A fable, if you will:
A manure spreader salesmen was driving past a farmyard here in southern Minnesota when he spotted a pig with a wooden leg. His curiosity aroused, he pulled in the driveway and over to where Ole was repairing the corn crib.
"Say, Ole," says the salesman, "that's an interesting pig you got there. How'd he get the wooden leg?"
"Oh, yah," says Ole, "that's some pig. Once when the old barn caught fire, that pig rushed into the flames and let all the animals out of their pens so they could run to safety.
"Anudder time when the river flooded, our whole family was on the roof of the house and about to be swept away when that pig swam to the neighbor's house and swam back towing a fishing boat to rescue us.
" And just last summer when a tornado was coming right at the farm, that pig rounded up all the kids and got them into the storm cellar. The house was a goner, but the kids were OK."
The salesman was amazed. "Wow, that is quite the pig, Ole," says he. "So then, during which adventure was it he lost the leg?"
"Oh, he didn't lose the leg," replied Ole. "It's just that you don't eat a pig that good all at one time."
I've been soliciting volunteers to help with different tasks in our state's school library and technology organization. Little things like serving on committees for the upcoming state conference, writing short articles for the newsletter, and taking part in legislative activities.
What percentage of our 600 member "volunteer" organization steps forward? I'd say we have fewer than 50 people who ever take more than a completely passive role. 8%. And of that 50, maybe 20 who are dedicated. 3%.
Why is this? Why can some people with the same 24 hours in a day, same commitments to family and work, same need for leisure still work on volunteer basis while others simply refuse to participate. I am not condemning anyone since I am absolutely certain everyone has a great reason for doing what they do. And god bless every volunteer effort no matter how seemingly small.
Is it something we current active members are doing? Are we too set in our ways? Too clubby? Too poor at communicating the organization's needs?
Here's my fear. I am afraid like the pig with the wooden leg that we may be eating our best people alive. That at some point they will simply say "I've done my bit, served my debt to society the organization, and I am retiring as a volunteer." And the organization loses a wealth of information and experience and talent.
What is your perspective on this? Does the same active vs. inactive ratio apply in the volunteer organizations to which you belong? And what can we do about it?
Another query via e-mail last week:
I heard you speak ... a couple of years ago and really enjoyed listening to you. Then today I was asked a question that I just knew you would be able to answer. We are needing to purchase a book or two over the subject of how technology can improve academic achievement. I figured that you probably have a list of books that you could suggest that you could quickly sent to me - at least I hope that is the case. And thank you for your time - and for being such an "up-to-date" and knowlegeable resource.
My inadequate response...
I appreciate your confidence and kind words, but I really don't maintain such a list. There are lots of books with lots of ideas - all with very, very little empirical evidence to back up claims of improved student performance/achievement. (One of the problems is there is no consensus on “academic achievement.”)
Some places you might start are reports rather than books. I would recommend reading:
- "Technology in Schools: What the Research Says" by the Metiri Group
- Ensuring the Net Generation Is Net Savvy by George Lorenz and Charles Dziuban for Educause
I would also skim through the book titles at ISTE to see if any look like they suit your needs. ISTE is a credible source of information on educational technology.
I wish I could be more helpful. Sounds like a great question for Blue Skunk blog readers!
All the best,
OK, astute readers. What would you recommend Melissa put on her short list of books about technology's impact on student achievement? I feel like I am somehow overlooing the obvious.