Sunday, July 1, 2012

Are You Mighty Mouse?

Note: Old blog entry I wrote in 2008. Thought I'd share it....

Dr. Chris Moersch did a great presentation today at NECC 2008--The Missing Link. No, I didn't get past the first 3 words of that workshop title. Leadership is the missing link where technology is concerned. I know, I've done my share of belly-aching from the teacher to the campus specialist, central office specialist/administrator level, and it's clear to me that failed leadership is exactly where the blame goes. Often, the failed leadership occurs because everyone in the organization is afraid to speak up. I can understand can lose your job when you do so, however, to not do so is is a judgement I apply to myself, but not to you, faithful reader.

A Quick Aside - Flash Forward Moment 2012: Ok, these are two OLD blog entries I wrote back in 2008 when NECC was in town.(In Summer, 2013, NECC (now known as ISTE) will be back in town. Amazing.). When I wrote these observations, I had no idea about how to go about "speaking up." Now, I have a much better idea. I wish that someone, anyone had pointed out Crucial Conversations and Confrontations books and audio. That would have been helpful, you know. Now that I know about it, I want to make sure YOU know about it. Start here with these resources if you are in places where you are afraid to speak up. It will make a difference. Trust me.

I believe that speaking up is the first act of courage, a fact Dr. Moersch pointed out in his presentation. He did a courage assessment, and I'm proud to say my boss--sitting right next to me--rated me a Mighty Mouse. I would have thought she was being nice, but I rated myself a 9 out of 10 on speaking up. That's significantly different than just a year or two ago, and I can credit the leadership and benefits of blogging (reading your work, reflecting, writing) about that.

The challenge over the last few years has been aligning my external reality with my internal one. This blog has focused on that, and I'm not ashamed of anything I've written or apologetic...each expression has helped me achieve a better, deeper understanding of the problems I face in improving teaching, learning and leading in the Districts I serve. In fact, I'd be worried if I cowered in fear of offending higher administration...which is what I think some educators have been reduced to. To those, I can only offer my experience.

I'm not sure where I read or heard it, or if I just imagined it, but if you have an opinion or an angle on a subject, then you are exhibiting higher level of intelligence than someone who is passively interpreting information. And, in schools today, each of us needs to aspire to a higher intelligence, refusing to passively accept what we are told by central office administrators--or anyone for that matter--and be more critical. . .just as they have the right to be more critical of us. Curse those "canine courtesies," as old Cyrano de Bergerac (who ended up noble, honorable and dead, one must point out, no matter how admirable) was wont to say.

Yet, education today MUST be about questionning, challenging, finding the relevance and authenticity of what we are told, what we share with others. In 7000+ blog entries, I hope that I've been able to accomplish that.

I'm going to quote an old blog entry, I like it that much. It's relevant to my work as an administrators who is pushing the envelope.
How do we reconcile the expectation we have for these educators in today's top-down, authority-centric schools with the expectation that technology will transform our schools? What is it about educating that we expect will change how our children learn and are prepared for the future?
In the past, if you wanted a job, you did what you had to do to get that specific job. In the future, if you want a job, you pursue your passions and market to a world. It's the lesson of the Long Tail.
All of which brings me to Patrick J. Finn's book, Literacy with an Attitude. The author makes a few points that there are different kinds of literacy. Yet, literacy is not seen as dangerous in the U.S. because we have two kinds.
First, there is empowering education, which leads to powerful literacy, the kind of literacy that leads to positions of power and authority. Second, there is domesticating education, which leads to functional literacy, literacy that makes a person productive and dependable, not troublesome.
Based on where the preface is going, I'm immediately inclined to say that teachers and their students get the domesticating education...but once they start reflecting on their work, they start making the transition to "powerful literacy." And, it is at that point that they leave education. How they do it, I'm not sure but there's bound to be a study locked up in some closed access journal somewhere.
So, consider the two educations in America and elsewhere...and ask yourself where does technology use fit in?

Traditional Methods

  • Domesticating education
  • Attitudes relating to authority, conformity and power
  • Drill-n-practice technology use is predominant here...inauthenticity of classroom activity makes it difficult for children to see how schoo learning applies to their lives. the data suggest that emphasis on advanced reasoning skills promotes higher student performance.

Progressive Methods

  • Empowering education
  • Powerful literacy
  • Communicating/Collaborating using technology...Here, "technology use is used as an asynchronous tool for communication that allows teachers to engage and collaborate with one another within a building and across the district. Encouraging online discussion amongst teachers in study groups is core feature of professional development strategy." But couldn't the same be said of students and their technology use?
The author suggests that students must understand the relationship between society, culture, language and schooling...the difference between progressive methods, liberating education on the one hand, powerful literacy and traditional methods, domesticating education and functional literacy on the other.
I'd suggest that we elevate the dialogue and share that we need to distinguish between using technology as a way to empower students, facilitate communication/collaboration at a distance rather than using technology to domesticate our students, helping them achieve basic skills that won't get them much farther anyways.

And, I think this about using technology as a way to more deeply explore who we are as leaders, to realize that leadership is about influence, not authority...about transparency and laying bare what we're about and why we're doing something, not managing people's perception of who we are, what we do, and why.

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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

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