Sunday, November 05, 2006
Guerrilla Education: A Way to Move Forward
Over the past few days I have been reading the blog posts from many of the educational bloggers (Will Richardson, David Warlick and Miguel Guhlin) and finding most are concerned that the opportunity for meaningful change in the educational process is getting bogged down by an educational bureaucracy that has Educational Technology Directors and Administrators creating road blocks for meaningful change. Most teachers say they want to use wikis, blogs and other collaborative tools in their classrooms, yet most will use these tools as a way to do the same assignment using a different medium. Shovelware is a term that is used to describe this process of using a new technology in the same way an older technology had been used.
So, what's a different approach to take in this process? The evangelist label has been used many different ways in reference to technology and tech integration. You can go back to the beginnings at Apple Computer, where the employees were referred to as Evangelists. Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist and former Apple Computer Evangelist, has written extensively on the subject in his books and on his blog, "How to Change the World. Will Richardson, currently on the cover of 'Teacher' magazine, with the headline, "The Blogvangelist", has also embraced this persona in his work with teachers around the country. “The new Internet isn’t about technology anymore” says, Richardson. “Instead, it’s about your imagination, about thinking, quite literally, ‘out of the box’ of the traditional classroom.”
What we are really talking about is changing the roles in the traditional classroom. The classrooms of today are still based on the industrial / assembly line model where the teacher is in possession of the knowledge that is used in the class and the students are expected to be willing receipients of the teacher's knowledge. Will Richardson, in his evangelism, is working to convert the teachers toward the 'new literacy skills' using blogs, wikis, RSS, etc. He has been successful with many teachers, and these are teachers willing to implement these tools into their classes, yet there are still significant road blocks in the way. Some of the road blocks are real and others are imagined, yet they get the same result. Teachers are not able to implement these tools and skills into their teaching repertoire.
I want to change this slightly, evangelism is described as 'converting' others who will in turn go out and spread the tools they have learned. I would like to change the practice over to being a guerrilla. Now, I understand that there may be a negative connotation towards the term 'guerrilla,' but that is also part of the attraction to using that term. It definitely catches your eye and draws your attention to it. So, what meanings am I trying to express by using the term 'guerrilla' to describe the implementation of EdTech skills? First, I want to emphasize the idea that there is a small group of committed individuals working collaboratively to liberate others from a larger governmental group. (read: school bureaucracy) Secondly, I want to emphasize the idea that guerrillas use speed, mobility and tactics that draw their opposition out into 'terrain' that is more advantageous to their skills.
How would we implement such tactics within an educational setting?
1) Assess your current resources.
- What do you have access to that you can use with students to acquire the Information Literacy skills they need?
* Can your students access blogs on campus? Are there certain blogs that are blocked and others that are allowed through your district filters? Have you checked which sites are really blocked or are you going by the word of mouth of another teacher?
* Miguel Guhlin's Walled Garden of Web 2.0 tools
* Blog post from Great Britain dealing with the same issue
- What resources do you wish you had access to, but don't because of some roadblock (real or imagined) that are in your way?
* Search for open source and web based alternatives and make a list. Using open source or web alternatives diffuse the 'cost' issue that so frequently are thrown in the face of educators that are trying to educate and innovate.
2) Assess your Administration:
- What are their objections? Can you build alliances with the site administrators to allow question the district level 'gatekeepers' directly or with their help?
* Sit down with your site level administrators and find their mental roadblocks and remove them quickly and easily. You aren't going to be exiled to Siberia, and your administrators will welcome your leadership and problem solving.
* Show your site level administrators the benefits of using these skills. E-mail them your blog posts (if you have a blog) and articles from the Internet that support the use of these skills.
* Do some 'reconnaissance' on district level administrators. Talk with people around your district to find out what their objections are and why are some sites blocked. Have answers/solutions to those objections ready to go.
3) Know the rules and find ways around them
- What does the district have students and teachers sign when they agree to using technology on campus? What does the Acceptable Use Policy of the district say? Are there other district bylaws or administrative regulations that are in force regarding the use of technology?
* Act like a 'loose constructionist.' I am not asking you to violate the rules and regulations of your district, but if there isn't something specific forbidding you from doing something that is safe and educationally sound. I would start working on it and developing lessons for the classroom and showing the benefit to students.
* NOTE: I am not encouraging you to publically oppose your administration, but I am bringing the focus back to where it should be. On the students.
These tactics may not solve the issues that are in place in your district, but they will give you good working knowledge of what the issues are and how you might start to find ways to change them to help your students.