If not now, when?

A conversation from a recent professional learning session with teachers, where I was able to learn alongside them (rather than in front of them):

Presenter: What are some of the challenges educators will be faced with in the coming years?

Administrator: I am worried about the fact that with all of the things that kids are able to do outside of school, the only place they are bored is inside of school.

Presenter: Well, Goodlad has said "School is a place where kids go to watch adults work!"

Teacher: And how did they get that way? We trained them that way!

Our two days together started with that dialogue and came full circle today, after investigating learning styles and strategies and hidden academic literacy, when a teacher asked: "Since we have trained them so well to be passive, how do we help teachers persist when our students don't want to think in our classrooms, they want to be told?"

My summer has been full of investigating and researching what people are calling "21st Century Skills." What are they? What do they look like? Are we teaching them? How do we teach them?

My team of staff developers will be joining the team of our neighboring BOCES to explore the various definitions people have created for these skills and try to create a common meaning to use in our region and then begin to model and integrate into our learning. I am excited by this and the possibilities for collaboration and quality work that it can produce. But I am also tempered a bit by reality.

I don't believe that 21st century skills are all about technology. But I do believe that technology is a means to developing 21st century skills and schools. However, I fear that by the time education catches up, it will be the 22nd century and we have absolutely no idea what that will look like! (That may be a bit of an exaggeration on my part but I think it emphasizes my recent frustrations nicely!)

I have worked the past three years on trying to exercise the right side of my brain, to read business literature on what matters for employers and learning how technology can make more work better, faster, more transparent, and more collaborative. Along the way - I have asked others to dip their toes in that same pool. I am not sure that a critical mass has done so and I am not sure how to reach that critical mass.

I am not a well-known edublogger like Will or Sheryl or Gary or any of the many others I follow on Twitter and my RSS feeds. But I have tried to make a small difference in my corner of the world (I can say corner now that the world is flat - right?) And the number one reason that I hear from very busy teachers for not using new technologies to enhance the work of their classrooms and engage their students is time.

I don't have time to learn the tools.
I don't have time in my curriculum to teach that way.
I don't have time to teach kids to think, I have a test to prepare for.

I am growing weary of time as an excuse. And I, too, am growing weary of the digital native/digital immigrant excuse. When I think about the very pointed questions and conversations we have had over the past two days, I think about about our students.

If they are not worthy of finding some time, who is?

If not now, when?

My Great Escape

Now that I have finally stopped physically traveling and instead spend my evenings in Bejing - I have found some time to play with new technology tools and upgrade some others!! It leaves me constantly in awe of what is available out there to help us collaborate and connect, yet it also makes my work more efficient.

Some recent faves (please be sure to add your own!):

1. The upgrade to delicious!! Careful readers will notice right off the bat that all of the periods have disappeared from the name!! This makes it a bit easier to access but does take all the fun out of it!! And that is the only downside that I can see. I haven't finished exploring all that it can do differently - but I love having an "inbox" for the things that people tag for me right on my screen. I'll post more if I discover anything earth-shattering but in the meantime, you can read what Will Richardson thinks. Oh! And don't forget to join my network and tag something for me (tgray)!!

2. Also enjoying the Beta version of Bloglines that is available - much cleaner way to view my feeds and I can put my favorites on the opening page. Looks a bit more like Google Reader which I like a lot - but don't use much because it is still blocked at work. Certainly worth looking into!!

3. I blame Jenn 100% for my latest addiction - Facebook!! Catching up with old friends, connecting with new ones, creating a flair board like I had in college, throwing sheep - I am having a blast!!

I have more - but I don't want to InfoWhelm as Ian Jukes would say. So - what is your latest technology escape?