Friday, 13 May 2011

Setting the Stage

I somehow managed to fanangle my way into an Edtech symposium this week on the sustainable development of digital technology in education. Amidst former deputy ministers of education, board CIOs and other provincial education types I got to see the other side of the equation.

This year as head of Computers/IT has been good for this actually, getting my head out of the classroom context and seeing the bigger picture. I've been able to attend imaging committee meetings at the board level and gained an understanding of why everyone can't have whatever they want. At this past meeting I tweeted that I felt like a sergeant from the trenches who suddenly found himself in a 5-star strategic planning meeting; it was engrossing.

From Hamilton-Wentworth's awesome curriculum push into 21st Century Fluencies to what New Brunswick has been doing to get ahead of the game, I found the board and provincial interest in pushing ahead with our use of technology in the class to be... a relief!

During any battle to use digital technology in the class room (getting access, getting it to work, getting students over their jitters), I often feel like I'm losing ground. I'll take one step forward in implementing a new piece of technology in a lesson or on a school wide basis, and get knocked back two steps by angry senior teachers who feel out of step with what's going on, or lack of access to equipment, or failure of the tech, or OCT/board restrictions that seem panicky and unfounded, or the union telling of a horror story that seems to justify panicky and unfounded restrictions...

One of my preliminary thoughts before I went was to ask about how to beat the malaise of that feeling; how not to give up. I've heard from colleagues about how they burn out trying to push that envelope, and ultimately just disappear back into their classrooms and do their own thing. John Kershaw had an honest and helpful response to the question:

During his talk he spoke of a big set back where the winning party in an election used his one laptop per student policy as an example of government waste, and won on it, after telling him that they supported the program. This is exactly the kind of thing that brings idealists to their knees. His solution was pragmatic: work on your environment. Set the stage so that what you're doing becomes a certainty, if not now, then eventually.

In the case of the laptop plan, he'd done groundwork with business groups (who were onside for more digitally literate graduates), the general public (who wanted their children more literate with technology), and the school system (who wanted to better prepare their students for their futures). That groundwork meant that even though the politics turned on him in the moment, the plan eventually went through, and he got what he thought was important; a New Brunswick education system that actually mattered in a 21st Century context.

I've been thinking over his for a few days now. If you're on the right side of history, if you know you're fighting a good fight, you've got to shrug off the knock backs. If you keep working to create the environment you're aiming for, and you know you're part of a wave of change, have some faith in the fact that the truth of what you're trying to do will eventually win out.