Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sardines, Networks, and Hope -- CCK08

Some years ago, teachers in a large urban district --first energized by professional development that helped them integrate technology effectively into learning for their students, then discouraged and frustrated by inappropriate filters and unsupportive administrators-- pledged to join the ranks of “committed sardines” when I shared with them Ian Jukes’ metaphor. Through some of the most trying times, the mention of “committed sardines”, would bring a smile, renewed dedication and a hope that that “critical mass” of those working for change might soon be reached so that we could move forward in providing authentic, meaningful learning for students.

Years have come and gone. Change has been minimal at best and in reality, at least in the large district of which I spoke, has been reversed. Where is that critical mass? Why didn’t it materialize? Similar questions traverse the globe in the edublogosphere with murmurs, then raised voices, strong and respected voices asking when and how to move out of the echo chamber. An event prompts a surge in activity, then discouragement, and here we are---

Now the future –and with a future now ahead of us that many cannot envision, are we asking the right questions? Are the questions posed at more appropriate for our time?
1.“To what extent are we prepared, as a society and as educators, for the massive changes in human capabilities that digital technologies are likely to enable in the next 13 years?
2.To what extent are our future visions for education based upon assumptions about humanity, society and technology that are no longer valid?
3.To what extent can we, as educators, help to shape the developments of technology in order to enhance human development?”
Their projections for the future-- exciting, intriguing, transformative—I hope to live to experience just a bit of what they describe. However, as noted, the implications for education are enormous, and daunting:
"The development of new communication tools, the creation of resources that allow us to record our lives and everything we see and interact with, the development of constant connectivity and instant interaction with our environment, raise profound questions about what it is that we need to know and be able to do as humans as we become increasingly like cyborgs."
And their suggestions resonate with me:
"We need to develop the mechanisms for an open and public debate on the nature and purpose of education in the digital age which goes beyond safe slogans such as ‘meeting the needs of every child’ (who can disagree with that?). Instead, we need to confront the fact that longstanding assumptions about what education is for, who conducts it, and how it is assessed, may need to be challenged. And this challenge will need to take place in the public spaces of the media, not the confines of the education community –

It is not possible to make decisions about the future of education in a vacuum– we need to systematically model and build a new education system and offer examples of possible futures that are accessible not only to researchers, technologists and politicians but to parents, children and local communities."
The discussions around the issue of change within the diverse CCK08 community have been enthusiastic, informed, and truly energizing; yet, as diverse as this community is, its membership draws significantly from the field of education.

I’m wondering if we each adopt the mantra from Mike’s incredibly eloquent, passioned rant, which touched the depth of my soul:
"For those of us who believe the course of education needs to change, it seems to me that the most important things that we can do to affect this change are to trust our beliefs, remain vigilant in our cause, realise that each of our contributions are singularly important in their own right, and maintain the hope that so long as we enact the changes we want to see in education we will eventually realise the goal."
and couple with that the building of a powerful network, of connections the current technology now affords- couldn’t this discussion of the future of learning and education be moved and connected to the public spaces mentioned --- researchers, innovators, parents, children, and communities –accessing the power of collective wisdom? Aren’t the underlying tenets of connected/ networked learning and the networks the right foundation on which to grow the change?

Reading the work of the, reflecting upon the landscape of connected /networked learning, experiencing the potential of the network, remembering the metaphor of the committed sardines –all converging---

There is hope, for—
"Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." --Lin Yutang

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