Thursday, May 3, 2012

This is not optional anymore…

Want to know the best thing about Twitter (at least for me)? I can have TweetDeck open in the background, set to have a little box pop up periodically with things that people tweet. Most of the time I ignore it. But often enough, I glance at it, find someone has posted a link that sounds promising and I click on the link. The web page it refers to opens in Firefox (but I don;t see it, because I am still looking at the e-mail I was reading or the document I was working on - it opens in background as well. Later, I get a cup of coffee and flip through the open tabs in browser, looking at what I had clicked on earlier. It is my like my late-morning newspaper, containing only articles that sounded interesting. That is how I cam upon the article below. Thanks to @PEJEjds (Ken Gordon) for the link. It comes from The Principal of Change, a blog by George Couros, a Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. Enjoy! - Ira

Spending the last four days at a national leadership conference (CASA 11) in Niagara Falls on 21st Century Learning and Innovation (which had no Twitter hashtag until a few of us got together to start one), and then spending the week prior at ISTE, the conversation about technology in schools is a major theme.  Although technology is dominant in the conversations, I keep hearing the following phrase:
“You can be an effective teacher without technology.”

The above statement is increasingly frustrating as it seems to give people an out from using technology in the classroom.  There are so many skills that our students need in today’s world as the ability to collaborate, create, communicate, and apply all of these in their environment.

My question is, in our world today, can you be an effective learner without using technology?  We constantly talk about preparing kids for their future but I am concerned that some of them are not even prepared for their world right now.  Gerald Aungst pushes this thinking when he talks about other professions moving forward with technology, but educators seeming to have the option to opt out of implementing this:
Do we have the right to say, “I don’t do that”? Perhaps if it were only an individual decision. But educators have accepted responsibility for the growth of the students in their care, and choosing to avoid technology for themselves leaves their students with no choice.
I will be honest…I am getting increasingly frustrated getting “handouts” at  a leadership conference discussing innovation and “21st Century Learning”.  Not everyone is in the digital world and I believe in differentiated learning, but it seems like I didn’t get the option of how I learn best.  Do our kids? In only one presentation that I attended were there actual digital copies of information, and only one session with a place for people to collaborate during the session online.  As leaders, we need to get this sooner rather than later.

A year ago, I wrote a post entitled “An Open Letter to School Administrators“, where I ended with this:
This is not about technology. This is about connecting and sharing with others and yes, technology can be a fantastic medium for this. It is still ultimately about the relationships you create. Remember that there is a difference between an educational administrator and an educational leader. How do you want to be remembered?
Has much changed in this last year? There are so many more administrators and educational leaders that are connected now and pushing the thinking and practice in schools, reflecting the importance of taking risks in their learning, and are getting better for the sake of their schools.  But through many of my conversations and observations, there are many that are not.  The excuses of “there is no time” doesn’t fly anymore; this needs to become a priority.  It is not the only priority, but it is one deserving of the time and effort to implement and move forward.

All educators need to get on the path and move forward in the area of understanding and implementing meaningful use of technology to serve learning.  Sustainable growth takes time to develop and when we see growth, we know we are moving forward.  This is fantastic. (Rome wasn’t built in a day…)

Our educational administrators however really need to get going on this.  Leaders right?  If teachers in your school or division see that you are not moving forward with some conviction in this area, why would they believe that there is any sense of urgency?  Why would teachers think this is important if our administrators aren’t modelling effective use? The teachers that are moving forward need you to understand this area and support them.  They don’t need you to be at the same level, but they at least need to know you trust them and will put the systems in place for them and more importantly, their students, to be successful.  Take some risks and model both in success and failure that you are a learner; this is what we expect from our students.

There can no longer be an “opt out” clause when dealing with technology in our schools, especially from our administrators. We need to prepare our kids to live in this world now and in the future. Change may feel hard, but it is part of learning.  We expect it from our kids, we need to expect it from ourselves.

This is not optional anymore.