Sunday, May 27, 2007

A tempered rant.

Dean Shareski posted the other day about Possibility v. Probability, where by he addressed the issue of building an infrastructure within his school where change was seen as urgent and necessary in regards to how we use technology in our teaching. This same idea, in various forms, is one that I find myself answering to both internally and with teachers that I work with. The most frustrating aspect of my job so far has been the feeling that teachers don't see the value in what I do in regards to their own teaching methods. There are two disconnects I see in the schools today: complaints I hear regarding cell phone usage, the ubiquity of iPods, and the persistent time-wasting of online gaming and social networking through MySpace and Facebook and the lack of change in pedagogical methods to captivate that audience and use those ideas and technologies to draw in the learners, and the sore-thumb syndrome, whereby teachers are using technology for technology's sake rather than as a tool that will foster growth and understanding. Below, is a great clip from Stephen Downes as he responded to Dean's post and follow up question of what schools will look like in five years, followed by my own comment:

Comment by Stephen Downes

May 26, 2007 @ 6:54 am

there’s no easy answer to that. Schools change very slowly, so although
there will be increased penetration for tech (usually sanitized to
separate students from society) things will look much like they will
today. There will be increased pressure - especially from the U.S. -
for alternatives, but it will be difficult to separate educational
ventures from commercial ventures.

Meanwhile, online media will have gradually become more pervasive
and more immersive. It will occupy an increasing amount of students’
time. Online will be - indeed, is already - be thought of as ‘normal’
and most students will be in constant communication with their friends
(watch out for loners shut out of this network, as they will be more
isolated than ever).

Mostly, school will be about socializing and learning pushed to the
back burner (at least, for students). There will be an ongoing (and
losing) battle by teachers to prevent students from using their
technology. The number of schools breaking down and accepting the
online world will increase. Adoption will be uneven, with urban schools
being at the forefront, rural schools late adopters.

The students’ real learning environment - their online world - will
penetrate the school environment one class at a time. Innovative
teachers will attempt to actually remove students from the school
grounds much more frequently than in the old field-trip days (this
allowing for 100 percent use of online techs). The amount of school
time actually spent ins school, as an average, will constantly decrease
(in five years it should be roughly 80 percent, give or take a lot; in
ten years it could be down to 50 percent, give or take a lot).

Comment by Patrick

May 27, 2007 @ 4:44 am

on where you are, as Stephen said above, the ratio of innovative
teachers to traditional teachers will fall in favor of transformation.
For districts that lie in the suburbs and are truly committed to having
their schools remain centers of community outside of athletics and
arts, the shift is essential and the acquisition and support of
“shifted” teachers will bely their success at being involved in the
real learning process of their students.

This thought process that you had, Dean, is one that I have been
struggling with as I attempt to penetrate(I hope that word doesn’t
sound to pugnacious) classrooms that don’t necessarily see the need for
change. My biggest issue is with the technology not being as
transparent as it should yet. I have several teachers dieing to use
“technology” in their classroom, and several Professional Improvement
Plans submitted by teachers that use that terminology “integrate
technology” but what for? It’s apparent that they are taking that step
just for the sake of using technology. What about making it
transparent, so that it’s just another tool, like heterogeneous
grouping, that they they use to accomplish the goal of learning? That
is where my biggest disconnect is: the technology sticks out too much.

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Barbara said...

As usual Patrick I find your conversations keep me focused and often reflect my own experience. I am looking forward to seeing you at NECC. Are you signed up for EdublogersCon (couldn't remember).
As the year draws to a close I too am concerned about transformation and whether the growth we have made is sticking. I am working really hard to encourage the whole staff to construct meaning by engaging them in writing definitions for literacy and having them read blogs and sharing at meetings what they read(nobody wants to write yet).
The thing that really struck me was your final comment about technology "sticking out". I am just back from the google academy and one of the aha moments was that here are some tools that can be transparent.
If we want to speed the process we need to find things that can reshape the classroom without requiring a huge learning curve. It is the whole idea of overcoming inertia.

dean shareski said...

Good stuff Patrick, I added you to my reader, looks like there's lots on your blog

Kelly Christopherson said...

Transparency is not what we do best in education. In the past, classrooms were domains, run by the teachers, where administrators sometimes ventured. All this is changing and the new technologies students are using is making this happen even quicker. Teachers will use technology for technology sake because, well, it's cool. However, that cool factor will quickly die as they find students not really moved by the experience. This is where the teacher will either continue on, using technology as the tool or stop and revert to the more tried and true methods.
I'm not sure that urban will be ahead of rural in it's transformation and use. I work in a rural area and we are using technology to a greater degree than many urban schools because we have to in order to provide for our students. As our rural population continues to decline, we will be looking to technology use to increase as we try to offer our students as many options as possible.
One area that I think will grow is the use of online gaming as an educational medium - something that we are only using at a minimal. This will take time but it will begin to happen as we see the use of gaming in more and more sectors.
I truly think that we will see a shift that will happen sooner than 5 years. Within that time, the school where I am an administrator will have 5 teachers reach retirement and although not all will retire, enough will that will begin the shift to younger teachers. Besides, as an administrator, I see the immense power that these tools can provide teachers and I will continue to advocate their use by all the staff in my building - and in the area in which I work.

Patrick Higgins said...


You mention that teachers will tire of the "coolness" factor when students become bored with that and either continue using technology, or revert to what Jeff and Clarence are referring to as the TTWWADI (That's the way we always did it). What is the tipping point?

My colleague and I are always talking about creating a "felt need" for our learners; what is the felt need for teachers to start using pedagogical methods embedded with technology? From what I can see, it starts at the personal productivity level. Barbara mentions reducing teacher workload in a recent post on her blog. This coupled with the introduction of RSS and social bookmarking and perhaps even items like Google alerts I think can make big difference in how teachers organize, plan and thus execute lessons and learning.

Thanks for continuing the conversation.

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Pete Reilly said...

"Great technology stands out by fitting in"