Fear

Fear
Fear

If you’ve been around the ed-tech universe lately, you’ve probably heard’em all:

  • it is imperative we change education from the industrial revolution paradigm to a more creative, collaborative, connected endeavour
  • digital technologies afford us to do it so easily – just look at us and so many kids doing this ‘Web Two Oh’ stuff and flourishing
  • standardised testing is cancer of education, death of learning
  • we can learn anytime, anywhere like no other time in human history
  • it’s about personalising learning, connecting, constructing together
  • we need the political will and leadership to make these changes
  • we can’t ignore the fact that kids today send bazillion text messages a minute, friend thousands and Skype their grandma across the world at the drop of a hat … but they ‘power down’ when they come to school
  • social media is the new way of communicating, learning, working together
  • creativity is the new currency and schooling kills it
  • tech is the great leveller
  • pro-ams, long tail, cognitive surplus and flat world are becoming the norm, maaan
  • so many teachers just wouldn’t listen, refuse to engage and frankly, are poor learning role models for the kids in front of them
  • add so on …

Add a few more, find a couple of nice pictures to go with it (all kosher with Creative Commons, of course) and you can charge yourself out at a nice speaking fee. Many ‘gurus’ do.

Now, I am not cynically dissing something I have been a part of for many years now. I love it. I DO think it is the way of the future and the future may be a little brighter (especially if you are with the ‘in’ crowd…).

In this discourse teachers, the much maligned and much adored creatures, favourite topic of pundits (Presidents, Prime Ministers, obscenely rich and other ‘dignitaries’ included)  are the source of inspiration and frustration. But the bulk of teachers are pretty much still plugging away as they have for the last few decades.

“Why haven’t things changed, why aren’t teachers more creative, passionate, wanting to learn about what they do?” often goes with the undertone of grinding teeth in disbelief at practice of some of our colleagues. Well, I have a hunch …

I tweeted this earlier today:

What’s holding education ‘stuck’ isn’t lack of creativity, passion or knowledge of teachers but fears. Can you name some? Thx #edfear

and got some great responses, most of them tagged (on Twitter) with #edfear hashtag :

  • Teaching stdnts wrong stuff not backed by authority. Stdnts not learning formal.critical thinking. They are my personal ones #edfear (@sirexkat)
  • 1. Fear of failure 2. Fear of job loss 3. Fear of Criticism 4. Fear of Success 5. Fear of being the only one (@weemooseus)
  • #edfear being sacked, learners with ego problems, frightened administrators, poor curricula (@philhart)
  • #edfear: fear of doing something that is too new/innovative to have any academic research to prove its worth (@malynmawby)
  • the usual fear of the unknown not all educators are adventurous and keen to dive into a new technoworld #edfear (@playnice_nz)
  • not sure the teachers with the biggest fears will be on twitter. #edfear (@kanemayhew) 🙂
  • Fear from parents that their child will be missing something essential. (@bonitadee)
  • What’s holding education ‘stuck’ …Fear of missing something…we must cover it all #edfear (@bonitadee)
  • fear of change, being ir/relevant, keeping up – infowhelm, time to maintain/update skills #edfear – see Cloudworks too (@k8tra)
  • Is the number one #edfear the loss of the self-perception as ‘giver of knowledge’? (@irasocol)
  • Is the number two #edfear the identity hit which comes from understanding that you’ve succeeded in a terrible system? (@irasocol)
  • fear of failure, change, conflict, ostracism – and all of these are from ‘the lizard brain’ (@mrwejr)
  • key fear is ‘what if it goes wrong’? Also not all leaders are creative…many just want a steady ship #edfear (@dmchugh675)
  • school leaders fear vocal parents who believe that the things that worked for them in their education should still work today.#edfear (@dmchugh675)
  • Creativity Fear – Fear that if I introduce creative activities I won’t be able to adequately compare or assess their work. #edfear (@funcreativity)
  • #edfear fear of failure? fear of wasting time? fear of inertia? (@tokyoedtech)

… and hopefully more to come. Thank you all who have replied (and if don’t follow these guys yet, a good list to connect with!)

I am not offering any definitive answers here, deliberately so. I do have a hunch (I’ve even sent a draft proposal for a PhD proposal looking at this sort of thing today, *gulp*) but I am ‘fishing for ideas’ … in a fine connected manner 😀 . So, that tweet  again:

What’s holding education ‘stuck’ isn’t lack of creativity, passion or knowledge of teachers but fears. Can you name some? Thx #edfear

I would love to hear from you, comments or @ replies (@lasic, tag #edfear) all fine. Many thanks!

8 comments

  1. Pingback: Change in education, failure to learn and the commodification of university « The Weblog of (a) David Jones
  2. Pingback: Change in education, failure to learn and the commodification of university « The Weblog of (a) David Jones
  3. Geoff Allemand aka @scratchie

    Great post. You are right on the money.
    I read a post by Steven Pressfield not long back on the War of Art. It was all about fear (he called it resistance).
    You can read more about it below.
    http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/#book-top

    He gave a list of activities that commonly elicit Resistance…”Education of every kind”.
    I gather he was referring to students and teachers all experience “resistance/fear” when learning anything new.

    I was so impressed with what he was writing about I bought the book.

  4. Geoff Allemand aka @scratchie

    Great post. You are right on the money.
    I read a post by Steven Pressfield not long back on the War of Art. It was all about fear (he called it resistance).
    You can read more about it below.
    http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/#book-top

    He gave a list of activities that commonly elicit Resistance…”Education of every kind”.
    I gather he was referring to students and teachers all experience “resistance/fear” when learning anything new.

    I was so impressed with what he was writing about I bought the book.

  5. Janet Laane Effron

    This really got me thinking; the issues here are very real, in both schools and in organizations’ training departments. I started to write a reply, which got long enough to be a blog on its own, but can be summarized as follows:

    The fears that exist around implementing learning reforms have some basis in fact (painful past experiences that fell flat, among other things). If we address what is required to support successful change before implementing it, then those (rational) fears can be greatly reduced:

    – If we change the methods, but the foundations (environment (physical and social), preparation, etc.) remain the same, we won’t be able to judge the value of a new method. If you ran a freight train on the highway, you would not have a good measure of the value of the train or the highway – the tool and the foundation just don’t match.

    – Changing learning also means changing how we prepare the teachers/instructors. It takes a very different set of skills and understanding to teach in a creative, non-linear, collaborative or other innovative way. (e.g. Feynman could pull off his “Lectures on Physics” only because he had such a deep, intuitive grasp of his material, that he could manage to cover all the necessary material even though he was teaching in a very non-standard way).

    – There have been a lot of learning theories and approaches that have been embraced and debunked. We have to look at data, we have to look at common sense and case studies: some notions are very appealing, but if they’re based on faulty assumptions, then they need to be let go, however attractive they may seem.

  6. Janet Laane Effron

    This really got me thinking; the issues here are very real, in both schools and in organizations’ training departments. I started to write a reply, which got long enough to be a blog on its own, but can be summarized as follows:

    The fears that exist around implementing learning reforms have some basis in fact (painful past experiences that fell flat, among other things). If we address what is required to support successful change before implementing it, then those (rational) fears can be greatly reduced:

    – If we change the methods, but the foundations (environment (physical and social), preparation, etc.) remain the same, we won’t be able to judge the value of a new method. If you ran a freight train on the highway, you would not have a good measure of the value of the train or the highway – the tool and the foundation just don’t match.

    – Changing learning also means changing how we prepare the teachers/instructors. It takes a very different set of skills and understanding to teach in a creative, non-linear, collaborative or other innovative way. (e.g. Feynman could pull off his “Lectures on Physics” only because he had such a deep, intuitive grasp of his material, that he could manage to cover all the necessary material even though he was teaching in a very non-standard way).

    – There have been a lot of learning theories and approaches that have been embraced and debunked. We have to look at data, we have to look at common sense and case studies: some notions are very appealing, but if they’re based on faulty assumptions, then they need to be let go, however attractive they may seem.

  7. human

    Hi Janet, so glad you’ve continued our little Twitter conversation with your insights here

    Rational and fear rarely go together (‘rational’ is a social construct after all and fear … yeah, “clowns are dangerous”, right? ;-)) but their interplay cannot be ignored, definitely.

    Re methods, indeed, an oft-used quip: “Paper worksheet or online worksheet is still a worksheet. I told you, this online thing just doesn’t work!!!”

    Changing learning? I don’t think we have changed the ways we learn (a mighty dangerous fallacy actually…), we’ve simply continuously changed the ways in which we find and receive raw data, information. Information is a mere provocation of meaning and DOES NOT equal knowledge. Knowledge, or better ‘what we know’, is what we are built of (an ontological, rather than purely epistemological angle I am keen to explore in my thesis…).

    For my 2c, until we probe and ask some of the very much existential questions of educational ‘players’ (see for example, Ira Socol’s (and others in #edchat tag in Twitter) remark about teachers’ fearing the loss of self-perception as a ‘giver’ of knowledge (and student as ‘receiver’) and the likes, we are merely tinkering and rotating endlessly in the whirlpool of ‘innovations’ and learning theories that frankly do ‘bugger all’ as we’d say it here in Australia 😀

    Re teaching: Deep understanding of context and content is indeed necessary for ‘expert teaching’ (Schulman), add a technological dimension (Mishra & Koehler’s ‘TPACK’) and we’re getting there …

    Re assumptions: An equilibrium between common sense, ethics, imagination, intuition, memory and reason (not my list but one to think about as its author John Ralston Saul “On Equilibirum” would say; not a ‘gospel’ but an eloquent something to think about) may never be fully reached but that should not stop us trying to struggle for it.

    Thank you Janet

  8. human

    Hi Janet, so glad you’ve continued our little Twitter conversation with your insights here

    Rational and fear rarely go together (‘rational’ is a social construct after all and fear … yeah, “clowns are dangerous”, right? ;-)) but their interplay cannot be ignored, definitely.

    Re methods, indeed, an oft-used quip: “Paper worksheet or online worksheet is still a worksheet. I told you, this online thing just doesn’t work!!!”

    Changing learning? I don’t think we have changed the ways we learn (a mighty dangerous fallacy actually…), we’ve simply continuously changed the ways in which we find and receive raw data, information. Information is a mere provocation of meaning and DOES NOT equal knowledge. Knowledge, or better ‘what we know’, is what we are built of (an ontological, rather than purely epistemological angle I am keen to explore in my thesis…).

    For my 2c, until we probe and ask some of the very much existential questions of educational ‘players’ (see for example, Ira Socol’s (and others in #edchat tag in Twitter) remark about teachers’ fearing the loss of self-perception as a ‘giver’ of knowledge (and student as ‘receiver’) and the likes, we are merely tinkering and rotating endlessly in the whirlpool of ‘innovations’ and learning theories that frankly do ‘bugger all’ as we’d say it here in Australia 😀

    Re teaching: Deep understanding of context and content is indeed necessary for ‘expert teaching’ (Schulman), add a technological dimension (Mishra & Koehler’s ‘TPACK’) and we’re getting there …

    Re assumptions: An equilibrium between common sense, ethics, imagination, intuition, memory and reason (not my list but one to think about as its author John Ralston Saul “On Equilibirum” would say; not a ‘gospel’ but an eloquent something to think about) may never be fully reached but that should not stop us trying to struggle for it.

    Thank you Janet

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