Archive for the ‘administration’ category

Disturbed and Angry and Sickened

February 9, 2008

sad face.gifWhat a title, right? Well, I just went through all of those emotions when I read this February 10th article from the Washington Post titled, A School That’s Too High on Gizmos. What can I say… you have to read it to see if you experience the same emotions. In a nutshell, it describes the teachers’ and students’ experiences in a very high-tech school in Alexandria… and most of what is reported is not good. Imagine – a new building, state-of-the art, all of the technologies anyone could want (and it turns out more than most want), and teachers who are disillusioned, turned off, and frustrated. Students who are recognizing technology for technology’s sake. The term used is “administrative technolust” –

“a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them.”

Teachers being told that they cannot use more traditional technologies (i.e. overhead projectors, chalkboards…). Technical problems continually interrupting learning. The mourning of face2face socialization and increased depersonalization. I love this one quotation from a student who admits that his favorite teacher

“isn’t into all this computer stuff. All he uses is the board — the whole board. He’s lively, energetic, witty and really knows his math. He forces you to pay attention; you can’t drift off even if you want to.”

I love that. It brings a balance to the conversation about 21st century teaching – that good teaching must precede effective technology use.

Now, there are so many issues to address in all of this – technology before training, unsupported infrastructure, mandated teaching styles, mandated tools, lack of mentorship, technology for technology’s sake, technology as magic bullet, technology diversion, poor leadership, and more… I think this might be the first article that I have read that includes so many illustrations of poor technology implementation. It also brings some insights into the great conversations that happened over on Scott McLeod’s blog Dangerously Irrelevant and Pete Reilly’s blog, Ed Tech Journeys, about whether technology should be mandated or not. And, in all fairness, it is one highly publicized article that I am sure does not capture the situation in a totally unbiased and objective manner.

Anyway, read it for yourself. How did it make you feel? Let me know.

Enough With the Silly Pencil Argument!

February 5, 2008

pencil.jpgOkay, I understand the basic premise of the pencil argument (and here). But, come on now… this is far from an equal analogy! Here is what Doug Johnson had to say about the potential risks that pencils bring into the classroom in the February 2006 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology. It was referenced in Wesley Freyer’s latest post over on his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog.:

1. A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
2. A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
3. One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
4. The pencil might get stolen.
5. Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
6. Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.

Now, again, I understand the rationale behind this argument, but let’s compare:

1. Only psychopathic students would gouge out another’s eye… with anything. However, teachers have been known to be violent pencil wielders. Imagine what they could be capable of with an iPod in their hands!

2. A written insult or profanity is seen only by the one who holds the written note. We all fully understand the far-reaching implications of digital bullying!

3. One simply cannot compare pencil-envy with things of high value that create classes of students and do create envy (high-fashion clothing, shoes, and yes… electronics!)

4. In fact, pencils do get stolen all the time. I have rarely seen a student fall to pieces over it. However, if it were a $250 pencil, I could see why that could happen.

5. Pencils break. So you sharpen them again. The “repair” is done in seconds. Electronics break and are repaired with greater cost, time, and learning interruption/disruption.

6. I would much rather have a student doodle with his or her pencil than be consumed with the vast array of on-line distraction. And, most other classmates don’t usually get distracted by one student’s doodling. Not so with a laptop or other electronic device.

So, if we are to present a compelling rationale for issues surrounding freedom to learn and teaching/learning innovation, we at least need to bring valid and sound arguments to the table. To do otherwise only serves to make light of real and pressing concerns of many stakeholders. If a pencil is the equivalent of any other learning device, then I say, let’s stick with the pencils. They are cheaper, easily replaceable, quite reliable, disposable, efficient, highly portable, facilitate collaboration and sharing of information, they have excellent battery life – heck, they don’t even have lead in them anymore, making them environmentally friendly to boot!

But, if there is a significant difference here (and I would agree that there is), then we had better not be making such silly comparisons. Folks might just want to settle for the pencil, then.

Note:
Freyer’s blog post is otherwise right on the mark.

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