An Educator's Manifesto! Arise! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

I’m giving up! I will no longer attempt to inspire the administrators of my school and district with the wonders of Web 2.0.

I will no longer try to interest fellow teachers in amazing new tech tools, if they haven’t already shown some curiosity.

I’ve discovered, after resisting this obvious truth for years, that my job is not to CONVINCE the people closest to me that these things work, but to FIND those, be they in New York, Rome or Timbuktu, who are ALREADY turned on to the modern age! And that’s what I’m going to do from now on! That’s my manifesto!

In my experience of over 35 years in teaching and administration, perhaps one in 50 teachers is curious about new technology (yes, there are over 3000 of us in this Ning group, but I’ll bet my claim is close to correct when you count teachers everywhere). Only one in 100 administrators cares about Web 2.0. And, despite Digital Age propaganda, only one in 6 or 7 students in K-12 is really open to LEARNING in Web 2.0 ways, despite being adept at gossiping on MySpace, watching drivel about Britney Spears on YouTube, and playing Halo 3 on the X-box.

Three times this summer I have sat on committees at conferences with administrators who were experienced, highly paid members of the educational establishment. They were from North America, Europe, and China. They had advanced as far as you can go in their field.
But when I would try to demonstrate new tools to them, things like Eduism, Voicethread, eBoard, Sketchcasting, and other things you read about all the time on this forum, they sat there deaf and dumb like statues. In a couple of cases they maintained a grudging appreciation of Moodle. I told them how I used sites like worldmindnetwork.net, to show kids live streaming video of artists and scientists around the world doing interesting things, or pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes, to involve students with social entrepreneurship in the developing world, or michalebach.de/ot/, a fascinating site full of optical illusions which invites kids to question their beliefs about perception, memory, and truth itself.

All they could say is things like “What particular unit does this fit into?” or “What requirement does this fulfill?” or “How will this improve test scores?”

I mean, like, DUH! [if I may borrow my students’ typical form of expression]
Don’t they see that these things are not about helping kids pass some test, but about INSPIRING kids, who are pre-disposed to hate school, to WANT to learn more? To get them interested in things that they would never in a million years even think of looking up on their own?

THAT is the real meaning of Web 2.0 to me. It’s not about technology itself. It’s about all the new ways of MOTIVATING students to get EXCITED about learning. It’s about getting kids on speaking terms with their intuition. It’s about awakening the fountains of creativity within.
I suppose I’m getting mystical here, but I’m really passionate about this.

Bob

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Right on, Bob! Bravo! Bravissimo!

This is exactly what I have found in my teaching. There are very few fellow teachers, and even fewer management people, who are open to hearing about new technology.

I would like to add that in my experience, even the teacher UNIONS are stuck in the past, and opposed to Web 2.0. They apparently think that computers threaten teachers' jobs. Thus one could say that if you are technologically innovative in the classroom, you will encounter opposition both from the 'right' (hidebound, archaic school boards) and the 'left' (the unions).
The solution is to attract more inspiring people like you into teaching!
Hello Bob and everyone,

I couldn't agree more with what Bob says. I teach in a special magnet school associated with the Mumbai Institute of Technology, which is something like the M.I.T. of India. Although my specialty is social science, I can tell you that even in the hard sciences like chemistry and physics, and EVEN in computer education itself, most teachers and professors are uninterested in all the new tools about which one can read on this site. Most teachers still see themselves as functionaries who are responsible for shoveling facts into young brains, rather than as lighthouses who can spark the fire of lifelong curiosity. As you say, it's not about computers or technology per se, it's about being creative enough to discover, among a myriad of choices, the best ways to allow students to want to learn.

Rajita Shinde
On "Don’t they see that these things are not about helping kids pass some test, but about INSPIRING kids, who are pre-disposed to hate school, to WANT to learn more? To get them interested in things that they would never in a million years even think of looking up on their own? THAT is the real meaning of Web 2.0 to me. "

These ideas long predate web 2.0 ;-).

In case this helps you build a stronger case (not around web 2.0 tools but around practices supported by learning theorists).

They are found in the writings of proponents of the constructivist movement. Persons like Piaget or Dewey (Dewey @ wikipedia, democracy and education, free online book). More recently the likes of Papert who defended the notion of constructionism (wikipedia entry).

According to this wikipedia entry: "Constructivist theories of learning propose that learning is an active process wherein learners are actively constructing mental models and theories of the world around them. Constructionism holds that learning can happen felicitously when people are actively making things in the real world. "

Constructionism tends to focus particularly on "the significance of making things in learning."

For me it is not the real meaning of web 2.0. Web 2.0 is just a collection of tools. What web 2.0 have done is make a lot of these tools available for free, which make it a child's play for any teacher to embrace that approach to teaching/learning.
On "I’m giving up! I will no longer attempt to inspire the administrators of my school and district with the wonders of Web 2.0.
I will no longer try to interest fellow teachers in amazing new tech tools, if they haven’t already shown some curiosity".

Same experience here. You have to protect yourself (emotionally). Trying to convince the persons who really don't want to be convinced is not a rewarding experience. At time, you feel like the very lonely cow-boy in movies.

On the attitude of your big heads, I am afraid, your chances to change their opinion via pro-web 2.0 propaganda is close to null. The problem you are facing is "resistance to change". Most of the time, persons resist to change because their perceive a threat. These persons have been doing things one way for years. Even if that's not the best possible solution, that's a situation they know well. They perfectly know the outcomes. They know what to expect. More important, they know this is a situation they can manage efficiently. You have to avoid to suggest that you propose radical changes. Propose small changes, one by one. Run pilot studies. Provide them with data and information that show that results are as good or better with the new methods, without triggering any important organisational change.

Jisc InfoNet propose some advice on how to address resistance to change (Resistance to Change). They have plenty of excellent reports and data on that website (though it targets higher education in the UK rather than schools in the US).

To take into consideration, for instance, is the fact that we tend to welcome a change when we are involved in the change. With these big heads, what you are doing is telling them they are wrong and proposing to introduce teaching practices they know little about. Can you not involve them in the change? Anyway you can ask for their assistance? You could tell them you are facing a particular difficulty in your teaching and ask them for suggestions. This will encourage them to ask questions about your practices in a context where they are in a position of strength (their expertise is sought).

If that doesn't work, then simply do what you believe is worth doing. If you are not breaking rules that put you at risk to loose your job, simply go ahead. Get great results, get the kids tell about your courses in very positive ways. This may not be enough to convince the big heads. However this is likely to have a few of your colleagues curious about your methods. You may have one or two giving it a try. Small victory perhaps, but victory anyway.
Hi Bob,
Your passion for the new tools and sharing them shines through, clearly. Don't give up on your local colleagues. Just keep showing them. Work with the students; they'll help you spread the tools and knowledge.
The "what unit does this fit into" and test scores mentality is gradually going to recede, I'm betting. I've been teaching a long time, too. In those 30 years I've seen many "swings of the pendulum". This time it may well be that the pendulum has swung so far in one direction, the force it has gained can provide momentum for a wider swing in the other direction.
We could give it a push, too.
You're right to connect more broadly for colleague support, but please don't give up on your colleagues. Find those who are naturally innovative, open to experimentation, energetic.... keep leading the way.
Bob and commenters,

I really liked this post! Very well written and thoughtout. It's tough to lead and inspire teachers when they don't want to try anything new or different even though the students we face today are completely turned off by the old models of teaching. I also agree with Connie though, we need to set the example and bring those along that do want to try and step out of their comfort zones. The rewards are great when you see the lights go off in a teacher that something new for the first time.

Todays cutting edge is tomorrows obsolescence and until "we" get students, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, and anyone else that cares to realize that learning is a never ending process of trying new things and pushing the envelope we are doing ourselves and our future citizens a disservice. I am inspired by the community that I can reach out to and feel a common bond with. We are not alone and the tools of the 21st century learning environment are only going to connect us in deeper richer ways.

We must all LEAD THE WAY!

Jim

ps. the link for michaelbach.de/ot/ had a typo.. (corrected here)
Just be protective with whom you share your enthusiasm with - be selective, make it a special secret and those who are interested will come. Continue to work with the students in your care, enthuse them and motivate them - word will get out that you are an AWESOME teacher and the kids will come to you and the other staff will wonder at what your secret is....baby steps.
Rome wasn't built in a day!
I feel your pain. I've been touting technology for 15 years by presenting at NECC, and around the state, district, my school, etc. Several years ago I was presenting a wonderful 3 hour workshop on primary sources documents through our district staff development department. I'd been paid to present the same workshop several months before at NECC.

Thirty people had signed up and I was thrilled. I dragged my butt out to the tech center at 4:30, lugging handouts, book resources, laptop and projector, large Coke, etc. I started the workshop at 4:30 and by 4:40 all THREE people sauntered in!! I was DONE! That was the last presentation I did. I realized I was having absolutely NO impact on the kids in my district or around the country. I also realized with only 2-4 years left to teach I had more than enough great ideas for my own students.

I loved presenting and sharing and I feel like I was exceptionally good at it but after a while it got too frustrating. I don't envy you guys who are strictly technology "teachers"---many of you must be frustrated, too. Now I share what I know with my students---we love using the 2.0 tools---life is good. N.
Bob,

As you described, the greatest collaboration that I do occurs with teachers in other states and countries. With my elementary kids involved in Internet projects (Kidlink for example) and using email and skype, I exchange ideas and learn far more from my remote colleagues than from anyone in my local area. It was frustrating for a few years, but I guess I have just become resolved as you expressed, that I will go to where the curiosity is, where the interest is, where the needs to connect and share learning are. I've found classrooms in Taiwan and Japan, for example, that are eager and hungry for interaction. I love it. My kids have the chance to express what they are learning with kids from other cultures using various tools, blogs, email whatever. At the same time, we begin to understand the languages of our friends. My spelling tests for the last 5 years have integrated basic Chinese phrases - and the kids love it, and it finds its way into their email: xie xie, zei jian, dui bu qi, ni hao, hau chu ji le, and so on.

So on we go, using these wonderful connective tools and engines. As a teacher, I feel a little isolated sometimes in my own building, but it all changes when I get the thrill of logging on to a weboffice in Taipei and teaching 10th graders, or when the kids create and send videos to our classroom partners without my assistance, or a Skype call comes in when I'm teaching a lesson and we all stop to see who is calling: Taiwan? Michigan? Missouri? Washington?

Terry
Hannibal, Missouri
Yes, yes, and yes. The bottom line is to do with our primary responsibility as educators. It's those in our classrooms (I think), and if we have tools to engage, enthuse, enable and release our classroom community, we should use them. (Anyone remember Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Postman and Weingartner?) We need to be subversive for this generation, and then if there are colleagues who'll catch some of the drift, that's fine. If the administrators and managers can't catch on, well - too bad. We may need to provide them with their measures for their reports and KPI's - but behind that interface we can get a fair distance with education. I want to see minds on fire, thinking, analysing, reflecting; discovering the joy of knowing things and thinking new thoughts - producing and not just consuming.
And this manifesto applies whether the tools are technological or other - and whether we are didacts or constructivists. I have to be true to my educational convictions, no matter the flavour of the month, or last month. It's yours and my passion and integrity which are our responsibility in our classrooms - and if we deny our own passion and our own integrity as teachers, then the businessspeak guru's have won, and illiberal education will trample its muddy dogmatic feet over everything.
But let despair sap our energy, and the growing generation has lost our unique contribution in their lives.
Yes, Ian, I remember Teaching as a Subversive Activity!

Your "recipe" for handling this transition in education is great. Keep heart, keep going. Be true to our convictions, teach with passion. Words to the Wise!
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses to my post.
You have reminded me, among other things, that we must separate discussions about Web 2.0 per se from discussions about motivation among teachers themselves.
. I work every day with teachers who are not there, in my opinion, for the right reason. They lack the heartfelt belief that their profession is a CALLING, a vocation, something they were destined to do. They’re counting the days until retirement. Whether Web 2.0 exists doesn’t matter for these teachers.
Have you ever noticed that you can just walk into a classroom and immediately TELL whether the teacher belongs there or not? The expressions on the kids’ faces, the atmosphere in the room, the ‘vibes’—you can just tell if learning is taking place or not.
It can be discouraging—but it’s also great to have such wonderful colleagues and friends as you people on Classroom 2.0!

Bob

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