« Why is it so hard for us to do the right thing? | Main | Where is the stimulus to innovate our education system? »

The Real Excitement

excitment
The potential of emerging technologies and the philosophy behind web 2.0 to transform the learning environment continues to excite me, but there is a need to create new mindsets instead of presenting examples, ideas, and presentations based upon traditional and old mindsets of their use, a retro-fitting or "old way, new tool" approach.

As Knobel and Lankshear (2008) state, "it is very easy to find examples where teachers and administrators approach new technologies in ways that constitute these new technologies as simply more recent forms of established tools, rather than as constitutive elements of new ways of doing things and new ways of being" (p. 54).

It is exactly those types of examples that we must avoid using as models, and the reason we should value collectively discussing and building principles and guidelines that allow user to maximize the potential of these emerging technologies. However, there are numerous concerns often expressed when this collective approach is raised: There are no rules, Stifle creativity and innovations, and Just starting points.

There are No Rules!

One argument is that emerging technologies in particular web 2.0 in education have no rules or one right way. Sure! Use the technologies in any manner that makes sense. Use a blog as a discussion board? To post assignments? To have students respond to prompts? Use a wiki for document storage? as a class website? Fine!

As professionals, teachers makes choices based upon classroom and student needs, which is to be commended.
However, these shouldn’t be modeled or celebrated as revolutionary as many fail to capture the soul of participatory learning and the philosophy of web 2.0.

Think of this from outside the realm of technology such as cooperative learning. We honor and value that teachers utilize this instructional strategy in many different ways, but we also recognize effective, less than effective, and poor uses of the strategy. In fact, if we compared effective cooperative classrooms versus less than effective classroom, similar themes and approaches would emerge that set the two apart. Should we not leverage these themes and approaches? Should we scream there are no rules and thus not use our findings to formulate guidelines and ideas for teachers new to the approach? For me, Johnson and Johnson along with a master teacher who excelled at cooperative learning that made the difference between me just putting students in groups and calling it cooperative learning, and facilitating the creation of a collaborative environment.

Saying and accepting there are no rules removes the responsibility of quality and places the focus on quantity.

Don’t get me wrong. We don't need rules or standardization!

However, we need to work collectively to create learner-centered models as well as core principles that maximize the potential of emerging technologies instead of settling for entry level, tool centered and sometimes teacher centered uses of emerging technologies. After all, aren't we striving to create new, more powerful learning environments?

Isn't it time to create fluid and flexible principles that serve as guides towards powerful uses of emerging technologies? Isn't it time to stop being afraid to challenge thinking, ask difficult questions, facilitate discussions, debate successful strategies, define current trends, showcase complex uses of emerging technologies? Isn’t it time to leverage research, theory, and practitioner narrative?

Principles Prevent Innovation and Creativity

In college, Dr. McBride used discussion boards to extend the depth and breadth of our thinking. His excellent approach was a model and provided guidelines for my classroom. While the asynchronous approach of the discussion board was meeting many needs, I still wasn't seeing the changes within the physical space that I hoped would occur from the confidence gained in the digital. Thus, wired discussions were born!

Did I follow guidelines, best practices (gasp!), rules, and models when I started using discussion boards. Sure! I explored transformative uses, modified for my students, and tweaked with practitioner (students/teachers) feedback, current research, and theory. This allowed me to start with a powerful experience.

However, these guidelines didn't prevent me from thinking what could be done better. It didn't stifle my creativity and innovation.

Finding new and better ways of doing things is part of being a thinker and an innovator. In the future, we surely will use emerging technologies in ways we have not considered. These advances should be embraced and encouraged. That is why tbe development of models, guidelines, and principles should be less fixed, more fluid and open to ensure these evolve with society, innovations, and the technologies.

Teachers Need Starting Points

Most emerging technologies are deceptively simplistic and offer easy entry points. There are those that claim many teachers fear technology so letting them do anything just to get them using technology is the best approach. If that entry point is retro-fitting past practices and teacher-centered, we need to think closely about this approach and its low hanging fruit.

Is this entry point needed to move forward? Probably.

However, what are we doing to push and pull teachers in order to shift their mindsets and get beyond this entry level? Are we helping the teachers to understand the full spectrum of possibilities? Or, are we leaving these teachers to proclaim their use of web 2.0 technologies and remain at that starting point?

We do a disservice to those we hope will infuse said technology into the classroom to transform learning when we provide entry points as models of excellence and allow those to serve as the guidelines to follow in the classroom. Should these options be provided? I guess. But, I'd present these as an early entry point but be sure to focus their and my energy on transformational and innovative uses of emerging technologies as strategies and classroom foundations not isolated tools.

We should embrace these entry points but speak honestly that it is just that, a starting point not models of effective use.

So?

While the use of emerging technologies is increasing, the focus needs to be on the difference it is making in student achievement and engagement. Thus, how are emerging technologies being infused within the classroom in connection with social practices and notions of current/future generation of learners? How are you developing principles and guidelines for emerging technologies using research, theory, and practitioner narratives? Are we perpetuating the old rather than engaging these technologies as means of reinventing education in a powerful manner? When will powerful models begin to develop for others to use as inspiration and motivation?

Networks and communities should consider collectively building fluid principles, creating new mindsets, and providing guidelines for establishing powerful learning environments that maximize emerging technologies. It is easy to avoid these conversations using rationales like the ones here and because it requires honest, difficult discussions. Is it right to avoid these conversations? Are we being too nice or simply afraid to be honest professionals with a common goal of student achievement? After all, the real potential of the digital in schools will be realized when emerging technologies and the current social phenomenon are leveraged in a learner-centered, multi-dimensional learning space NOT when the emerging technologies are leveraged in a traditional, teacher or tool-centered manner.

Just Thinking Out Loud,
Ryan Bretag

Reference

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2006). New Literacies. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

#ccko9
#eci831
#ic3s21
#passiondriven
1:1
1:1 laptops
21st century
21st Century
21st Century Schools
21st Century skills
21st Century Skills
Abraham Lincoln
Accountability
accountabilty
adifference
administrator
Adolescent Literacy Panel
advice
aldonza
aleccouros
Alfie Kohn
Angela Maiers
aptitude
Arthur Benjamin
Artists
Arts
ASCD
Assessment
astronaut
Author
avatar
basketball
Beyond Discipline
Blog
blogging
blogs
boss
calculus
Capacity
Career and College Readiness
Carnegie Foundation
CEDS
Cell Phones
Challenge
change
Change
Charleston Children's Museum
Chris Anderson
CIES
class blogs
Clay Shirky
College
Colonel Eileen Collins
commenting
commitment
communication
Community
community
comparative
compassion
compensation
Comprehension
Comprhension
computers in the classroom
Constructivism
cookie
Copyright_infringement
Copyright_laws
Council of Conscience
creativity
Creativity
Creativity Conversation
Creativity Index
Cultivate
Dan Pink
death valley
Decision making
dennisar
Derailed
Disruptive Innovation
Divergent
dkuropatwa
Don Quixote
Dr. Jeff
Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Drive
dulcinea
education
Education
Education in the United States
educational change
Educational Leadership
educational leadership
educational technology leadership
Educators
effectiveness
Element
empathy
Enactivism
energy savings
Engage
engineering
Engineering
evaluation
evernote
evsc
Facebook
failure
Feedback
Festival
Film festival
firing
formative and summative assessments
Frank Smith
friendship
Future
Garr Reynolds
georgesiemens
Global
Golden Rule
Grades
green technology
heart
heart of a teacher
High school
high school
Higher Education
Higher Order Thinking Skills
hire
history
HOME
Home School Partnership
Homework
hospitals
humility
I Notice
Ian Jukes
Ideas
Identity crisis
imagination
improvement
Improvement
Indexing
influence
Innovation
innovation
innovation3
innovation3 llc
inspiration
instructional leadership
Interests
international
International Society for Technology in Education
interview
ipad
ISTE
Jayson Richardson
job
Job Readiness
John Seely Brown
K through 12
K-8
Karen Armstrong
karl fisch
kellychristopherson
Kent
leaderhhip coaching
leadershiop
Leadership
leadership
leadership development
leadership management influence
Leadership Resources
lean
learning
Learning
Learning 21st Century
legislation
Lifelong learning
Literacy
Literacy and Learning
Love
Man of La Mancha
management
math
math education
Mathematics
mathematics
mboe
Media literacy
medicine
mentoring
merit pay
mguhlin
Michael Watkins
Minds on Fire
moodle
Motivation
Movies
Multiple choice
NAESP
NASA
national educational technology plan
National Governors Association
NCESSE
Neil Rochelle
netbooks
NETS-A
Norma Rae
Nurture
Obama
one to one
online
online learning
Online Software
Originality
osu
Paradoxical Commandments
Parent Invovlement
Parent Partnership
passion
Passion Driven Classroom
Passion Education
Passion Leadership
performance
pete reilly
peter o'toole
Peter Senge
plagiarism
pln
PLN
plurk
Positive feedback
power
preconceptions
President Kennedy
Principal
principal
principal preparation
priorities
probability
Problem Solving
productivity
Professional development
publishing
read/write web
Reading
Reading Next
Reflection
reform
religion
reorganization
research
saving IT dollars
Schedules
school leadership
School Reform
schooling
science
Science
Scott McCloud
Scott McLeod
Second Life
self management
Seth Godin
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai
SIF
sir ken robinson
Sir Ken Robinson
SLC
Social Media
Social Networking
sophia loren
Standardized test
statistics
STEM
stephaniepacemarshall
stephendownes
strategy leadership
student achievement
student led conferences
suffering
summer
Switzerland
systemic change
Teacher
teacher
Teacher Professional Development
teachers
Teachers College Columbia University
teaching
Technology
technology
technology change
Technology integration
technology research
TED
TED Prize
textbooks
The First 90 Days
thin client
Thinking
Thomas Dewey
Tim Irwin
time management
Time To Act
transformation
transformative change
transitions
Tribes-We Need You To Lead Us
twitter
Twitter
Uniqueness
United States
University
University of Alabama-Birmingham
University of Kentucky
vacation
Value
Vision
vision
Wagner
walkthroughs
Web 2.0
Web Filtering
Webinar
weighting
Whole New Mind
wisdom
Wordle
workforce
World Read Aloud Day
Young People