I can fly

After attending the Why and How of Web2.0. It gave a focus to the issues that as an Educational Technologist and parent – I face.

Once a teacher gets a lens to understand the SHIFT that Will (and others) talk about, they get all depressed, as the future looks bleak while they grapple with the enormity of the educational reformation that is needed – and is playing out daily. So rather than reply to the email, I booted Skype and introduced Gav to Kerry J. It was great for him to see how easy it is to connect to others who are advocating change and battling the system. I had a great Skype this morning with a great teacher in Oklahoma who is offering not only to collaborate, but also to teach Algebra on a Sunday night her time, to our kids, during Summer Break. These people are the teachers I want my kids to know in their network

So in considering PBL and Classroom2.0

There are 2 discourses here

1. The PBL method of learning – be that Napa Foundation, Buck Institute models. I am not sure teachers are actively engaged in understanding this. It is not about ‘training’ it is about changing core values and concepts that the model advocates.

2. Classroom 2.0 – with Web2.0 tools – before you can have any understanding of the Web2.0 tools on offer to educators – you have to understand the WHY. This is a completely different discourse … and very much the current one that Napa and other PBL schools are struggling to deal with – hence the current books such as ‘Reinventing PBL‘ – thanks Suzie for joining the Diigo group!. Thats the cool thing – I can talk to the author – not just read the book. I know that – that’s my first preference in asking questions, seems logical to me now.

So even if you understand PBL – the theory, not just the delivery – then you still need to understand the WHY of Classroom 2.0. Listening to Will and others, how we think about educational technology is key to beginning to understand both discourses.

Once you get the “why” and that means being part of the discussion, not just reading about it, you see immediately how Web2.0 is the best technology approach for our kids to explore PBL.

If your reading this – then I’m not really talking about you – you are part of the discourse.

This is why I built the Classroom 2.0 system as I did in my school. I know that the staff for the most part did not understand this, and probably thought I was just being uber-geeky for the sake of it.

Our classroom and professional development lies entirely in being part of this landscape. By pulling Kerry into our Skype conversation over the weekend, demonstrates how easy it is to connect with other teachers and that our peers in what we are doing for our kids, currently, lie well beyond our immediate colleagues for the most part. It is a very personal ‘journey’ as the TV likes to say.

It is not something you can ‘teach’ in a PD session, they have to understand both discourses and want to be advocates of it.

Listening to Will Richardson (and there are others) is slightly problematic – because if you agree with them, and therefore become an advocate of the SHIFT, then you realise just how inadequately we are preparing kids for life.

Sure teachers know their content – but if what they are doing is fixed in the 50s notion of Blooms Taxonomy – and not willing to engage their students by being part of the solution, then sadly – it is hard not to be left with the feeling that they are part of the problem.

This sounds harsh, as it is not their fault. But it is if they are just being belligerent about it – and many are.

Before you start thinking about Web2.0 skills then they have to understand the SHIFT – and that is a very personal thing.

If teaching is just a ‘job’ and you wanna hit the road at 3.15, and not take part in the discourse that is playing out in Twitter, Diigo, Facebook, Second Life, Skype etc., then it is not possible to ‘teach’ in a Classroom 2.0 environment effectively – you might be able to write blog post or make a podcast, but will not know why you are doing it and how to extend your classroom and as Will said ‘punch through the classroom walls’. If this is the case, you’re not doing anything new at all

Kerry called it “putting garbage in a shiny techno-wrapper”. How true that is. A blog to replace a writing book is completely wrong. It’s the back-channel, the comments and the connections – so if comments are turned off – then you miss the point.

I wish I had a fix, but all you can do is to be a participant to advocate the SHIFT. This is what everyone out there is doing, and again as Will said “the SHIFT begins with a single teacher”. You don’t need to pay for conferences to hear this. All of this is being played out online daily. You just need to take part in the discussions. But I fully appreciate that to some, this is a ‘job’ and are unwilling to go beyond their ‘thick walled classroom’. I think 1 in 50 emails/mail drops or PD sessions I do get a response. This is symptomatic of the fact that many teachers are not engaged enough. Perhaps they don’t feel empowered enough to get engaged in their own professional development sufficiently.

They are not even aware there is a ‘why’ discourse in the first place.

Everyone I know in my network did one thing. They decided to make it thier problem. This is why there is a such a rich opportunity to build a network – by and large they are not doing any of this during the school day or during ‘PD’ sessions. Its hard to imagine the number of professional hours educators are pouring into this globally – and for FREE – because they can’t now stand idle and ignore it.

Debates about how to reward teachers for being ‘great teachers’ is insulting to all those who have never asked for any reward – other than the odd email from a former student saying how great their life is and they say ‘thanks’.

I don’t take this personally when I hear the ‘reasons why not me’ – I know at least 100 teachers online who are experiencing the same issues, so take solace in their support – daily in Twitter it seems.

We have had lots of presentations to staff about all of this, we show videos as they appear on YouTube and BlipTV, and we can only try to do more of it.

It scares me to think that my own kids are going to be stuck inside the current system and realistically – they will be unless the speed of change matches the growth in technology itself. We can talk about it, show videos etc., but it all remains ‘optional‘ for teachers, where as it is ‘critical‘ for kids.

Teachers will retire and kids will be unable to succeed in the global community of the 21st century. We are no longer sending kids to work in factorys as we did in the early to mid 1900s – where bells, time cards and repetitive manual tasks is sufficient to sustain their socio-economic stats. In the 1980s-90s being able to use Mircrosoft Office meant you were ICT literate. Both of these are no longer the case, yet by and large teachers accept that it’s okay to teach towards this out dated model of what learning and ICT is today.

It is a sad reality, but what should we do today – as Van Halen said ‘right here, right now’ Allow it or advocate against it?

Isn’t that what we are charged to do? When did we stop thinking and just go to a ‘job’.

Teachers who say ‘its not my problem. The syllabus needs to change first and I’m drowning in content delivery already, so don’t have the time’ are, in fact, forcing the problem onto their students.

As a parent, if the school can’t do it, I will need to. That is what so many teachers who are advocates of multiliteracies and technology are doing – hence the rise in of home school – it is just so easy to hook kids up with a maths teacher, a history teacher or just another kid who can teach them.

We sent kids to school when they came available (back in the day) – as we believed that that school house did better job that we as parents could – now I think that I can find enough teachers online that the school house is fast becoming a symbol of the problem – certainly the layout of classrooms has not changed since the school-house opened.

Kids get social interaction – online/offline – they all have a ‘network’ – they don’t need to be stuck in a room, bored to tears, with the only localised social connection being a common reality of having creativity drummed out of them daily.

I want teachers to connect my kids to their learning – to be a gateway to knowledge – and to connect them to even better teachers – be that a 14 year old playing WoW or a ‘real’ teacher. I want them to experience ‘authentic’ learning.

My 7 year old can use Wikipedia – why make him remember crap he’s never going to use in is adult life – as Will suggested ‘because it’s on the test’. Bah. Why not let him Google it? what is the crime? Surely we need to be asking them questions that they can’t Goolge the answer in under 3 seconds.

The global education system is loosing its best teachers – they get tired of the daily fight and focus on their own kids future.

So in the mean time, we need to push the physical environments we supply to teachers and give kids the opportunities as and when we can.

Our school suffers non of the problems most advocates are facing – we have access, we have the opportunity, bandwidth, equipment and perhaps most importantly a principal that gets the SHIFT and is so supportive of the innovation some of us are doing – and do not have a firewall blocking access to the read/write web.

I see this as being core to being a professional (relevant) teacher. In industry, if you don’t move forward, you become redundant. In teaching it has been possible to do the same thing for 40 years. I bet you can think of dozens of teachers you knew at school or can cite colleges who were living proof of that.

We are getting better, but the growth in access, speed and technology is exponential. More advoates are needed if we are to meet the challenges ahead. We simply are not allowed to sit and watch. We have to engage in any way we can.

As Westley Field said last week ‘My name is Westley, I’m 48 and I can fly … please allow your kids to fly”.

Look me up on Twitter (deangroom) … talk to me in Second Life (slammed Aabye) .. Skype me (dean_groom) – look forward to extending my network!

By the way Teacherman74 aka Henny – Montana looks fabulous! Lets hope we can hook up soon! [edit] WE DID!

11 thoughts on “I can fly

  1. Well said Dean – I’m with you 100%. I’m hopeful that what I present tomorrow at the Web 2.0 conference in Melbourne with Will will go some way towards delivering this message to a group of teachers who need to hear it – maybe some will go away and start becoming the change we wish to see in this world. (Gandhi knew how to say it!!) That’s what happened to me – I attended ELH in Lorne last year and did a 5 hr workshop with Will – it was one of the turning points that opened my eyes and got me excited about education and the possibilities that exist now. I’d love to teach with you – you seem like a real powerhouse for change -don’t move to Montana – Australia needs you!!!

    Jenny Luca.

  2. Hi Dean,

    I don’t ‘star’ many items in my reader, but this post deserves 5 of them. Well said. As Jenny said, we need to be the change.
    Cheers, Nirvana

  3. Hi Dean, I’ll be expected to give a TPL to the staff at my school on the Why2 of Web2.0 conference I attended and was wondering if I could show the staff this blog post as you make very good points.

    Teachers aren’t aware that this shift and dialog is occurring online, even those that like spending time on the net for their students’ benefit.

    I found out about the oz-teachers mailing list by a new staff member and through the list found out about twitter in January’08 where my awareness of the global connections being made began.

    It seems teacher-awareness of this shift is occurring by word of mouth only by interested teachers and other educators. Shouldn’t the department be spreading this news?

    Good luck with your presentation on Monday Jenny! Will it be u-streamed?

    Thanks for this post Dean, it is much-needed!

  4. Well I hooked up with Jeff in Montana today, who introduced me to gtalk – he’s just decided to start some Web2.0 activities in his class, so technically, I’ll be in Montana tommorrow. One passing conversation in SL and my network grew. Hes got some great ideas, started a Wiki, so I figure I can’t but try to help if I can. I’ve always had a thing for Montana, don’t know why. But it just goes to show how far you can reach with a PNL without leaving your living room.

  5. Grace, I am happy to share anything I’ve posted or made. I’m still amazed that people read it most of the time. Yes, policy should be in place, but as Westley suggested … the most powerful pressure comes from not teachers or kids, but parents – they vote. I can’t encourage teachers enough to try and engage parents in what is, global advocacy for change. I still laugh at the images of the 2020 Summit where a few invited ‘names’ were outside Parliament House with butchers paper sticking it to window. Where was the back channel? the community discourse? It sums up how dis-connected governments are with teachers and students. 2020 should simply have been an unconference with Usteam to me, but then again Australia doesn’t have the bandwidth for that … another political hot potato. Perhaps they think we’ll give up and get the chalk back out? Bah, don’t hold your breath on that one.

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  7. Hi Dean,
    You’re absolutely right about the “why.” That’s at the heart of this whole conversation. Once you understand what you want to accomplish–and why–the tools can help take you there. But they’re just tools–not magic. Thanks for sharing your passion and for building a global dialogue. Interesting times ahead!

  8. @garryb – and that for the large part is what advocates are doing using a wide variety of media and interventions. At every opportunity, encouragement is needed. But, as GBW said recently in his ‘DNA’ YouTube post, the ‘why’ is not on their radar. At what point do we start to insist? – Industry insists on skills using labour market forces. As we struggle to attract teachers with career backgrounds relevant to the Web2.0 discourse – and that is another ‘why’ conversation – we do not have the same mechanisms to drive professional development.

    A recent ISTE report says that around 2.5% of Teachers are ‘innovators’ and not at all put off by ‘neigh sayers’, as they are so driven that the issue is paramount to their ‘Lens’

    In my system – we do not have Educational Technologists, nor Directors of eLearning or even Information Technology as a Key Learning Area – my role is LTST (which I think means Learning Technology Support Teacher) – the teacher that gets to look after the printers, boot the servers and change the projector bulbs.

    None of what I, and many others are ‘doing’ is part of their ‘role’ any more than it is a role of any other teacher. My life would be far simpler to hit the car park at 3.10, plow through the syllabus in the way I had been doing … and in my school Computing Subjects is one of the strongest ‘result’ KLAs. I think I can always do and be better, so I decided to change my “Lens”, if I could ‘insist’ I would, but I am smart enough to know that I can, by my terms of reference, merely encourage as you suggest.

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