The word “Passion” is often thrown around by educators when it comes to educational reform. It has also appeared in more and more tweets and Edchat comments. That is probably a result of it being so difficult to promote change within the Educational Community. Ordinary enthusiasm is often not enough to get it done. One reason for this is that, as educators, we have been conditioned to believe that once a movement for change comes banging at our door, if we wait long enough, it will go away. Sometimes, it depends on who has the most passion for their cause, in this world of winners and losers, to wait it out. Whoever has the most passion to hang in the longest wins. Unfortunately, this often takes us to a place where it is about what is best for us, and not what is best for our students.
Since I am passionate about education, and accessible to other educators in several social media venues, many people share with me their stories of wins and losses in the battle for educational reform. That is not a phrase I select without thought. There is passion amongst the 10 to 15 % of people who will always be satisfied with education as it remains today and also as it was yesterday. They are passionate for what some refer to as a comfort level, but it is in reality a call for the “Status Quo”. If it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for my kids!” They attempt to recruit as many to their cause, as do the reformers to theirs. This creates the “us and them” mentality that hurts collaboration. Need I mention the word “PARTISANSHIP”?
An experience shared with me recently, may serve as a good example of the problem faced by passionate reformers. It is a typical story like many told to me on a regular basis. This incident took place in the arena of Higher Education, but it could have taken place at any level. It occurred at a Professional Development workshop conducted by an educator who is interested in integrating technology and learning. The workshop addressed how to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into lessons. Everything seemed to be going well, until the end of the presentation when the participants were asked for questions or reflections.
One professor passionately motivated to share his views stood up before the group to respond. Since this came to me second-hand, I cannot be exact, but he said something to the effect that, if anyone needed to get information to him, they need not text, twitter, message, or email him. They should simply talk to him. It was good enough for him, so it is good enough for his students. Furthermore, what was the need for this tech stuff anyway? These kids know how to do this stuff when they come to us. (So much for formative assessment.) The workshop obviously was not working its magic with that Professor. But wait, there is more! If you believe in edtech reform, the part of the story which may cause you to start “screen-screaming”, is this; the audience of educators applauded the statement.
That might almost be enough for some to run from that room into the streets screaming “All is Lost, All is Lost!” But alas, we must remember these were the words of a “Ten-Percenter” and not necessarily the opinion of the majority. We all have the right to make personal decisions. The nature of these decisions however, is just that, personal. They should be decisions affecting us individually and our families. As educators our decisions have a ripple effect that goes out and touches the lives of many individuals. If we make a personal decision to live in a cave that is fine, it is our right. We do not have a right to make others live in a cave with us.
Tradition, however, falls on the side of the “ten-percenters” when it comes to Education. A majority of our society sat at desks in rows looking at the blackboard, or squinting at an overhead, or listening to scratchy records and tapes. They may have watched movies on film, film strips or video tapes. We were even used to filling out mimeographed worksheets. Those are all familiar tools which made a majority of us comfortable. These tools are also in the process of disappearing. We will no longer see them. Some are gone already. It may be the time to get out of the horse and buggy and ease into the car. YES, it is true a good teacher needs no tech to be good! It is also true that a good teacher with tech can be better!
I hope this is more than a re-hash of things I have said so many times before, but rather, a call to passionate change agents of educational reform, not to be discouraged. The “ten-Percenters” are the reason so many call for the tearing down of the system. The reason so many say we can’t wait for these people to die off. I believe passionately that is a radical approach. We need to keep plugging away at change. These people are dedicated and educated individuals who may need to be cajoled into a level of comfort with technology. To those who totally refuse the call to change, we may need to ignore. They will be revealed as time passes them by. To those who remain passionate in their pursuit of reform, I would say in my best dialect free Latin, ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM, which sounds much more intelligent than its English translation, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”.