Saturday, March 15, 2008

Focusing the Beams of Light

I can remember back to 1989, when George Bush gave his 'thousand points of light' Inauguration Speech and dismissing it as just another piece of rhetoric from the Republican propaganda machine. Dana Carvey had fun with the same phrase on SNL over the next few years, but it eventually drifted off into the distance like most other political slogans. But in the last few days I have been bringing together many of my own perspectives, or points of light, relating to teaching, learning, access to resources, leadership and the like.

Yesterday, I was the SMCOE, listening to Bernie Trilling from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and discussing some of the issues during the break with people I know from around San Mateo County and in my own district. My motivation to get into administration after 20 years in the classroom has been very simple, I want to change the system of how teachers teach and how students learn. I want to see teachers become lead learners and students learn how to teach themselves. I want to see students have access to the greatest amount of learning tools and information that has ever been available in the history of mankind. Will Richardson, who tongue-in-cheek offered his support a few months back for any potential potential political office I was looking at running for, blogged yesterday about the urgency of getting 21st Century skills to teachers and administrators first. Will's post generated 130 comments in 24 hours. For this to happen, we need to reform the current teacher and administrator training programs. In California, there has been AB75, which provided funding for Administrators to be trained in using technology to give them greater access to 'testing and other quantitative measurements.' While this is important, it does not address the real issues relating to the use of technology in educational practice.

So, what does need to happen? Teachers need to take on a different role. It is simplistic to say that teachers need to be 'lead learners.' Mark Wagner's blog post from last year is a great start on the 'lead learner' approach when it comes to presentations, but how do we get this practice into the hands of the classroom teacher on the front lines with our kids on a daily basis? DuFour's writings on PLC's and SLC's comes very close to what does need to happen in schools when it speaks about bringing teachers together in common practice and teacher professional development and collaboration. Hillsdale High School in our district is following this model and has seen some success using the SLC/SRN Model.

How can we make it happen? Get Administrators trained, knowledgeable and willing to move forward. Knock on their doors and push another article about 21st Century learning under their nose. Keep the stream of information steady and constant. Ask them about the information you are giving them. Find teachers in your school that want to move forward and support them. If you write grants to get money for technology assets, make sure they get new gear and help them use it. Show them off to the Administration and other faculty members. In many instances, when you are implementing a tech integration program, you and your teachers are in an unfamiliar jungle. You need to be the machete to clear the trail and allow them to follow you.

Will this be an overnight transformation? No, but it will be steady and consistent and you will reach critical mass, where the faculty will follow and begin to do many things on their own... They just need the support of others....

... Gently stepping down off of the soap box...

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