My PBwiki with notes from the November Learning Conference.

Samual Adams

(Alternative Title:  Another “American” Educational Revolution – My apologies to a world-wide audience and to my Mother from the UK!)

My career in education, officially, is in its meager 14th year. 13 years as a classroom teacher and now I am in my first year as an educational technology coordinator. Obviously education has been a part of my entire life: life is ultimately a learning experience. However, I focus and reflect on my past years as an educator and my experience working with students and colleagues in bringing about change. Since I first stepped into my first classroom there has been a revolution in education of one sort or another. Change is revolution, be it good or bad, and it seems it is always an experiment. That is not a bad thing, but oftentimes it is challenging and scary. Fear usually prevents change, and revolutions fail.

New technologies, blogs, wikis, RSS, and podcasts, are changing the game. These tools, among others, are revolutionary and provide an opportunity and an audience for learners to share what they know, what they are learning, and what they are doing with the world. The fear factor steps in once again for many who are digital immigrants. It is a fear of the unknown.

Bill Bagshaw, an educational leader from Topeka, Kansas, yesterday said: “Don’t be afraid!” He meant it, and I believe it! We always challenge our students to take risks in their learning. Many times we teach them about things they don’t know, and this elicits fear; however, once we learn things we feel better, at ease, the fear goes away until the next new thing!

I know we are in another educational revolution, but I think that this time it is different. There are tools that are appearing on a daily basis that are driving this change. To an extent it is like Samual Adams and the Sons of Liberty. At first there were rumblings in the colonies with talk of revolution, and people like Samual Adams began to get more “organized.” Other began to post their thoughts and ideas in pamphlets that were distributed around the countryside. The revolutionary ideas began to build and grow, and conversations, events, and action began to take place. As people took these ideas to heart and acted upon them, the revolution gained enough momentum and could no longer be ignored. It was not going away, it was not a fad, and it created fear.

The tools educators have access to today have gained momentum and cannot be ignored any longer. If we remain loyal to our practices of the past we will miss or ignore the shift that has and is happening today. This revolution is different as the Sons of Liberty are the children, kids who access rich media on a daily basis transmitted in the blink of an eye. For the most part they have the basic ‘R’s,” and they are taking this knowledge to new heights. The challenge is preparing ourselves as educators to go along for the ride that is real, scary, and revolutionary. Don’t be afraid!

  1. Erik Rich says:

    Educators have access to a lot of things but one problem is knowing how to use them and not being afraid to use them. The Web 2.0 is not new to students because they are growing up in the middle of it but there are still teachers that barely use email and do so because they have to. I agree that educators need to be more proactive and challenge there students to use these new technologies for purposes other than making their friends jealous or boasting about things they do or do not have but right now in education, professional development on using these technologies effectively in the classroom are not always available. Our school recently tried to do professional development after school in various areas of educational technology and most were poorly attended. So I ask you how do we make these teachers unafraid?

  2. nhokanson says:

    Great comments and an important question Erik! Fear of the unknown is one of the driving factors in preventing change. I think many educators feel they cannot keep up with the ever changing technologies, and there are many responsibilities that have been put on the “plates” of educators in recent years. I don’t want to simplify such a complex issue, but these are big stumbling blocks that stand in the way.

    Jane Vella (Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: : The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults) talks about building trust with adult learners through recognizing the wealth of experience each brings to an educational setting. The process of building trust through conversation creates a safe learning environment where adult learners can take risks and nuture growth. Educators are not given enough credit for what they know, and often in professional development we don’t take the time to find out what they already know, or tried, or even failed at , and succeeded on! If we take the time to build this relationship of trust I believe teachers will be less afraid, and as they begin to succeed with these new technologies and see the benefits for their students they will continue to take more risks. Even if there are only a few to begin with, that is a start and a foundation to build upon.

    I think these new Web 2.0 technologies provide an excellent vehicle for opening up dialogue and conversation between educators. You and I have fears about teachers not integrating technology in their classrooms and taking advantage of tools that today’s students use on a regular basis. Our conversation here is tackling the issue, and we are looking for solutions together although we are miles apart and we don’t even know each other! The bottom line is we trust each other to share our challenges, and we are looking for solutions together. We have overcome a level of fear and started a thread of dialogue. That is what we have to do with our colleagues that we get to see each day.

    Let me know what you think of this response, and let’s keep this conversation going. Anyone else have some thoughts on this “fear factor?”

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