A bride stole my show

BrideSurvived the two days of ‘teacher development’ before the students fill the classroom on Monday!

The standard PowerPoint overkill on compliance, procedures, initiatives, scores etc breached just about every rule of good communication, so I decided to cut my presentation from 30-45 minute mix of ‘tech stuff’ and animation (see the intended icebreaker monkeys below, text here) to a very brief 10 minute stand-up address. Even though a bride-to-be upstaged my presentation (no kidding, she walked in about 2 minutes into it and had everyone admiring her dress…she did look stunning, best wishes!), I think I managed to sow a few seeds without those glazed looks on people’s faces.

I flagged the running and the format of regular workshops on the use of technology in class but I didn’t tell staff what the workshops will be on. Moodle is probably a gimmie, but the rest….?

I was inspired to write this post by Darcy Moore’s ISER Conference Presentation where he talks about professional learning networks, future of learning and a bit of his vision for the Region 2.0 (Darcy is a school administrator in NSW and holds an increasingly loud and persuasive megaphone so dream of Region 2.0 is not that far fetched. Good luck!). He even argues for compulsory ‘2.0 training’, much like in eg. child protection, literacy and other areas.

One thing really struck me before my presentation and later as I read Darcy’s post. The basic skills of ‘Web 2.0’ or ‘read’n’write Web’ alone are actually so easy to ‘get’ and learn compared to say the workings of MS Office or similar. I dare say that learning basic Twitter is ‘ten times’ easier and faster than learning Excel or PowerPoint. What is more, with Twitter you connect with people, with Excel it’s you, the (to many ‘dreaded’) machine and that annoying paper clip ‘assistant’ to ‘help you’ with 2,500 features. Yeah right!

So, in our workshops we are doing away with what to many probably feels like a common sense, linear progress (“First, the beginner level of MS Word”) – we’re ‘going 2.0’ straight up. It’s easier, more human and terribly useful. We’ll start looking for people and learning just the necessary things as we go and solve problems, in context, with and for others.

At the same time as I plunge myself and our staff into this, I am acutely aware of the danger of getting caught in the ‘science’ of getting the right, the latest, the best, the most ‘time saving’ technology (yeah, wasn’t that a doozy, ask Robert Owen and his ‘technology will set us free’ ideals centuries ago) or the mistake of confusing production of flashy pixelated content with (critical) thinking, the annoying rhetoric of “excellence”, “necessity”, and technological determinism (“learn the latest IT tools or perish”).

To chase the elusive ‘best’ would be to miss the enormous human potential of Web 2.0. And that is what I would like our staff and students to feel. I neither can or want to tell them how to feel about ‘2.0’ or how (not) to value it, but I can help them (hopefully) enjoy it and benefit from it professionally and personally. This stuff is not a panacea, but a super-placebo that needs to be believed in order to work.

Web 2.0 is not some esoteric niche of the nerdy domain. Things are beginning to and will continue to change in the direction talked about here. If business and economy are the engine of change (sadly, not education) we are heading there. Some of the clever(est) companies are using ‘2.0’ tools more and more not just to move their stuff but to research and recruit. Now imagine university or job entry criteria as a portfolio of published and critiqued material, amount, extent and quality of social and professional networks etc.? It would leave the quasi-science of exams, school scores, and the false meritocracy of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools for dead in its ability to accurately pick a great prospective student or worker. All of this could (well, does) work across the boundaries of schools, cultures, countries and continents.

Utopia? Ask me in five years time.

And how are we going to teach the teachers to use this ‘stuff’? Workshops and collegial PD are fine but by far the best people to do it would be their students themselves. Like an example from our school?

At the start of the Career and Enterprise course this year (another bloody thing I coordinate at our school 😀 , all students will get to create their own VisualCV (yep, heard it via Twitter, thanks @digitalmaverick). VisualCV is a great tool to easily create a great looking online resume and portfolio, which could be shared, controlled, and ‘mashed up’ in a way these kids are so familiar from their MySpace, Bebo, Facebook etc. All in all, it works on the basic principles of Web 2.0.

Now, most of the teachers teaching this course have little or no idea about the basic 2.0 lingo such as ‘RSS’, ’embed’, ‘share’, ‘comment’, ‘tag’, ‘friend/follow’, ‘post/publish’. However, I am completely confident that the students, 90% of whom own and maintain a webspace of their own, will be happy to show teachers not versed in the technology how to use it, why, even what the potential dangers of it are. And what better way for teachers to learn some valuable new skills and concepts and build a relationship with their (new) class at the start of the school year. If you ask any half-decent teacher – relationship is the ‘game-set-match’ of great education.

Maybe the bride that stole my show on Friday was a sign of wonderful things to come…

PS The ‘icebreaker’ monkeys on why things don’t change below, accompanying short story here. To share and comment on, of course 😀

One comment

  1. Darcy Moore

    Tomaz, thanks for linking and your words. I think most probably do think it is all a bit ‘far-fetched’ but you are right about Excel, never mastered it (far too hard and boring ;O). The tools I mention – RSS, Google Reader, WordPress, Delicious & Twitter – are so very simple in comparison. TTWADI syndrome I believe, is now curable!

    Cheers,
    Darcy

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