Dreams and Delusions

The beauty of technology can seduce us. The power of technology can lead us to attribute almost “magical” powers to it. As leaders, we need to resist technology’s “Siren’s call”, pause, and reflect.

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Scott McLeod posts a great question over at Dangerously Irrelevant:

“Given the realities of the modern age and the demands of our children’s future, is it really okay to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technology into their instruction?”

Do I believe that simply requiring teachers to use technology tools will transform teaching and learning? What real change will happen when we put technology tools in the hands of these teachers?

Mr. Total Control
Miss Overly Structured
Mrs. Entertains from the Front of the Class
Mr. Blame the Kids
Miss Low Expectations
Mrs. No Confidence No Control
Mr. Content Is All That Counts
Miss NCLB Scores
Mrs. Teach to the Middle
Miss Boring
Mr. Lack of Preparation
Miss I Don’t Have Time for Questions
Mrs. Because I Said So
Mr. I’m Totally Overwhelmed

It is wishful thinking to believe that technology, by itself, will change the fundamental dynamic that theses teachers bring to their classrooms. We are deluding ourselves if we think traditional professional development will significantly change their beliefs, values, and classroom behaviors.

I dream of teaching and learning that empowers students, fires their curiosity, and encourages them to use their individual gifts. I dream of environments where learners work cooperatively; anytime, anyplace; on projects that are relevant; with like-minded students around the world. There is more, this is just the beginning…my dream knows few limits.

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We can bring about significant change. It starts with developing the leadership skills of our classroom professionals. We can do this by adopting a new approach to leadership, one that does not focus on tips, techniques, and insights; but is grounded in cohorts of teachers engaging in personal reflection, self-awareness, individual practice and peer support. Doing this will enable them to embody new classroom behaviors and to embrace the full potential of our new technologies. It is the path to a ‘Golden Age’ of teaching and learning.

pete

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9 thoughts on “Dreams and Delusions

  1. I completely see your point and don’t disagree. On the other hand, I do not profess that the inclusion of technology will change the teaching of these teachers. I believe that what needs to happen is a change in the focus of curriculum away from the traditional practice of content-content-content and a move to thinking-communicating-problem solving. If this happens, then technology will need to be there for it to happen well, because it is with this tool (tech) that students do 2 of those 3 things (and the thinking they do will be about information they find with tech!).

    Should we not push for this Golden Age you speak of with real ()and continued) conversations with teachers about what’s important, not just in their pedagogy but in actually what they are teaching? I refuse to believe that the teachers that you mentioned should be the ones that shape the decisions we make about whether or not to move forward. Why not take Mr. Risk-Taker and Ms. Student Empowerment and push forward with good learning. The rest will follow if only to keep the gap between them and the high fliers from getting too big.

  2. Dennis;
    You’re right, that the curriculum needs to change. Again, you are right that we need models like Mr. Risk Taker and Ms. Student Empowerment to lead the way..and…we need to provide leadeship development models that focus on personal reflection, self-awareness, and individual practice.

    No matter what the curriculum is about when put in the hands of a teacher who is wired for “command and control”(or one of the others listed above). – I believe it will be taught in a way that “kills” it. For example, I can see Mr. Structure producing PPT slides and worksheets on how to think, quizzing kids on the best practices of communicating, and lecturing about problem solving methodology…rather than letting the kids do it.

    pete

  3. I’ll add three other informal leaders that can ease the transition for the large cast of characters: Ms. Listen-to-the-students can join up with Mr. Learn-from-the-problems to realize the difficulties with students’ motivation, attendance, academic performance, etc — are symptoms of how they are bring taught, the hidden premises of the pedagogy and relationships with each individual learner.

    Dennis’s idea of keeping the distance small between the high fliers and rear guard — is great to keep the changes unfolding diplomatically and collaboratively. The third leader is Ms.Teachers-have-soul — who can remind each instructor why they went into teaching and what they care about deeply. Teachers can then explore how they can use that deep passion to transform their classroom conduct, use of technology and understanding of students immersed in social networking outside of school. Perhaps those “hard wired for command and control” can find their deepest longings. as well as those given to psychological models and philosophical excursions.

  4. Tom,
    Yes! Yes! I love your response. What you describe is being fully human at work and connecting to people where they are.
    In gratitude,
    pete

  5. I appluad you for your willingness to dream of ways to change education for the betterment of our students. I feel that technology can open many different doors, however these doors can become Pandora’s boxes and for that reason we must use caution when integrating them into the classroom. I also believe that often we are searching for indivdualistic ways to reach every child, which places great time pressures on teachers who have 90 students, that represent 90 different ways of learning. I am also worried how this individual emphasis shapes a young students ability to operate within larger societal structures. I encounter students everyday who walk around with a sense of entitlement that is based on satisfying their own individualistic desires. I bring this up because of the emphasis on team work in many of today’s hip educational models.
    One area I would like to see an expansion of technology into would be in the area of parent/school district communication and applications. I feel we often place to much pressure on teachers without the support parents, who often do not know how to help their children with all of the technolgy avaiable to them.
    technolgy can and will open many doors, but we must see the intertwined connections of community values, family values, economic distribution, religion, and cultural heritage and how they affect the many hard decisions to be made in the future.

  6. Jonathan,
    Thanks for the thoughful comment.

    It was my 1st grade teacher who made me feel like I was going to be a good reader as I learned the letters and sounds. I felt smart.

    It was my fourth grade teacher that made my best friend and I feel important by letting us do classroom chores.

    My fifth grade teacher told me I was good writer and asked me if I would be up for starting a school newspaper with her.

    My 11th grade English teacher handed me a copy of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and said I think you’ll like this. I felt special.

    I will never forget these and others that had time for a quiet boy who was trying to find himself in the world.

    I wish that every student would have such caring teachers. Teachers who helped them find their gifts and built their confidence.

    pete

  7. Pete, you know that I share your dream! As I read posts lately about these very subjects – change, technology, web 2.0 – I am struck by something.

    People are frustrated by those who don’t use ed tech in their classrooms, other people are frustrated by those who push them to use ed tech in the classroom.

    What I am struck with is the tension between technology and relationship – between techno change and human change.

    Technology changes at an alarmingly quick rate, people change their habits, assumptions, and beliefs at a much different rate.

    Models of change show that once new behaviours are learned they can take anywhere from 6 months to 5 years and longer to become new habit.

    Softwares come out with new versions every few months, some times every few weeks.

    Can you see the tension here?

    Not only that but once someone adopts a new idea or behaviour, by the time it is introduced to others they are really far ahead with their idea and can forget that others are months or years behind in the change process than they are – the marathon effect. Think of all of the people who run in a big marathon. By the time the last person crosses the starting line the first competitors are miles ahead.

    In order to design our dream into destiny I think we need to start thinking about this. And I agree with you that relationship is key so we can think together about these things.

  8. Tracy,
    Maybe we can stop chasing every shiny new technology that comes along and spend more of our time supporting the people who struggle in the trenches each day.

    The paradox is that in order to get the most out of our of technology, we must put people first.

    Your comments have really been wonderful and I love your site.

    pete

  9. Thanks Pete:
    “The paradox is that in order to get the most out of our of technology, we must put people first.”

    Technology is NOTHING without the people who use it.

    There is a norm I try to use (and I catch myself often NOT using it, but when I manage to catch myself I try to put it back into force):

    Seek to understand before being understood.

    I feel like yelling it off the rooftops sometimes when people go on either against or for tech use in the classroom to the exclusion of others POV.

    But then I listen, and question, and try to understand. When I manage to do that I usually hear fear, uneasiness, confusion, and overwhelmedness (darn the red underline – I think it should be a word!).
    tracy

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