Sunday, August 29, 2010

Are we doing what's best for students....

I have been wrestling with this question for the past 3 years when I stepped into an administrative role. But this is a completely loaded question that is decieiving. Dr McLeod doesn't really want to answer this question with anything but technology and that is not the only answer. Technology has it's place. The world has changed and living in denial or refusal to participate won't get us to the answer but neither will believing that technology is the only answer.

I will be the last to defend lazy teachers in fact I was in support of portions of SB6 last year, but the assumption of the video is that teachers who don't use technology are the problem with education. This thinking makes me question Dr. McLeod's credentials. Of course kids like using twitter and facebook, it keeps them connected to their peers so they can stay abreast of all the important gossip that helps them fit in. When I was in high school I loved instant messanger for the same reason but I wasn't using it for anything meaningful and if I would have had to I wouldn't have liked it so much.

Does Dr. McLeod really have education in mind when he unleashed this question/video? Or does he just want to see his stock soar becuase he happens to sit on a board for one of the companies that has made their billions through promising to have the silver bullet for education?

So why do teachers tend to do what is convenient for them. I don't think it's because they don't want to be good teachers. Perhaps its because the job itself is too big and requires too much. Why don't students read every bit of required reading? It's because we've learned that we don't have to in order to pass. Perhaps teachers really aren't doing anything well because their is only time to do everything just a little bit right. Characters in the movies like Freedom Writers and Dangerous Minds are glorified in our field because of their dedication. Let us not forget that the main character's dedication in Freedom Writers destroyed her marriage.

On a philosophical level, perhaps the path of least resistence is human nature? Why do we have cart returns at the grocery store? Is walking it back up to the store too much for us?

The job is too big and miopic thinking displayed by Dr. Mcleod and others like him won't truly answer his loaded question.


  1. Thank you for your thoughtful extension of the conversation at my blog. I always appreciate when others express their misgivings about my posts because it forces me to clarify my own thinking and message.

    I don't think the answer to everything in education is technology. But I DO think it's important for schools to be relevant to the age in which they operate. Given that we now live in a digital, globally-interconnected era, I think schools owe it to their students to be up with the times. And we don't do that by having our kids spend 90+% of their time in lecture-, textbook-, and notebook paper-driven learning environments. The gaps between how we learn in the real world and what schools do has never been greater. Those gaps continue to increase every year, as the pace of change inside school is dwarfed by that outside of school. What's our moral / ethical / professional obligation as school leaders to prepare students for the world as it is and will be, not what was? I think it's pretty high.

    You note that students aren't using the technology for anything 'meaningful.' Why would they be? Have their schools, teachers, or parents helped them understand the power of using digital technologies for productive work within the relevant discipline of study? Most have not, instead utilizing technology primarily for replicating factory, rather than information age, models of schooling. Absent productive use and modeling by their instructors and/or parents, of course students are going to use technology primarily for social purposes (just like we adults do).

    The jab at my advisory board membership is undeserved, particularly given that I have yet to receive a dime from any corporation for that type of service.

    Finally, I'll note that the post in question ( was not a poke-in-the-eye aimed at teachers but rather the educational system as a whole. As school leaders, we have much greater influence over 'the system' than classroom teachers do. And it behooves us to make some radical changes quickly if schools are not to be completely irrelevant to the needs of students, families, and society.

  2. Scott Mcleod is one of the few education leaders who "gets it." Scott realizes that schools need to change now more than ever. To think that teachers don't have the time to do things right is a bad excuse. Teaching is a profession not a hourly job. Adults need to continually update their own learning, sometimes on their own time.

  3. Scott McLeod,

    Let me first apologize for the mis guided jab.I can admire the fact that you have not taken any money and I applaud your efforts to promote thinking about the core problems in education. I am ashamed that I may have insulted someone who is actually on my side.

    About the video; You're right we do need teachers who are better at giving meaningful technology projects. Students need to know how to be productive with technology. But we also need teachers who are using best research based teaching practices. We need teachers who are planning their lessons in a logical order. We need teachers who are analyzing the needs of their students and looking at data to see that their lessons are covering what benchmarks require. These fundemental deficiencies are absent in the video. We need parents to care more about the quality of their student's education. We need parents to care more about being quality care givers and providing safe and consistent home lives. Schools need administrators who conduct quality professional development. Administrators who have a real understanding of what the needs of their school are. We need administrators with a real vision. Teachers need to be compensated for their work. We need a way to reward the teachers who are getting it right and busting their butts to do so. We need a way to remove poor teachers from the classroom and not transfer them to another position.

    I work with several of the old dogs and the system is set up so that they don't have to learn new tricks. Teachers drown in accountability. The wrong burdens need to be removed and the right burdens need to be applied. Like you I am frustrated with the system but I didn't think the video expressed your system-wide frustration.

    I believe in technology but I also believe equally as good of instruction can take place without it. I believe technology's effectiveness depends on the teacher but good instruction has to take place no matter who your teacher is.

    Water Guns Holstered,

  4. "The assumption of the video is that teachers who don't use technology are the problem with education."

    I don't believe that the purpose of McLeod & Fisch's video is to assert that teachers are the problem with education. It seems to me that the message of "Did You Know" is one of awareness; a wake-up call to the fact that the world is changing around us. There may be any number of appropriate reactions once one *does* know. I suspect that some of these may have to do with teachers helping students use technology for real world tasks and life long learning, but others might involve the teaching of critical thinking, cultural literacy, or information fluency even without an explicit emphasis on technology.

  5. Kelvin,

    I agree that the video raises awareness that the world is changing around us. But it does this soley through the lens of technology. So the assumption to me is that we are to consider the question solely through that lens. I didn't think the video prompted me to consider any of the other barriers to doing what is best for students.