Change is hard. Shifting one's thinking or habits for long enough to engrain a new way of doing something takes willpower...and lots of support...and time. And I'm talking about a single human being here; for one person it's tough to make change, and to make it stick. Multiply the challenges inherent to change by a number of people, add the sticking points that come with an organization or institution, pile on negative comments from nay-sayers and doubters, and the ability to change at the system level increases exponentially. This is the nature of change in a school system, sadly.
We tend to do things the way we have always done them, even when they don't work. The model of insanity. And yet, in schools across the country, we continue to "provide" students with one-size-fits-all education, slap a label on it and call it "differentiated" because we photocopy three different versions of the same worksheet, and pat ourselves on the back because it's standards-aligned. And when the students continue to trudge along making painfully slow growth, or when they are bored to tears by another "sage on the stage" teacher lecture, or when they drop out of junior high or high school because they see so little that is relevant to their own lives, we blame it on student motivation...or the student's homelife...or lack of foundational skills.
And we keep right on doing what we have always done.
The chapter in Moore and Kearsley this week certainly does provide a challenge to break the mold, to consider the evidence and research and case studies and examples they provide in the previous eleven chapters...and then to do things differently. To stop nodding in agreement and actually do something to change the way we teach, based on what has been proven to make a difference and not based on "what worked for us." Yes, adults of today learned without tech tools in their classrooms. BECAUSE TECH TOOLS DIDN'T EXIST when we were in school. Too often, I hear adults who fear what they don't know (technology) argue that students don't "need" laptops and iPads and e-learning and online tools...because they learned just fine without them. Yes, that's true. Because when "we" were in school, we used the tools available to us...even though, at one point in time, those tools may have seemed risky and trendy and unnecessary. I've shared it before, but it's worth another look:
Educators persist in delivering online courses almost exactly the same way they deliver instruction in a f2f classroom...even though the two are very different. The authors' illustration is perfect: "It resembles the response to the first cinematography, in which producers placed a camera in front of the stage to film actors as they performed in ways they had always performed (Moore and Kearsley, p. 283). I see this on a daily basis in classrooms where teachers have state-of-the-art equipment and learning platforms, yet they continue to control the pace of learning, deliver the lecture in a painstakingly slow manner (regardless of student interest or relevance), and demand that students "stay with them" even though the students may already know the content. The tools have changed; the pedagogy has not. Textbooks have very little ability to make a learner "feel." Technology does. It can teach and help us to feel, at the same time. When we are "touched," when we "feel," when we experience, we remember. So...why in the world don't we use technology more in developing content for classrooms? Why don't we leverage the ability technology provides to help us see and hear and experience in ways that a stack of paper and ink simply cannot? Apple gets it:
Moore and Kearsley conclude their text on the topic of distance education by asking the reader to dream about where the field is going "and the part you will play in taking it there" (p. 273). The Apple iPad Air ad I have seen on television several times over the last couple of months asks the same. Is Walt Whitman rolling over in his grave because "the powerful play" and poetry and ecology and art and music and wonder all converge in an advertisement for a piece of technology?
I don't think so.
We stand at a crossroads. Vision and leadership matter. What will tomorrow look like? We are here now, and we are the ones charged with making that decision...and then making the changes required to create a new reality.
Apple. (2014). Apple -- iPad Air -- TV Ad -- Your Verse. [YouTube video]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/jiyIcz7wUH0
Apple. (2013). Apple Special Event. October 22, 2013. [YouTube video]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/4FunXnJQxYU
Don Johnston Incorporated. (2010). The Case Against Assistive Technology. [YouTube video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNs88Ki1WSo&feature=share&list=PL-zdhvrd6kyVOhmm3pOc690EiQkcmcx7V&index=4
Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. [e-book]