Stupidity - Sand in the Jar



Ever do your best to inform/engage participants, only to find they walk away unconvinced of the need to take action? If you're a technology director, I bet that experience is not unfamiliar to you. In fact, the failure of people to act on the advice, or at the suggestion of, educational technologists is not just commonplace workplace reality, it is legendary. Is it because you're "stupid," or is it because they are, or both?

Gather a group of edtech advocates, and it won't be long after you wade through the latest tools, gadgets, Twitterfinds and ecards that you'll hear the stories of how hard it can be to getting schools moving in the right direction.

Source: ChalkDust 101's "We Need You To Be the Lead Learner"

In fact, some of these conversations are happening at all levels, including the following excerpt from an email from Troy Hicks on Technology Use in Class:
As cited Teach Folmerica

...there are two aspects of this issue that haven’t been addressed — the ways in which we invite students to be academics and our own pedagogical styles, both in relation to technology. For the first, I find the suggestion that students not use the internet during our classes or outside of class to be ridiculous, as it is our responsibility to teach them how to use it productively, ethically, and responsibly for many purposes, not the least of which is communicating with us, engaging in research, and creating digital texts. For the second, I think that we all have a responsibility to think about the ways that we ask, even encourage students to use technology in our classrooms, above and beyond simply taking notes.

Is it that people don't know how to use technology or that they make a decision to avoid learning to use it, including banning it among students, for as long as possible? When do we collectively laugh about our own choices...after the children rebel and are "gone?"

Recently, two veterans addressed the issue in their blog entries. The first was Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk) writes:
Principals just don't get it. I always shudder when I hear anyone say that someone else doesn't "get it." Why might a person, "not get" something that seems obvious to the one expressing frustration?...Here is what I think is more likely - most administrators "get it" just fine - they just have a different reality that makes our "it" less important to them than it is to us...Please stop saying, "They just don't get it." It may reflect on your lack of empathy and understanding, not your principal's.
Maybe, a better approach would be to say to those that "don't get it" they are causing the Organization pain as a result of unused potential (Interesting perspective here from Dan). And, the pain of a K-12 organization affects children, adults, the Community, the Workforce, and the Nation. As a learning advocate, when people fail to use technology to engage, enhance learning opportunities for K-12 and adult learners...well, that causes ME pain in frustration, aggravation. How about you? And, from those feelings of pain, flow the move to judgement.

When I read that, I felt a bit chastised. It IS easier to think that folks in leadership positions just fail to understand. In fact, as a leader and school administrator, I've been there--"I just don't understand, explain it again to me in simpler terms." Reflective listening works great in this situation, too. Yet, sometimes, you know you've done your best at communicating, the message was acknowledged, but nothing happened. Those are the situations when it is frustrating to be in EdTech, isn't it?

Perhaps the situation is as simple (or complex) as this blog entry on Principals as Teachers:

If my district is to embrace fully-online learning environments (or even blended courses- interesting commentary on that in this post) at some point in the future, you can bet that we’ll do so after careful consideration and study.  Again-  I’m pretty sure this is a quality control issue that no one wants to fail.  However, I doubt it is any more of a serious quality control issue than it is in purely face to face classrooms.  Perceptions of strange new things tend to be far scarier than the familiar.
Here’s one thing I know, as a district we can sit the bench and ultimately swallow the future options that arise from the state level or worse…  or we can get really smart and make our own breaks on the local level.  The way I see it, we’re on a pretty steep peak when it comes to things like this.  Moving a certain amount of “schooling” into completely online formats will either be a really powerful thing, or a really big fail.  I doubt there will be much room for “meh.”  When new ventures begin with such a strong level of skepticism, it’s easy for folks to call for scrubbing the mission before the messiest parts have even subsided.  And when the futures of children are at stake, it is tough to be skeptical of the skeptics.


When that happens to me, I ask "How could I communicate better to help them understand that this is a critical issue for our organization?" The truth is, of course, that sometimes you're communicating just fine...and the other person is "receiving" great. It's just the priorities haven't changed. How do you shift priorities? That's why I like the Shifting Our Schools into the Digital Age podcast, although it hasn't been updated recently.

This "They don't get it" came to mind when I read this blog entry on willful blindness, or as I term it, "willful ignorance," a euphemism that I use in lieu of "stupid." In my house, if you're willfully ignorant--as opposed to plain ignorant--you are stupid. Plain and simple. A willfully ignorant person KNOWS that there is another way but decides not to do anything about it. We have a rule--you can be ignorant, but you better not be willfully so. One is an information problem, while the other is an attitude problem.

Now, we are all willfully ignorant in one (or many) way or another. For example, if i don't change my diet, I'll develop XYZ condition. If I don't fundamentally transform my attitude about this or that, then I'll miss opportunities that will ultimately improve my situation or catapult me into a new enlightened state of well-being. I feel safe in sharing about my diet with you because I just lost 10 pounds and have been swimming every day (except Mondays and sick days) for the last two months. But there are many other changes I can make that I'm "willfully ignorant" about.

Dr. Scott McLeod (Dangerously Irrelevant) makes an observation I've often had myself:

School administrators who continue to merely tweak the status quo and somehow think that they and their school organizations are doing just fine.
It’s not like by now principals and superintendents don’t know that the world has changed... Even those non-technology, mainstream leadership conferences like AASA, NASSP, NAESP, and ASCD are beginning to invite us techie folks to speak.

...it’s one thing to ignore the presenter on the stage. It’s another to ignore the evidence before their own eyes. All administrators have to do is LOOK AROUND and they can see the changes in their students. In society at large. In the many institutions that are dying in the face of these transformative technologies.

There’s a concept in the law known as willful blindness. The idea is that one deliberately takes steps to avoid seeing what’s right in one’s face.
Willful ignorance or willful blindness, it's all the same thing, isn't it? When I fail to adopt a new approach when it's the best approach in light of proven information, I'm choosing to be stupid. It's not name-calling, it's a simple fact, right?

While there are some things we're all ignorant on--due to time, energy--we'll never know about it unless we get out there and start learning (Build Your PLN or BRAIN). If you learn about it but set it aside on purpose when it's all around you, that's a bit of a problem, isn't it?

When attending Abydos (f.k.a. New Jersey Writing Project) Summer Writing Institute earlier this, well, summer, I found myself wondering if the Abydos folks knew about the technology. The answer is, "Yes." When I read their book, ACTS OF TEACHING (quite good), I realized they had incorporated all sorts of relevant materials, citing Dan Pink and others about how the world has changed.

Yet, the Writing Institute itself was essentially DEVOID of technology, and if you used technology, it was difficult to do some of the activities (the ones that involved highlighting, etc). That's not because there was no technology equivalent (e.g. Diigo highlighting/social bookmarking) but because it just had not been conceptualized, understood and incorporated into the Institute.

That said, anyone who could put all that awesome stuff together, show success year after year, make me want to earnestly participate, drink the kool-aid, has to be smart enough. They're not willfully ignorant, they want to find a way to blend in the technology so that technology uses will be as successfully implemented as the non-technology approaches have been.

Let's do some quick classification according to this parable of The Mayo Jar (read it):

In the current version of Education, the Golf Balls are:

  • Assessment
  • Administration
  • Personnel
  • Keeping your job
  • High student attendance
In Education, the Pebbles are:
  • Ensuring minimum discipline referrals
  • High student attendance

Ok, I don't have much enthusiasm for this version. Let me get to the end part. Is Edtech equivalent to sand in school systems today?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

sjbrooks-young said…
Is it that the things you listed actually are the 'golf balls' and 'pebbles' of education today, (leaving ed tech to be the sand), or that we are behaving as though they are the golf balls and pebbles when, in fact, they are not.
doug0077 said…
Miguel,

Your post made me wonder: Is it the lack of change we are unhappy about in others - or are we unhappy when people change in ways other than that we think the best?

My principals are changing things ASAP - but moving toward greater attention to tests rather than toward 21st century skills.

I believe we need to have some degree of humility here and not always assume the direction folks are moving is wrong if it is not with us.

Doug
Miguel Guhlin said…
@SJBrooks-Young, absolutely. No disagreement.
Miguel Guhlin said…
@Doug You're right. We're not happy with the direction of the changes folks are making. The only difference is we lack the authority to enact our vision.

Fortunately...

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. - Kenneth Blanchard

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