Become A Better Juggler Or Maybe Just A Smarter One

I enjoy Lisa Neilsen’s blog but worry when I read words like this:

There is less tolerance for educators who do not believe it is their responsibility to move their teaching out of the past. Those stuck in the past… those who are not developing their own personal learning networks… those not taking ownership for their learning… are doing a great disservice to our students and themselves. In the words of leadership expert Jim Collins, these are the people that those who care about student success may want to advise to just get off the bus.

Not that I disagree with the sentiments but its tone is hardly encouraging to educators who are still tentative in their overall use of technology. What was that old saying about honey and vinegar?

Especially when teaching has become an increasingly complex job. I like to use the metaphor of a juggler with my colleagues, recognising that they already have a number of important balls in the air that they need to keep in motion. To take on a new ball, something needs to be done about the ones already airborne – either by taking one out of action or lessening the impact if it gets dropped.

Adapted from this image - http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/137209564/

Adapted from this image - http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/137209564/

Telling my colleagues they shouldn’t be in the job just because their technology ball isn’t whizzing around at the same intensity as the others is not fair and is as tunnel visioned as those who would judge teacher’s prowess on their students’ test scores.

4 Responses to “Become A Better Juggler Or Maybe Just A Smarter One”


  • Graham, I’m happy to hear you enjoy my blog. *Big smiles*

    I also love your analogy about how when taking on a new ball, something needs to be done about the ones already airborne – either by taking one out of action or lessening the impact if it gets dropped.

    So, true. I have a bunch I’d love to be able to take out of action indeed and perhaps that would solve half the battle.

    I hear what you’re saying about worry. I want to clarify that statement in the context of the article which was about folks taking ownership for their own learning and digital literacy development rather than holding others responsible for it.

    You indicate you have a concern with the tone, which I agree with if that was the tone I used with those who were in the mindset of those I describe. I do agree a more friendly tone must be used for those who feel it’s okay to teach the way they were taught. For those teachers/leaders I try to entice them with some honey and move them along at their pace (okay, maybe a little faster than that). I also try to demonstrate real ways that harnessing technology can help them do their work more efficiently, effectively, and engage and empower learners.

    However, in the end we need to do what is best for preparing our students for success rather than what is most comfortable for their teachers. I know you agree with that and your message that to do so you must consider the tone is a good one.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Lisa. Probably all I’ve done here is repeat a small sub-strand of a larger conversation that is better summarised here. Yes, I really do enjoy reading your blog and tone is important in the art of gentle persuasion. I don’t hold a position as broad ranging as yours, but I too am involved in the pushing of teachers into more meaningful use of technology for learning. So I do agree that teachers can’t afford to be optional about their tech use – and we all need to have conversations about which balls are not worth keeping in the air any longer.

  • I agree that teachers have many balls to juggle in the air. I also think technolgy is an important part of the teaching process for the future. However, I think that teachers should be provided training on the these new tools in an environment that is comfortable for them to learn. I am aware of situations where teachers are simply left to their own devices to learn this while juggling everythiong esle.

    • Hmmm, the process of providing training is an interesting one because one of the great benefits of social media and connected learning is that it is primarily driven by the individual. Our traditional models of professional training don’t really fit within this new paradigm all that well – the challenge really is how to effectively respond to what Scott McLeod calls “the largest transformation in learning that ever has occurred in human history”. You are right, we can’t just leave teachers to their own devices but the way we’ve traditionally got educators on board isn’t going to cut it either. Ironically, we do want to get to the place where teachers can self learn in a digital world but we need to identify some time consuming ballast that needs tossing overboard. What that is will be different depending on what country, what sector, what clientele you work with and in.

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