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?


Carol W. said...

Wonderful, wonderful post.

You may not be one of the "big bloggers", but I KNOW you have had a fantastic influence on many CFL fellows. You've helped to bring so many of us, kicking and screaming or otherwise, into the 21st century. I have no doubt that you have similarly inspired and educated everyone educator that you have known.

Don't despair. It is a slow-growing wave, but soon it will reach its tipping point, thanks to educators like you.


Angela said...

Interesting observation: I struggle with the infinite amount of information that we have access to. There is no such thing as "done" anymore, and in a way, it makes the time excuse rather silly, if you think about it. None of us have time, the process is infinite, and there will never be enough space. I took Sheryl's advice last year and started investing 15 minutes a day. Soon enough, the return on that investment was substantial enough to have me coming back---willingly--for more. Glad to have you found you here T and J!