So there’s been a lot of angst flying around the edbloggosphere of late regarding what in the heck it’s going to take to get all of these changes we think we need to make kick started in our schools. Take for instance David Jakes, who responds “Wanna Bet?” to an eSchool News e-mail header that reads “Emerging technologies educators can’t ignore.”
But how many teachers can even design an effective presentation in PowerPoint? How many take advantage of the professional development opportunities available to them? How many internalize technology tools as significant and mission-critical tools required to teach today’s kids. Sadly, the news is not good.
Blogs? Digital Textbooks? Cell phones and iPods? Are you kidding me?
And then there’s Alan Levine, who is wondering if we’re all just “singing to the chorus” rather than really changing our practice:
We know the current generation is almost a different species than our own (a trend that goes back as far as you can go, right?). I’ve heard another presentation where this is highlighted the point again, and at some point, it gets a tad repetitious. At some point we ought to be talking more about what we are doing to address this, strategies for making change, etc. And the irony, of hearing this again at a presentation last week (and even duly noted by the presenter) was that the mode we are communicating this (a single speaker lecturing to a passive audience) is in direct contradiction to the message that learning is social, active learning is the key to engagement, etc. etc. etc. Why are educators in their professional gatherings not changing their own practice?
Oy. (The good news is Alan’s self-medicating and should be back to his more happy self soon.)
In the current issue of EdTech Magazine (free registration required) Pinellas (FL) superintendent Clayton Wilcox voices a familiar refrain.
So, here’s the superintendent’s dilemma: How do you create a compelling picture of our young people’s future with people who are less technologically literate? How do you move people from what they have known to what they have never seen and, in some cases, never contemplated? How do we educate today’s kids for their future rather than for our past?
Good question, it seems. Tough question. How do we do this? Or do we stop trying, accept that it’s going to take a generation for schools to really figure this out, and just try to model what we can where we can? I’ve been really inspired by the work of our teachers in the Tablet PC pilot who for the most part, young and old, are really finding the technology transformative in many different ways. But we’ve been able to give them something we’re not normally able to give teachers: time. Over 20 hours of training, consistent follow up and technical support, and ways to communicate. We’ve coddled some, and prodded others. And, not surprisingly, the younger ones have been riding their tablets the hardest.
This Friday, we get the whole faculty for four hours to hopefully engage them in discussions about process and planning and to show them some of the things the cohort is doing. We’ve been working a plan for the day pretty hard, and I’m hoping it will worth the effort. But I can tell you it won’t be overly effective in bringing too many teachers to the technology table. Not enough time or individual attention. And that’s really what it’s going to take to move people like Tom McHale at my school, or the science teachers at David’s. And that’s the tact that Clayton Williams seems ready to take:
Well, having seen the future, I know where I will start. I am going to tell the story about a boy and his friends who multitask with the best of them, who are not afraid of technology, and I’m going to tell all who will listen that students will gladly volunteer their time when something commands their attention. The great educators I know will find a way to do just that.
Maybe I missed the true nature of my dilemma. Maybe it’s not about creating the compelling vision of a different future for our kids because it’s here for all to see if we just look. Maybe, then, my role is to find the resources so teachers can command their students’ attention in a digital world.
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