MyNotes - Flowers in the Sidewalk

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I had to laugh at Doug Johnson's post about a "bridge" technology plan. For me, many of these plans are just so much hot air because the powers that be lack the will to make these changes needed. For whatever reason, the status quo of high stakes testing rules supreme.

That said, there's a lot to like about the trends Doug picks out in his post, Directions for the Next Tech Plan? Isn't this just more of the same? Anyone else starting to feel like we are shuffling along, one more series of "trends" that promise change but will fail in today's black hole approach to schooling? The black hole approach simply being one where we pour a lot of energy in with no measurable results.

Cynicism left behind to stasis in space, I found Doug's trends right on target. Here are the points that jumped out at me:
I am in the process of writing a "bridge" technology plan.Since the Mayans predict an earth-ending apocolypse in 2012, I don't see what the big fuss is about.

Less emphasis on “technology’ as a separate area of concern
Greater need to train students and staff on ethics, safety and civility when using technology
Need for formal integration of technology skills into the content areas
accelerated move to information in digital formats such as e-books, online databases, electronically submitted student work
More emphasis on anytime, anyplace access to personal information through web-based personal file space, calendars, and wirelessly networked hand-held devices
more online course offerings

When you consider the idea of less technology as its own concern, it's a revisiting of a topic I've blogged about before. Essentially, that educational technology is dead. As I've read more of the Abydos Trainee books, I realize once again exactly where I was predisposed towards being technology radical, out to change the world...everything I learned about technology, I learned first reading books about writing. It's frightening to look back and realize that. I simply transferred my enthusiasm for integrating, writing across the curriculum, into technology across the curriculum.

Consider this quote from Linda Rief's book, Seeking Diversity. Doesn't this language remind you of using technology to knock down classroom walls, enabling students to make connections outside the classroom?
I want students,” writes Linda Rief, “to see learning as connected to situations beyond our classroom walls. I want them to listen to, think about, and interact with people outside the classroom about real issues.”
Source: Seeking Diversity
When I read that, I'm reminded of how technology can be used as a tool identify and solve real life problems, extend learning beyond classroom walls. It's a definition of Level 5 of the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LOTI), but also the vision of what technology can be. Technology can accelerate those connections, as we've seen happen in myriad almost doesn't matter what the technology that is used, the need for human beings to bridge the gulf between them takes advantage of whatever resources are available.

When I reflect that schools are islands of isolation when it comes to technology use, even in writing workshops where technology and writing can meld together so well, it really becomes an issue of limited imagination.

As Doug points out, integration of technology into content areas is important. Unfortunately, I've always felt that such integration is quite anemic when done by content area specialists. There is a marked lack of enthusiasm, as if they were sacrificing sacred content and exchanging it for cold, lifeless technology. The metaphors are too old to continue using.

Consider the perspective of Richard L. Larson, who as printed in Acts of Teaching, makes these points (as I've poorly paraphrased them):
In this appendix to Carroll and Wilson’s book, Richard L. Larson shares that the term “research paper” misleads students about the activities of both research and writing. He distinguishes between the misleading term and the activity of research, which takes a wide variety of forms. The reasons for the term being mislead include that 1) Students get the idea that research involves the use of a library to the exclusion of other locales; and, 2) The context for research has to be within a discipline, not necessarily an English classroom, because such work follows distinctive assumptions and patterns of inquiry.
 As you might guess from the summary remarks, Larson is challenging the idea of the research paper (I remember writing one, how about you?) as something without worth in schools. Not only does the research paper mislead, but, and for me this is where the parallels to technology integration are, the context for research "has to be within a discipline because such work follows distinctive assumptions and patterns of inquiry."

While I would certainly like to see content area specialists solving the kinds of problems I want them to solve, integration won't happen until they use technology to solve problems they haven't imagined yet. How to get them to imagine those when they are so afraid of their tried and true approaches--that are anything but--being plunged into the volcano?

Finally, Doug makes a point about accelerating the move from textbooks to digital book, ebooks. Having had my Nook--an ereader from Barnes and Noble--for the last few weeks, I have to say I'm a convert. I'm now plotting ways to sell my print collection of treasured books because I can get books online and in abundance that are FREE through publisher sites like Baen and others. Now, when I look at schools, I have to ask myself, how come we're not doing this more and more? $149 isn't that much compared to what we spend on textbooks.

In the end, it comes down to being "mired in the mud." I'm not sure if rewriting technology plans will get us to where we need to be...I am sure that I'm getting too old to wait and see if people will come to their senses. Instead, better to go where the action is.
Places that succeed in attracting and retaining creative class people prosper; those that fail don't. . .These people engage in creative problem-solving, drawing on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. Doing so typically requires a high degree of formal education and thus a high level of human capital.
People who do this kind of work may sometimes come up with methods or products that turn out to be widely useful, but it's not part of the basic job description. What they are required to do regularly is think on their own. They apply or combine standard approaches in unique ways to fit the situation, exercise a great deal of judgment, perhaps try something radically new from time to time.
I suppose that Doug's plan is great if he's attracting the right people. But that same plan would face an uphill battle in other places I've had the occasion to visit. So, given Richard Florida's point in "The Rise of the Creative Class," an excerpt appearing quoted above from Washington Monthly

it all makes me wonder, are school districts place where we encourage student to think on their own on a regular basis? Are our schools able to problem-solve, draw upon complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems through the use social networking, technology-based connections?

If you're in the right place, then the answer is YES. If you're in the wrong place, consider that YOU, as an educator, are losing your edge. In a few years, it won't matter because you will have lost what you need to be part of the creative class.

When you combine the need to move to where creativity flourishes with the sad economic reality that many of us are stuck in "underwater homes," there is a particular frustration that arises.
An increasing number of U.S. homeowners are underwater in their homes — meaning they owe more than the property is worth.
In 2008, U.S. residential property shed $2.4 trillion in value, which left 8.3 million mortgages in what experts describe as "a negative equity position." That's 20 percent of all mortgages in the country, according to First American CoreLogic.(Source: NPR)
A superintendent level person was heard to remark to his staff, "If you don't like what we're doing around here, ask yourself if you like that little piece of paper that you get at the end of the month." It's a threat in tough times that many can't side-step or avoid. You 

An old friend of mine, Meg Leary, once shared why she didn't switch religions even though she found her current one a bit stultifying.

"You have to bloom where you are planted."

Ah, wisdom.
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Or, if the powers that control your universe, but not your creativity, allow you YouTube, watch this video:

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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


doug0077 said…
Hi Miguel,

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary on my post. I depend on folks like you to help me make good judgments about the direction our school should be heading.

Like you, I find the pace of change maddeningly slow. But then I also remember the old fable of the tortoise and the hare and am encouraged by posts like this one of Seth Godin:

The reality is that I would rather make incremental change than none at all.


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