Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project Blog

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why hire anyone but life-long learners?

This is a portion of a post from David Warlick's 2 cents blog about an article on hiring tech-saavy teachers.

2 Cents Worth » Hiring Tech-Savvy Teachers
Reading the article more thoroughly revealed a prevailing theme that the teaching part is of greater issue than the technology part when considering new hires. Can they Integrate Technology. Even Will Richardson is quoted saying, “From a hiring perspective, if you hire learners who can teach, the technology will take care of itself.” I disagree that the technology will take care of itself. But Will continues with the most important thing I found in the article. He says,

If you hire teachers who aren’t really lifelong, continual learners, then you’ll have problems, not just with technology.

This is a very powerful statement to me. While I am not the one doing the hiring, as a change agent I can see how it should be a part of all new educator hirings. If we hire teachers who are not life-long learners themselves, then how would we expect them to put that mentality into our students?

Consider this: After returning home from the NWP Conference, I spent my first day of my Thanksgiving break working in the ISD. We had some techs scheduled to come in from out of state to install wireless Internet clouds over each campus. I was volunteered to be in charge of the oversight since I am the only person at the moment prepared to use the new technology. No biggie to give up some of my vacation time.

So I was in the administration office waiting on the tech guys to figure out where they want each piece of their equipment. I noticed that my district's IT had several large poster-size Post Its hanging on the wall between his office and the curriculum director's. They were from the district level tech meeting I missed while in Nashville (and the only one we seem to have all year for technology). I noticed the following:
  • less than half the committee members attended (admin, faculty, and community members included)
  • the first Post It for :current issues" was filled with gripes about Deep Freeze (software used to refresh the hard drive each time it is turned off)
  • the second Post It for "future needs" requests at least one new computer for each teacher at the elementary
  • the third for "professional development" was blank
  • the fourth for the "Long-Range Tech Plan" was blank

I am left to draw a few conclusions. One, less than half of the committee felt the need to be concerned with the technology in my district. Two, the teachers want more equipment. Three, they know exactly what they are going to do with the equipment once they get it. Four, they do not need professional development concerning technology. Five, we have everything we need to meet the future head on. Six, our long-range tech plan is dead-on already.

So what does this have to do with the article from David? Well, if we had hired staff with the thought that they all need to be life-long learners, then I would bet that the Post Its left blank would not be blank. They would be covered with questions about where we want to head. Instead, the only thing covering them was dust.

Don't think I spent my time there just looking at the blank space. I loaded it up. And, yes, my IT told me that I just voided much of our long-range tech plan because it was not prepared for my type of comments and requests. And, yes, he was smiling the whole time. My friend, the IT guy, you see, is a change agent as well.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Catching the Train to Radical Practice

Katherine's comment to Scott's post on Schools 2.0 made a mental connection for me, when she noted that she was "ready to jump on board when the train to the future comes by."

My connection starts with The Cluetrain Manifesto.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.  It was written originally for the worlds of business, marketing, and advertising, but has been "remixed" for education as well.

The central premise is that conversations, networked conversations, are both a new medium and a critical change agent.  Conversations just like this one, just like all of those which happen daily on the BWP blog.  We are a community of practice, which by definition then has a radical mission.

This journal article taught me that such networking can be and is radical practice.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Is anyone listening? Does anyone care?

old classroom
School 2.0 - Join the Conversation
Reading habits change in new on-line revolution - Houston Business Journal:
Younger Americans, who buy only about 4 percent of books sold, have crafted their own environment for print media -- non-traditional, of course. Kids, teenagers and young adults spend hours (and hours) on the Internet writing and reading (which should be of some comfort to English teachers). Bored with old-fashioned e-mail messages, kids prefer "synchronous chat." Through MUDs (multi-user domains), young folks have transformed the solitary activity of reading into a highly social medium....

Nevertheless, I am excited and exhilarated by today's electronic exchanges. The medium has changed, but the skill of reading is alive and well.

Writing is still essential, even if the style is mutating to "Internet casual." Format aside, communication remains essential to getting your message across, and words are still the core components of the message.

The next generations are as hungry for knowledge as any we've seen -- and, with the spread of electronic media -- will likely be as literate as any other. - Dr. M. Ray Perryman is president and chief executive officer of The Perryman Group and economist-in-residence at the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University

It is good to see that the higher ed folks are paying attention to the changing habits of today's student culture.  I wish I could say the same for the K-12 crowd.  Videos such as this are great ways to demonstrate a visual of the problems we face in the classroom today.  Instead of preparing our students for the world they will face (and one we have not even seen yet), we put them in the same setting as those that we, our parents, and their parents sat in.  Is this just our lazy way as teachers of saying we came, we taught, we tried?  Are we not concerned that we are sending students out unprepared?  Do we not understand that the world is changing so quickly that half of what a student learns their first year of college is outdated by their third year?  Are we unaware that there are more students in China taking the SAT test in English than in the Untied States?  Do we simply not care that the top 10% of the population in China equals the total population of the United States and the top 25% is more than the total population of North America?   We are not just competing with the neighboring school districts anymore.  We are (or at least should be) preparing our students to compete against the world. 

Will it take fear as David Warlick contemplates:

2 Cents Worth » Scare Em!
Is this a legitimate avenue for affecting change? Does fear motivate people to change? Might it motivate reluctant teachers to modernize their practices?
So is it the right thing to do?  Do you think it is even possible to scare teachers into this type of paradigm shift in a K-12 setting?  Do you see the need for this type of change in thought and instruction?

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

First Day, Three BWP'ers, Too Many Cancellations to Count

Wow! This trip has been interesting so far. Let’s see. I skipped the flight from Shreveport because it was perpetually delayed (and the plane was the size of my wife’s car). I drove nearly three hours to get to DFW in the wind and the rain. The travel agent told me on the phone I was going to be without a ticket because I did not go to Shreveport first. Uhm... yeah.

Anyway, the American Airlines ticket lady was awesome. She got me on standby for one flight and a seat on a later one just in case. Once I got through security (what’s with making me take my shoes off and wanting my Visine in a zip-lock bag?! I feel so violated.) I looked at the flight board and realized I had fifteen minutes to go two terminals and get on standby for another flight. Got there on time, but I missed a seat by just a few folks. Oh well. I grabbed a taco at Taco Bell and grabbed the tram back to Terminal A. Once I got to the gate I realized the nice AA lady put me as the first standby person (bless her heart).

We left DFW about the same time as what my original flight was going to leave, so it all worked out okay. I ended up on the same flight as Joyce and Kat. We didn’t get to sit near each other, so we just caught up after the flight. Of course, Joyce was AWOL once we got off. I received her text message within seconds letting us know she was getting her luggage and to not leave her. Considering they were stowing away on the shuttle for my hotel (their hotel was far too, uhm, classy to provide a shuttle), her luggage would be the last thing to be worried about if they were found out.

We made it to the hotel, faked liked they had already checked in, and then proceeded to walk a half mile to their hotel up the road. At some point in the trek they decided it was not worth the $20 they saved not taking a taxi. I really wished I had a digital camera at that moment. Two ladies, bags in tow, trudging up the side of the interstate in the cold and rain. Priceless.

Needless to say they showed up the next morning in a beautiful rental car. We sped away (no, really. Have you ever ridden with Joyce? Save your money on 6 Flags, my friends.) to the NWP conference. Airport Marriott was a few miles away, but we also had sessions at the Willis Conference Center. The Willis rocked. Free snacks and free wireless Internet wherever you were! That’s the life. The world should be one huge wireless, high-speed cloud. Glad they had the TL sessions there. I’ll post more on my reflections to those sessions.

I just wanted to blog about how the day went. I am thinking there are far more interesting things ahead for this group.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Change in Thought ... Missing a Change in Action

I know, I know. Even now you are thinking, “but Dad, wouldn’t just going to college be easier?” It might, yes. And depending on what you end up wanting to do, college might still be the best answer. But it might not. And I want to remind you that in my own experience, all of the “learning” I did in all of the college classrooms I’ve spent time in does not come close to the learning that I’ve done on my own for the simple reason that now I am learning with people who are just as (if not more) passionate to “know” as I am. And that is what I want for you, to connect to people and environments where your passions connect, and the expectation is that you learn together, not learn on your own. Where you are free to create your own curriculum, find your own teachers, and create your own assessments as they are relevant. Where you make decisions (and your teachers guide you in those decisions) as to what is relevant to know and what isn’t instead of someone deciding that for you. Where at the end of the day, you’ll look back and find that the vast majority of your effort has been time well spent, not time wasted.

Weblogg-ed » Dear Kids, You Don’t Have to Go to College

Is this scary or what? I love the idea since I am that type of learner. I have learned far more on my own directive than any other situation I have been placed in. Web 2.0 has offered me a connected on-going professional development I could not afford to get elsewhere. I choose to take advantage of the offerings for the benefit of my own learning and that of my students. It makes a difference because I want it to. This is the learning Will is talking about. Learning beyond the books. Learning what I feel necessary for my career and self-growth.

What would happen if our classrooms were set up that way now? Okay... Then what would happen if our classrooms were set up that way without all of the standardized testing and documenting and so on that we deal with day to day?

Would it not work to offer our students at least a portion of their day as a self-exploration period? Are we too pessimistic in the thought that our kids would not care and would just slack off? They probably would. At least in the beginning. They have never had these opportunities, so someone would have to get them on the right track. They could still be held accountable for the learning through some type of cumulative, collaborative project presented to the student body and a panel of experts on the subject. Yes, I know it would be expensive and time-consuming. Yes, it would be worth it. No, the state would not fund that type of program even though they demand that type of result through multiple choice questions.

Just some wonderings out loud. Feel free to comment. Or not.

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