Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

Michael Wesch has done it again, and done it well.

He's a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University and he created this video with his students. Or maybe I should say that his students created it with him, since it came out of a Google Doc worked on by all 200 of them. Like his previous video, The Machine is Us/ing Us, he shows some of the implications of Web 2.0.

At the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, Will Richardson encouraged us to look at conversations outside of education to inform our practice and help us envision the needed changes. He made me realize how much of what I read has been written by classroom teachers, which is good, but limiting.

Being a cultural anthropologist, Michael Wesch brings a different perspective to the issue of 21st Century Literacy. For example, in "The Machine is US/ing Us", he starts out showing how digital text is different than printed text and then goes on to show the implications of that, how it has changed and is changing the world. By the end, he is pushing us to reconsider key definitions of copyright, and even family.

This new video is yet another push that I need to start making changes. I do all this reading and thinking, but not much acting. I was much more constructive and progressive as a classroom teacher than I am as a technology coordinator. Part of that is due to the tremendous learning curve I went through last year working in a new school in a new country on a platform new to me. Part of it is working in such a large school. As a classroom teacher, I could still close my door and move ahead on my own, if need be. Now I am a coordinator trying to move 50+ teachers and more than 800 students forward.

Those are all valid excuses, but they are still excuses. As I get a better handle on this job, one of my obstacles now is empathizing too much with the classroom teachers. They are so stressed, always working so hard, that I am loathe to add more to their load. I too clearly remember the heavy feeling of not being able to add one more thing to my schedule without imploding.

When I was a classroom teacher, I turned to tech in part because it made my job easier, and also because I was finding it the most effective way to make the curriculum more engaging and meaningful. When I was a technology integration specialist in Malaysia, with some teachers I was able to share this vision, help them move along. I think most would did so would admit that it didn't exactly make their job easier, but it was such a powerful learning tool that it was worth the effort. [I find it interesting that the projects I created with them were much richer, more worthwhile than the projects I did as prep activities. All I can say is that I was new to the job and kept teaching the outcomes, even though the outcomes were too skills based.]

So, it looks like my challenge this year, is to keep pondering the messages of Michael Wesch, Karl Fisch's "Did You Know?", and Kim Cofino's definition of 21st Literacy Century, to make me passionate enough about all of this that I DO feel justified in adding on to the teacher's burdens. Hopefully I'll find a way to keep it from being a burden to them. Either way, that's my job. I'd better get to it!

Thanks to Bud Hunt for Tweeting about it. (How exactly, should we credit Tweet sources? It there an APA citation format for Twitter yet?)