An Educator's Manifesto! Arise! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

I’m giving up! I will no longer attempt to inspire the administrators of my school and district with the wonders of Web 2.0.

I will no longer try to interest fellow teachers in amazing new tech tools, if they haven’t already shown some curiosity.

I’ve discovered, after resisting this obvious truth for years, that my job is not to CONVINCE the people closest to me that these things work, but to FIND those, be they in New York, Rome or Timbuktu, who are ALREADY turned on to the modern age! And that’s what I’m going to do from now on! That’s my manifesto!

In my experience of over 35 years in teaching and administration, perhaps one in 50 teachers is curious about new technology (yes, there are over 3000 of us in this Ning group, but I’ll bet my claim is close to correct when you count teachers everywhere). Only one in 100 administrators cares about Web 2.0. And, despite Digital Age propaganda, only one in 6 or 7 students in K-12 is really open to LEARNING in Web 2.0 ways, despite being adept at gossiping on MySpace, watching drivel about Britney Spears on YouTube, and playing Halo 3 on the X-box.

Three times this summer I have sat on committees at conferences with administrators who were experienced, highly paid members of the educational establishment. They were from North America, Europe, and China. They had advanced as far as you can go in their field.
But when I would try to demonstrate new tools to them, things like Eduism, Voicethread, eBoard, Sketchcasting, and other things you read about all the time on this forum, they sat there deaf and dumb like statues. In a couple of cases they maintained a grudging appreciation of Moodle. I told them how I used sites like worldmindnetwork.net, to show kids live streaming video of artists and scientists around the world doing interesting things, or pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes, to involve students with social entrepreneurship in the developing world, or michalebach.de/ot/, a fascinating site full of optical illusions which invites kids to question their beliefs about perception, memory, and truth itself.

All they could say is things like “What particular unit does this fit into?” or “What requirement does this fulfill?” or “How will this improve test scores?”

I mean, like, DUH! [if I may borrow my students’ typical form of expression]
Don’t they see that these things are not about helping kids pass some test, but about INSPIRING kids, who are pre-disposed to hate school, to WANT to learn more? To get them interested in things that they would never in a million years even think of looking up on their own?

THAT is the real meaning of Web 2.0 to me. It’s not about technology itself. It’s about all the new ways of MOTIVATING students to get EXCITED about learning. It’s about getting kids on speaking terms with their intuition. It’s about awakening the fountains of creativity within.
I suppose I’m getting mystical here, but I’m really passionate about this.

Bob

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Here’s a thought that’s scary, funny, and ironic all at the same time: when you and I were kids, people said “Children spend way too much time in front of the TV! They should do more homework!”

Now people say “Children spend way too much time in front of the computer!”

If you had said that in 1985, people would have responded “Wow, they really have a bright future if they are already interested in computers!”

Whereas the sad truth in 2007 is that even though these kids are computer-literate, they are largely using their machines for petty gossip and teen angst on MySpace, vapidly silly videos on YouTube, porn, and violent video games.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Thank you, Bob, for starting this thread. And thanks for introducing us to worldmindnetwork.net and pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/ —my students and I played with these today and found ourselves exploring several enriching and fruitful byways.

E.S.
Thanks, Bob and everyone, for this discussion. As I've browsed these posts I've been reminded of a thought that tends to occur to me a lot lately.
It's easy to get overly excited about the new tools themselves, wondrous as they are, and forget about the social changes being brought about by the Web 2.0 age.
For example, I bet that almost no one is teaching secondary school students that because of the Internet, the way you go about pursuing many professions is very different than it was even 5 years ago. Consider this:
In the last 2 weeks I have read about, in various publications;

-- a girl who is an aspiring singer, and began 'lifecasting' with a live webcam, showing all and sundry not only her music, but her everyday life. Within a few weeks she was receiving thousands of hits to her website and had sold hundreds of CDs of her music, all without signing with a record company, without public performances, and without even leaving home;

-- a young man who started a blog about the upcoming 2008 presidential election, got several second tier candidates to contribute, and eventually gained such exposure for his blog that he is making money with paid advertising;

-- a conceptual artist who created a painting of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il with his own blood, spread the video thereof on YouTube and elsewhere, and now gets hundreds of thousands of hits to his website and is able to sell his artwork online.

Do most teachers today know about these things? More importantly, do they inform their students that these are the ways that many careers involving public exposure will come about in the future?

When I was young, if you asked a teacher how to make a career in, say, music, they might say, "practice hard, get into a good music school, then apply for jobs". In my experience this is still what teachers say.
But it seems to me that they SHOULD be telling teenagers about the methods employed by the people mentioned above.
We’re very close to the point where if you don’t tell your students this, you’re not just being incomplete—you’re actually LYING. It would be as if you were teaching in 1907 instead of 2007, and as you observed automobiles taking over the roads, you advised your students “you should really prepare for a career in the saddle and livery business.”

Just a thought!

Sarah
Sarah,
You are bringing up such an important point, and you've illustrated it with such uplifting examples... thank you so much.
Fascinating thread!

This brings up a question for me: Has anyone here examined the relative popularity of various Web 2.0 phenomena among kids to arrive at tentative conclusions about which thoughts take up more or less time in the brains of youngsters?
This is a question for sociologists, or perhaps psychologists, but I think it might presage great benefits for us who care a lot about education.

Thus, Second Life and other Ulterior Identity sites have about 40 million users. Halo 3 and similar video games have at least 80 million. YouTube (and similar sites like Grouper, Bolt, and Yahoo Video), to which 65,000 videos at least are uploaded every day, have 95 million viewers. And MySpace (plus its competitors like Friendster, Bebo, etc.) has more than 180 million members.

It would be an exaggeration to claim that all these users are under 25, but not too much of an exaggeration.

So based on these admittedly approximate estimates, I would guess that during a typical 24 hour day experienced by an average teenager in the Western World, time spent on various types of thoughts can be broken down thusly:

thinking about peers, social pressure, 'fitting in': 20%
violent thoughts: 15%
fantasies about mythological personae: 10%
thoughts and feelings around sex: 20%
school work 10%
humor and entertainment 25%

Admittedly, my figures are very approximate, but I think a lot of students I know fit this profile. I also think that knowing these kinds of things can carry great meaning for teachers. I'd like to know your opinion.

Ralph
Ralph,
Have you looked at this book and site, about teens' use of the internet? You are asking very good questions. We could actually ask the questions at the site.
"Published by Anastasia Goodstein, Totally Wired (the blog) is a resource for parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, librarians youth workers or any adult trying to decode what teens are doing online and with technology."
http://www.totallywiredbook.com/
Bob,
I'm with you and I've only been on this tech journey for a fraction of the time you have. I am a teacher on special assignment working to do just what you describe, motivate. But it is indeed an uphill battle. Motivation is only realized when those motivated act upon it and get the tech into the students' hands and work. I find that my goal is to also "awaken" creativity and demonstrate the value of such efforts, but it's difficult with district protocol, negative attitudes by teachers who don't want more work, and fears of using the internet with our students because of what we don't want rather than what we do. Eh, I figure my job is to motivate our students in spite of our adults. Being that this is my first year in this position, I'm used to the kids and I can handle them - it's the adults who have forgotten the benefits of choice and creativity. It's the adults that keep getting in the way.
Erik
I am about to take the risk that you will all hate me, but I have to say something in defense of those folks (and I try to not always be one of them and feel that I am open and supportive of technology) who are saying, "Wait a minute here. I am not ready for all of this." Folks who are looking from the angle of 99% of the people who use Web 2.0 are converts and they are thrilled and excited and daily see more and more things that can be done with technology. Groovy, as we said in the pre-heavy tech 60s. You are all right that there are wonderful and marvelous things that can be, will continue to be, should be done with the technology at our fingertips. You are all right that we need to be showing kids as many wonderous things in this realm as possible.

But to some folks you are so excited that they can not keep up or understand what there is to see. You offer examples that look glitzy but to the non-believer (because for some folks this seems to be like a religion or maybe two religions--technotheocracy and the anti-technos) it looks like glitz and things that could have been done and have been done for generations without a computer are still needing to be done and taught. They worry that if they get swept up in the techno-craze that those basics, those things they hold dear and believe in will be lost. I saw a great cartoon the other day, one man was saying to the other as they looked at a computer screen, "I will say that the computer has made it lot easier to do those things I never had to do before there were computers." I think that is what a lot of your naysayers feel.

So, my suggestion is that you relax a little. Let the "good news" spread slowly and naturally with little or no ranting and raving on your part. Rant and rave on your blog and then gently show folks what is making you so excited. The old fogies need to get excited as much as the students do. The kids will motivate the older generation just as they did in a pre-computer world. The younger generation doesn't want the oldsters to know everything they are doing and thinking and learning. Let them have that fun, too.

And don't become so excited about the technology that is thrilling you that you forget to listen the good advice and wisdom of those folks who are not completely embracing computers and blogs and i-movies and all the rest. I firmly believe that there are still many way to teach without any electrical connections for miles around. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. We can learn to live and work together--if we all take a moment to look at things from the other side.
Hi Linda,

Don't worry; no one's going to hate you! (at least not me)

You are right to point out that we need to move slowly. I know that I myself tend to get a little bit more strident in my 'ranting and raving' than I really feel, because sometimes it's the only way to get attention in a big bureaucracy.

There's another point that underlies the discussion of Web 2.0 vs. older ways. It's the fact that teachers will generally ALWAYS be a little more enthused about modern tech, just because they are A.) forced to deal with new educational situations all the time, with new kids and new mindsets; and B.) since teachers are influenced by their students, if the kids live in a newer, modern world it's going to rub off. Both these factors don't apply to administrators. The managers in my district think about things on a yearly basis, like how can we meet our budget this year? How many pencils do we need to buy for this school year? They ended up in those jobs because they LIKE things like accounting, managing, scheduling, and planning. I prefer inspiring young minds, but I have to remind myself that this does NOT mean that I am in any way better than the administrators. They are necessary too. And because of the requirements of their jobs, which don't change much from year to year, they are naturally less disposed to get all excited about Moodle or Sketchcaster.

We also have to remember that there will be a shakedown period with all the new technologies. Many of the hot new programs that you read about on this site will be gone soon, or incorporated into something else, or bought by another company. That's another reason we would be well advised to move with a little deliberation.

Bob
So true, Linda.
The read/write web is one way (well one culture), not the only way in education. In a post-modern age (whatever that really is, and I guess it is whatever, really) welcomes, allows, celebrates diversity. Our educational visions are so one-dimensional, and what's in for this decade pushes everything out from the previous decade. One decade we constructivists and Dewey and Bruner etc are the heroes... Then we're the (I don't have a word here) blockists with everything linear, sequential and lockstep with Gagne and Skiinner and programmed learning asthe heroes. Then we're the technofaddies and the VCR will revolutionise the classroom... I'm not sure how many cycles I've been through in all this. There are fabulous 'horse and buggy' teachers inspiring students still, there are fabulous 'Chevy' teachers doing the same, right on (can I say there may even be fabulous 'Edsel' teachers) through read/write web and whatever other vehicles you care to describe. (There are also rubbish exponents of each - to be blunt - and if they change vehicles, they're in all likelihood still rubbish exponents) Let the fabulous be fabulous in their fashion.
Brilliant post, Ian!

I am reminded that Alan Watts once said "Philosophy has its fashions, just as clothing does, though philosophers are loath to admit it." The same is true of education. People like to think that they are summations of the best that has gone before, but usually if you question them you find they have hitched their wagon to one theory or another, and they tend to view everything through that lens.

I really like your last line: "Let the fabulous be fabulous in their fashion". That ought to be a translation of a proverb by Juvenal or Martial or someone like that.

Thank you, Connie, for telling me about that totallywired site. I'm going to check it out today.

I really enjoy this thread. Please, everyone, tell all your friends to read this forum and join in!

Ralph
I love the audacity of throwing down the manifesto on these pages! It is definitely inspiring. I have to admit I think I never really thought I had much of a chance of convincing game. While I haven't run into quite the same kind of resistance you seem to have experienced, I have to admit when I start talking about tech tools and the like, most of my colleagues haven't a clue about what I am raving. So, I just try to keep on keeping on, and to borrow some of your chosen words, attempting to inspire the kids to want to be excited about learning something, hopefully produce some insanely great work, and ultimately change the way that they see the world! Lofty goals to be sure, but as Daniel Burnham once said, "Make no small plans, for they do not have the stuff to stir men's blood." So, viva manifesto! Viva mystial!
Right on Wade! I love what you mention about the built in obsolescence of the tools themselves. The tools are always changing, but we change with them and learning the new tools actually does open our minds to possibilities still unseen.

Prior to teaching, one of the many jobs I had was a as a tech consultant, working 90% of the time in schools, rolling out new tools and training administrators and teachers alike. I often told them, “I can teach you the basics of how to use the tools in a short amount of time to do what they were intended to do, but the real trick is when you discover how the tools can be used to solve problems where you hadn’t initially thought the tools would be useful. That’s comes from making interesting connections. That’s creative problem solving!” The funny thing is that I use to think if I could facilitate that kind of thinking I would not have been doing that job because I would have made a mint. Instead, I am having some success doing it now as a teacher. The mint still awaits.

No matter how the tools change, it is the forging new connections and ways to use the tools that is the real value. That kind of creativity never goes out of style. That kind of creativity adapts to whatever new tools appear. That kind of creativity is what I hope to foster in my students.

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