I’ll be off to New York for two events this week and next. First up is a two-day workshop in Brooklyn with middle school students and their science teachers. We are wrapping up a year of working with Brooklyn middle schools doing integrated science and technology projects. These projects include robotics and programming in MicroWorlds, combined with technology literacy certification through TechYES Science.
This workshop will be led by Dr. Gary Stager, who has been working with these schools since a summer kickoff workshop last year. It’s always exciting and fun to have workshops that involve students, and I expect this will be no exception!
Next I’ll be in Rye Brook, New York, for the NYSCATE Metro conference. This is a always a great opportunity for schools in the eastern half of New York to get together and share the progress they are making in technology integration. I’m sure a major topic of discussion will be the one-time ed-tech funding coming soon from the federal stimulus package. (Our website has more details and links to information about that.)
If you are in New York City or going to the Metro conference, be sure to say hello!
The Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute will return for a second year this July 13-16 in Manchester, NH. Constructing Modern Knowledge is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event.
This year’s lineup includes:
- Deborah Meier – has spent more than four decades working in public education as a teacher, writer and public advocate. Meier was the first pubic school educator to be named a MacArthur Genius and is the author of many award-winning books on education. Meier is the co-author, with Diane Ravitch, of the exceptional blog Bridging Differences.
- Herbert Kohl – A recipient of the National Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Herbert Kohl was a founder and the first director of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City. Kohl has spent more than forty years as a progressive teacher, teacher educator and author of dozens of classic education books.
- Gary Stager – laptop pioneer, has helped learners of all ages on six continents embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. Gary is the convener of the CMK Summer Institute.
- and more!
I’ll be back too – last year was a learning experience for me (my CMK08 reflective blog post) and I expect this year to be even better.
By the way – take advantage of the super early bird registration, only $550 (US) by January 1, 2009. The price includes social events, software, and more!
The other day I blogged about “Gizmo High” – a teacher’s opinion piece of how technology was forced on his school to the detriment of learning. As I read some of the reaction to the story and to my blog, I realized that I wasn’t clear about what the point of my post was. I “buried the lead” as they warn beginning journalists not to do. In fact, I buried it so deep it was completely missing.
So here’s my point. Forcing technology on a school won’t work and will likely result in resistance and resentment. To match that mistake, teachers, the community, and even students can resist change simply because it’s different. There are so many ways for technology integration to go wrong, and this story simply illustrated one of them.
So where’s the magic balance? What’s the secret of success? I thought a lot about it and have a theory to throw out here in the form of a chart.
- The horizontal axis represents collaboration and goes from the most authoritarian system (one person or group has complete say in what happens) to maximum consensus.
- The vertical axis represents control – by which I mean steering towards a vision, sort of like having a rudder. It goes from the bottom, where there is absolutely no vision about what to do to the top where someone (or a group) has a perfectly formed vision of the future.
I’ve labeled the quadrants with what I think happens with these combinations.
- Resistance, resentment (top left) – this is where Gizmo High falls. Somebody with an extreme vision forced it on everyone else. That vision was something like “the one with the most goodies wins.”
- Successful change (top right) – where everyone would like to be. The perfect storm of a shared, guiding vision and just enough process and consensus building to get everyone on board as it happens.
- Paralysis (bottom right) – When there is so much consensus building going on that nothing of significance ever happens, it means that the vision is missing. The engine is running but there’s no one at the rudder.
- Status quo (bottom left) – There’s not even a vision of change and there are plenty of people who feel passionate about keeping things just as they are.
Successful change is more than just gaining consensus from the participants about “what they want” without first establishing a vision of change. People can’t choose a future they’ve never seen before. Many times I think technology integration is considered successful if the teachers “feel comfortable” with the technology. Often this means that they are using technology to do the same old things with new gizmos.
So where does the vision look like? I can’t tell you — that’s exactly the point. My solution wouldn’t work for you, because that’s just a recipe for a “Quadrant 1” style Gizmo High disaster. No one can come in and tell you what your vision of the future should be; you can’t follow someone else’s dream.
But you can stand on the shoulders of giants. One place I find my inspiration is by reading great thinkers about education like Dr. Seymour Papert. He painted a picture in the very early days of computers of how students could program computers, instead of computers programming children. He worked to create a programming language for children that would directly connect to math in a natural way. This language is still in use in schools around the world today and is the backbone of new ones like MicroWorlds and Scratch. His constructivist theories of how students learn are the basis of the One Laptop Per Child Initiative.
But don’t take my word for it. Read him, read others, and find your own.