Where’s the focus?

A few years ago, I had a visitor to my office.  He was trying to sell me a license to a programming language for our schools.

I still remember the conversation as if it happened just yesterday.

Him:  I’m here to convince you to buy this programming language for your district’s Computer Science classes.

My response:  Why would I want to buy it?

His response:  Because it’s industry standard.

A little mental math here.  If I’m in Grade 10 and learned this language, the earliest I could be employed in industry would be seven years from now.

My response:  Will it still be industry standard seven years from now?

His response:  <crickets>

My response:  Tell me why it’s good for kids.

His response:  Because it’s industry standard.

He continues:  I could sell you a day’s training.

My response (choking on his words – remember you train dogs, not teachers):  What if one day isn’t enough?

He continues:  I could sell you more training.

Needless to say, we didn’t license the product.  However, a nearby board which likes to license the latest and shiniest did.  It wasn’t accepted by the teachers and didn’t last long.

This was one of those moments that reinforced a lot of things for me.  Certainly, industry and its progress has an impact on education and helps frame our approach, but do we drop everything just because industry does this or that?  Think just of the recent future.  How many seemingly great ideas have companies just dropped out of the blue?  From the end users’ perspective, it seems like it was done overnight but you just have to believe that it has been the result of a great deal of thought and analysis.

But in industry, things mostly evolve around the bottom line, sustainability, and a coherent business plan.  No company apologizes, except perhaps to its stakeholders, as it keeps its eye on the prize.

It’s not the same in education and it shouldn’t be.

I was in a conversation online the other day when this line appeared – “With our board’s focus on technology…”

Whoa!

Is that a mission statement?  Is that the focus for all educators in that board?  Is that the plan?  Have the educators all dropped out of the picture and someone else is steering the ship?

It doesn’t matter who made the statement.  Student – Teacher – Administrator – Parent- Computer Department – Local media

It’s wrong.  Period.

There definitely are people in education who need to look at the use of technology in education.  It was my job for years.  But the primary focus was never on technology.  It would have been on student achievement, the use of technology in learning, innovative ways of teaching with the assistance of technology, …

How many times do you see some new form of technology purchased, dropped in place, and then you hope that the magic happens?

Where’s the master plan?  Where’s the continuous professional learning?  Where’s the modelling?

We’re doing SAMR.  Really?  Well, in fact, you probably are since that model focuses on technology and not the learner.

If, to the end user, the “focus is on technology”, then there’s a big gap in the understanding of the purpose of technology.  Whoever owns that misunderstanding needs to find some way to fix it.

I could go on for hours on this but let me quote that famous blogger Colleen Rose.  “Stop. Please.

3 thoughts on “Where’s the focus?

  1. As I read this post, I wonder, “Have I made this comment before?” Not intentionally. But then again, when we talk a lot about the tool and we get inserviced on the apps, does our focus remain on the technology? Please don’t get me wrong: we have a ton of inservices that link tools and pedagogy, but do “we,” as educators, administrators, and students, hear the big ideas behind the tool? I’m not always sure that we do (myself included). I wonder: how do we change this? It’s a topic that came out on Twitter thanks to some tweets from the Hamilton-Wentworth Principals’ Conference. I appreciated that discussion, and I’d love an extension here.

    Aviva

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Aviva. My opinion – when an inservice opportunity is offered, so often it’s restricted by time. Because of these restrictions, the person leading the session has “so much to cover”. It’s their reality.

    The problem, of course, is that if an approach is a series of “one shots”, that’s all that you get.

    I’ve been a long-time advocate of continuous professional learning where there’s a common thread throughout the sessions so that you don’t have to get it all done at once. Also, why isn’t the technology leader working with others for these in-service sessions. If there’s a session dealing with mathematics, then incorporate the technology for a portion of the session. That way, there’s no sense of this being a distinct activity but that there truly is a big picture and this is what it looks like.

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  3. All excellent points, Doug! While the person delivering the inservice doesn’t always co-present with someone else, there are often examples included in slides to show that there were connections prior to delivering the presentation. I think that often the pedagogy and technology are combined, but is this what people see and is it what they think about? I hate being referred to as a “technology teacher” (something that happens often), but here I sit and wonder if I was the one that initially tweeted the comment you refer to here, so I can’t help but question how often I cause this label myself? You are giving me a lot to think about this morning.🙂

    Aviva

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