Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Weekend 2011...that sick feeling, again!

It's Labor Day weekend in the US, and for many Americans a last long weekend of summer before the summer officially ends. For many children and teachers, it is the worst weekend of the year, since all school age children and teachers have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs. But, for a school superintendent it is another weekend where we get to prepare for the opening of another exciting school year.

My favorite activity at the start of the Labor Day weekend is to visit all of my school buildings to absorb the calm before the hustle and bustle of the oncoming activities that make up a school year. I enjoy this mundane act, probably the least interesting of all the things I do as a school superintendent, but one I value the most since I get to ensure the state of readiness for the children of my community.

In touring the rooms, and enjoying the glossy, shiny finish on the floors, I witness the transformation of my district- albeit slow-  in becoming a 21st Century learning environment. Many classrooms now have smart boards, lap tops, ELMO's and other devices to enhance the learning process for kids. But, remember, it's not the equipment that makes the environment a true 21st Century learning community; it's the instructional experience.

Will Richardson recently quoted an interesting remark by Nishant Shah, Research Director of the Centre for Internet and Society in India;

"The digital outcast is not somebody who doesn’t have access to the technologies; s/he is somebody who, after the access has been granted, fails to actualise the transformative potentials of technologies for the self or for others.(1)"

All the equipment added to a classroom does not make the instruction differentiated or meaningful, if teacher centered lectures and the same photocopied worksheets are passed out for the same meaningless busy work that prevents children from reaching their potential and investigating their inquiries and interests.  Even at the administrative level, when everything is done to stretch the budget and place an iPad to make principals and directors more efficient, it is frustrating to see one still walking around with a huge, bounded, planner stuffed and crammed to the seams with thousands of pages of paper and calendars! 

Or, libraries in schools still dependent on static, unchanging volumes called "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries", when the global knowledge base is fluid, evolving and continuous. 

Why are we, as educational professionals, still scared to confront this reality?

Why are there still people in this profession that refuse to actualize the reality of this percept?

Time will tell, and here is hoping that a few teachers will grab onto this reality. 

1. Richardson, W. (2011, September 3). Digital outcast [Web log message]. Retrieved September 4, 2011 from

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