It's been a quiet week here in Lake Woebegone. (Oh, I think that line's been used.) But it has been a fairly quiet week here in the district. Lots of folks using up those last vacation days before our new fiscal year starts in July. No equipment from next year's budget can be received until next week by state law. A big WAN upgrade project that was to be done this week had to be postponed. But the "quiet" week has allowed me to do something I love to do. (No, not nap.) Clean my office.
One big source of motivation was some work our entire department has been doing over the past couple weeks - cleaning the work area of our AV technician. The position was eliminated this year. There is just no economic incentive for repairing $39 DVD players. The old fellow who had the position was retiring. The time was right. In cleaning out the "bench" area where the AV tech had been housed, we discovered a treasure trove of, well, junk. Hundreds of broken machines cannibalized for parts; various testing machines that could have come directly from Dr. Frankenstein's lab; lots of parts for equipment we no longer owned; repair manuals for equipment I'd never heard of. Need sealed sets of the Macintosh operating system 7.1? Piles and piles and piles of detritus some 20 years in the making by two techs who could simply not throw anything away. There was enough to fill two dumpsters of the size pictured above. We now have a space that is usable.
Combine this experience with having had a mom who demanded you wear clean underwear just in case you were struck by a car and had to be taken to the hospital. One wouldn't want the word getting out that the Johnsons didn't wear clean BVDs. With the upcoming trip to Ireland, I wouldn't want the word getting out that I didn't keep a clean office either if I was in an accident there and I didn't make it back. So I cleaned house - drawers, bookcases and files.
It was great fun, actually. Among the things I tossed were:
- a 1989 promotional videotape for the school district
- Our district's Y2K plan
- Large notebooks from various state planning initiatives
- Lots and lots of technology planning books from the 1980s
- A whole drawer full of orphaned cables
- My well-loved manual for FileMaker Pro 3
- All my blank 5 1/4 floppy disks
A couple things struck me very hard while cleaning. We have been trying to figure out what to do with technology in education for what seems like a very, very long time. Glancing at the old guides from the 1980s, the same questions were being asked that are being blogged about today. Here is an excerpt from the (typed) Technology Utilization Plan of District 77, Mankato Public Schools, November 1983:
"... As society is evolving, it is apparent that technology will be a major factor in the lives of all individuals and that, in order to be productive, and individual will need to be able to adjust to the changes that technology will introduce... It is critical, then, for an educational institution to help all citizens accommodate the implications of technology by providing opportunities for people of all ages, including females, minorities and the disabled to be com literate in the developing levels of technology."
The tech survey showed the district using Apple II, Apple II Plus, Apple IIe, TRS-80 computers, and Burroughs Remote Terminals. As plans go, however, it was well done and pretty far sighted.
If only our pedagogy had improved as rapidly as our hardware over the past 25 years!
The other thing that tickled me, though, was going through old articles I had clipped and saved. (Yes, my children, before the days of del.icio.us we actually had to take scissors and use file folders to save and keep things we might want to read again - provided we could find them.)
One "found" article I was particularly struck by was by Michael G. Fullan called "Change: A Guide for the Perplexed," from his work, Doubts and Certainties, NEA National Center for Innovation (1992). He lists "8 lessons that emerge from looking at change as non-linear, as paradoxical, as demanding the togetherness of elements that appear at first glance to be mutually exclusive." These are:
- You can't mandate what matters.
- Change is a journey, not a blueprint.
- Problems are our friends.
- Vision and strategic planning come later in the process, not at the beginning.
- Individualism and collectivism must have equal power.
- Neither centralism nor decentralism works.
- Connect with the environment.
- Every person needs to be his or her own change agent.
Take a few minutes to clean your office/work area this summer. You will be delighted by the things you find. And if you are in an accident, you won't embarrass your mother by leaving a cluttered work space.
Now, to clean those old files from my computer hard drive, delete those old e-mails, label and arrange my 3649 photos in iPhoto...