Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ed Tech Guerrilla - Defining the Habitat

I just finished two presentations to educational groups using the "EdTech Guerrilla" philosophy I have blogged about previously in this space. (Picasa Web Album of my PowerPoint slides) I was surprized at how well they were received and even more surprized at how quickly these groups began the process of implementation of some of the tools.

On Friday (2/23/07) afternoon, I spoke to a small group of student teachers in Stanford University's STEP program. The initial contact for this presentation was through the Google Certified Teacher's group, which started last November. Google had their second Google Teacher Academy in New York last week. So, I have 50 new colleagues in the Google Certified Teacher group. Welcome, New York GCT's. The goal of the session was to help teachers create web pages, but I quickly expanded the goals for the session to include many of the Web 2.0 (School 2.0) tools many teachers are adopting. I wanted to start with Michael Wesch's video on Web 2.0, but alas, YouTube was blocked. I will learn my lesson and get a copy on my laptop that I can have for presentations.

The second group was a group of graduate students at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA in a Educational Technology Leadership class. Mary Buckman, another GCT is the teacher of the course and invited me in to go through the presentation I previewed with her a few weeks back. The students in this class are all teachers, lead technology teachers or administrators. I was able to access YouTube and show the Wesch Video and it realy set everything up. The best part of this presentation wasn't my presentation, it was the dialogue that it started among the members of the class. I was psyched to see the synergy that was created between the members of the class.

The framework of the presentation came from an idea I had a few months ago and blogged on. In the early days of Apple Computer, the sales people and those who were Macintosh afficinados, were referred to as Apple Evangelists. I started seeing the 'Evangelist' label around with people in EdTech, primarily Will Richardson, who had an article about him in Teacher Magazine with the title, "The Blogvangelist." (I hope to meet Will this coming weekend at the CUE conference in Palm Springs!) I wanted description that evokes a little more action on the part of teachers and students. I started using the term 'Guerrilla' because I wanted to emphasize the idea that guerrilla fighters usually found weapons, or used unorthodox tactics to defeat a larger, better equipped foe. I decided to structure the presentation around this. I went to Wikipedia and pulled out the first paragraph of the definition of "guerrilla warfare."

Guerrilla warfare (also spelled guerilla) is a method of unconventional combat by which small groups of combatants attempt to use mobile and surprise tactics (ambushes, raids, etc) to defeat a foe, often a larger, less mobile, army. Typically the smaller guerrilla army will either use its defensive status to draw its opponent into terrain which is better suited to the former or take advantage of its greater mobility by conducting surprise attacks at vulnerable targets, often deep in enemy territory.

My goal was to try to frame the situation that exists today in schools in regards to Educational Technology and Information Literacy. In the paragraph above, the words that are colored red, better describe the students we work with on a daily basis: connected, mobile, agile, using surprize tactics, taking advantage of its greater mobility and to draw its opponent into their terrain. The terms that are in green, better describe the way teachers, administrators and schools deal with the same issues. Schools act like a larger, less mobile army that has vulnerable targets and forces students to work in enemy territory.

Part of understanding the issues that face teachers and students in the implementation of EdTech and information literacy skills is understanding the native habitat or environment the students, teachers and administrators live in. David Warlick makes the point in his presentations that we 'cut off the tentacles,' or the access to technology, of our students when they enter our classrooms. We have many district information technology departments blocking certain pages because of their 'potential' of misuse, eventhough there are plenty of valid educational uses of a particular web site or application. Classrooms with a single computer, firmly planted on the teacher's desk or located in such place that the students don't even think about using it. The habitat our students and teachers live in is foreign, sterile and disconnected to the outside world.

When I think of Guerrilla fighters, I usually think of someone who is an idealist. Firmly committed to a particular ideology and is willing to take on extraordinary measures to advance their philosophy. This is how I feel about the students in our schools and my commitment to information literacy. We must use any tool at our disposal to teach our students these skills. I know this may run counter to the philosophy of some, but doing nothing perpetuates an educational system that will fill non-existent factories.

Gingerly, stepping down off of the soap box... not to say I might just jump right back on it in a few days!


jcorippo said...

You are so correct in this point of view that it's actually painful, emotionally, to reflect on how out of touch education is with regards to what's possible today.

jcorippo said...

This is so "on point" that it is actually emotionally painful to reflect on how out-of-touch education is today, with regards to what is possible, but ignored by educators.