08 November 2009

What I Learned at Work Last Week

Have I mentioned that I have a very odd job now? Not just the most recent incarnation of my state-level work, but just about everything over the past 15 months. (Guess I did do a short post on my Surreal Life a couple of weeks after embarking on this phase of my career.) As someone who has spent the vast majority of my adult life with the under-18 crowd in classrooms, working with adults all day is very different. Quite often, I wonder if I'm grown up enough to be doing this job. I'm probably not, but I keep trying anyway.

We don't do much out of state travel, mainly because of a "freeze" on such events. There are plenty of good things to attend on behalf of the state and reasons to connect with others across the nation. Some things don't cost the state any money (e.g. the feds pay), but the office paperwork to get permission to travel is so intensive and the process so nonsensical, most opportunities slip by. The recent trip to DC was almost one of these (the pic at left is as close as I ever got to seeing the sights as we were saddled with an unforgiving schedule). Here are a few things I learned last week while meeting with other educational technology folk from around the 50 states...
  • The observation that Educational Technology is not "T Enough" to participate in STEM discussions is not limited to our state. This appears to be a problem around the country. Like Doyle, I am not a fan of "STEM for the sake of STEM," that is to say preferring economic goals over student-oriented ones. However, for those programs which put the needs of students first, I believe that online environments should be part of the mix. It doesn't mean that they're better or more appropriate for every situation, but open source engineering or collaborative tools for solving math and science issues are a piece.
  • There are very few presenters in educational technology who can walk their talk. I find it depressing that the majority of my time in DC consisted of being talked at---not with. And not even about our more meaningful issues. I sat through several discussions about how to electronically collect and present educational data without a single person addressing what they were doing to support asking good questions about the data...let alone what to do with the information. Any number of presenters neglected to offer even one shred of evidence that their programs had a meaningful impact on students and/or teachers. Only one presenter (out of at least 30 I sat through) used any sort of good design for adult learners. Perhaps one of the reasons EdTech'ers aren't considered "T Enough" is simply because they're too wrapped up in the tools and have no understanding about what constitutes learning. If they want to be invited to the table with curriculum/instruction/assessment folks, then they need to show that they understand those pieces and not just the "Ooooo...shiny..." distractions.
  • The US Senate has its own paparazzi. The distinguished looking gentleman in the center of the picture below (and the object of attention) is the Director of the National Science Foundation, Ardent Bement, Jr. He had just been by our table and was now ensconced with a virtual frog dissection beside us. I have to say that it is a rather odd experience to be surrounded by Very Important People (including a senator from our own state who stopped by to chat). I'm just a smalltown girl. Never expected to go to the ball. Mind you, I learned this week that VIPs do not introduce themselves. They will shake your hand while you say your name---but they expect that you must already know who they are. For someone who doesn't run in those sorts of circles, this is an impossible task. You know they are important due to the slew of cameras flashing around them...but there is no way to know their position, let alone their names. Perhaps being immersed in that environment means that it's best to keep all of your cards close to the vest...to listen and not talk.
  • There are going to be a couple of big changes in terms of state leadership for science education in our state. As I noted back in May, I have been concerned that science education would be driven into the ground. While there are no guarantees that new leadership will equate to "better," I can say that there are a lot of sighs of relief happening. I never realized so many people were unhappy with the leadership. I have now heard many "survivor" stories from others who thought the path was the wrong one. Happy dances are ensuing. Personally, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. There is a chance, now, that someone who puts the needs of students first will be leading. There is hope.
My odd job will no doubt bring other new things to learn this week. In spite of the time away from home (and working with students), I like this part of my job. I like being able to learn from all sorts of people and visit new places. My hope is that I can figure out how best to use it all for the classrooms depending on me.

1 comment:

Mamacita (The REAL one) said...

I noticed your blog was on this list! Congratulations!