Do We Build For The Now Or For the Future?

The Baseball Winter Meetings just ended in Nashville. Which means absolutely nothing….unless you are a baseball diehard like myself…then it means everything.

Today while listening to Eric Wedge, the Mariners manager, give a press conference, he spoke about building a team.

He basically says there are two ways to build a baseball team…you either build for the short-term or the long-term.

Building for the short-term you focus on this year, you make a run for the World Series and hope you reach the playoffs.

If you build for the long term, you develop your players in the minors. In the long term, you stick with your players, you develop your young talent, you stay the course and you improve.

Now in baseball we know this approach works. The Texas Rangers changed to a long-term approach after they found out buying expensive players for the short-term just doesn’t work in the long term. (See: Alex Rodriguez).

Since they changed their approach here are their win – loss stats:

They steadily improved as they rebuilt their minor leagues and focused on good draft picks. Five years later they make the playoffs including a World Series appearance….and they are picked to be the top of their division again this year.

Since new management and Eric Wedge took over, the Seattle Mariners have been rebuilding the club for the long term. Here are their stats over the past few rebuidling years.

Eric Wedge took over as manager in 2011 and we have seen steady improvement. So his comments today that the team is building for the long term makes me happy. Makes me really happy. We are going to be good again someday soon…but we need to be patient, develop our players, watch them grow, learn, and blossom into some awesome baseball players. Would I love to see a winning season this year? Absolutely! But I would take 5 winning seasons in a row over 1 any day.

 

So what does this have to do with Education?

 

I started thinking about this today and then started thinking about where we are with technology in education:

Do we build for the short-term or long-term results?

Here’s what I have heard from teachers:

“I would love them to create movies, but iMoive takes too long to learn.”

“I would love for them to create a game using Scratch, but it takes too long to learn.”

“I would love for them to create a podcast, but it takes too long to learn the software.”

“I would love to have them blog, but it takes too long to show them how to do it, keep them updated, and monitor them.”

 

All of these above statements are focused on short-term results. You never hear a Kindergarten or 1st grade teacher say:

“I would love to teach them their numbers, but it takes too much time.”

“I would love to teach them to add, but it takes too much time.”

“Yes…I do think they should be able to write, but we just don’t have the time to teach that.”

 

You will never hear a Kindergarten or 1st Grade teacher say that. Why? Because it’s not about the short term. It’s about giving them skills that they can build upon. It’s about understanding learning is a process and every teacher at every grade level does their part to bring students along in a long-term approach to learning. The major leagues for us in K-12 education is graduation. We should all be focused on giving students the skills they need to be successful at the next level and in life.

 

Yes…it takes time to learn iMovie, to blog, to create a podcast. But they need to learn the skills at some point and at some point someone needs to step up and say I’ll get the skill building started.

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When I was at ISB, the 5th grade team stepped up and said they would teach students to blog. Yes, it took away from other curriculum “must-dos”, yes it was hard, yes it was time consuming. But somebody had to do it. Each year each grade builds on it and now there is a school of bloggers. Every teacher above 5th grade should be thanking those teachers for taking the time to teach the kids how to blog. Just like every teacher above Kindergarten should be thanking the teacher before for teaching writing, their numbers and their letters.

How do we change our view of technology in education of one from being a short-term: this assignment, this unit, this school year; to a long-term, “I’m going to teach them something they can use and build on year after year?”

How do we change our direction, our outlook on technology?

How do we build for a long term future that will see us year after year make improvements instead of build for June when the kids will move on to the next grade?

How do we make sure every year our students have skills that will help them improve next year?

How do we develop these technology skills that most people agree students need, but very few are willing to make room for to teach?

The first step might be understanding that technology is more than a tool…it’s a skill set that needs to be developed year after year just like the skill of reading, writing, and math problem solving. Technology is a skill, a skill you are going to need if you want to make it to the major leagues and be successful.