Where IS this plane headed anyway?

The NETs for teachers and administrators are a great place to start. To truly have a school that embraces technology and philosophically understands what teaching and learning should look like today, that school’s teachers and administrators need to be on board.

To not have administrators on board with where a school needs to go, it’s like having a pilot that doesn’t really understand how to fly the new fangled airplane or knows where the passengers are headed! Having the NETs for administrators gives some guidelines for what those ‘pilots’ need to know. This is incredibly important…having been the imprisoned listener of an often frustrated technology specialist over the years, I definitely understand how vital it is that the administrators of our schools learn what they need to fly that plane.

The same goes for teachers-using the plane analogy, why are they on the plane if they don’t know where it’s going and why? By default, an administrator with the understanding of technology and its role in teaching and learning today should only hire faculty that can accept and believe in a shared technology philosophy. Jeff and Andy worked together a couple of years ago to formulate some interview questions for prospective teachers to get at just this-have the candidates made the pedagogical shift necessary to work in this school?

I don’t think the NETs are the be all and end all of technology standards, but they are a good place to start your thinking and planning for your individual school/teacher needs. I quite like that at ISB the stunning tech team (who happen to be grading us in our COETAIL courses) created our own set of technology standards, tailored specifically to our school, teachers and most importantly, our students needs. I’m sure they’d be happy to share, though!

Just a tool…grrr

Lately, I have found myself wondering about something…I even made the mistake of bringing it up to Jeff, and you know how he likes to talk about everything and anything to do with technology!

Often in our face to face classes we have the discussion around why we are using technology, to what purpose and what gain. Over and over again I hear teachers argue against the necessity of using technology because “it’s just a tool.” At first I bought into that same idea, it is just a tool that you can use to enhance learning and/or engage our learners. For years I agreed with that idea, even used that same argument myself from time to time. Recently, however, I find myself bristling when someone says “but it is just a tool!”

At some point, and I’m not sure when, technology became more than ‘just a tool.’ A tool is something that you can know how to use but maybe you don’t need to know how to use it and you can still live a full, successful life. When is the last time you heard an intelligent, successful individual convincingly argue that in this day and age, technology learning can be voluntary for students? A tool is something that helps us and makes a job easier, and yes, technology does do that (well, most of the time for most of us anyway!). So it IS a tool…but it’s not just a tool. When did that last ‘tool’ you learned to use completely change the way you thought, the way you saw your world, the way you interacted with others? Did those other ‘tools’ demand a paradigm shift in thinking? Did they inspire movements and a call to redefine what teaching and learning mean?

So no, I don’t buy that anymore, that technology is just a tool. I only have to look at my students to know for sure. Their parents can yell at them, ground them, punish them in all sorts of creative ways-but if you take away their ‘connections’, their cell phones and computers, life suddenly comes to a screeching halt. Living without their technology is unfathomable. And interestingly, I had a father tell me his daughter was grounded the other day because she left the house with out her cell phone…so much for ‘just a tool.’

Maybe Blogging Isn’t For Me…

So here it goes…my first blog post. Technically that’s not exactly true, but it’s my first personal blog post. I’ve struggled for the last week to think of what to write, how to write it, and how to make it something worthwhile. These thoughts and reflections have led to many an interesting discussion at my house. Being married to an avid blogger and Web 2.0 guru (Jeff Utecht), I have been inundated over the years with the idea of the power these web tools can bring to a person. I have also been witness to how these tools can effect change in teaching and learning and the sharing of information and knowledge. Yet, when it actually came time for me to have to start my own personal blog for this class, I found myself reluctant at first, procrastinating with the best of them next, and finally forcing myself to work past the ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. In stepping back and taking a more analytical approach to my reluctance (it’s the counselor in me coming out), I began to understand why I was feeling the way I was. It had nothing to do with ideas, I have plenty of those! It also had nothing to do with the writing part, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. One would then naturally come to the conclusion that I would take to blogging easily and enthusiastically. However, I have realized that the dread I was feeling in relation to my anticipated ‘blog post’ was akin to the panic I feel every time I am required to speak in front of a group of people. For me, to post my thoughts and ideas for a potential world wide audience, creates an apprehension on a scale of mammoth proportions!

This has led me then to my conclusion…blogging is not for everyone. Much like public speaking is not for everyone! Some of us prefer to keep our thoughts and ideas more private, some of us would rather share our insight with a small group of people in a more intimate environment; some of us would rather be keen observers of the world and not have to be the main contributors. What would happen if everyone did blog? Wouldn’t that create an overwhelming amount of information to sift through? And as much as we like to think we are original and creative in our thoughts, for many and most of us, someone else out there has already had the same thought, idea, or epiphany. A perfect example, my first (and agonizing) blog post, has really already been given ‘voice’ by Will Richardson who recently wrote:

So I’m wondering through all of this what role social technologies have for those who may not have the aptitudes to tap into their potential.

I guess that’s kind of what I’m wondering too!

So, in answer to the question “what do you want to get out of this course?”; I would have to reply with another question:“Is blogging for me?” This course will push me to try something new, to explore and expand my thinking, and to know for sure if I’m one of those people that prefer to remain a keen observer and let others take the stage.

There are additional things I hope to get from this course as well, but I might save those thoughts for my next blog post, just in case I should run out of material! So Kim and Jeff, perhaps you can convince me that I am a blogger yet…only time will tell.