I’ve felt a bit like E.T. recently landing on planet earth, speaking to a group of humans who had never seen or heard an extraterrestrial before.
According to WikiPedia, “shock and awe” is:
a military doctrine based on the use of “overwhelming decisive force”, “dominant battlefield awareness”, “dominant maneuvers”, and “spectacular displays of power” to “paralyze” an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.
The allegory of the cave was used by the Greek philosopher Plato to convey the difficulty of explaining concepts like color and three dimensional objects to people solely exposed to black and white, two dimensional representations of reality.
Using Karl Fisch’s presentation on “Did You Know” remixed as a video by Scott Mcleod with teacher audiences here in Oklahoma lately, I’ve felt a bit like Plato in the cave, talking to people by using a video designed to have the effect of “shock and awe” on the audience.
I will likely reflect at greater length on this in an upcoming podcast, but for now I’ll say that overwhelming teachers with the messages from “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” by Tom Friedman may not be the best way to encourage teachers to teach digital.
Unlike most of my audiences at edtech conferences, attendees and participants in some of my presentations lately in Oklahoma have been “regular” classroom teachers. Not computer teachers, not particularly tech-saavy teachers, just regular classroom teachers. In some cases, NONE of the teachers in the audience have heard of Tom Friedman or “The World is Flat.” Maybe that is not unusual out in the “real world” outside of edtech conferences. I suspect it is. The ideas of the “Did You Know” presentation are VERY intimidating and even overwhelming for teachers. Some of the responses from teachers about the video, after having discussed it with their peers, have lately included:
- Boy I’m glad I’m retiring soon.
- The United States is really in bad shape.
- I’m overwhelmed.
- I may be in the wrong profession.
- My kids can’t and won’t teach themselves. How will they survive in this new world?
The amazing thing to me in listening to and documenting these teacher responses has been that no one has said, “Maybe we need to teach differently in our schools.” The common responses instead have been: I’m overwhelmed, I’m so behind, there’s no way I can deal with this. I’m ready to retire.
I’m thinking rather than show a video like “Did You Know,” maybe I need to focus on small steps that entry-level technology users can take. I’m reminded of the ACOT research and stages of technology integration. In the case of my most recent presentations, in which I felt like E.T., I wasn’t talking to teachers who were or are ready for “invention level” integration ideas.
My thought for this group goes back to something I mentioned in the WOW2 interview last week. We need each teacher at each grade level to participate with his/her students in at least 1 Internet-based collaborative project per semester. And, this needs to be an administrative expectation that is part of the formal teacher evaluation process.
Google Earth is amazing. 3D interactive environments including the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Canyon ARE amazing. But simply “accessing” engaging, digital content like this is not enough. At some point, if we just present students with these types of resources to consume (even interactively) they are sure to ask, “So what?” No matter how amazed we are as digital immigrants by these resources, at some point “normalcy” will be redefined for our students as well as ourselves, and these things will lose much of their novelty value.
Our students need to remix their learning and create authentic knowledge products. But to do that authentically and effectively, they also need to have relational connections to other people and places. This is why I think websites like epals.com are so essential, to help teachers connect with other teachers for Internet-based projects.
I’m reminded of the story Tim DiScipio shared at TCEA in 2006 of the New Jersey elementary classroom whose writing scores jumped because the students wrote to pen pals in Italy each week of the school year. Simple concept: Get students interested and connected to kids in another country through a pen pal writing project. The implications can be getting students more motivated to write, and therefore writing more regularly and with more effort.
More frequent writing leads to better writing. A simple formula, but one which seems to be often overlooked in schools today.
I don’t have the answers. It was very weird to feel like E.T. this week in several contexts. “Shock and awe” may not be the best formula for conversations and learning. Maybe I need to craft and share a more basic, simple message, and avoid overwhelming people with too many scary statistics and ideas.
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On this day..
- Prepping a new iPad Mini for 3rd Grade - 2013
- Reflections on changing history, national identity, and cultural events in the American midwest - 2008
- Converting text to and from speech for accessibility and convenience - 2008
- Copyright questions and answers about iTunes, Podcasts, and Fair Use - 2008
- Alexander in the Boston Globe - 2007
- First "digital dialog" podcast - 2007
- Podcasting in Higher Ed Roundtable - 2006
- WiFi Picture Frame - 2006
- SuprGlu feed river - 2006
- Share Bubbleshares on a Blog - 2006