Imagine if it all went away. Not some of it. But all of it.
UPDATE (8.2.06): Read the following 2 blog posts right now (seriously) or soon. Both are FAR BETTER than the one I wrote below that you are in danger of reading soon (he smiles):
- Ken Ronkowitz's post: "Yes, But Has it Changed How You Teach?"
- Chris Lehmann's post "Curriculum Design, Reform and Technology Infusion"
Now, back to my post.
Anyone had a chance to read The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman yet? Quick summary from Amazon:
'On the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house - or houses, that is. Cleans them right off the face of the earth. They all go.' Alan Weisman looks to the future to discover what the world might be like, and how it would change, if humans disappeared right now, for good.
Seems hard not to consider this as a provocative 9-12 text for students to wrestle with this coming year (and beyond). And seems to be a good nudge-nudge for us (me included) who get all-a-giddy about digital this-n-that as the Holy Grail of learning in the future.
At the BLC events this summer in Boston, fellow edu-bloggers Darren Karapatwa, Dean Shareski and I had several very heated and intense hallway conversations about the importance of digital tools in our teaching/classroom lives. You can read about it here through Dean's eyes/ears. Hey, we're all geeks on some level or another (they smarter and more technical than I, but I guess I've fallen into their geeky waters and learned to dog-paddle a bit). And it's only logical we'd be arguing for the tools!
I said to them then -- and say it now -- that we'd better become agile at the "What if all the digital tools disappear?" question and focus more on the "Has our teaching actually transformed?" question.
In other words, if all this whiz-bang, loveitloveitlove it digitally wired technology were pushed aside, would we resort to our teaching of old or would we actually be changed? And what do we really focus on: the digital tools or the teaching/learning equation? Its a version of Chris Lehmann's "New vs. Good" argument (well worth reading!) he's been reminding all of us to consider a lot lately.
Yesterday was my first official chance to just 'hang out' for a few hours at my new school now that the interview/hiring process is over. Wanted to just walk the halls. Peak my head into a few offices. Check out the technology lab (just one, although there is one in the library). And begin to imagine what my day-to-day will be like once the kids breathe life into the buildings in a few weeks.
Can't begin to tell you how pleased I am to be joining this school community on the human/teaching level. And even more pleased that I'm not there because of a specific or overall technology focus, to be honest.
An edu-blogger with all sorts of School 2.0 treadmarks covering on his past posts saying that he's cool with being in a fairly 'humble' (by choice) technology landscape as a teacher in this day and age. Mmm. Seems curious.
Because for the next year or three, my goal is to re-gain my foundation as a teacher. Period. Without exceptions.
- Learn to teach intentionally than in the past.
- Learn to listen better than in the past.
- Learn to grasp what my kids need first, and what I need second.
And since I won't be turning off my brain (or blogging, et al) just because I won't be power-Skyping every 4th period, I trust that the idea-steak will be marinading the entire time...and that when opportunities present themselves in honorable and doable terms, I'll be able to help my kids be at-speed in a heart beat.
While I've spent the last 3 years exploring the many concentric circles of global innovation in terms of school design and emerging technologies, teaching and learning is still about teaching and learning.
All you need is the right question and a place to sit/stand and people willing to explore a bit. The rest is value-added. All of it. From books to laptops to 2.0anything. And for me this coming year, I am embracing this...not rationalizing nor dreading it. And I think -- like stubborn Daniel-san learning to wax-on, wax-off before stepping into a real match, I'll be a better for it in the end. And so will my kids.
I am entering a school that is intentionally NOT a 1:1 laptop program, does not have WiFi by choice, and that has a very talented teaching team uses technology primarily in value-added ways (rather than as the driver of the heart of their projects). Don't get me wrong: this is a college-prep private school that has an outstanding record of achievement and a culture that believes deeply in people/families/kids-n-teachers. But it is not trying to be on the forefront of the digital oceanscape.
What they are trying to do is to teach 'empathy' on all fronts and to help kids find a brilliant college match to their future skills/passions. And even if all the computers went away, they'd still do that every day without apology.
And so will I.
Blackboard. Great lit. F2F conversations about books. Lots of papers assigned and read and graded. Acting. And the occasional 'digital' project when it can be organized well in advance. In other words, it'll be very similar to what I experienced throughout my entire career when we turned the classroom into a theater, argued passionately about the good/bad nature of the Lord of the Flies boys on the island. Except that my brain is a bit re-wired. And I'm asking new questions. And finding that there will be a difference between what I can advocate for in my blogging life and what I can do come Monday morning in my borrowed classroom. But that is life. And I'm blessed by the one have.
Since I will not have a classroom of my own this year (first time in over a decade of teaching), the 'virtual' nature of my upcoming experiences are beginning to take on a whole new flair. I'll have a laptop. Otherwise, the landscape of digital possibilities becomes very 'to be discovered' in terms of the pedestrian realm of what I'll find every time I walk into a new classroom to begin teaching each day. Given that I do not want to concede actual class time to major classroom re-design (such as moving chairs/tables) or to hooking up tech (hey, does this room have a projector?), I have to dramatically take down my default "oh, let's blog" mindset that I've been blessed to develop and explore and work with without fail the last few years.
And you know what? My kids and I are going to have an extraordinary time in spite of it. And some serious hard-core learning is going to take place as well. Without apology.
Just in case you were curious, the rabbit innovation does, however, invite me down the hole on some level, Alice:
Now...I was also handed the assignment of resurrecting the school's not-so-dynamic (let alone not-so-published) "Literature Magazine" as an addition to my teaching load.
Their goal? Just get something solid published by spring. Something that can be picked up and read and put on a coffee table. Beyond that? There are no limits...and they think (as do I) that it may be the Rosetta Stone of translating digital possibilities in time if we do it the right way.
So, while my classroom on a day-to-day basis may be more similar to a Socratic conversation from 2500 years ago, my adventure with the "Lit Mag" will undoubtedly open up broad new solutions when it comes to having kids "publish" on a "global" level. And, ah,...I suspect we'll even use a computer (he winks!).
Anyone that has ideas for how the traditional high school "Lit Mag" can transform beyond the obvious once-a-year poetry/art photocopy (no matter how lovingly printed), please let me know. I'm getting a wickedly excited look in my eye when I start to daydream the possibilities.
And at the end of the day, that's where it all matters. Regardless of how digital the learning environment may be. By any means necessary!