10 July 2010

Simon Says

While attending ISTE 2010 recently, I had the opportunity to chat with some teachers who were new to educational technology---at least in the form in which it was presented at the conference. These teachers got to see several "experts." I listened carefully to what was shared from those sessions, never letting on that I had either seen these presenters other times and that I had some rather strong opinions about a few of them. It was a good reality check for me---the opportunity to see things again through their new eyes. I actually cringed a little at a few things they shared.
  • One guru scared the hell out of them. With his rapid-fire delivery of his vision of the future and how we aren't preparing kids for it, he outlined the surest way to make teachers feel terrible about what they've been doing in the classroom. (My reaction to seeing this same speaker last November is here.) These teachers have probably been doing well by their students. There are enough people pointing fingers at teachers these days---they don't need another.
  • Yet another guru told them that "Twitter is a professional tool." She went on to clarify that it should only be used for communications in a professional manner and nature. Not terrible advice, but also not very encouraging for the techno-n00b. I would agree that you should try not to tweet something that might get you fired, but to imply that there is no room to be a human being with that channel is ridiculous. We are not one-dimensional beings and should not project ourselves that way. The people I connect with most via social-networking are those who I get to know on a personal level in addition to the science and/or education stuff. 
  • And then, there was this pronouncement:

Um...wow. I'll leave it to you to decide what to make of such a statement.

There are a couple of good lessons for me that emerged from the discussions with the new-to-edtech'ers. One is simply that it takes time for people to reflect and build good bullshit detectors. These were very intelligent and well-spoken teachers with many years in the trenches. And yet the fervor of the conference combined with the novelty of the information was able to subvert that experience---at least for the moment. My hunch is that they have thought a lot more about things after they got home. It makes me wonder how we support new learning at these conferences and build in time and opportunity for critical thinking. I'm picky about what goes into my RSS and my Twitter feed. I read and follow those who share, but not those who preach (such as the examples above). I worry people thrown into the mix who can only hear the noise and haven't learned to listen for the quiet voices yet.

The second takeaway for me relates to my own presentations. I really do try to be conscious that there will be people in the room who view me as an expert. (Whether or not they should goes back to the point above.) I have been caught off guard a time or three when someone would ask "Did you just say -----?" And the fact was, I had---but it was not really what I had meant. I have become more and more thoughtful about choosing my words; however, the "Simon says..." attitude of the three examples from the ISTE conference make it clear that I need to keep being vigilant and intentional about what leaves my mouth during those times I am in front of a room of educators. I do try and remember that I am not anonymouse, but there may be more I need to do.

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