I’ve had an exciting week bringing myself up to speed on some of the new web 2.0 technologies. I can see that these tools offer great possibilities for a new approach to learning. They have the potential to fundamentally transform teaching and learning. That said, the question remains, “Will we embrace or resist these new technologies?”
So, let’s diverge from discussion of the technologies themselves and spend some time focusing on some of the steps necessary to align educators behind our vision. Fundamentally, we are talking about shifting people’s belief systems about teaching and learning. Teachers have strong beliefs about what a good classroom should look like.
They have beliefs about technology, the students they teach, high stakes testing, and the culture in which they are teaching. Parents and community members have beliefs about what a good public education should provide. Administrators hold their own beliefs about teachers, students, parents, and teaching and learning.
The funny thing about beliefs is how powerful they are and how important they are in shaping our experiences. Take the example of two people walking in the park at night. One person believes this is dangerous, the other believes it is romantic. Suddenly, the wind blows. Leaves scud across the pathway and the bushes rustle. What does the person who believes it is dangerous experience? Fear. The other person, with the belief that a nighttime walk in the park is romantic, experiences it as a delicate display of nature’s beauty.
Perhaps beliefs are not facts; but our own constructs. We may have past experiences that ground our beliefs; but the belief itself is not factual. The Wright brothers were aware of thousands of years of experience that proved that man could not fly. If the two brothers had adopted those beliefs, they would never have experienced flight. Often, our beliefs limit possibilities.
Are we truly open to possibility? How often have you thought, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” That attitude would have grounded Orville and Wilbur Wright. Recently, I listened to a Director of Technology announce with confidence, “Twenty-five percent of the teachers in my school will never ‘get it’.” That belief will shape her experience and make it a “lock” that her prophesy will be fulfilled.
Marting Luther King declared, “I have a dream”. He dreamed of the possibility of racial equality, the possibility that a man would be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. He didn’t have all the answers about how his dream would come about; but he dared to believe it could. He believed so strongly in the possibility that others were inspired to shift their beliefs. A great leader inspires others to believe that the seemingly impossible is possible.
If we are to transform education, we must shift our own beliefs about what is possible for our children, our teachers, and our schools. If we wait to see it before we believe it, we’ll just be in the way. When we dream about the possibilities, regardless of knowing how they will ever be implemented, when we believe in those possibilities so strongly that others are inspired to believe too, then we will be on the road to meaningful educational change.
Because you believe something strongly does not guarantee that you will succeed; but it is a prerequisite for success. I believe if we do our jobs well, we will inspire those around us to embrace the new technologies and the new pedagogies that will come with them.
When you believe it, you will see it!