How Many Hours in the Day?

In an earlier post, I wrote about a community forum our school board put together to address community questions and concerns surrounding NeXt Generation Learning, our district’s strategic plan.

Though pleased to see the district making a serious effort to engage the community in an open, transparent discussion about NGL, I also left the forum feeling frustrated. I wanted to write about the frustration earlier, but it’s not my style to complain without offering a solution. There’s enough of that in the world already.

After stewing on the subject for a bit, I think I’ve found the true cause of my frustration – time. There’s simply not enough of it.

As I was sitting through the presentations offered for community members, I found myself thinking, “Yes, show them ActivBoards, but don’t forget to mention Kagan and McREL‘s High-Impact Strategies. We mustn’t leave out Web 2.0 and our focus on fostering meaningful relationships between learners and educators as well as learners and learning. Show them the data on the importance of engagement in the classroom and the work that’s being done to bring gaming and play into formal education.”

It wasn’t that the information being shared was unimportant, it was that all the information that didn’t get shared was so important too.

Each of these new tools and tactics works in concert with the others in creating a concert of learning. Cooperative learning without technology will work. Podcasting without cooperative learning will work. Cooperative learning and podcasting will each work without non-linguistic representations. But, all these used together will create an exponentially more powerful learning experience. It’s difficult to make that argument in one evening. Thank goodness we’re trying.

Will Richardson recently blogged about some frustrations in the discussion of technological integration and digital literacy:

Recently, in the middle of a presentation to about 500 teachers, one woman raised her hand and said something along the lines of “Look, I’m not the most technologically savvy, but I have to tell you that in a lot of ways I think all this technology is the devil. I mean my kids plagiarize stuff left and right, they don’t learn how to spell because of spell check, and I just think we’d be better off without it.” And a number of people applauded.

And also recently, after finishing with another group of school leaders who I had been working with over the last eight months, I was surprised to learn that many of them had begun deleting their blog posts and blogs citing fears that they would somehow come back to haunt them. And so much of our conversations focused on all of the reasons why we can’t make change in our schools. The “yeah, buts” once again.

I can see both sides of the conversation, though I stand with Will in the end. Technology is not the answer in the same way that a Vitamin C tablet will not equip you with the vitamins and minerals you need to make it through the day. I need a multi-vitamin, and it better include Vitamin C. The thing is, we must also take into account those among us who don’t trust vitamins and are sticking with a daily dose of cod liver oil.

An argument could be made that I’m expecting things to happen too quickly – that this is education and progress, no matter how slow, is an improvement. See that’s the thing. It is an improvement, I’m with you. But this is not big business where a failure to respond to the market will lower our quarterly earnings by a few percentage points. This is biggest business and the capital on our ledgers is students; quantifying our losses means much more than upsetting our investors with weaker earnings projections.

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