Time and Change

Two great videos shared on different blogs today. The first comes from Scott McLeod and Dangerously Irrelevant. The video shares the important idea that we need time if we are going to be creative. For me personally, this idea connects to conversations I have had with a colleague who has moved to central office from a building-level administrative position. The pace in central office can be less hectic. But without the calmer pace, I’m not sure how much creative thinking we would get accomplished. How can we help change that so our building administrators can experience more time for creative thinking and problem solving?

The second video comes from Partick Larkin and Learning in Burlington. The video is the Ignite talk presented by Will Richardson at ISTE 12. In the talk, Will shares 19 Bold Ideas of Change. All the ideas are interesting, but my favorite ideas (which happen to be things we need to work on in my district):

  • Be Googled well – How conscious are we of creating a digital footprint? When we hire new staff, do we check digital footprints?
  • Learn first, Teach second – Are we the chief learner in our classroom? School?
  • Share everything – How much do we share? We can share far more than we do.
  • Ask questions you don’t know the answers to – Are the questions we ask easily found in Google? If not, we aren’t asking very good questions that move us to higher levels of thinking.
  • Unlearn. Relearn – Our frame of education is too often rooted in dusty ideas. We have to be open to listening, hearing new ideas and taking action to make modifications to our thinking.

Know a skeptical parent? Have them watch this.

This video, created by Frank Romanelli (discovered via Kevin Hodgson’s blogKevin’s Meandering Mind), struck me as an excellent watch particularly for parents skeptical of the changes happening in the world today as a result of technology. I’m particularly thinking of parents who say things like kids don’t read/write enough, they spend too much time on the computer, they use technology to harass and bully, etc. (This blame game is subject of an earlier post.) But this video does a really nice job capturing the argument that students need to be creating and consuming digital content while developing the new literacies. What do you think? Who do you know that could benefit from watching, thinking about and discussing the ideas in this video?

The Mirror

It’s human nature to not want to take responsibility for problems. We are good – very good –  at this behavior in education. One of the most common problems I hear about (largely from adults – parents and teachers) is the “distraction” of technology. And the scapegoat is almost always, “the technology” or the students. Scott McLeod blogged about this today, and I absolutely agree with him.

Classroom management stems from good instruction. Engaging learning environments mitigate ‘off-task’ behavior. We need to stop blaming students or laptops for our own failure to create better learning spaces (and that’s true whether we’re talking P-12 or postsecondary).

Another problem area we educators are good at shifting responsibility for is the growing number of students exiting brick-and-mortar schools to go to charter schools, particularly cyber charter schools. We inevitably blame the students – they’re lazy, they can’t handle rigor, they just don’t fit in, etc. We also blame the “greedy” cyber schools. It’s really not learning any way.

When instances arise where we blame technology, or blame other people outside our organizations, we need to stop. Take a breath. Hold the mirror up. And ask some of the tough questions:

  • What are we doing to contribute to the situation? And be honest.
  • Why did those students decide to attend a cyber school? In what ways can we better meet the needs of these students?
  • What can we do to change the classroom so our students won’t even think of being distracted by something other than the planned learning at hand?

I’m not saying that we are always at fault. That is by no means the case. But let’s start with ourselves. Hold up the mirror and ask the tough questions. Don’t give in to the temptation to make something or someone else the scapegoat for your problems. Only when we hold up the mirror and are honest and authentic can we begin to address our challenges.