Archive for September 2007

The Blame Game!

September 28, 2007

Blame

I can totally identify with Chris Lehman’s post last week on his blog, Practical Theory. At times I have been guilty of putting too much blame on individual teachers for failing to innovate their teaching pedagogies and adopt current cultural technology tools. (Check out http://despair.com for more great satirical posters like the one presented here!) I still feel that part of ‘being a teacher’ is being a learner and continually looking for ways to keep fresh and identify with his/her audience in powerful ways. There is certainly no excuse for avoiding personal and professional growth. However, Chris brings a great balanced perspective to this dilemma, as there are powerful systems in play that more than not discourage innovation and ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking. In many cases, technology aside, we have been struggling to achieve basic reforms of pedagogy that have been laid down by the ‘greats’… Dewey, Vygostky, Bruner, Gardner to name a few. If is very hard to ‘buck the system’ in K-12 education. Teachers are overwhelmed with everything on their plates and have little time to think outside of the box. For those critics who always say that teachers are overpaid, work only 8 hr. days for only 180-200 days a year, have great benefits,.. well, live just a day in their shoes. Sure, there are some teachers out there who shouldn’t be in the classroom any more as they have lost their ‘fire’ for learning and teaching. But their are folks like that in every discipline and profession. Most teachers that I have known and worked with have been the most dedicated folks I have ever known.

I am not making excuses for failure to innovate, as many teachers continue to do just that in spite of the systems that they work under, or as a result of fantastic building principals and district administrators who have vision, are not afraid to take risks, who support teachers and create learning climates that encourage innovation,…

So, hats off to all of the terrific teachers out there who buck the system every day, who turn their classroom lights on every morning to try again, who seek to grow at every opportunity, who de-escalate volatile situations, humanize and bring dignity to every child who crosses their path (Hiam Ginot) – hats off to you! Start a blog to share your experiences with the world 🙂 Upload some photos to VoiceThread and continue the conversation, create motivating and inspiring montages with RockYou or MixerCast. Start a wiki with a colleague on some area of common professional interest. Find a classroom outside of your state, country, or continent to collaborate with using Epals. These are some fairly easy things to do to begin connecting with your students and colleagues in new ways.

See also: http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-it-okay-to-be-technologically.html

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Put technology where it can be best used… In the classroom!

September 21, 2007

After reading this article on why textbooks have not taken off in digital format as much as was projected, one line stuck out in my mind. It was this: “We have a lot of technology in our schools, but most is not in the classroom, where students are every day.” What a sad statement… but all too true, I’m afraid. I am struck every year as I teach my own preservice students about the fantastic opportunities and tools that technology and the Internet afford – that there is a digital divide within the school walls, not just out in the communities where students live. I am talking about the divide between what we show and teach as best practice when teaching and integrating technologies into the classroom context – and the reality that faces many of our beginning teachers when they actually get out into their own school and classroom – Filters, highly scheduled labs, few labs, poor tech support, aging computers, technology coordinator gods who feel that it is their job to “control” what teachers do with technology and in the end, limit their opportunities with red tape, slow reaction time, ‘it can’t be done’ mentality, few computers in the classroom… And this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Now, I don’t want to come across as the pessimist here. I approach all of these opportunities with a high degree of optimism. But, this statement is just too true… that the very place technology needs to be – in the classroom – is often locked in rooms down the hall, locked to rolling carts, invested in district-wide infrastructure,… The ubiquity of technology in society is not often evident when students enter their classrooms. Some schools are more fortunate, of course. Many are not. We don’t require teachers to go down the hall to use textbooks in the ‘textbook lab’. Until we commonly see 1:1 computing in the classroom, I think our new teacher graduates will continue to experience this disparity and feel the frustration of unrealized learning potential.

A New Year Begins: Create or Consume?

September 7, 2007

create.gifI was just reading Wesley Fryer’s blog and he was commenting on the same podcast featuring Mitchell Resnick‘s keynote from BLC (Building Learning Communities) 2007 and again at NECC 2007

that I had just listened to a few weeks ago. It reinforced in me how important it is that we allow kids to create, not just interact with, and as Wesley puts it, consume. I think the temptation out there is to adopt the consumer model of education rather than the creative, constructive model of education because it is just so much easier to consume. And, as we all know, there is just so much out there to consume these days. I love how Dr. Resnick observes how historically, kindergarten has “gotten it right” because of the myriad of opportunities “to have creative learning experiences”. They are always designing, creating, negotiating, interacting… But, as learning becomes more “complex” in higher grades, we begin to leave a great deal of this behind to make room for knowledge consumption. There is just so much to learn and the curriculum continues to get compacted more and more. Pressures increase to recall knowledge. The catch to using new technologies effectively and powerfully is to retain these attributes of kindergarten learning and not just, as Larry Cuban would argue, simply digitize traditional modes of learning. Rather than simply graze the Internet and regurgitate what we find, we have so many new collaborative and creative tools to make learning creative, social, constructive, and meaningful. But to do so still requires the ability and desire to “think different” about teaching and learning. As I begin this new semester with my graduate class,and this, their only class on technology in education, I feel the imperative, more pressing than ever before, to help them discover new ways of reaching today’s students in more relevant and meaningful ways with the tools and ways of interacting that technology affords. Higher education really needs to have a fire lit underneath it as we continue to create teachers that are not properly equipped for the opportunities that are available to them and to their students. And, with pressures on even kindergarten to become more “academic”, what tentions we have to wrestle with in education! It is all so exciting and so frustrating at the same time.