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Give me a reason

boyreader.jpgMost English teachers will tell you, "Kids just don't read like they used to." I disagree. Recently my high school treated students who passed all classes with a trip to Stonebriar Centre. Upon arrival, a large group flocked straight to Barnes & Noble, where they stayed until the bus ride home. On the bus, they exchanged books and discussed favorite authors. If high school kids are willing to dish out $17 on books at the mall, then why isn't a room the size of a basketball gym full of books free of charge appealing to them?

from Give me a reason to go to the library by student Andrea Drusch in the Dallas News, Saturday, September 29, 2007. (Thanks to Mary Ludwick for sharing this on LM_Net.)

School library media specialists, are we listening or simply going into a defensive/reactionary mode?



How can we help shape teacher attitudes toward technology?

In a recent blog post I wrote that I always find it amazing (and even a little frustrating) that some teachers can't get enough technology in their classrooms and give their kids enough experiences using it, while other teachers still grumble at even having to use anything more complicated than an overhead projector. And that I don't think it breaks down neatly along generational lines.

It has to do with attitude. As Henry Ford once observed, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right." So I've been thinking again about how can we help shape teacher attitudes toward technology.

This has been a hot enough topic in the blogosphere lately, I thought it might be time to dust off my "If You Can Do a Thing" presentation and submit it as a session proposal for NECC. It's early enough that if it is accepted, I can revise and re-give this survey in my district. How might this tool be improved?

The last time it was given, we developed these stategies from helping shape teacher tech attitudes:

  • Stress the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) reasons for computer use. Any inservice or new project should have at its heart the clear goal of making a teacher’s job easier or providing the kind of exciting learning opportunities that make teaching more enjoyable. (Examined at length in a column, too.)
  • Give the end user (teacher) a voice in deciding equipment platforms, software adopted, and timelines for implementation. Everybody hates top-down edicts. Make them as seldom as possible.
  • Take a hard look at your inservice times to make sure they are as convenient as possible for teachers. Consider a range of training options that suit individual teacher learning styles. While many people learn well in hands-on, face-to-face training sessions, others may prefer online or video instruction, well-written tutorials, or simply the time and peace needed to learn through experimentation.
  • Adjust the attitude of the technology support staff. As all of us help teachers with computer hardware and use problems, are we doing our best in making sure they are respected for the intelligent, loveable people they really are?

Sound reasonable?


LoveNYC.jpgOff to Long Island to give a day of presentations for a BOCES and then a long weekend on Manhattan with the LWW. The Skunk will be silent for a few days.



Lecture or conversation

The following is a (slightly expanded) response I left on Will Richardson's blog entry "Thinking Disruptively About Conference Presentations." In his wonderfully angst-ridden style, Will reveals:

"...I find myself more and more questioning the “get up in the front of the room and impart knowledge” model that is so thick with irony in the context of this conversation that it just doesn’t feel quite right anymore." 

and goes on to write about doing sessions that are guided conversations instead. Hmmmm, let's think about this.

andor.jpgHi Will,

My sense here is that you've fallen into an "or" approach to conference sessions. Great conference presenters - at least those I gain the most from - provide both expert content and facilitate conversations and/or application. In fact, I would guess most people are unhappy with a purely process approach (Why did I pay my money if I don't get good dope from an expert?) OR pure lecture (Why is this boring person just talking at me?)

I am also going to offer up a small defense of traditional conference sessions (which I posted a few days ago on my blog):

Sit and Git, Spray and Pray (or whatever the clever derogatory appellation du jour for short sessions offered during professional development days or conferences) - such learning opportunities ought not to be simply dismissed as ineffective and drop kicked from the educational ball field. Like classroom lectures, good short sessions can be effective in meeting specific purposes. Those include:
  1. Introducing participants to a new concept, theory or practice with the expectation of self-directed follow-up. (What is meant by authentic assessment?)
  2. Teaching specific, useful skills, especially if practiced within the time allotted. (How to design a good rubric.)
  3. Bending a mindset or encouraging an action. (Assessments can be used not just for ranking students, but to actually improve the learning process.) Think of the great speakers on TED.
Concrete, even discrete, learning opportunities have a place in professional development, provided they are part of a larger profession growth plan.

Quite honestly, Will, were I to hire you to come speak at my conference or in my district, I'd want more than just a conversation. I'd want some expertise, some attention-grabbing, mind altering lecture, AND some constructivist-type activities. I want it all and that would be why you'd be gettin' the big bucks!

Oh, I thought the Edubloggers thing at NECC was a blast, but I enjoyed because of the social aspects and not because I took away much that was useful.

All the best,


Will, I appreciate the impetus for thinking a bit about this. I suspect I sound a bit defensive because on the lecture-conversation continuum, I definitely drift toward the lecture end. (One is never bored when one is doing the talking.) With speaking engagements at seven conferences coming up in the next month and a half, it's an opportune time for reflection. I just wish I had your gravitas so I could be angst-ridden instead of simply confused.