Less up-time, more down-time

I find the biggest single kick back about using technology in learning and teaching is time.

People seem not to have enough of it. When I explore this, they generally say ‘not enough time in the day to …’ which seems to soothe the restless subconscious.

They mean ‘up-time’ – related to their employ, rather than passion.

The other remark I get is “how do you find the time?” … simple, I use ‘down-time‘ to be as massively productive as I can.

I even made a rule about my distance course I’m doing right now when I started. I don’t love it, it’s more a need than greed – what I need is family time, so figured the train was the work-space. That way it’s doesn’t feel like work nor do I feel bad if I have to work at home and ignore family life.

I like millions, travel on public transport and tune out of reality for 3 hours a day, to and from work (and fellow zombies caught in the absurd reality-trap).

This idea of up-time and down-time I see as a valuable idea in how to reform ourselves, to be happier. So it’s actually quite selfish to want to be a life long social learner.

Wang, Odell et al., (2010) when looking at understanding the various attempts at teacher education reform say the problem stems from the often assumed relationship between teaching quality and learning outcomes, it is possible to derive that teaching quality in our schools is unable to produce satisfactory student learning outcomes. Furthermore they found it is an obviously complicated task to identify clear expecta tions for student learning outcomes and relevant teaching practices, along with well-researched and supported knowledge, conceptual, and skill bases that underlie them.

A related challenge is whether stakeholders are willing and able to tolerate significant monetary and time costs to implement such reform when contemporary contexts reveal that competing ideas of reform have often come and gone with little lasting impact (Kennedy, 2010).

This is all very well, it’s not hard to work out that the teaching-load and administration-load of teacher up-time is bankrupt. Quite simply, most teachers are working beyond the hours of paid employment even without the challenge of learning about new techno-pedagogic techniques. A typical primary school deputy works a 6 days week, simply by attending the various meetings needed to meet the ‘needs’ of system-bureaucrats. If you start multiplying that out over public education, it is clear that if the government is unwilling and unable to actually pay for this work, let alone professional development.

Retention of teachers is a dirty topic. Over the last decade, global reports suggest we are seeing what amounts to a mass exodus costing each nation not millions, but billions of dollars in drop outs and churning. Even with the updated MySchool webiste in Australia – the political focus is on outcomes and fixed costs (buildings, teacher wages etc.,) gives no declaration on the investment made in teacher education. We might argue, why should teachers get paid to learn? I’d agree in part – but when we think about it, if we’re not investing in teachers to teach better – but a dynastic ideology, we should ask why.

Right now, teacher education works like this: 90% of their time is spent teaching, 9% is spent in administration and compliance and 1% and on innovation and reflective practice. Before we think about massive reform, we should ask – as individuals – what is massively productive. One third teaching, one third learning and one third making. We need to think about down-time more than demands of systems for more ‘up-time’. Look around in public life – in down-time we are productive – playing games on iPhones, txting, connecting and reading. More learning goes on each day on a commuter train that goes on in the entire professional development plans of education systems in a year.

Wang, Odell et al., (2010) say we need different approaches to reform because the failure of teaching reform has not been because it is unimportant, but rather because reformers have been unable to anchor reforms firmly in the culture of teaching, organisation of schools, and traditions of education.

Virtual World Explorers Club

One things I believe is powerful in project based, game based and scenario based learning – is that the teacher can move from 90:9:1 to teach, learn and build practices with students as integral designers and collaborators of learning. I’m pretty sure that it won’t happen for most teachers from the top down for two reasons. One, they don’t like to pay for learning, and two, they see it more ‘up-time’.

What we see happening in ‘real life’ – is a need for culturally responsive education (and teachers). This culture includes participation, connectivity, gaming and greater global empathy and understanding.

“In this age, the man who dares to think for himself and to act independently does a service to his race” : John Stuart Mill (1862)

Consider this: Where do find the most barren, depressing discussions about reform and innovation? Who are the actors and what is their fight? … Is it the kid on the train with the iPhone, or the office worker tapping texts on their Blackbury or the millions of kids playing Warcraft and adults reading more than at any other time in history?

The true power of reform, lies in massively productive and socially-organised spaces that we crave in down-time to escape the unsatisfactory up-times. Is this possible in current educational? I don’t think so anymore, haven’t for a while. It can’t afford it for a raft of socio-political and economic reasons. At best it can hope to co-opt at worse it will implode.

When people are shocked my 5 year old plays PvP in Warcraft with potential sociopaths – I just laugh. When the Friday Virtual World Explorers Club meets, they are connecting to a reality that is of their making and choice, not one some policy maker who thinks that by the end of Kindy, Mr5 should be able to count to thirty.


Kennedy, M. M. (2010). Against boldness. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 16-20.

Wang, J, Odell, J.S, Cari K.L, Spalding, E., & Lin, E. (2010). Understanding Teacher Education Reform. Journal of Teacher Education 2010 61: 395