EdTech & Design, Opinion, Promising Practices

Déja, Déja Vu

Some cautionary notes on how NOT to convince education decision-makers to embrace technology integration

So I recently attended yet another conference on ….21st Century Learning.  I heard the keynotes and attended the workshops. I listened attentively to what delegates were saying and of course, it all led to the issue of integrating technology in education. I remain concerned that the discourse has not changed in decades and the new “corps” of my technology-in-education colleagues are doing their best to convince decision-makers that the time is now using old strategies that have simply not worked.

As I said to my colleague Bruce Dixon of the Anywhere Anytime Learning Foundation, who was one of the keynote speakers, “Remember Bruce, the conference you organized in June 2010, in Maine, in which you assembled a representative group of the past “leaders” in technology in education? The focus of the conference was simple and pragmatic: Why have we failed to convince more people of the need to effectively integrate technology into the classroom?”  Bruce just looked at me and smiled appreciatively.

In 2012, the school district leaders and trustees who make a move to introduce system wide technology integration are still embarking upon a very lonely path.

So, as I listen to the next generation trying their best to convince decision-makers of the need to invest in and integrate technology into the classroom, here are some cautionary notes for these “new” presentations.

  1. Telling delegates that they are out of touch with the youth of today won’t convince.
  2. Showing demonstrations of how technology is evolving, especially social media, won’t convince.
  3. Stating to delegates that the pedagogy currently being used in schools is out of touch won’t convince.
  4. Showing impressive works and creativity of today’s youth won’t convince.
  5. Using phraseology that was used in the late 1980’s like it’s current thinking won’t convince.
  6. Believing that Early Adaptors convince, won’t convince.
  7. Organizing events being surrounded with like-minded delegates won’t convince.

And here are a few other realities:

  1. By now, 2012, if technology is not any further ahead in being integrated into the classroom, there are definitely other issues that are simply not being addressed, or rather, being given more lip service.  Leadership is most definitely the first and foremost critical element. In attending one workshop, hosted by a district leader and a school principal (designated the 21st Century Principal or something similar), I immediately noticed how impressed the delegates were with the latter’s comprehension and appreciation of the significance, potential, and critical role that technology can play in classrooms. But towards the end of the workshop, the most critical question was posed to the principal, “How did it happen in his district?”  And the answer was that the superintendent and the trustees made it happen, first and foremost. Leadership, Leadership, Leadership.  And as I have stated on and on and on, “No Courage, No Change.” In 2012, the school district leaders and trustees who make a move to introduce system wide technology integration are still embarking upon a very lonely path.
  2. Since I talk mostly about Courage and Passion, technology conferences aren’t really keen on this message since hearing the impressive results of technology in the classroom is much more enticing for sponsors. Showing how some talented students have become maestro entrepreneurs, agents of social change, etc., is very appealing and noteworthy. However, that too fails to convince decision-makers to change.
  3. Enhancing the classroom environment remains and should be the critical focus of our efforts. Every teacher wants the best tools available to ensure that students are getting the best education possible. Supporting teachers in classrooms is critical. Changing outdated and poor professional development models has never been so urgent.
  4. Engaging students, especially in the domain of intellectual engagement, is a must for all classrooms. This can be attained with a caring, passionate teacher, plain and simple.

So, you may now understand the title of this blog.

Meet the Expert(s)

Ron Canuel

Ron Canuel

Ron Canuel is the former President and CEO of the Canadian Education Association. He has over 40 years of experience in the public education sector. As the former Director General of the Eastern Towns...

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