Friday, July 3, 2009

Is it Time for us to Divide the Divide

The following are pretty much thoughts jumping out of my head and are somewhat all over the place or at least I feel they are. But I also felt the need to get them out to maybe make space for a better organization of the other things going thru my head.

As I sit reflecting on my latest NECC trip in 2009, I am somewhat worried about where we are as a group of educational technology professionals and where we are going. After sitting in a couple of different sessions, on different days I began to notice that, while there were some very ardent and enthusiastic individuals in the room who obviously fully embrace the technology, there were also some people with that glazed over look that screamed “WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?”

In a discussion with a couple of the people from Australia, they were amazed at the politeness of the people at NECC. When attendees come into the room, they sit quietly and listen, get up and leave. Mostly no questions, no pushback, no anything. When I asked about the procedure in Australia, the response was “I had better be ready for at least three or four folks to question and push and argue from the very beginning and that I had better know my stuff thru and thru.”
My fear is that the digital divide among the adults, the teachers, is growing by leaps and bounds. What has resulted in the Twitterverse is that here have been many micro discussions about how to make a difference with those who may be lagging behind. Is it possible to make a difference and close the gap? Is it possible to take the 5-10% estimate of who may get it and close down the gap of the 90-95% that may not get it?

What exactly is it that they don’t get? What is it, about what I see a lot of people do and what I am trying to learn to do better each day, that they do not get? What do they need to know exactly? Is it that the term 21st Century skills are no different than maybe the day to day skills that each and every student AND teacher needs to function, communicate and use to achieve something in this world? Are they looking for how to make the next viral video? Are they wanting to know what the tools are all about? Is it that we are to merely point them to the “edublogosphere’s guru/leader and say read this and leave them alone?

There is no magic potion at least not one that will magically get you your 10,000 hours quickly. We also will not find what we do on the vendor floor. But I do know that if I were to treat any of my students this way, in my school I would no longer have a job. I am so far from having any of the answers and more often than not I sit and watch and listen and try to learn because I feel what I may have to offer is old hat or that I don’t have enough to offer.

But I will offer this out there to anyone who wants or needs it - if you have questions, or if you want to know something, if you don’t understand something, please do not hesitate to contact me either by Twitter(@paulrwood) or by email (paulwood[at]swbell[dot]net and the reason it is that way is so that the farming/harvesting bots can’t pick it up as easily to spam me). I will do whatever I can to answer any questions, direct you to someone who can and the only thing I ask you to do in return is to help someone else. But please understand YOU have a responsibility as well – YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO ASK. If you don’t ask me, ask someone else, reach out, share, because we are all here to learn. This is not some elite circle but you do need to be willing to participate. If you are on Twitter, please fill out your profile and if you have a blog/website, list it so that we can see who we are talking to and what you do. If you want to follow me don’t protect your updates as I will not ask to follow you back.

By ourselves we will never make it, together we are so much better.


Tim Holt said...

Paul, I agree completely.
I have asked over and over about what happens when teachers that don't even know web 1.0 are going to be asked to use Web 2.0 and 3.0...

We as ed tech leaders, for the most part I fell, are leaving a lot of folks behind.

I worry about that situation, because what will happen, I think, is not a lot of people wanting to jump on the bandwagon, but rather a whole lot of people that will not want to do anything because they feel lost.


JLWagner said...

I have to agree as well..........

First of all, I think it is important that our audience DOES feel that if they need to ask questions, they can. And I, when a member of the audience, need to do the same as well.

Personally, I see a lot of bobbing heads lately about Web 2.0 instead of hands being raised saying "WHY" and "HOW" and "DO YOU REALLY DO THAT".........etc.

I think the biggest wake up call has to be the percentage of difference though -- If 10% do get it -- and 90 percent do any other venue or company, people would immediately sit down, figure out why not, and make a battle plan to close the difference.

So, my question back to you is -- what is our battle plan? Because, if history repeats itself, sadly, we will have this same discussion after NECC/ISTE 2010.

Thanks for taking the time to reflect, to share, to shake a finger at some of us, and to encourage us to think.


Dave Wells said...


I too left NECC with some worries. I was in the Web 2.0 audience on Wednesday afternoon and felt the push back. Are we moving too fast? The more I think about it, I worry that we sometimes give the message "Let's go, tech is great!" before we talk about how tech advances kid's learning.

I am also worrying about some snobbish comments from the ed tech community. Lots of "I can't believe he said that" and "Can you believe they're recommending that" types of comments without some productive solutions from the commenter themselves. What are your thoughts?

Paul R. Wood said...

Tim, Thanks for coming by and I think we need to make some changes in the way we do things on the State level. I heard Scott make that statement at the conference a couple of times and I agree. Looking forward to working with you on the areas of TCEA where hopefully we will be able to begin making a difference in the way our teachers approach the web all the way around.

Paul R. Wood said...


I think the only way to do this is like you say devise a plan. My plan is to be open and available to anyhone that thinks I can help them. Listening to those who need someone to listen to. I appreciate you and your willingness to help, reach out and learn as well. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to post comments.


Paul R. Wood said...


I have a tendency to think that the snobbish comments will eventually take care of themselves as people will tend to no longer listen. Are we going too fast? I think we are merely trying to keep up with what is going on. While I do think tech is great and what it can offer students is some pretty amazing things, we also have to keep asking what value does it give to the classroom or the lesson or to the child? We must have the ability to push back, we must question as well as learn and listen. Keep that dialogue going and thank you for stopping by sir.


keepingkidsfirst said...

Paul - I think you raise some great questions and I've been pondering a well thought out response. All I could come up with is... I'm in it with you 100%.

kellyhines1 at gmail dot com

Tami Thompson said...

I follow you on Twitter and I noticed Kelly Hines in these comments who I also follow. I thought you'd like to hear the perspective of one of the newbies who sometimes feel lost. I think a lot of teachers want to participate in Web 2.0. But it often seems that I just can't keep up...I mean I see twitters about skyping, flat classrooms, cloud whatever and I'm trying to envision how to simply start and maintain a class wiki when my school has just 30 laptops for over 500 students. One desktop per classroom. I didn't apply to the Google Teachers Academy (even though it'll be only about 20 min from my house) because I don't KNOW how to make a video. I got some help w/a new flip camera on Classroom 2.0 ning, but gave up when I couldn't figure out editing. It's these kinds of stumbling blocks that newbies just struggle with. Aside from your generous offer to help, there is no one in our school for professional development or support. I look at you, and Kelly Hines, and Byrne, and Willrich and everyone else on Twitter and a teacher like me wants to be there. Our district offers online classes (and I've taken them), but no day-to-day consistent help. I will learn these tools because I want to and I believe in their value and come hell or high water, my students will understand more than just powerpoint. But for teachers with less drive, having no help is the deal breaker. On a positive note, if you do have this same conversation after ISTE 2010, at least I'll be there since it's in Denver--woo hoo!

Jennifer said...

I invite to to take up Paul's offer of using him as a source -- and feel free to call on me too.

And I would advise you to NOT ever compare yourself with anyone else or what they do.

Make it a goal to learn and start using educationally, one new tool this next year. Put cries out for help if you need help -- don't be afraid to ask.

I look forward to meeting you in DENVER and hearing you share what you did with that ONE TOOL this year.


Maria Knee said...

Hi Paul,
Thanks for your thoughtful post. What you say is so true. I want to join you in welcoming folks to get in touch with me for support, advice and for some answers. Warning - I am not some high powered user/consultant who knows everything. I am a classroom teacher who loves to work with emergent learners, no matter how young or old. I offer this, not because I have all the answers but rather, it is from working with others that I learn as well.

In reading Tami's comment, I am sure that she is not alone. Thank you for your openness, Tami. As the Carole King song goes, "all you've got to do is call. You've got a friend." I am mariak on twitter and email is agearrings at gmail dot com.

Like you said, Paul - together we are so much better. We need to bridge the divide, not make it wider.

Paul R. Wood said...

keepingkidsfirst - @kellyhines thanks for joining in to help out and I look forward to working with you and so many others to help close the divide.


Paul R. Wood said...


First things first I need your twitter ID I can't find you listed in my followers and I want to make sure I am following you and if not I apologize. Has the deadline passed for submitting your video for the GTA? If not let me know wha I can do to help. If it is over then let me know when we can get together to practice some editing with the flip video. Also from now on know that you have friends out here willing to help you in any way possible. Thanks for coming by and being willing to truly be open in your comments and thoughts.Looking forwardto having you in my network.


Paul R. Wood said...


Thanks for your comments and being willing to step up to the plate to be available to people in our networks. Your help will be so beneficial to all who seek it. Thanks for coming by and joining in the effort to close the divide.


dougpete said...

Interesting post, Paul. What we must keep in mind, I think, is that no matter how fast we're going, many of our students are going at least this fast or faster. The sooner that people can embrace the notion that we're all co-learners, the better off things will be. Those that acknowledge that they don't have the answers and allow students or colleagues to help provide them will succeed. I fear for those who try to hang onto 1960's classroom style where they, by definition, have all the answers. At one time, that might be a safe position to take. Now, it's a recipe for disaster. We need to ask questions, develop a network of people with answers, and then have the ability to determine if that answer is correct and applicable. Thanks for stepping up and being willing to answer questions. I know that there will be a lot of takers.

mrsdurff said...

I believe the 90% want an easy fix. They want someone to tell them what to do, do it, measure it, and they are done.
I have little patience with these people. Sorry, I am supposed to be dead, then a vegetable, then dependent on others, etc, etc. If I'm "getting it" and "doing it" with zero money and support from my school, then what is everyone's excuse? There is no magic bullet. Like the Nike commercial - just do it. Why? Because it engages those students you are paid to educate. To do less is a disservice.
It is not our responsibility to win these people over. It is their responsibility to educate youth in this nation. Youth who receive a free public education.
I have little patience with the attitudes I run into daily.

Paul R. Wood said...

You are so right and I never put anything in there about the kids going full speed. This is their world that we are trying to educate them for and as a result we need to pick up our own pace.

Thanks for your insights as always. Good to meet you in DC finally. Looking forward to more interactions.


Paul R. Wood said...


You are so right,we do need to jsut do it and there are some wonderful people out there such as yourself that do it on a shoestring and others who have all the money in the world and don't do a thing. We still have to push them all as it ends up being the kids that suffer.

Thanks Durff for all you do especially for me.


Cathy Nelson said...

I love your stance here! Oh and I never did get to thank you properly for being our official at the Library 2.0 Smackdown. You were GREAT!!