Sunday, January 03, 2010

2020 Vision

Recently I’ve been reading various articles and posts about the famed visionary year of 2020 because, as the writers always point out, it is only ten short years away. Many are asking what we should be doing now in order to be sufficiently poised to usher in that decade prepared for perfect 2020 vision.


My reactions to these imploring “calls to action” run the gamut of considerate contemplation to gut-stirring anger. So I’ve been mulling over why I’ve had such a wide range of emotional responses. Now, I am a huge fan of irony and I have been especially tickled that everyone seems so enamored with the impending year of 2020 as a pivotal point in our culture. 2010 vision is actually sharper than 2020…so the idea of embracing 2020 as the benchmark for achieving perfect vision means our society will have actually experienced loss of vision while moving through this decade.

I just don’t understand the crowds of people wringing their hands over the future like we are all destined to fail. So many discussions like these are tinged with the element of fear and calamity for our future- which leads me to ponder, where is the optimism? Where did the “can do” mentality that our country was founded on go? The human race has been successfully adapting for centuries so why is our view of the future infused with fear and not hope? We hear various proclamations of; we aren’t going to be ready, our schools are failing, other countries will out-perform us in every aspect. I am not here to debate if schools are failing or not; I certainly agree that there are areas for improvement, but schools are achieving success in many ways as well. (This will have to be a topic for a different post) I would propose that part of the problem is directly related to our culture. Some may say our cultural failure is a direct result of years of bad schooling- but I don’t believe there is one culprit in this whole mess. Yes, we do need change and innovation and open minds and equal access for all- but please don’t count me in on simply standing around, wringing my hands, gnashing my teeth and wracking my brains for devising “the cure” for the 2020 benchmark. I say- engage yourself now. Our world continues to turn and all we can guarantee is that today we are all here rolling with it.

We’ve all seen the “did you know” series and we can only speculate on the technologies and jobs that will be available in the future. But we do know all these changes are certainly making the world smaller. I’m not suggesting simply becoming vacuous cows grazing blindly into our future- I’m saying we must all start consciously working towards our collective futures with the understanding of current change, opening our minds to the exponential potential for future changes, and comprehension of and appreciation for the changing world around us. Opportunities abound and the idea that there is only one winner in this world is just wrong and short-sighted. Collaboration is currently a big buzzword in our culture so why wouldn’t we work towards a vision where all humans collaborate ourselves into an innovative and productive collective future where everyone benefits?

Is this possible? Maybe you can write me off as a simpleton, someone who just doesn’t comprehend the complexity or enormity of challenges we face as a nation. Could be you are right. But for me, my 2020 vision is a work in progress starting with today. My vision is one where hope and motivation and engagement reside. I plan to move forward with rational thinking and consciously regard the world around me with my eyes wide open employing 2010 vision.

Is this an adequate plan for tangible long-term goals? Well, the good news is, I’m open to change and reflection on my path and I will strive to be flexible and adaptable. This is a terribly exciting time to be alive and I, for one, am very hopeful about our collective future.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ISTE standards and some thoughts

If you have not read the new NETS for teachers and administrators, please take a look.

When I was reading through the list I wrote some notes to myself, the first being; Wow, high expectations for staff regarding digital competency (#4); how would one best implement teacher learning with everything else going on in the building?

My other thought was to wonder how to make implementation of these standards less threatening to teachers who would be considered at the emergent level in implementation. It is such a delicate balance between bringing people to the table and not overwhelming them with information so that they end up shutting down because they feel like such a failure at "all this newfangled stuff". We don't want them to dismiss these shifts as unimportant and not related to their jobs so they can just turn around and shut the door and keep teaching in the manner they have enjoyed for years where they have probably enjoyed success.

One thing I want to point out is that I don't believe it is only old teachers who would feel this way. Some older teachers would have the feeling I've just described above, but younger teachers are dealing with their own stresses; working on managing their new classrooms, time, curriculum, life changes and they can be just as easily overwhelmed with these expectations. We also can't just assume the younger teachers know how to effectively use technology just because they are digital natives.

I made big stars all over the Visionary Leadership portion for the Administrators; I believe that is the fundamental key to this whole she-bang. We can't make great strides without the support and understanding of our administration. I also starred "ensure effective practice in the study of technology and its infusion across the curriculum" (digital-age learning culture) as another key point.

I wonder; how are schools going to realistically integrate and achieve true success with these standards? Everyone's plates are overflowing and there is no easing up on anything else that I can see. To me, it seems like there are all these independent satellite think tanks scrambling to promote best practices in education; with data collection and reporting and standards and technology and funding and SIP and PLC and going green and safety and on and on and on and no one is getting everyone together to say- Hey! We all have things that need to be attended to in education. How can we expect this group of people to take all this on alone, in individual buildings/districts and without adequate support? How can we as educators support each other with all these initiatives because expecting schools to have success implementing all these expectations is rather daunting. We may want to run and hide, but we can't. Where is the collaborative effort? Joining and participating in online educational networks like NING and PLP is going to be key to our collaborative success. We need to embrace the idea that we are all in this together and together we can be strong. There should be no "Race to the Top" because we can't afford to have winners and losers among our American schoolchildren. We need to "Put Education First" in my humble opinion. (I plan to share that sentiment with Arne Duncan)

And then; what kind of work force would we honestly need to do all the business involved with educating children? Then that gets me on a whole other thinking topic about education on other countries and who is most successful and why are they successful; but I am going to leave that topic alone for today. I need to get cooking for tomorrow....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Facebook/Taste of Technology

Oooh so many topics but so little time!

Briefly, the Facebook thing is going pretty well so far. We started advertising it with a group of students I've been working with on How the Hangman Lost His Heart book. Tomorrow we are working in groups with students on fun activities and I will have video to post to the site. If you are interested in peeking in- find the "Authors in April" group on Facebook. It is set to public and I believe you can look at it without joining. (I can't tell because I am a member...) Our Authors in April day is Tuesday so I will be working to write more about the entire experience after the visit from the author.

Just want to call your attention to Will Richardson's post on transparency if you have not already read it. I was in attendance the day the administrator asked him the question he discusses on his blog. His post on this topic has received a large number of comments and I am interested in talking about this idea with people. He inspired me to make an appointment with my superintendent- and that experience will have to be another blog post.

All-in-all the Oakland University Taste of Technology conference was OUTSTANDING. I could not believe what a small and intimate forum we had to provide us with the opportunity to chat with Will Richardson! What an unique experience. It was very exciting to me and quite inspirational. Needless to say- I was pretty geeked about the entire conference. I'll need to suggest to the planners to make it a webinar next year- great inquiry Sarah!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Facebook in school

So, I have been thinking again.

I have been mulling over ways to successfully reach students when they are not in school on a platform they already are comfortable navigating. I imagine a space where school learning and connecting with fellow students expands outside of the classroom walls. I know for me personally, I spend a great deal of time outside of my work day delving in my own personal PD sessions with the computer or a book. My goal is to promote that love of learning and connecting with my students. I've tried wikis and blogs with limited success. That is not to say that I am planning to abandon those efforts; I am simply exploring other options. I am always looking to create windows in the metaphorical brick wall. My thoughts led me to Facebook. Why not? I know my students have profiles there and they are on the site often in their spare time. Considering my own daughter's use of Facebook I thought it just might be pretty successful. Another personal observation of my daughter: she is not an overly social in person, but she is extremely social on Facebook. I expect for those students who are shy or hesitant to share their thoughts in the classroom setting this group would enable them to participate safely. So another reason to try. Of course all of the negative antics associated with middle school students having free reign on a social platform did cross my mind. But, how would I ever know how this could work unless I just tried it? How would I know what to change or set up or anticipate the next time? My brain was screaming, Just Do IT! So I did.

I started a group on Facebook geared to sparking discussions around a guest speaker who will be visiting my district. I invited adults working in the district to join first and encouraged the teachers to start promoting this group with their students. Excited to see what I could generate, I casually mentioned it to a group of students in the library. I had my first student join just the other day. When I congratulated her for being the first student to join she declared that she was going to start inviting her friends! So we have a small group started. Not too much discussion going on quite yet. What I am planning to push next is talking it up with the English classes as those teachers are working most intensively to get this visit off the ground. I intend to make students aware of the group prior to spring break as I suspect that may be a good time for us to be connected. All the students will be required to finish their books over break so my goal is to get them talking about it online. This is a work in process.

To date, what I was most surprised about was how many students told me their parents would not allow them to have a profile on Facebook. I suggested if they were interested in seeing what it is like they should encourage their parents to create a profile and join the group. That way the student could participate through their parent and the parent would be able to monitor what was going on in the group.

I will plan to write more about this little project as it unfolds! Stay tuned!