Friday, January 23, 2009

Conference Envy Anyone?

This morning as I was catching up on school email, Lisa Durff sent out a tweet with the words "Do you agree or disagree?" I clicked the link she provided and read the post by kwhobbes titled "What's the rest of us to do?" I encourage you to read the post and add your thoughts. Last I checked my comments were waiting moderation so I thought I would go ahead and post some additional thoughts here.

Unfortunately, these are economic times that we will all have to struggle through. We never have enough funding for the things we think we want much less the things we truly need. Mandates from the government be it National, State or local and little to help back it up continue to frustrate all of us even without the thought of trying to convert my school to an SLA look alike. So we all have to be more creative. Yet the thing to think about in my opinion is that if we continue to do things the same way over and over again, our children will follow suit.

We have to work with our students to try and reach each and every one of them in some form or fashion. We need to model life long learning and passing that on. I think of the signs posted in every room and in the hallways at SLA that say "CORE VALUES - Inquiry, Research, Collaboration, Presentation, Reflection." I start thinking do I do that, do our teachers do that? Do we approach all we do in that manner, so as to model it? While I may not go to every conference or see everything I think I need to see or even hear the same thing others hear, it is important to get out there, to be aware, to take teachers to these things so they can be a part of the conversation or at least be within earshot of the conversation, to bring them to the water and let them decide to drink or not. But I do so knowing full well that if I can get there, many others can as well.

There are plenty of frustrations out there without suffering conference attendance envy. Then we we get to conferences the frustrations are also many because we keep hearing the same phrases. In our buildings we continue to beat our heads against the same walls and feeling like we are not moving, but we have to continue to strive to help others make the "shift."

We do that by continually modeling, giving links for the K-12 Online Conference as well as the Not K-12 Online Conference, for Educon for NECC and we have to keep offering people opportunities to make the shift. We have to continually spoon feed and work with and supporting the believers and recruiting new ones all the time.

Frustrating I know, but after 32 years, these are exciting times and I am glad I am here able to be a part of it. On to SLA to learn more so I can share with anybody that wants to listen.


kwhobbes said...

Paul, thanks for the comment and then your post. I don't disagree with you or think that we need to do the same things over and over. As someone commented on my post about confusing the location with the conversation and you discuss the need to continue to press forward by involving as many as possible, it is something I think is necessary. However, if I were to look at the people at the conference, my suspicion is that a vast majority are in tech-specific jobs or teachers with a tech-specific focus.
Like you, I've been involved in technology integration my whole career. However, as my job changed, so did my focus and now, as an administrator, I have a role that very much has specific directives which I must follow. Unlike many of the people at the conference, my main focus is not technology but running a school. My time is taken up with many administrative things and no where is there one that has a technology focus. You and many others, on the other hand, are asked to focus on technology, to build it and find ways to incorporate it. That is a great and wonderful thing. But what if there isn't such a person in your area? What if there isn't a focus on technology at all? Although I'd love to do some many things, I have only so much time and, with a rather large number of new teachers in my building, new students, different "issues" that need to my time and teaching almost 50%, my energy and devotion can only handle so much.
I applaud you and the efforts of people who are pushing and seeking but I don't think that technology is the only way we need to change our schools. It may be part of the solutioin but I don't believe that it IS the answer. Instead, it is the need to for a change in focus from "delivery" to "engagement", from "comprehension" to "synthesis" and from "group" to "individual". At this time, we still focus on trying to move the greatest # of students through each grade in the most efficient manner possible. Because education is life-long, it needs to be treated as a life-long pursuit, not something we jam into students in 12 or 13 years. Yet, regardless of the technology we use, that is the road we are taking.
So, although I believe that what is taking place at SLA is wonderful and grand, it doesn't help my non-motivated students or my struggling students or my students without food or the autistic students or those with physical/learning disabilities or dealing with parents or..... all of which are part of my mandate.
The mandate of the teachers is varied and wide and the needs of the students just as varied and deep.
Dean Shareski always kids me about taking the teachers side of the technology discussion because I tend to bring up many different things that need to be part of the discussion beyond technology. That's the nagging thing in my stomach - there's more to this than the technology or the signs you mention. Students can't do any of those things if they're hungry, scared, tired, stoned or so many other things.
Yes we need to do things differently but I'm not convinced your discussions at SLA will go far enough or deep enough to deal with educating the whole child!

Paul R. Wood said...

I am gald you do the things you do. I also apologize for the time that has elapsed since you left your comment. While I am deeply involved in technology, at the school where I work, an inner city, private Catholic school with no funding from the Diocese to speak of, I also find it important to be concerned about the whole student as well and not just technology for technology sake. As I read your post on your site, I did everything I could to get to an "About Me" section so that I could learn more about you before ever saying anything. It may be me but I didn't find it. Not making excuses for what I said but I always try to do my best to know who someone is and where they are coming from to try to have a better understanding of why things are said.

I am glad that I had the chance to go to Educon, but it was on my dime as we try to stretch our dollars are far as possible. I was also able to take a couple of teachers from my budget because I wanted them to stretch their thinking and be able to take back some of the conversations that they were a part of and in that way maybe have a chance to know and understand that we all have similar problems, similar students, and we need different ways to understand and reach both.

I thank you for visiting, the site, I thank you for the comment and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I feel you are one of the people I have more to learn from and more to learn about.