Thursday, May 6, 2010

Public urgency for change

Education's sphere of protection, it's operating autonomy is eroding fast. The safety and certainty of local control and geographical boundaries are being challenged by the "disruptive technologies" of today. And these challenges are coming sooner than later.

I spent some time with my brother recently and out of no where he asked, "Why can't we just change how we're doing things (in education)?" Sitting with us was his father-in-law who was, and still is, very active in school business back in our hometown of Monticello, Iowa. I was expecting certain affirmation of the way we've done and always done education and a more traditional outlook.

But instead I heard a retired implement dealer, who has sat in on more school board meetings than I have, champion technology. He echoed my brother's frustration and the need for changing the way we educate our students, especially at the high school level. A friend of his had given him a copy of "Disrupting Class" by Clayton Christensen and he was very much behind many of the ideas that the book, one-to-one and online learning advocates have been calling for recently.

Anita has long been a leader in technology use in education. So there can be a "been there-done that" attitude about it's integration in our district and within the walls of our school building. "We've always had technology," has been heard and I can understand the perspective of - "so what's different now?"

Nearly everything is different now. Our students need different skills, they need different learning stimulus, they can get their education anytime, anywhere from a multitude of credible sources. These are some of the realities and the fact two people, from different generations and randomly can see this confirmed my sense of urgency for change in education.

The system had better grow some legs that can move it faster than the snails pace it's moving now. Furthermore, those of us fortunate to have laptops in our kids hands need to pick up the pace as well. A one week seminar in the summer or a few hours before school starts in the fall will not suffice in terms of getting ready to assist students in their navigation their connected world.

The problem with the way we've done PD in the past is at the heart of the change issue. Instead of sitting and getting, teachers, administrators and non-certified staff all need to take control of our learning and get immersed using the very technologies our students need to gain jobs, maintain them and thrive in a new and ever-changing economy.

An economy and world that may not need as many of us, and ultimately demanding we have the very same skills to survive. Might as well learn them now.

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