Excellent post, Chris! How can we get enough people to shout for change? If more than just smatterings of projects are out there for parents to see, could a mass public voice draw attention?
I think we need to be more cohesive here. I know in my district, there is talk of reigning in on learning 2.0. That is disturbing. It already takes a lot of energy to keep this going and am looking for ways to circumvent this.
You have given much food for thought. I think this community is built from those who have always pushed the envelope, but we need to remember to do something big together if we really want to make change.
Wow - I'm in. As I read your post with cheers and fireworks going off in my head, I began to struggle with the concept of activism. I did some research on this for my Darfur project. There are so many facets to this type of undertaking. You mention one - contacting legislators on the local, state, and national level. Press coverage is another. I believe that the general public is at least frustrated enough with American Education to listen. But, we'd better have a good argument before we lose them.
I'm going to pick up Bill Moyer's Doing Democracy: The Map Model for Doing Social Movements.
You can read part of it here:
Perhaps there will be some insight that applies. He states in the book, "Activists will be successful only to the extent that they can convince the great majority of people that the movement, not the elite powerholders, truly represents society's positive and widely held values and sensibilities," This is a tall order considering that there are plenty of people, stakeholders in this potential revolution, who are not yet on the Internet, much less using social networking tools.
Thank you for the inspiration and food for thought.
Great post Chris. I guess that being a "newer" teacher, change is not difficult for me. A lot of what I am learning is really the first time around the block for me and I don't have to "re-learn" in order to change.
I love the idea about workshops and conferences, sort of like NECC 2008 that just ended. I learned a tremendous amount from everyone at the Bloggers' Cafe and there formal sessions at NECC. I am still trying to get my head around the massive amount that I learned that week and will try to include what I learned in my lesson planning this year.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)
I am all for moving education forward - but I need to start at my school first. As an early technology adopter I am often considered strange or radical. I have my community online and I feel blessed to have found educators who "speak my language" however, I sometimes feel like I need to win over the teachers in my school one by one.
There is a lot of FEAR when it comes to change and sometimes that resistance comes across as "don't tell me how to teach". Hanging on to old ways because they "work" is safe and trying to nudge them to examine "do they really work?" and "are students really learning" is a fine line. I try not to be judgment and I feel like my role is to be the cheerleader (Give me a TRY!) and inspire them by modeling best practices. I need my PLN to keep me inspired and to help me keep at it.
Fundamentally, I agree, education needs to change - but my role right now is in the trenches. We need more leadership with your vision to keep all of us moving forward.
Colette, I understand what you are talking about. I've found it easier to make changes in a school when I have other teachers supporting me.
Ignoring for a second that there are some people who will oppose any change what so ever, either because they are set in their ways of they are just plain lazy, it is difficult to change any sort of large bureaucracy. Actually, I suppose that is the main reason it is difficult to change a bureaucracy.
I can see a lot of school getting wary of technology for technology's sake. There are a good number of school out there that have spent tons of money buying technology to "fix" their school, only to find that only one or two people truly use it effectively.
If the argument is that web 2.0 is the way the rest of the world is going it won't fly with most educators. If the argument is that it will change the pedagogy for the better. Then it may still be difficult to find people to listen to you, even more so, but when they are convinced they will be strong supporters.
Vision is a funny thing... you've got to have a sense of what things can be, but you also have to have a sense of how to get there. And then, if we're talking about a national movement, your vision has to be broad enough to encompass a wide range of schools from all over the country.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is remember what LBJ's Secretary of Education said when they asked him about a national curriculum -- "Keep them as broad as possible."
Your question is valid. What is the direction the winds of change are blowing? I was so intrigued by this question I made it the basis of my most recent blog post. The condensed answer is simply: transparency and visibility. NCLB has set the stage for accountability, I think the next step must be away from standardized assessment and into authentic assessment and that will require more transparency about what goes on in teacher's classes. New teacher's could learn a lot from just knowing what their peers and colleagues are doing.
Well, this is a second attempt today to add a comment. For some reason, my comments don't want to "stick" on your blog!
My comment is this: When I read your post earlier I was giving you a virtual standing ovation. Why? You get why Shirky's book is a must-read. All these books are identifying the changes and trying to tell the story of what is happening. However, Shirky's book (and I'm 3/4 the way through) takes the story to a level that is, as you tweeted, more accessible. It simplifies the change into talking points and adds a linear progression (the three categories) that people can wrap their minds around.
I think this is what is missing, and called for, right now as we think about a revolutionary undertaking (bold call for change) whilst still working away at our rolling-stone-gathers-moss/evolutionary localized efforts. It will be hard--but not as hard--to take this to the step of collective action given the technology landscape. However, if we can DEFINE what we are after(my post on EduCon reflects on how important that is) then we have something to go with. But it can't be defined in a way that is "inaccessible" to the general public. It can't be filled with too much edu-babble. It's got to be clear, concise--that elevator speech. And, underneath that more accessible language, we would build out the vision, the goals, the tactics, etc. that are sound pedagogically and focused on learning supported by tools--tools that should be universally accessible at home and at school.
As Wendy says above "I'm in"...I'm game for being a part of the strategic endeavor.
As I began writing a response to your post I noticed that it was excessively long and decided to blog it instead. When your comment is approaching the length of the initial post it's probably time to just post it on your own blog.
I do want to say, though, that your posts are not only a pleasure to read but also key to my personal professional development. I'm a new teacher still in the process of trudging through my BTSA requirements while trying to coordinate with a district that would prefer charter schools stay out of public education. Short story: I don't have a lot of mentor teachers to look to for answers.
I think social networking tools would be a great way for new teachers to connect with mentors. So often I look to your posts and others like them for guidance and they have really helped me push my practice forward. So, thanks.
Change is coming, and if you need a foot soldier in your "war to make the nation safe for democratic education" (to rephrase Wilson's old catch phrase), count me in(where do the Californians sign up?). But we need to be prepared. We will need clear means of assessment and a way to gauge schools successes against a standard. Regardless of our activism, NCLB's legacy is more than standardized multiple choice tests. We will be judged against a standard, so we need to find a way to do that outside of multiple choice tests. If social networking can result in that change foremost, we will have "leveraged these tools to make something positive to happen."
You aren't going to get teachers to your level (or the level of your teachers) because the institutions aren't changing. Protests, a movement of some sort might do some good in some places, but probably most districts and schools will see little change. So think of this a generational change. It will happen, but it will be slow. In the meantime, you just have to keep doing what you are doing. Move forward and write about it. We must be the change we want to see - Gandhi.
I've been thinking a lot about this very topic and you have motivated me to finally finish my blog post about it:
Your blog posts just blow me away Chris. I spend a lot of time reading, and re-reading the things you say here. I spent some time listening to you at NECC, though I never found the right time to come up and introduce myself. It is sometimes hard for me to see myself in the big pictures of change that you lay out in posts like this. It is so easy to just stay in the trenches, and chip away at my own personal path of bringing my school forward, but it is so painfully slow! I appreciate this post because it gives me alot to think about...how long can I stand to see this whole effort moving at a snails pace? Not much longer.....perhaps there is a reason that NECC is in Washington DC next year??
I'd die if I were to go to one of these 2.0 concentrated conferences and get handed a t-shirt that reads "2.0: Big Things Are Still Hard."
I agree with this sentiment: "We've done what was easiest to do... and most of us would agree that it hasn't been easy so far." But at the same time, I agree with this sentiment expressed in the above comments: "What were we trying to become, again?" The hard-to-reach fruits are not only hard to reach - There is very little vision of what, exactly, those fruits look like.
And I often wonder how to approach the resistant inertia of the current system.
Sometimes I think that it requires a real focus on changing and educating school leaders---principals, curriculum staff, school board members.
Because of the current hierarchical nature of schools, grass-roots change can effect some change, but it has to receive support at some level in order to break through school-wide or district wide.
So it seems critical that the effort really focus on leadership, particularly. But what does that look like?
Institutionalizing the change at the university education department level? Creating 21st century principal institutes? Creating programs like the one you participated in in New York? And for all that to happen, the concerns you identify here have to be understood.
So, where to go from here?
You know that we've had plenty of one-on-one conversations about this (and related) topics. To this specific Shirky-inspired post, I'm appreciating the path your on...and the clarity of insight you bring to using his ideas to further conversations in education.
That being said, I'm still a bit hampered by the lack of a specific vision (here or elsewhere) when it comes to a collective call to arms centered around "change". My gut says, "Yes, me too...", but my brain says, "Ah, ah,...where are we supposedly going?"
CES (and all that Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools initiated way back when) was pretty specific about what was on the horizon line. If we take away the digital tools, how much of what you're beginning to crave on a large or collective scale resembles what CES already did and already does? [Note: name another model/construct, if that doesn't quite fit any more for you; I'm just using it because you mentioned it.]
And are we using laptops, 2.0 tools, (et al) in a such a way that ignores what has already been well fought for and well constructed in the CES camp for decades, and has a far greater chance of making an impact given the research and reach it has in its coffers?
Likewise, are WE at risk of constructing a mammoth strawman or boogeyman in order to propel our own digital-cetric needs onto the forefront of modern educational politics via the call for generic "change" rather than returning to something you've also said time and time again, "It ain't about the tools."?
Finally, what will happen if all the edu-bloggers (et al) so excited about "change" do not agree on the specific goals when it comes to committee meetings, public rules/agendas, etc? Does this become more and more about specific personalities/bloggers using the easy-to-agree-with call for "change" to further potentially niche agendas under the assumed agreement of a "digital" something or another?
You know that this is a perpetual conversation for me when I ask this of you, one you and I will have over and over and over again on a grand and specific level, so please take this as my wanting to learn more about where you see this going ultimately.
Inside your post is a humane/logical summary of Shirky, and a great reminder to everyone who wants "change". Now, what happens if it turns out that "digital" and "collaborative" splinters into something much more about big-personality-based political action rather than something truly good for the larger lot of education? And would it be wiser to put our collective muscle around helping CES continue its efforts with a what's-also-possible in the digital realm bonus?
Just wondering. Thanks in advance, my friend!
P.S. Hope the beach treated you and yours wonderfully this past week. Look forward to hearing more the next time we can grab phone time, fella. Best to Cat and the boys!
And I say this with love in my heart... you know what I think about this stuff, you know where I stand on just about every issue you mentioned in your comment. The point of this particular post was to look at methodologies for educational change given the societal changes through the new technologies we're seeing. Moreover, it was to recognize why change may be slower in education and look at the limits of "fast change" in education. I deliberately didn't write about the vision statements, etc... because in this post, as opposed to just about everything else I tend to write about / speak about, I wanted to look at things from a very specific lens of the mechanics of change.
Received in the spirit it was offered, Chris. Truly.
And you are to be complimented on taking it the direction you did, no matter how invested I may be this moment in terms of what 'it' may look like.
Between you and I, however, I do wonder how many are truly versed in efforts like CES have decades of research/service at their disposal...that would gracefully support the underlying goals of this new movement for 'change' by digital advocates.
Yes, the laptop and widget matters, but the good stuff was good stuff long before any of us embraced 2.0 whatever. This, is what I'm paying attention to as the "change" call to arms becomes trumpeted more and more these days.
You, I dig what you're doing over all...and what you're specifically talking about in this single post.
One of the big questions that comes up is "how do I make this work in my class?" That is often harder to figure out than how to operate the application. To that end, Stephanie Sandifer, Brian Crosby, and I have started a Professional Development Manifesto:
It gives some easy guidelines for what a good professional development session should have to make it useful, and get taken seriously by those outside the "ed tech club".
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to pimp it on you (deservedly) extremely popular blog .
Chris, you describe in promising terms a vision for change at the level of national education policy and administration. It makes sense. At the same time, I wonder whether the success stories highlighted at the start of your post owe their success to a more grassroots phenomenon -- the impact of a simple idea on a large number of people. Take Twitter, for example. The company didn't have a coordinated marketing effort, but their idea caught people's imagination.
What would it take for teachers to build similar enthusiasm around meaningful uses of educational technologies to support teaching and learning? I believe it would be better explanation of the pedagogical ideas that underpin uses of specific technologies. We seem caught in a place where, still, only a tiny percentage of teachers are using technology in their classrooms to do things that they were not able to do before. Over and over again, I find teachers who think that technology integration is all about replicating exactly what you are already doing without computers -- completely missing the point we are working so hard to express.
Whether through the CES or amongst ourselves, we need to find a common vocabulary, better examples, and a motivational trigger. I am reminded of the success of All Kinds of Minds, the Mel Levine organization and program. They expressed their mission, consistently, over the course of years, and now we find numbers of schools sending numbers of teachers to workshops, returning with a common vocabulary, philosophy, and set of tools. We lack this with technology.
Not to sound like a bearer of bad news but change is hard. Especially when one is dealing with a system of learning that is decades old. Our educational system tries to be proactive and adapt to new standards and new ways of doing things but unfortunately the foot soldiers in the trenches (the teachers) are, many times, folks that have been doing things their way for many years. They are suspicious of change because they are afraid that it means more work for them, and even worse, will make their methods obsolete. They would rather stick with what they are comfortable doing and what has brought them results in the past. As far as school systems are concerned, Iím sure many of them are wary of implementing new technologies because, letís face it, school system budgets are stretched thin now so the board of education has to be stingier with their money.
School systems are under a lot of pressure to show improvement on a yearly basis (NCLB anyone?). That there is the motivation needed to get school systems to adopt changes that will benefit students, but this has also upped the costs of failure.
I think what needs to be done is that the web 2.0 way of teaching needs to be part of what is being taught in education programs at the college level. That way as new teachers are going into the field of education, they are bringing these new ideas with them. But this in of itself will not bring about change: not until older, established teachers are convinced that the new technologies will make their jobs easier, not more difficult, and result in more learning in the classroom. The people who make the decisions need to be shown the value of blogging and wikis as a way of getting students to collaborate and evaluate knowledge. Then they can perhaps put in a pilot program in a school where the administration and teaching staff have bought into this new way of learning.
I really enjoyed this post and many of the comments. I work at a state university in the Distance Education department and we are constantly striving to make remote sites seem more like local sites to the students there and we are constantly making improvements to our system. While this is not the same thing as implementing new education techniques, everything we do has an impact on how materials can be taught and, to a certain extent, WHAT can be taught.
One way that we in the trenches (I'm pretty low level) make innovations happen despite protest is to build in redundancies upon redundancies. When we build a room with new equipment that will function in a way we have not used before, in the background we build a back-up that is instantly usable. If the new thing fails for any reason, flip the "do it old-school" switch and class continues uninterrupted. Then we can figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.
We are also trying to utilize some of the so-called "Web 2.0" tools within our control rooms and offices, working out bugs and learning the finer features. We, in our department, are not educators. However we have some influence with professors so we try to find ways they can use these tools effectively both in and out of the classroom and show them how it works. The more we know about how to use the tools, the better suggestions we can offer.
I realize that this post and the vast majority of the comments are about the educational ramifications of new technologies and tools, and that what I'm talking about is rather different, but these techniques have worked for us in getting people who resist change to want to change. Test things on your own, implement them with a back-up plan in mind and in place, always look at how it could be made better. It's slow going, but until "we" figure who We are and What We're doing, it's going to be a series of individual triumphs that make the difference.
This discussion of change in education seems to include two concepts that are not always distinguished here. One is the desire to have Web 2.0 technology used effectively in classrooms. The other is the goal that education become student-centered and/or student-directed. The general factors that make change in education hard apply to both of these concepts.
Much of the discussion has been about why Web 2.0 is difficult to "sell." I'd like to hear more specifics about why it is hard to convince the bureaucracy to adopt student-centered learning. Student-centered learning seems like a direct contradiction to the majority of the basic assumptions in U.S. education. Yet one can't miss the energy and enthusiasm of students who direct their own learning and go way beyond what anyone would have expected from them.
Besides students, another group of stakeholders supportive of change might be people from businesses who have adopted flatter organizations in place of the traditional hierarchy. These managers and workers have experienced the "risk" of allowing people with first hand information to make decisions for themselves. Perhaps they would support educational institutions that put more decision-making in the hands of students.
Thanks, Chris for stimulating this great conversation.
I was in a Dr. Marzono talk this morning. Here are my notes on his thoughts on what constitutes second order change. The change we need to make.
-shake things up
-expect things to look worse before they look better
-propose new ideas
-operate from strong belief
-tolerate ambiguity and dissent
-talk about research and theory
-create explicit goals
In working with individual educational organisations, I often come across resistance to change and scepticism of innovation, often technology-related. Educators should be sceptical - they have all sorts of people trying to persuade them to buy / implement all sorts of things. How we deal with scepticism can be crucial.
I've found a process such as the holistic alignment model (http://www.verso.co.nz/innovation/98/holistic-alignment-model-for-planning-innovation) very useful for planning innovation because it allows for what is done well now as well as what needs changing. And it attempts to acknowledge the compexities of innovation.
I'm a little sceptical myself of strategies wherein we should 'expect things to look worse before they look better'. In education, that can mean disaster for the body of students involved!
A great post, Chris, but I have to admit I don't have time at the mo to read all the comments.
My only issue is the concept of 'we' and 'our'. It's too big. Change in education happens best in small passionate groups (which Shirky ultimately agrees is what makes this connected world go around). Small passionate groups are easy to create, anyone can do it and can grow, if the idea is genuinely good, to hit thousands, millions of people. Having lived through and witnessed the bloodless revolution of the early 90s in Europe I know it to be true.
My problem with the edublogosphere is just that - there isn't one. There are many. Each small group has to find its own way and start exerting some influence. It's worked - a lot - in my small corner of the world. I'm sure it'll work elsewhere.