Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fine line between school bashing and reflection

Early Sunday morning, I was led to join a SecondLife pre-conference and was enjoying the conversation and chats until I became irritated by the sweeping generalizations regarding what teachers will and will not do to propel, no support their students in this century. (Aside - eight years in, we can stop projecting what 21st Century learning should look like and start reflecting on what it really is).

As an educational consultant supporting both U.S. and international schools, I admit I am occasionally frustrated with educators who aren't familiar with what one might consider as the basics of computer/network navigation. However, upon realization of missing skills or understanding, it then becomes my responsibility to maximize the teachable moment, not to critcize them for what they don't know they don't know! I marvel how some will readily scaffold learning experiences and adapt instructional practices for students but become aghast at the prospect of doing so for adult learners.

As I mention what "some will readily do", I can't help but arrogantly wonder if my Quit It! reply was referenced when Scott McLeod questioned "some " as a rebuttal to the following:

Teachers aren’t integrating digital technologies into their instruction on
a regular basis.

Let's continously facilitate teacher learning on how to do so. Let's introduce them to tools so accessible and so exciting that they continue the exploration on their own, even if it means staying up until 1:00 AM to own them well enough to use them!

The administrators who are in charge of leading their school organizations into the information age don’t really understand the information age.
Let's meet them where they are in the midst of multiple pressures and initiatives (mandates!) and provide them with enough exemplar IT/Ed Tech plans and dialogs until they clearly see the customized vision for their school. Let's encourage/lead them to meet in digital spaces and engage them in conversations about systemic changes that are most meaningful to them right now. Let's hyperlink them to blogs and wikis until they are so addicted to their personal learning network, their days aren't complete until their feeder is empty.

Schools aren’t providing the types of learning experiences necessary to prepare
students to be 21st century citizens and workers.

Is the community aware of what it expects from its schools? Does it support new initiatives and take responsibility for leading rather than supressing-by-challenging innovation?

I would assert that among the schools I'm entitled to work with and visit, for every one where the above statements might be true, I can point to three others where they couldn't be more inaccurate. I can identify small class movements within a seemingly stagnant school which are aggressively transforming educational practices to reflect 21st Century education using embedded technology as a tool to enhance relevant content and strong instructional practices. I would rather highlight this classroom and teacher than focusing on the less in-tuned one.

The microtrends happening in pockets of these "failing" schools, according to Mark Penn, can be enough to spark a social movement or produce political change.

I plead guilty to using "some" or "many" to rebut what I view as teacher-bashing over-generalizations. Let me justify the reminder that what is true for some or many is rarely true for: this child of the 1960's riots and revolutionary changes, still trembles with angst when I hear sweeping generalizations applied to groups. Please, judge me on the content of my classroom, not the "color" of my school system. Hearing "this school" or "these past six schools I visited" seems a more appropriate and accurate reflection of educational systemic assessments than a broad brush stroke which obliterates the intricate details of a work-in-progress.

If we who are educators denigrate our own profession or professionals, how can we expect others to hold it in the esteem due an occupation that directly impacts children?

. . .and cue soundtrack for this musical called "life":

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