Remaking education in the image of our desires

This post by George Siemens is some good reading for you this weekend.  I love the quote below, but do read the whole thing.


The internet has already transformed music, news, entertainment, and business. Education is trailing those sectors, but not for long. Online learning has grown consistently over the last decade. Judging from current hype and interest, blended/online learning is about to explode.

via elearnspace › Remaking education in the image of our desires.

Just had this conversation this morning… Remember when your banking only took place at the bank, when your bank decided to be open? (Never hear anyone even use the term “banker’s hours” anymore.) When and where do you do take care of your money needs now? I don’t foresee a drive up window at your local elementary school in the near future, but time and location for education is likely to drastically change. There certainly is a lot of uncertainty in education right now, but it is exciting. Some may see it as a dismantling of a fine American institution, but maybe we should look at it as a needed rebuilding.

Being tech savvy, an apology with context

Earlier today I tweeted “Wondering how long educators will keep referring to themselves as tech savvy. At some point that will be the default.” Then I followed that up with “Being tech savvy is a good thing, but announcing it is kind of like saying, ‘I like kids.’ Should be a universal expectation for teachers.”

I reread those two thoughts a couple hours later and thought it sounded quite judgmental and critical of people who say they are tech savvy. I can’t stand it when people get judgmental. I HATE it when I get judgemental. Without any context of the other thoughts in my mind, I think it looked like I was being critical of those who share that they do have knowledge and skill in the area of technology integration in schools. Jerk. Some of my best friends (PLN as well as “real life”) truththfully proclaim that they are tech savvy. They should. They are very smart, dedicated, hard working people who use best instructional practices (not just tech) to provide what their students need. They have every right to state the skills they have developed.

There was the apology for playing the part of the high and mighty administrator with a Twitter account. Now some context.

So what does it mean to be tech savvy? Looking at the word ‘savvy,’ I see a relation to the French word ‘savoir,’ which means ‘to know.’ (Thank you Madame Farrell! You taught me well. Also, I’m sure there is a link to a Latin word as well, so next stop after I finish this post is an online dictionary for some amateur etymology work.) For me, ‘tech’ means the computery and softwarey tools that can be used in schools to help kids learn and do what teachers say they should learn and do. Pair the two together and it means that an educator (not just teachers) can use computer gadgets and software to help students. The tech savvy teacher used her iPad to update her class web page with a video of the newly moulted meal worms so kids could show their parents what they saw at school.

That is my utilitarian definition of being tech savvy, but make sure you take a look at the National Educational Technology Standards from ISTE. There you can find a variety of definitions and resources for what it means to be “learning, leading, and teaching in the digital age.”

So what is up with the educator, especially a teacher, who doesn’t possess and display adequate technology skills? Are they just not smart enough? Nope, plenty smart enough. If you know how to teach a 6 year old to read, you are brilliant. Do they just not care about learning new practices? Not it either. Approaches and philosophies for reading instruction (other subjects/skills too) change fairly often. Those are complicated processes and practices. Teachers seem to learn those and put them to use quite well.

So what is the issue? Why don’t more educators have the skills to take advantage of all the educational technology that is out there? Let’s modify that questions slightly and change educators to students. “Why don’t more students have the skills to…?” A thoughtful teacher would never take the easy (and judgmental!) route and say, “They just aren’t smart enough. They just don’t want to learn. They just don’t care.” The thoughtful teacher would say, “I guess I haven’t engaged them enough and/or taught them what they need to know. Maybe I wasn’t emphatic enough about the importance of learning this content and these skills.”

That holds true for any skills and knowledge that we want our educators to have. If we think that technological literacy is important, we need to provide the motivation (“This is crucial. You must know this.”) and resources (time and money) for effective professional development to happen. Who the heck is this we that needs to provide these resources? The we would be all the stakeholders in an educational community (more than just schools). Teachers should recognize their own need for PD if they are to implement these tools and practices, and then ask for those opportunities. Administrators and school boards control budgets, schedules, and policies. If instructional technology (tools and practices) are important, then make it a priority in these budgets, schedules, and policies. Parents and other community members need to advocate for the use of best instructional practices and resources (tech is just one part) in their community schools.

We expect our students to be digitally literate as part of displaying 21st century skills. Shouldn’t we expect the same of ourselves as educators? Expecting this is only the first easy step. Planning and doing it will be the hard part.

Back to my tweets that got me writing about this. I look forward to the day when all educators are tech savvy and that particular skill set doesn’t need to be discretely stated. Digital literacy should be a universal expectation for all of us who work with students young and old. General savviness and adaptability should be a universal expectation for educators as well. Change in education has been a constant activity, and I imagine that dynamism will only become stronger and swifter.

4/19/12 update: Ryan Bretag writes a great post along these same lines. Simply buying tech devices does not remove the need for professional development and making needed changes for the learning needs of students and staff. If you don’t have Ryan’s blog in your Reader, you should. He really shares some top-notch information regarding educational technology.

Also ran into this post from a few months ago from Pernille Ripp. (another blog to have in your Reader)

P.S. (I like parentheses!)

Syndication note: This piece was originally posted at

Gamestar Mechanic fun

My 9-year-old son Gavin designed the game below on the site (Thanks to @bradfordgs for leading us to this.)

Gavin has had a lot of fun playing the games on the site, learning about the nuances within a good video game, and then designing and trying out his own. He is now to the point where he is soliciting feedback on his games in an effort to make his games better and more interesting.

Gavin wants me to share that the “game of cool” he has built below has 5 levels, it is really hard, but really fun. He says, “Keep trying until you win it.”

When life is like a bowl of pudding

Ever get to that point where life is like pudding? Pleasant, palatable, but not necessarily memorable? Me too. I’m not going to go Dr. Phil on you and tell you what to do about that. You got yourself stuck, so it’s your job to figure out how to turn it around. However, if you already have that itch to get moving on something, these vids might help you lift a foot in the right direction. The best advice I ever got from my dad was, “You know, I don’t know, but you better do something.” (Pops is still alive and well, but this was the best nugget he’s shared with us.)

Make it Count — Love this video’s message about doing something interesting. If your life is boring, do something about it. (I know this video is a corporate-backed, slickly produced marketing tool, but I still like it.) A local friend here in La Crosse, WI (Fred Kusch) shares a similar sentiment. “Either you do, or you don’t. If you don’t, shut up.”

Inspiration: Powerful Beyond Measure (How great are you?) — Physical pain never looked so enjoyable. Hat tip to Spike Cook for this vid. Also Adam Truitt could complete this course in loafers without breaking a sweat. Seriously. The guy single-handedly defends the Western half of Colorado from invaders.

The coup de grace of “get off your rump” videos is this beaut from Ze Frank. The message is outstanding, but quotes from LL Cool J and references to shark jumping make it pure gold. Hat tip to the man who never stops questioning and wondering, the notorious John Pederson. Warning on in your face NSFW language.
An Invocation for Beginnings