So, I did something unusual for me the other day when I re-posted one of Dean Groom's 2010 predictions in a style that one would more likely find on Tom Hoffmann's or Dan Meyer's blog. It was just one of those things where Dean's words hit a chord and I thought that I'd want my own easy reference point. So, I blogged it. No big deal. I didn't think anyone would even notice except to maybe follow the link and give Dean more feedback on his post.
But I can never tell when something will strike a chord with a reader (and I'm still constantly surprised by who is actually reading!) and I received a number of really great comments that deserve more airing than just an @commenter reply. Because you've all made me think and that is a good thing in this self indulgent, slack off summer holiday time that I'm currently enjoying. So, I going to reference these comments and see where they take me while I listen to some Laughing Clowns in the background.
One of the interesting things about being an edublogger is that there is always a danger of taking yourself too seriously and over-estimating your potential impact on any form of meaningful change. The other danger, of course, is that you don't take your own place in the network seriously enough and consequently fail to capitalise on opportunities that could make a difference. There are many wrong turns to be taken so being a bit flippant and pessimistic can act as a buffer and reason to sit comfortably in the critic's chair.
Firstly, Dean's predictions were interesting and I see that he has expanded on his first prediction and the concept of Bubblegum Edupunk. He covered a lot of ground including his view that consultants widen the digital divide instead of bridging, the impact (or lack thereof) of DER laptops on learning outcomes, Conroy's filter, tech issues around portable technology and virtual worlds and there finished on the paragraph that I featured.
Simon was the first commenter and his words seem to indicate that private schools are not necessarily all progressive in the technological sense and that Dean's ‘virtual glass ceiling’ might not be applicable in his experience. I get where Dean is coming from in that the bigger the education system the more things are "locked down" system wise in terms of filters, software and hardware agreements etc and therefore there are predictable limits on what can be achieved even with the most enthused switched on, innovative teacher. I think that many teachers and leaders over-estimate their own place in the implementation of technology within their own places of learning. I know of several schools where the principal is pleased with his/her whole school roll out of interactive whiteboards, feeling that must place his/her teachers somewhere near the cutting edge. And as Dean's prediction states, that is a potential recipe for 2010 stagnation.
So, right when I was feeling smug about my "I'll be saying I told you so come year's end", Christopher drops in to whack me around the ears with some well chosen words.
Rather than bemoan the current state of affairs, use social media to lead others. Get your community involved. Hold rallies. Organize parents, civic leaders, students.
Leaders lead, mate. Be creative. Put all of your great theories about change into action. Get off your duffs. Remember, governments are reactionary; they respond to the conditions on the ground. Lead your legislatures. Start at the edge, work your way in. Lead by example. Stop whining.
And I know what he's saying. Sitting around whinging doesn't actually do anything. But here is where the right take on my own place in the world is necessary. Because who you are and how much influence you actually wield is a big determining factor is whether you can swing at the iceberg of education change with a sledgehammer or a toothpick. I like what Tim Holt is doing at the moment where he is leveraging the power of edublogs with elected officials. I can see how one could take his US based idea and use a similar tactic in Australia, even if our method of electing representatives is quite different and responsive to different pressures.
A modest proposal:
I propose that all US edubloggers (that are not specifically writing for a school, a district, or a job that would prohibit such activity) use their blogs this year ask people that are running for office in their congressional districts/senate districts, gubernatorial races or any public elected office questions about education. They then publish the UNEDITED responses without comment. That way, the blogger is neither being pro nor con, merely reporting back on what was asked.
So, I was a bit taken aback by Christopher's challenge and even now, still not sure what my actual response should be. Ideally, I'd be planning my own fantastic contribution to the education change but for me, it is really a case of how to best use the time that I've got. I don't usually sit on my hands - I like to think that I contribute in a number of small ways - but like most connected educators, I know I could always be doing more. I still have to balance that against my own family's needs, the responsibilities of the job that pays the bills and even leave a bit of time to ensure that my own batteries aren't completely drained. But I have presented at conferences, contributed to Ning communities, visited interested schools in my own time, facilitated a blogging community with my own students, plus a few other things that don't readily come to mind right now.
Darcy Moore pointed me over to his blog post where he writes:
I believe ‘teaching’ will have a renaissance this century, as we co-operate and collaborate and the citizens of the planet have the need to solve the growing challenges we will have to overcome. This renaissance has already commenced but will become truly evident during this new decade. Skilled teachers are already at a premium but those with vision, relentless enthusiasm and who love to learn, challenge and be challenged, will insist on thriving!
I note with a smile that Darcy talks about change over the next decade, not just the next year. There is no doubt that the education system will have to change significantly over the next few years but like Dean, I'm not sure that my own system senses the urgency yet. The DER laptops have forced the issue to a big degree for many high schools and Darcy's school have obviously embraced the initiative and run with it. Dean points this out in one of the comments on Darcy's blog:
Yours is one of the exceptions to the stagnant norm. We see individual brilliance and even school brevity — but what we must ask for is evidence that these machines are improving outcomes on the same scale they are being rolled out at. It will be interesting to see how this is evaluated and measured this year if at all.
Then a veritable giant in the elearning world, Leigh Blackall, offers an actual plan of action. This is a person who does in fact do all of the things that Christopher identifies as "leading by example". He has contributed original thought and content, challenges the status quo and creates his own working alternative models for others to use. His Facilitating online communities course is a testament to his get things done approach. Leigh has a confidence in his own ability to prioritise things to get ambitious things off the ground so his suggestions are right in line with that approach. He suggests growing a community which in my world might take more than 2010 to grow legs, but with a National Curriculum fast approaching would have plenty of traction to draw passionate educators in to interpret that new document for the betterment of student learning using the online tools of communication, collaboration and hopefully cooperation.
So, I'm still not sure what I will do. I think I know what I should do, but think and will are two different beasts. I have my own work at my own school which via the DECS Learning Technologies Grant has its own chance to influence system and other schools' direction. I will continue to work with my own colleagues, raising their awareness so that they have their own eyes opened to the potential of technology facilitated learning and with my students, giving them the chance to take charge of their own learning. I will pitch in for my professional association, CEGSA, providing sessions at the annual conference and hopefully, offer similar to other professional opportunities throughout the year. I will gently push some ideas at my own sons' school's Governing Council so that their educational opportunities are not compromised. I will endeavour to blog regularly, the good, the awry, the ambitious, the half baked and I will comment more frequently on others' blogs. I will look to do something meaningful that furthers the cause of educational change that helps to match the rhetoric of "learning spaces, personalisation of learning" to actual practice. What that will be, I don't know. But these comments have helped me to start contemplating that next move.
And hey, if you think I'm full of it, you can let me have it in the comments...