Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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So a new school year is upon us, as today was the first day for students at ISB. I spent the first hour helping new middle school students find their way around the school….what fun. ISB set a new record for the amount of new students this year. A HUGE turn around year with 100s of families leaving and 100s more filling their place. It always makes me wonder what’s going on in the bigger picture that you have this kind of turn around in a year…..interesting….and I have no answer.

As the new year begins though I’m thinking about my job and once again supporting teachers. This is a touchy subject and the reason why I’m putting it out there is to see where everyone else is on this idea.

My job is to support teachers in using technology in their classroom. I don’t have any classes of my own I support full time. But I’m supporting an initiative that we all believe in but isn’t required. It’s not required that my teachers use technology. It’s not required that they rethink how they teach in the era of open access to content. They’re not required to rethink education as they know it. Their job is to teach….and they do a good job at it. We had 100% pass rate of IB diploma students last year….again. Our students continue to get into top colleges and universities around the world and parent feedback continues to come back that we’re doing a hell of a job educating their children. 

So, why do we need to change?

Why do we need to rethink education?

Why do we have to even worry about technology?

and

Why do they have to use me?

 

The answer is they don’t. Some choose to at different times, some are really thinking about the future and where this is all leading and other classrooms I never see the inside of.

I’m here because teachers, at some level, are forced to use technology. E-mail, Moodle, PowerSchool are the three programs that everyone has to use. So yes….I’m need to support the use of these with teachers, but not in learning, not with students, basically so teachers can do their job. 

And I have no problem doing that…..they’re just paying me a lot of money to be an application support person.

So it comes down to working with the willing. Working with those teachers who are thinking about doing things different, thinking about their students, their lives, what they’ve grown up with, and how that might affect them in and out of the classroom. It’s working with teachers who are willing to take risks, to try something new, to be uncomfortable. 

A colleague of mine often refers to us a “used car sales people” and that’s what I feel like we are sometimes. We’re selling a product, and idea, a method that doesn’t need to be used….is not mandated. Sure it’s supported IF teachers decide they want to try it. But at the end of the day they don’t need to.

So we end up with some kids getting 21st Century Skills. Those kids who happen to have teachers who are thinking about searching, finding content, communicating, and using global connections. Other kids, who just so happen to never get the right teacher leave our system not getting those skills. Is that OK? Or is that just the way it is. 

So I work with the willing. Those that ask me for help, those that I team teach with, that we explore new options with. I work with the willing because that’s who wants to work with me…..on a voluntary basis…and that’s really where my job stands. 

I’m here to help

If you want help

If not…that’s OK…I’m here if you need me

Is it OK to only work with the willing? Or is this a school thing?

Photo Credit: Superkimbo

This is something I’m pretty passionate about and something I think most schools don’t fully understand yet. In a socially connected world where communities trump content schools need to continue to monitor and adjust where their community is moving to, what tools are they adopting, and what content they are creating, talking about, and using to connect to each other.

It use to be you only had to worry about your school website

Then it was the wikipedia entry

Then came videos that kids were uploading to YouTube and Myspace

Next came Facebook

Shortly after that Twitter

and now location services (Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla and Google Latitude )

Your school does have a presence on all these sites right?

At the end of last school year I was the only one checking into ISB (Foursquare link) via Foursquare. The Mayorship was all mine! Then somewhere around September I get a notice that I was bumped from being the mayor of our school. A little investigation found out that it was an 11th grade girl at our school. Over the next couple of months we battled it out for the Mayorship…I leave for winter break only to come back and find that Foursquare had taken off at our school.

 

foursquareisb
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Seeing that the community was building here it was time to make it official as there were a few different venues floating around for our school. So I followed the steps on Foursquare to claim the venue…a pretty easy process. After I officially claimed the venue for our school I could add information such as the correct address, link to website, link to twitter account, and even offer specials to students. 

I ran a special that if students checked in 5 days in a row I would buy their lunch (attendance taker?). I gave away two lunches in January and then started thinking about other specials you could run for parents, students and the community. You really could have some fun with this. (i.e. Check-ins during sporting event give-aways. Attendance check-ins, daily give-aways…..free lunch from the school to a random person check-in.)

Of course you also need to understand that you can’t control everything…especially location based services like this one. We have the school as the official venue on Foursquare. But kids have gone crazy and you can also find:

ISB Library

ISB Cafeteria

ISB Dance Room

ISB Weight Room

ISB Field B

ISB Field A1

ISB ES Playground

ISB HS Art Room

ISB Tennis Courts

For those school leaders who think they can still control the content of the school…let this list speak for itself. You can’t control where the community goes, what tools they decide to use or not use. All you can do is go with the community and engage them, or at the very least let them know you have a presence there. The worse thing you can do is put your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. “We didn’t even know this was happening” isn’t a very good stance when talking to parents or community members. Schools need to become more social-network savvy. It’s time that we create a position in schools to communicate and engage the community where they are at in these growing social-networks. 

The days of having full control over your content is gone! The sooner we realize that the sooner we can move on to finding ways to use these social connections to drive dialog, discussions, and even learning and engagement around our schools.

Other Blog Posts On This Topic

Taking Control of Your School’s Profile: Where to Start

Schools: Take Control or Forfeit your Profile

Who’s Controlling your Profile?

 

Back in Bangkok and still making sense of what happened last week. Two conferences with a total of 13 presentations and a 102.8F fever in between.

The one idea that keeps running through my head is this:

What is the reason we gather Face to Face?

There is a reason we like going to conference, there is a reason why students like coming to school (and it’s not to be by oneself) there is a reason we want students in a class. What is that reason?

What is the reason we gather face to face when content can be found 24/7/365?

What is the reason when research can be done outside face to face time?

What is the reason when reading/listening/gathering/analyzing content can be done outside of school?

What are we doing with face to face time to maximize the learning potential for students?

If we are worried that students are just “skimming the web” for information then what is the face to face time in our classes for?

If we are worried that kids won’t have an opportunity to go deep with knowledge, that things come to easy and to fast. What are we doing with the time we have them in front of us?

If I have every student find the 5 best articles they can on a given topic and bookmark them using Diigo or Delicious, when we get together face to face, what do we do? What is my role as a teacher facilitator?

There is a reason we get together, there is something that online courses, Skype, and all of it can not replace. What is that? And how do we change our classrooms so that is what we are focusing the majority of our time on.

How do we maximize face to face time with students? What is technologies role? What is the teacher’s role?

As usual I come back from conferences with more questions than answers….and that’s a good thing. 🙂