Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are you too edu-conventional?

I've been spending too much time eavesdropping on edutech conversations--I'm having oral surgery in less than a week, and Twitter provides a diversion that allows me to pretend I'm actually doing something.

"Every child MUST tweet! Blog! Skype! Wiki! Ning!"

While much of it involves bleating and breast-beating tweeting, some gems break through. Bud Hunt and the EC Ning Webstitute are both gems.

Bud Hunt opened up a Google doc to the world today, and posted the following questions:
  • Who is in your circle? Your network?
  • Who's listening in?
  • What's worth talking about? What's worth sharing?
  • How are you purposefully and transparently modeling learning in your work?
  • How are you being purposeful about the behaviors and habits you model?
  • What "productive eavesdropping" are you engaged in, or helping to foster?

Guess which two questions jumped out at me.

What's worth talking about?
What's worth sharing?

This is the heart of learning, of teaching, in both PD and in the classroom. We create a lot of noise when we fail to address these questions first.

These are scary questions--not so much because of where they lead us, but because they expose what we have not been doing. If we cannot answer these questions faithfully (and I use that word deliberately), we are stealing time from our students.
They're should be a place in Dante's Circles of Hell for those of us who mindlessly teach.

These are the essential questions of education, and require a level of intimacy that leaves us exposed. Works great with the right partners, disastrous otherwise.
What's worth talking about?--For all the chatter we generate on Twitter, Delicious, Ning, Facebook, or whatever else passes for community these days, not a whole lot gets said.

What's worth sharing?--We are all pretty good at bookmarking. Oooh! Look here!!!! We're all pretty good at sharing (and borrowing) ideas. We're too quick to get lost in all the shiny objects without asking whether its worth our time.
Collaboration between folks responsible for educating children will require an intimacy that should make us blush. We are exposed, splayed open for others to see. This is hard enough even in the best of circumstances. Even a good marriage leaves behind a road of hurt and repair.

And we're expected to do this with strangers, in 2 night stands in far-away cities, sleeping in strange beds. We drink too much coffee in the day, too much alcohol at night. We leave with the rush of early love, lusting to get back to the classrooms with our new ideas. We live in a fantasy world for 3 days, where everyone believes everything is good and possible.

And then we wonder why our evangelism falls short. We return to our districts, where good people have worked hard for a long time, gray-haired and tired, leery of change.

Don't tell them everything, don't share everything--just share what is worth talking about. What happens at EduMashTechCon 2.43a stays at EduMashTechCon 2.43a, most of it anyway. As frustrating as that is as the techno-pioneers ride back home into their districts, most of what you think is valuable might not be.

If the only thing you share are things worth sharing, you will always have an audience.

Painting is the Great Orator, 1944 by Irving Norman, via Poor Leonard's Almanack.


Meredith (@msstewart) said...

Who is the we of whom you speak in the post? I think you've made some interesting observations, but I find it dissatisfying that you don't either claim these behaviors as ones in which you engage or point to specific instances of others engaging in them.

doyle said...

Dear Meredith,

"We" is the crew of happy wanderers trekking through the techno-toys, the early adopters.

I obviously engage in them--my behavior is apparent on Twitter, on my class website (which, to be fair, you likely never saw), in my classroom (now with a grant-funded pilot 1:1 net-book program, which may fly or not, no way of telling yet), and in the post. I'm not a big fan of the royal "we."

Twitter is not the best place to judge anyone's behavior, true, but the uncritical streaming of new sites, new technologies, and, well, platitudes among a self-described professional class disturbs me.

But I am easily disturbed--especially when facing surgery, as minor as it is.

Thanks for the words!

rushtheiceberg said...

I love your line about stealing time from our students!

I also love/agree with your 3 day fantasy world quote! You have succinctly summarized my experience with only two of my closest coworkers - imagine if I were to evangelize to the entire school!

Dismissal mockery would flow the halls of school!

I would rather show, not tell...

Thought provoking post...

John Spencer said...

A few thoughts:

1. I fear that you've described my trip to Colorado. I don't do conferences. I do camping and gardening and other things that take me closer to myself and to the earth and to the stories of my past and the dreams of my future and yet I wonder if it's the same short love affair just with a more earthy brush.

2. I probably share too much on my blog and with my colleagues. I don't tend to find people all that boring, myself included.

3. It's a hard mystery to walk, the whole notion of figuring out what's really important. I once wrote off science as something I was bad at and poetry as irrelevant to "real" learning.

doyle said...

Dear rushtheiceberg,

I learned the hard way. One thing that's a huge thing in my favor is a wonderful supervisor who also attends edutech conferences--she gets as excited as I do!

I try stuff now before evangelizing, and a lot of it, frankly, does not work in my classroom. Even the stuff that does work might only work for me, so even the little evangelizing I do may be irritating to others. I should practice what I preach.

Thanks for the words!

Dear John,

My snark-o-meter may have been off when I wrote the post. I was writing it after two dizzy days on Twitter trying to follow multiple conferences. You trip to Colorado is the anti-Twitter--I always enjoy reading your blog.

I'll take your points in turn:

1. We've been made of earth since we originated--your love affair will prove to last a lifetime (or eternally, depending on your point of view). Behind the tech lies phenomenal but ultimately finite human cleverness. You'll find far more complexity in a handful of soil than you'll find in Silicon Valley.

Technology, ironically, reduces interest because it limits complexity. It pretends the complexity it reduces does not matter.

But it does. Which is why your trip is important, for you and your clan.

2. Sharing ideas is fine. Blathering on about a tool, a tool, is boring.

I know, because I have always blathered on about tools. I can talk about vice grips for hours, especially with other tool-heads. This is boring to normal people.

Talking about your beliefs, your life, your values on your blog as do is fascinating to those of us who read it, as several hundred of us do. About 6 billion others may choose to ignore it.

I don't find people boring. I don't find edu-tool talk boring. I do find uncritical chat about either, however, ossifying.

3.It is "a hard mystery to walk"--a big reason I find it fascinating. It is an essential question. What's the point of, well, existence. It mattered when I was 6 years old. It mattered when I was an adolescent.

Somewhere along the way I got too busy chasing shiny new toys.

(With your permission I'd like to take this discussion back to the living room....)