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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

David & Gary - What a conversation

I have been reading blogs for about 5 years. On occasion I will find something that really challenges the current trends of educational thinking...like when Will said his kids may not need college. Great stuff. I have an 18-year-old son who does not need college either (but he is going), and is about to work on an advertising campaign for a major national DIY home improvement chain. This is beside the point.

During my blog reading, I infrequently find anything so earth-shattering that it really makes a difference. Do not misunderstand, I still find things interesting, perhaps innovative, even intriguing. But seldom is anything life-changing. Wikis are cool and offer collaboration and a different way to work in groups. SmartBoards are neat, but it may only provide a hook to gather the attention of the ADD classroom. [I'd be ADD in today's classes too - "powering down" once I got to school.] In the world of "pick your battles" the only thing I have chosen to fight is what I call "modern-day book burning" -- internet filtering. I still don't think many people get it, and opt for the non-thinking, less work, "we must protect our children" diatribe. [BTW - has anyone else ever noticed that when we patronize kids we say "children," as in - "think of the chiiiiillllldren."] So I fight silently, and tell kids to learn things on their own, because schools will not be able to help them much with what they truly want to know. It's a loss of the ideals upon which our country was founded, but there's not much sparkle in that debate.

TODAY though, I went back to revisit David Warlick's comments about the NYT article about "computers don't make a difference in education" post. The comments were up to 25. That means David struck a nerve. David made the comment...
Sadly, we are a generation who was taught how to be taught — not how to teach ourselves. It’s one of the many reasons why the experiences that our children have in the classroom must become much more self-directed, relevant, and rich. They/we need to learn to teach ourselves. Teachers shouldn’t need professional development. They should be saying, hey, I’m going to teach myself how to do that this weekend. It’s about life long learning. Not about a life of being taught.
Brilliant! Correct! Shameful that this is the truth. [Reminder of Ken Robinson]

Then Gary Stager enters the conversation in the comments. I'm not familiar with Mr. Stager's work, but I will look up his contribution to the world. Stager ruffles some feathers in his comments to David. [You can read them for yourself.] But one comment really struck a chord...
Many young teachers figured out that teaching is the only career that doesn’t require electricity. Perhaps we should start recruiting in Amish country.
After I chuckled, I thought about the truth of his statement. Now, while I think "the children are our future, blah, blah, blah" I believe Gary's statement needs further review. I happen to think that it will be 10-15 years (I hope) before education communities will look at today's "struggles" with a hearty ha-ha, and wonder why we had issues with filtering, blogs, wikis, student email accounts, etc. BUT Gary is making an important statement here. If our new generation of teachers are continually being denied the opportunity to use new technologies, one of two things is likely:
a) they will eventually quit trying technology, or anything different that might work (Gary's point, I think) or
b) they will move on to a different career (like they already do before they are up for their first re-certification).
If the new teacher opts to continue teaching, they will develop habits of comfort in their teaching practice. I don't care how many professional developments, mandates from the District Office, or new opportunities come along, once a teacher no longer needs to think on the fly, they will not change just because someone says they have to change. We need a dose of human psychology reality if we think otherwise. Sure, they may "try it for a while," but when they don't see reward for the new effort, the new thing will be devalued. There is a small window of time (under 5 years) to capture teachers and get them to change the way they were taught, and the the way they will teach.

I can hear it now, "But I was teaching for 12 years, and I changed..." You are the exception to the rule, which proves the rule. Be honest, you know teachers are not going to truly change their philosophy after they adopt a philosophy with which they are comfortable.

Using a computer/projector and SmartBoard or computer to TV, to do the same thing I did on a whiteboard with dry erase markers, that others did with an overhead projector, that others did with a blackboard and chalk, that others did with a slateboard, that others did with a stick in the sandbox is not advancement of pedagogy. Different does not mean progress. Sometimes it just means more money.

I can't believe the number of people who are still not aware of the New Bloom's Taxonomy and the role that Creativity can play in student learning and development. But that is another story, for another time.

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At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Stephen Rahn said...

Lots of good stuff here, Ric. Keep up the good fight!

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Ric Murry said...

Thanks for the encouragement Stephen. I look forward to more telling of your untold stories.


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