Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Simple Things

I recently went to Minnetonka Minnesota to look at a model technology district there. To say the very least the visit was very, very interesting. What they had done was work closely with the community to pass a 20 million dollar levy to fund technology as a accelerator of learning. The purchased white boards, mounted speakers, and projectors, invested in staff development in a culture of professional learning and used BlackBoard as content management system. None of these things is especially special, innovative or unique. They just used the technologies together to form a synergy that had a dynamic effect in the classroom. In every classroom, the kids counted on the basic tools of electronic learning.

The project was not about the technologies they selected, standardization or any other of the customary magic. What they had really done was invest in tried and true educational techniques that have been around for years. The project was not about interactive white boards; it was about student interaction. The students used the boards to share ideas not perpetuate the teacher presenting to the class. It was not about BlackBoard; it was about home to school communication. The mounted projectors were used to engage the students. They had gone to the educational well and found things that we know work: student engagement, interactivity, and home to school communication. The real magic was the simplest of things.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Illusion of Control

In the last few weeks I have given several workshops to school site administrators on the resources of Web 2.0 and how the Internet is not just an information source, but is evolving into a knowledge source. It is always interesting to see how people deal with new information and change. While most people are very reflective and take in the new information and then need some time to match the new information to their belief system. There are few people who just reject the change. This is really not unusual change in not popular with everyone and many people are just threatened by change. Several went so far as to cross their arms, completely tune out and say out loud that they are not going to allow it.

When you think about the absurdity of this position in educators, it underlies a core belief that any educator can control the information and resources that learners use. That a site administrator can somehow determine how students learn in the vast information landscape that exists today, or how learners interact to form their belief and value systems. I call this the illusion of control that persists in education. When faced with change that they are not prepared to deal with, they retreat into the administrative control mode. The scary idea that the world is under our control.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Line Learning

This week we had a great meeting to discuss beginning on line learning in our district. Although the teachers, administrators and students are ready to go, the pragmatics don’t ever seem to line up. Between the UC system, the California Department of Education, the law and the organization of our district there is always one piece out of alignment. First, any class that would fulfill the A through G requirements for our students would require UC accreditation. There is no legislation that would allow any of our schools to collect attendance funds for any on line class, and offering a class is summer school may actually cost the district money, as summer school is an income producer. There is some thought about offering our careers and health class as an on line class, but the summer school issue and funding it during the regular school year are issues.

Regardless, the passion and energy in the room to somehow find a way to get this done was amazing. The group will keep twisting and turning this issue and, I am confident, find a way to get a class offered. After a difficult week of budget discussions, it was an uplifting experience to work with this group of caring, knowledgeable and passionate professionals.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Digital Insurgency

Why digital Insurgency? I think that this is really my job. I am the Director of Technology for the Placentia Yorba Linda USD and it is my job to try and show the administrators and teachers how technology offers new ways to learn for the new students we are seeing in our schools. In order for the students to get new opportunities to learn, teachers and administrators must turn the key and allow them access. In our business, adults control how and what students learn. In order for this to happen the minds of the adults must be open to new ways of teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the educational system does not change easily or even consider new ideas easily. We have all gone through the educational system. We all know the rules, and generally we teach very much in the same way that we were taught.

This is the reason for Digital Insurgency. I have to move this agenda forward, but not too rapidly! Whenever there is a discussion of how we, as a district should approach an issue, I try and move the digital agenda forward. There is a fine edge between making a welcomed suggestion and being pushy. It is this edge that is at the very core of digital insurgency. Go over the edge, and you don't get invited to meetings where decisions are made or there is the knowing roll of the eyes that says here he goes again with the digital agenda.

In this blog, I hope to document digital insurgency in our district. Managing change, within the constructs of a declining budget, aging computers, and a jammed network.