Friday, April 22, 2011

Which way? Reflections on #i11i and choosing a path to follow

The 2nd annual Iowa 1to1 Institute was held last Wednesday, and while those of us who roam the world of twitter know it by it's "hashtag" #i11i we are the minority of who understand this concept. I challenge that we are the minority in education who share the true passion and true belief that we can change education by fearlessly choosing a path to venture forward upon.

It's not that the vast majority of educators are void of passion, or passionless. They are searching, questioning, doubting or taking baby steps forward. They want answers and promises, guarantees and a safety net. They want a formula, concrete reason or a flow chart to show the path to educational prosperity for their students and to show their patrons.

Guess what? Those things do not exist, not at this time and not in this disruptive place. So at #illi many educators went from session to session with the look of bewilderment, the look of astonishment from the enormity of trying to organize all of this vast ocean of possibilities. They are looking for a clear path, but what they encountered was a sign post much like the one located in the middle of the compound on TVs hit series M*A*S*H.

Erase the cities on each board and replace them with things such as 24/7 access, Collaboration, Skype, Digital Footprint, Google, Interest driven Learning, PLNs, eCurriculum, Twitter, MOODLE, Web2.0, iPads, APS, mobile device tools and on and on.

It is easy to become stuck, staring at the signs wondering which path to take. I've seen this in the eyes of my Web2.0 students, when given the freedom to take any path, they often choose taking no path at all. I've seen it in the eyes of my staff as I've proclaimed, "Try anything! Be bold! Don't be afraid to fail!" Too, too often they're left standing in disbelief at the options presented before them, the enormity of the possibilities. The opposite occurs as the freedom can have a paralyzing effect. We are safe where we are standing.

My students sat on a panel representing a class of seniors that have had computers since they were sophomores. (Video) (PanelHighlights) In preparation we talked about our audience - my estimates put the new, first year or considering 1 to 1 at 60-70%. Conversations and observations about #i11i tell me I vastly underestimated that figure and it was more like 80-90%. Coming to #i11i is safe, it's getting information, reporting back, gathering data. They are paralyzed studying the options, trying to chart the guaranteed path.

CAM High School is lucky that we have chosen paths, are traveling on some and tried others. Administrators and teachers from districts still riding the fence, still searching for the exact, right path have an edge to their comments. A frustration stemming from a gut feeling they're missing out, the train has pulled out of the station without them and they're watching it fade into the distance.

The good news for those still waiting is the technology is evolving and changing. There will be new starting points, new paths, new ways to make new paths. Paths are being wore down, being traveled by more and more educators as they support systemic change or have found a way to capture the best of new technology. Concepts such as Personal Learning Networks (PLNs); eCurriculum through a free, state-wide repository; Connecting classrooms and authentic project based curriculum are some of the emerging paths district's like ours are exploring.

More good news is that there is a growing group of passionate educators that are a click, email or phone call away. All eager to share, collaborate, create or advise on which path to start down.

Whether traveling a long ways towards "Boston" or a short trip to "Seoul" it's important educators use their passion as fuel to move from the #i11i signpost and continue on their journey of educational transformation.