Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One Flea Can Worry a Whole Dog

Interesting class last night for TEAM. Dr. Mark Weston gave a presentation, One Flea Can Worry a Whole Dog, where he talked about the evolution of education, where it has been and where can it go. He pointed out that 65% of students complete school; of those, a large percent require accommodation; about 30% feel they are not challenged. Roughly 1 in 3 students feel the system is working for them. How do we interpret this situation? What are the 4 or 5 practices that we must have?

Dr. Michael Byrne, co-chairman of the educational technology graduate program at Long Island University, added some interesting data from a survey (sorry, I don't know where the survey is from) of some parents:

67% of parents think that the web don't help kids teach to communicate.
87% of parents think it doesn't help them learn to work with others.
3 out of 4 parents did not believe the web could teach kids to be responsible in their communities.

He continued to say that technology should be the 'flea' that positively effects differentiated learning for our students. If we are going to make changes we have to be able to demonstrate to the community that the technology can have a positive effect. Most schools can't demonstrate this.

Technology is the single most powerful force we have to dramatically improve learning down to the individual. The vast majority of educators see technology as a piece of chalk. That is true if it is not integrated into the curriculum, not into the community. It is an expensive piece of chalk!

So, how do we communicate what we are doing with technology to the community? I know that in my district, there are a handful of teachers who are successfully using technology in a way that is helping students communicate and collaborate, through blogging, wikis, skype, various web 2.0 tools and global collaborative projects. In my school, Noel Forte, Adam Dugger, and I have our students blogging (talk about communication!) and working in collaborative wikis with other schools from different locations in the U.S. We have a third grade class communicating and sharing information with a school in Australia, I have a first grade class working in a wiki with a class from Taiwan. I have recently received emails from a teacher in Poland and a teacher in New Zealand who want to work with our classes. In another school in our district, Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard have been doing amazing technology-centered projects working with classrooms from all over in wikis and google docs.

We are a handful of teachers who have our students podcasting, vodcasting, working with students inside the classroom and outside the classroom. We have tapped into this new creative avenue that allows our students to communicate what they are thinking and learning in differentiated ways to a worldwide audience. Our students are engaged and excited in a way not seen before. We have invited parents to be part of it, to read the blogs, view the Voicethreads, and leave comments. Lisa, Christine, and I have been teaching professional development courses in our district to share our experiences with other faculty. It is a slow process, to get others on board.

We want the technology to be more than an expensive piece of chalk. We want to be the 'flea that worries the dog'! Are we succeeding? Time will tell. With programs like TEAM and this core group of mentors modeling what they are doing with others, I know we
are beginning to shake up the dog, I think, I hope. Change is slow--and that is perfectly OK. To make this shift we must be willing to share what we know and what we are learning. The technology landscape is constantly evolving. Everytime I check out my feeds in Google Reader, or click on a link from Twitter friends, I learn something new. I am lucky to work in a school district that applauds the kind of efforts that teachers like myself and the others mentioned are putting in and are willing to examine what we have accomplished and support it through staff development opportunities. As Peter Senge says, in The Fifth Discipline, a learning organization is "an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future." As a district, we must create a new shared vision about technology.

1 comment:

  1. A "Shared" vision.. I think that perception regarding technology will always change, and a shared vision must be strong, defined and yet sensitive to changing times. Technology is surely one of the most dynamic things in our lives, while educational theories are much more static.
    Thinking like yours will help lead the way for others and show them real world things that they can do in their classrooms.

    You are the flea!