyway will have to go. That realist sentiment seems to go down remarkably well.
Hope you’re keeping well, Will. Would love to chat some time about anything – maybe even not tech! 😉
If, in the future, teachers are not standing in their classrooms solely, or even principally, with the purpose of imparting knowledge, but rather to show their students how to learn, it can be a very scary thing because this means they have to become avid learners themselves.
Up to now teachers have taught, but they havenâ€™t taught their students to teach. Isnâ€™t that a safe position: do as I say and not as I do. And now, you, society, parents, administration, come around and say â€œbeâ€ a learner, show by exampleâ€¦ that can be a very scary journey to set out on.
You wrote a while ago that you had learnt more in the last years than you had ever learnt as an adult. When you wrote this you inspired me and as well as others to dig deeper in our journeys to become learners and not teachers. If you are feeling any despair or pessimism about the state of teachersâ€™ thinking in these matters it could be triggered by the fact that you talking to the teachers teacher-to-teacher and not learner-to-learner.
If someone told me as a learner, I only have ten minutes to learn a day, and that ten minutes learning is not doing but reading, how could you not get discouraged?
Will, your frustration is not without company. However, I believe that with individuals such as yourself out there rallying the troops there is hope. I have learned more in the last year than I have in my first 9 years as an educator (which included a masters degree). My online collaboration with blogs, wikis and podcasts has opened up ways for me to “pass the torch”. I feel the need to “pay it forward” and with baby steps I feel that more and more teachers in our area are getting it and their classrooms are changing, albeit very slowly. I know that you, among others, have inspired teachers to change. What if you hadn’t?
There will always be those teachers who are there “for something to do” not “to do something”. In our staff development program we are striving to connect the dots with technology and curriculum where the technology is, as you say, transparent. This involves not the one shot deal where a teacher registers for and attends a class, but includes follow-up with the teachers to be sure the knowledge and skills are growing and are directly impacting learning.
My hope is strong. In sharing this with you I hope that yours will be that much stronger. Thanks for ALL you do.
Sarah Chauncey says
I returned to public education after working as a computer consultant for 25 years. I document my first days back here http://www.digitalpencil.org/About.aspx. Everything that I have built to support the library program — including the library website http://www.grandviewlibrary.org and companion site http://www.digitalpencil.org reside on a server that is not owned by the school. The students and I use software that resides on my notebook computer to produce podcasts, video etc. Of course I have all of my tools to build ASP.net applications, website content etc. When the tools can’t be loaded on machines, access to content is blocked, and server space to house content is denied — you can get bruised up bumping into walls. I guess ignorance is bliss — I’m still chugging along — almost afraid to share. Would someone stop this?
Bud Hunt says
This post really resonates with me. Maybe it’s time to build the school of tomorrow, instead of waiting for the school of yesterday to catch up. Might the MacArthur Foundation be willing to spend a little of its rather large bankroll on such an endeavor?
Terry Elliott says
I am sympatico. It has taken me two years to figure out how to use rss with my freshman comp classes. I have only begun to make a stab at a weblog only paper assignment. I fear even then that after the course they will languish like the weblogs I have (to my mind) generously provided for free to colleagues and students over the years. But who am I to complain, my own personal web work languishes more often than not.
Part of the problem is that the riptide of the old is stronger than hightide of the new. Will, you are like the fish with legs bucking this evolutionary tide, but we know that we can only stay ashore (read online) for limited amounts of time. Those who follow you do so at what they perceive to be their peril, but these risks are our safeties in disguise. Tell that to a student grubbing for that “A” that will get them into Pharmacy School.
The problem you articulate is always with me. For example, I have always wanted to start my own school in my backwater Kentucky county. This desire to be of service close to home drove my original desire to teach. I drove by a former social services building in town and thought to myself, “That would make a great school.” Then I caught myself. It would make for just another school of the old model. Hell, that would suck. What is our alternative? Something that more closely parallels the ecosystem of the mind? One that mimics the conviviality of cellphone/myspace/facebook/whathaveu? My guess is that future school/synthetic universe will look more like the mashup and aggregator than the classroom and bus. I want to stick aroung just to be a small part of the coming digital ‘demolition’. We are all like Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night washed upon the shore of Illyria. She looks about her and asks, “What country, friends, is this?” Yes, what country indeed.
Clarence Fisher says
I’m with Bud. We need more models showing this “stuff” in action. We need classrooms that are models, places that people can visit, CDs filled with videos of lessons and projects in action. We need model networks of kids and teachers working in these ways and collaborating in their learning over the distances. This is the “stuff” that is beginning to emerge in my classroom. Kids whose blogs are filled with comments and thoughts from other kids around the world. Kids who are beginning to have a more global perspective on learning and on life. But many people discount us thinking that they don’t have the tech skills and that we are somehow “special.” People need to relaize that it is about learning and how learning can be and needs to be different.
Will Richardson says
Clarence, you in particular are creating the types of spaces that I would hope every teacher would want to emulate. I use that girl’s blog about the Nata Village as a powerful example of what could happen. And your approach to bringing these tools to them is really masterful.
And btw, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment in such depth and with such passion. It’s powerful, motivating stuff.
Tom Hoffman says
What I want to know is, how far into Benkler’s book are you? Any English teacher knows that quoting the acknowledgments (or preface, etc.) is a tip off that the student hasn’t read the book. 😉
ps. I haven’t finished it either.
Ken Leebow says
As a presenter, I asked a college professor why he blogged. I got a most fascinating answer. First, he blogs about, of all things, Abraham Lincoln.
This is what he had to say:
“It’s a way to maintain my discipline as a scholar and a writer. If I’m blogging daily about Lincoln, then I’m thinking daily about Lincoln, and this helps me develop new ideas.”
This opened up my eyes and should get educators thinking.
Brian Crosby says
Will – “Working, Breathing, Reproducible, Intriguing Models” – http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=51 – I posted about this. I said then that the “Gurus” such as yourself do still need to go around “speading the word” but until you can point to more than 1 Bob Sprankle here” (and he is not doing it in a classroom anymore) and 1 high school teacher there – then you are spitting in the wind. Teachers and especially administrators and politicos are not going to sanction doing something differently unless you can prove that it works on more than a one classroom model. Fortunately you have Chris Lehman starting up a great model – but that will take a couple of years of success before it can be cited – ARE THERE OTHER EXAMPLES where on a schoolwide (much less districtwide) scale that your vision is being tried? That’s going to make it a tough sell. In the meantime we keep plugging along in our classrooms trying things out, keeping data on what we are doing, so that if and when things do “open-up” we can model some tried and true techniques that have traction.
Will Richardson says
Tom…I actually got through page 125 or so… I keep meaning to get back to it. ;0)
Pam Shoemaker says
Don’t get too discouraged. Many of our best teachers have not yet learned or even heard about blogging and podcasting for education. I don’t think it is their fault… I work in a large school district in SE Michigan as the Tech Integration Coordinator. So it is my job to help the teachers in my district be aware of new innovations that are available due to technology. I first learned about blogging and podcasting last March at the MACUL Conference (thanks to your presentations), and it has taken me until now to actually start my own blog and try podcasting. However, I’ve been reading ed tech blogs since March, so I’ve learned the value…my own professional development. It took me, a person who is among the first in the crowd on matters related to tech integration, 7 months to learn the ropes of blogging – finding blogs that are interesting to me, using bloglines, and finally creating my own. Now I’m ready to spread the word and I’m confident that many teachers will jump on board. Knowing that it took ME some time, I’ll be patient with them, and you should too. 🙂
Mike Curtin says
Will, I was with you at Mohonk a few weeks ago. I share your frustration sometimes and I would just point to something that Gary Stager said at the same conference: the “digital natives/digital immigrants” distinction is doing teachers and students a grave disservice by convincing adults that they can never enjoy the full experience of life online the way their students do. You are exactly right: we need to model for our students how to use this powerful new resource. Yet Marc Prensky and his followers are telling teachers that they essentially will never get it. Telling someone that they are a digital immigrant lets them off the hook. As you so astutely point out, teachers really need to OWN it, to believe it is their tool designed to help them – the same way kids do.
Mary Miner says
I hear you. Last spring I set up a classroom blog with the staff as the students – to model the skills and hopefully get teachers to discover classroom uses on there own. I gave up on that, as I felt like the sound in the forest with no one to hear. After 3 years, I finally have gotten our teachers to get on board with Blackboard. From there they are discovering the discussion board. It is going slow, but it is still going. So while the slow going makes it challenging for us who are blazing the trail, there still is some forward progress. Not at the speeds we would like, but better than the alternative. So we gotta keep on keepin on.
Kimberly Moritz says
Well, I’m glad this post solicited as much response as it did. I would say to Bud and Clarence–sign me on as the new principal for our “school of tomorrow”, but then I realized I’m one of the administrators Will referenced who should be shifting into sixth gear where I am now. Thanks for the post, keep inciting us to think right out of our complacency Will!
Mike Guerena says
Good conversation happening here. When I read Will’s post I was in agreement with his observation about the mud we are stuck in as an educational community. The movement forward to new types of learning seems a long way off throughout the educational system. However we cannot expect to have a complete revolution. It is going to happen slowly (much slower than I personally want it to). While we still have teachers who are of the opinion that email is not a relevant form of communication, asking them to blog is on another planet.
I agree with the idea that we must show teachers these new models of learning in action. To see a class of students who are active learners and using the wide variety of digital resources to create meaning, while the teacher supports them as a coach will bring more change than telling them about these abstract web 2.0 tools. I would like to see a resource that documents and compiles the schools and teachers who are creating these environments. That could be a good starting point.
We should be moving towards creating a few schools that demonstrate the true potential of collaborative, digital learning. Staff it with teachers who are ready to push into a new era of teaching that can finally start to move us out of the assembly line model that our schools were founded on.
John Blake says
On Wednesday, of last week, I was ready to quit. At 4 p.m., one of my students called me at school. He wanted me to help him find the webpage that has our science textbook on-line. He had forgotten his textbook and wanted to complete a homework assignment. This student never takes home a textbook. Then the next night, he did not do his homework, and used the excuse that he could not “figure it out.” So now, instead of “the dog eat it”, or “my books are at my mom’s and I was at my grandma’s house,” they blame it on the technology. Teachers are no different. If the kids see using technology as a way to solve their problems, they will figure it out! Teachers see technology as something on-top of what they have to do. Innovation can be a product of desperation. Just remember, you can lead a mule to water, but you can not make him drink…
Dean Shareski says
While I agree with many about creating models, I think the we need to realize that time is the most critical factor. I’ve yet to meet a teacher who, after I’ve introduced them to the possibilities of a web 2.0 world, don’t get excited. But without the time to explore and fully understand it all(not that we’ll ever get there), it becomes much like trying to eat an elephant….one bite at at time is just too hard to take.
I’d like to see a model like Chris Lehman had where he had 7 months to design a school. Whatever happened to sabbaticals?
Carolyn F. says
On my campus I see two things going on simultaneously–teachers embracing new tools rapidly and with excitement and teachers also resisting spending their life “online.”
But I think what is happening with the Web 2.0 is the evolutionary and revolutionary stage of internet use. Change is always somewhat slow and schools can be slow to adapt to change. But blogs particularly are one of those things that I see drive change. Look at how blogs have impacted the news media for an example. I think they will have this same change in education but even a more transformational one, as individual teachers also are empowered to put their voice out there and as individual students are empowered to put their voices out there.
I think any kind of sea-change requires patience.
And I remain an optomist about it although lately I have been thinking about a grant project I was involved with in the early 90’s about using software(similar to what Tapped In does now) and how I thought that would revolutionize things, and how it didn’t. But that was pre-Internet, and I think that changes everything.
There are many challenges for schools right now–the emphasis on testing, the emphasis on child protection and filtering, fear of the unknown, etc. But schools used to have those same fears about the internet in school-I remember when we had one workstation connected to the internet for a school of 2400. Now it is like breathing being online.
I do believe teachers are a little overwhelmed, not only with the new tools when they hear about them, but also in their day to day jobs these days–the accountability, parental pressure, administration issues, etc. And so it will be awhile before there is large scale adaptation, I think.
I heard a presentation at Internet Librarian where the speaker compared library tools to a swiss army knife, and that we employed these clunky looking knives with every tool sticking out. I think some of the technology is that way right now. It’s kind of geeky and hard to explain and it will be incorporated more the easier it gets (things like RSS or Skype I am thinking of right now). And we need, as leaders, to point to the things that are not clunky and are easily used first.
I am also heartened by seeing so many principals blogging or online as technology leaders, and I simply do not recall seeing as much of that before, ever, and I think that will make a difference too.
Great discussion and keep the faith. We need the evangelists in education!
Daryl Pearson says
I agree Will that we need more pedagogy about the uses of blogs, podcasts, wikis, digital storytelling, etc. There are pioneers out there like Clarence Fisher that are providing stories from the classroom from the perspective of the classroom teacher but we need more voices from the classroom. We need more voices sharing the real nuts and bolts on how things work in the innovative/ new literacy based classrooms. These voices need to share how a podcast or blogging activity works starting from the motivational set to the evaluation/ reflection component at the end of the activity.
Many of the blogs that I subscribe to are written by individuals that were but are no longer in the classroom. These bloggers, including yourself Will, are wise, intelligent, and out spoken advocates for the changes we want to see in the classroom. Your biases are respected and truly appreciated but to add more power to the stories we need more classroom teachers telling those stories like Warlick preaches. Stories from the trenches per say.
However, it’s hard for teachers to do that. Be it lack of time, or whatever excuses that are out there. I have many.
My point is , we need teachers, actively working with students from 9 to 3:30, everyday, those getting glue on their hands or chalkdust on their pant legs, to start rallying the troops, to get the passion, the understanding, the pedagogy that makes the new literacy classroom work.
If we build this network of “in the trenches” teachers, I would suspect greater change will occur. How to build the network is the question and challenge.
This comment comes from a Grade 6 teacher, who is listening to the stories but still hasn’t spoken loud enough and found his voice.
Carol Burns says
Bud and Will, Sign me on as a technology specialist at the “School of Tomorrow”. Your message about “teachers needing to reinvision their own learning” is necessary and must happen to be successful in developing online communities and I’ve tried to stress that and will continue that mantra in our training here. I’m embarrassed to say I waited to get my staff involved in the most powerful tools of the internet…waited for over 2 years, why? For all the reasons listed above…waited for the district to say it was okay and safe is only one of the reasons….and I kept waiting. This school year I decided to “just do it”. I jumped in with both feet. My training weblog is MODELING what I believe weblogs are designed to do and supported by my administration. Not only does it give teachers ideas and encourage blog reading, but it ties into ideas and staff development from our recent faculty meetings..and interestingly enough our staff is debating block scheduling -vs- 7 period days…most are logging in to have their voices heard…even those teachers who were not in my first blogging workshops and also teachers who would not necessarily speak up at a meeting, but from behind a keyboard, they can make their point without so much risk……sooner or later, I’ll hook all of them! I have the enthusiasm and the desire to keep increasing our web presence and hope I’m doing it correctly. Our blogging workshop is in it’s 3rd day today….we will learn to post pictures….and this was not a drop and run workshop…after all, anyone can CREATE a blog in less than 30 seconds….I started with carefully mapped out sessions constructed around several chapters in Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts by someone who truly inspires me!! My workshop participants have listened to 2 introductory podcasts by you, Mr. Richardson, and have read much from your book and other sources that I find including good blog examples by super teachers!! Kim Moritz has been an additional inspiration to us in her blog in Gowanda, NY….the inspirations are there and as a trainer I feel very passionate about growing our web presence here at EGHS. (83% increase after the blog training) We ARE re-envisioning our learning here at Eau Gallie High School….and we are going to continue looking to you and other bloggers for strength and assistance!!!
Kelly H says
There is no question that our students, our children, need to be at warp speed in learning to use technology in academic, business, career, and social arenas. The ability to access information and content quickly is increasingly becoming a survival skill. It might be interesting however, to observe over the next 15 years how focusing teaching on creating students who are information bloodhounds, with a just-in-time mentality (that is, searching for and finding information as needed, for a specific time and purpose) affects the character development of students. There was a time when the idea of a â€œRenaissance Manâ€ (gender neutral of course) was an ideal. A person who had, in their head and heart, poems from Emily Dickinson or e.e. cummings, quotes from Shakespeare and C. S. Lewis, bits of writing from Aristotle or Locke or P. G. Wodehouse. A person who has in their mind and soul visions of great art, knowledge of Rubens or Klimt, things that are a part of who they are, that they can â€œsearch and retrieveâ€ from their own mind, for comfort, for laughter, for entertainment, for learning, to be able to keep themselves company when they are alone, to be alone but never lonely because of the rich library of their own mind and soul. How does a change in focus from â€œhaving contentâ€ to â€œbeing able to find content when neededâ€ affect what a person becomes as an adult. In some ways, are we creating people who only have temporary storage instead of a rich personal foundation of knowledge and learning? RAM individuals who donâ€™t keep knowledge on a permanent basis but only in a temporary cache for the immediate need? When I feel my anxiety levels grow after watching the news, when I notice my jaw has been tight all day because my to-do list has been growing instead of shrinking. I can stop anywhere, anytime, with no need for internet access, and in my head recite the Wendell Berry poem â€œThe Peace of Wild Thingsâ€ that I took the time to memorize years before because it brings such comfort and perspective to me in my moments of personal crisis. I could rush to Google and search â€œcomforting poemsâ€ perhaps, but somehow having it in my head, with me always, my own secret, personal pearl of great price that I can access at anytime. We only have so much time, so much of a kidâ€™s brain that we can claim territorially. We are driven to try to make the best use of that time and territory. The impulse to align that drive to one purpose, whether it be technological literacy or not, is strong. But the question is, what are we creating?
Mike P says
Yes Will, your frustrations are founded on real experiences, experiences I too have had. But one thing that gives me comfort is that kids are learning more outside the classroom than ever before. To misquote Mark Twain, today’s kids aren’t letting school get in the way of their education. Case in point: My six year old came home from school excited about thermometers. Did he wait for the teacher to revisit the topic? No, he went to the Web, and with dad’s help, found interactive Flash sites to play with thermometers. And we’ll go to Unitedstreaming to select a Magic School Bus video to follow up.
Yes, my son has the benefit of a tech-savy dad, but I think that my point stands. Like the title of The Who album, err CD, err download, “The Kids are Alright.â€
Jenine Wech says
I see the validity in statements from teachers that â€œwith all of the objectives that must be met for the state tests coming up in the spring, there just isnâ€™t time for it [extended projects, projects that in the end would have a purpose beyond the grade and the classroom]â€. Teachers spend a significant amount of time testing, grading tests, meeting about tests, meeting about grading tests, and analyzing the results of the test so they can design another test to test the weak areas.
Fact is, standardized tests as we know them are probably not going anywhere for a long time. For some that might be good news. For others, it is a sad sign that our factory-style education system will continue to churn out students as if they were little products to be measured by rigid one-size-fits-all specifications and continuously sent through quality control checkpoints.
There is, of course, a place for the quality assurance professional. My guess is that is not what most educators envisioned when they embarked on the quest to become a teacher. I wonder how many teachers the current treadmill of standardized education disheartens. I consistently hear from teachers that they want to put the life back into education. They want to connect with students on a meaningful level and really make a difference.
So, what if it were different. I mean, really different. What if there was no position of â€œteacherâ€ in the schools. I am not suggesting we remove the adults from buildings. In fact, I would suggest the opposite. But letâ€™s imagine for a moment, that there are no teachers. â€œTeacherâ€ has become synonymous with â€œquality assurance professionalâ€. So…why not create positions with a title that matches the job at hand. These QA Professionals would be experts in assessment and learning standards.
While we are at this business of change, why not take our cue from vocational schools or schools such as High-Tech High where learners are engaged in self-directed project-based learning. Project Coordination involves a whole other set of skills. Schools will need adults in place to provide focus and coordination to help the student plan the learning in context of required objectives. Project Coordinators would bridge the student objectives with mandatory learning objectives. These professionals also foster the development of interpersonal skills through modeling of effective mentoring and facilitation. Notice I am not suggesting that these Project Coordinators be experts in the content. Rather, these coordinators are expert learners and networking (in the human sense, not technical sense). They donâ€™t know the answer, but they know how to find the people who do.
The third leg of this model involves the â€œexpert in the fieldâ€. These experts are professionals in practice, connected to field experts and engaged in fieldwork. It seems unrealistic to expect our teachers to be content experts, trained facilitators, assessment experts, and on top of it all, keep up with project coordination for every learner.
In our ideal education model we want to think of learning being driven by student passion. I believe this starts with encouraging each educator to identify his/her own passion and developing an area of expertise, not in terms of subject area, but in terms of function within the learning process. Technology is part of the equation, but as you say Will, it is “not about the technology”.
Will Richardson says
I just want to chime in here once again and say that I am absolutely amazed by this discussion. The mere fact that so many of you felt compelled to share your thoughts to these ideas is inspiring. And quite amazing. Something has resonated, obviously, and I’m left wondering if it’s a good thing that so many others feel this sticking point and are working on ways to get past it or if it’s a bad thing that so many others feel this sticking point and that reality really is widespread. Hopefully the former. Thanks again all for your thoughts…it will take me a few days to digest.
Jan Davis says
I read your article and the responses, it is nice to know that I am not alone. I am currently using Moodle with all 3 of my 10th grade classes, and now have moved the venture to a private site not supported by the district so that the students and I may model an ELA unit in a server supported arena. I have even created an online children’s novel based on a web 2.0 concept.
I think it is time to model the school of the future, the past and those who continue to state they only have a few more years until retirement, so why bother with technology, should be asked how will they keep up in retirement years with the changes in technology.
Thank goodness that there are leaders out there such as yourself and others who will continue to light a torch for others of us to follow. Don’t get discouraged, better days are coming, who knew youtube would be such a success? May we all design a youtube for schools, teachers, and administrators to follow…
As always just my 2 cents…
Sean FitzGerald says
I empathise with where you are at Will. I’ve left the industry because I was sick of beating my head against a brick wall.
I scanned the comments and noticed mentioned of the need to create alternatives, rather than try and drag the current education system kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. I totally agree – I don’t think the latter will ever work.
I thought you might be interested in this alternative model – E-volution of schools – Technology – smh.com.au.
A little ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark and gloomy world!
I agree. It also disapoints me that the educational system fails to teach us bout personal finance and home economics. The whole reason that we get an education is to make money. But, once people make money, they have no idea what to do with it. The usually do something stupid with it like invest in the stock market when they know nothing about the stock market. They then wonder why they loose money and thats because they buy and hold. It is buy and homework. As a highschool student I am forced to study personal finance and the stockmarket on my one.
Joel Rainbow says
I share in your frustrations. As I work on a doctorate in eduction (Ed.D.) my writings have touched on what I think might be a reason for delays and reluctance in the “reformation” of public schooling. Maybe it will give you or others an idea to build upon:
I have an idea of how current thought continues to be influenced by practices from the past. One reality tends to frustrate me; the idea among our public that schools today should be just as they were â€œwhen I grew up.â€ I like to jest that anyone who has been through school may feel they are an expert on schooling. After all, they spent at least twelve years in school. Continuing, I point out that there are four sides of a teacherâ€™s desk. As students, they have only seen the studentâ€™s side. They have not seen the sides of the teachers, administrators, or the school board/governmental sides. Each of those has their own influences and priorities. If one is to completely appreciate public schooling as an institution, they must understand each perspective. If those who are decision makers are without these insights, they cannot effectively lead such an important institution forward as it attempts to meet the disparate needs of a vastly different client, our students.
Jeffrey Young says
I was inspired by this discussion about owning our learning and modeling openness to learning. So much so that I created my own post on the Future Learning Network blog, titled “Owning the Process of Learning” It is a challenge and an invitation to engage fully in the question of how do we go about co-creating the future you describe. I hope you and others will see my response there at: http://futurelearningnetwork.typepad.com/future_learning_network/2006/11/owning_the_proc.html.
K Christopherson says
Well, I’ve enjoyed reading through the many different posts. Instead of feeling disheartened or crushed, it invigorates me to see so many professionals who are willing to take time from their busy day to discuss what needs to be done in someone else’s life. I’ve posted on a few other of Will’s blogs and I don’t always agree with him, not because I am against change or technology or …. but because I don’t believe that it will be the silver bullet that everyone seems to be saying it will be. If only teachers would get online and learn to become learners who work and learn with their children, discovering a whole new global collaboration that will change the world as we know it. Really? Well, I’m telling my students to stay away from any of that, learn a trade. You see, the world out there may be a great place to visit but we’d better learn to take care of our homes first. Before anyone jumps on me as unconnected or unknowing, I must confess I’ve been working on the web since 1989, before there was an “internet”! Since that time I’ve used all kinds of tools to work with my students, discovering ideas and making connections with what they know, challenging their own thoughts and ideas and readjusting. The web is a powerful tool, as is a piece of art, a monologue, a drama, etc. If what we are doing is looking for a truly new way of doing school, then let’s really rebuild and allow all students, those who use the web and those who don’t, to be successful. I agree with Kelly H that we seem to be creating “throw away knowledge” much the same as the throw away devices that we are using. In all this future visioning, did anyone consider what the consequences of a global economic collapse? What would that make things look like? Better have skills to deal with all futures, not just a tech one.