Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tools of the Trade

What started as a comment to Andy Torris' blog turned into a post of its own. Because I know this educational leader values the opinions of others, I left it there, in the comments, but wanted to share the context with you.

“The U.S. Department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors by their level of IT intensiveness. Education ranked was ranked 55- the lowest. Behind coal-mining.”
Before we completely fault educators, I'd like to make a comparison between three industries in which I worked:

Higher Education:
Resident Director at a major research institution - provided with a desktop computer and access to the "BBS" (OK, so I'm a dinosaur!)

Given the option of a low-interest loan in a payroll deduction to purchase my own personal computer. The loan amount had limits.

Consulting Firm:
Provided with a laptop computer and international mobile phone upon arrival (latest bells and whistles).

The expectations of my expected use of technology both during and outside of work hours were clear by the resources provided. Most schools wouldn't expect a teacher to walk into a room without text books (hopefully this is changing) and a teacher's manual to accompany them. We won't even name those schools whose provision of technological resources are so scarce that teachers use their own money to purchase digital projectors. If educators are truly expected to embed technology into instruction and learning, give them the tools - not just available in the classroom - that they need to do so.

There have been few changes to the expectation that educators do more with less, particularly in US public education. School calendars, expected outcomes, scheduling, even teacher training and professional development are still shaped by the industrial model of education. The changes to adapt to 21st Century learners will be implemented by educators but the really metamorphosis is at an institutional level, most critical at institutions of teacher preparation and certification.

Main point: provide educational professionals with the tools of their dynamic trade. Outside of photosynthesis and those things created to imitate the process, very little happens by osmosis.

Friday, May 9, 2008

If they made you, they can't be all bad!

A strategic planning consultant asked a reticent group to introduce themselves, sharing the last book they read or the last original thought the remembered having. We all chose books.

Jeff Utecht, through the twitter universe, led me to a 2006 TED speech by Sir Ken Robinson

An entertaining and thought provoking video, but as a former music educator - in a state-run school (since we have no "national education system in the U.S.), I respectfully disagree.

We need to stop beating up our educational system. I have had a rich life - rich in wonderfully creative experiences and opportunities, and guess what? I am a full-blown product of public education! My 3rd grade teacher nurtured my creativity in poetry while Ms. Strozier nurtured my love of instrumental music and Ms. Robinson gave me chances to sing. As I travel to different schools, I see so many loving and dedicated educators just like the teachers I have. Yet we tend to focus more on what' missing than what is or what could be.

We blame the educational system for our human shortcomings. Schools can nurture all the
creativity they want, but if parents tell kids to "cut that racket out" once they get home or farm them out to activities that keep them too tired to find the time to create, the morning has been nearly nullified.

No matter what the educational system may have been "designed" to produce, it is powered by individuals. In the paraphrased words of a former administrator, "Forget the curriculum - teach these kids to enjoy their time making music with you".