Yesterday was an inservice day in one of my school districts and the principal had decided to bring in Jamie McKenzie to talk about...something. I'll get to that in a moment. His skills with presenting and facilitation were pretty good. He keeps a very quick pace going---no time to be daydreaming or off task. And he did well with letting a large group have short table discussions and then getting everyone refocused. If you've ever had to do this with adults, you know it isn't simple.
He also did the thing at the beginning where you suck up to your audience. You compliment them on their acumen in bringing you there, how it's so nice (and rare) to be in a school where blah-blah-blah. And then, things went a bit wrong. You see, one of the first things he talked about---and dissed---were blogs. He belittled them because they're not associated with any kind of critical thinking. (This from a man whose own on-line profile brags that he maintains 3 on-line "journals" and who claims to be into educational technology.) I can agree that there are posts or even whole blogs which are mind-numbing. But to issue a blanket statement would appear to show the lack of critical thinking you're railing against. Wake up, man.
Anyway, I did have a good laugh about how uncooperative our technology was for him---not that I didn't feel bad that he couldn't present things the way that he wanted to. It's just that when he Googles the word "China" in our district and gets less than 100 million pages listed...and says that when he's been in communist China gets over 1 billion, well, that tells you something about the filter we have. (However, just because you get all of those hits in China doesn't mean the pages themselves aren't blocked.) Meanwhile, since anything streaming and most java is also blocked by the filter, he couldn't even show the teachers some of the cool on-line tools, like the Visual Thesaurus (which was blogged about in this space a couple of weeks ago, thank you very much). Even though he had sent the list of sites to our Mordacs a few weeks ago, they weren't particularly cooperative. I had warned the principal about this earlier in the week and advised him to look through the discipline files for the school's very best hacker and pay the kid to be on call for yesterday. :)
Keep in mind that this district has to follow the same laws as the one I work for in the afternoon. Their technology (and student protections) must meet all of the same requirements...however, we don't have the kinds of filters there that my morning district does. Teachers can actually download and install software on their computers---or install things from CD. The tech-head said earlier this week that it would be a nightmare if his department had to do all of those things for teachers...and that it's unnecessary. Ugh.
Back to McKenzie, I didn't get the full meal deal, as I had to go to my other job. I'm not sure what his message was. He never told us what the goal of things was or even a title for his presentation. I'm unsure if that was a function of his own random thinking patterns or just part of his approach to thinking. Either way, thinking needs a peg to hang upon. Maybe he should get a blog?