If a previous blog entry–Living in Constant Fear–caught your attention, you know that it sought to explore why technology-based initiatives didn’t seem to generate that “sense of urgency” needed. It may be OK to talk about how the world will end–for the United States at least–if our children don’t graduate prepared to connect, collaborate, create online and at a distance using Read/Write Web tools and social media, but the fact is, the education establishment could care less.

At least, that’s what I get from reading Doug Johnson’s response blog entry, Important but not Urgent:

But don’t count on “urgency” as a mover in educational change. I suspect were a kid’s hair on fire, for most educators it would take at least a couple studies, a few Education Week op-eds, and maybe a Ning discussion or two before they are firmly convinced that while something needs to be done, there is no consensus on just what it ought to be…

Is it possible that we–as edtech advocates–are finding it tough to admit defeat? Consider this finding:

Fine (1991) asserts that educators generate belief systems because they need to explain their efforts in ways that give them a sense of accomplishment. These belief systems may help educators feel more successful, but may also prevent them from imagining what could be. Read Source

Are we generating stories of failure or irrelevant success because we need to explain our efforts in heroic terms? If we accepted the following beliefs, would things be different?

  • School systems are guided by multiple and sometimes competing sets of goals.
  • Power in school systems is distributed throughout the organization.
  • Decision making in school systems is a bargaining process in order to arrive at solutions that satisfy a number of constituencies.
  • The public is influential in major and sometimes unpredictable ways.
  • A variety of situationally appropriate ways to teach is allowed and desired so that teachers may be optimally effective. (p. 7-8)

Perhaps instead of constancy of fear to do the right thing, we should be looking at a different descriptor for the situation? How open are we to “situationally appropriate ways to teach” and their inclusion of technology? The word “apathy” comes to mind…it is defined as “Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.”

This web site outlines some ways to help apathetic learners…maybe we can apply some of this to school district educators who lack a sense of urgency to change themselves so that students and their Nation can prosper? Probably not, but let’s do it anyways for fun….

  1. Take an interest in the student. This really boils down to the now old adage that bloggers know well about education change–build a relationship (BAR). That’s right, if you want to get anywhere with human beings, you have to build a relationship with them even if you don’t want to…reminds me of sales approach. This reinforces my perception–correct me if I’m wrong–that administrators are more about public relations and management than anything else…and since social media has changed the public relations field, it’s certainly critical that we transform how we BAR with others. Yet, there is no escape that whatever form that relationship takes, it must be built.
  2. Find out what is causing apathetic behavior. It’s clear that we know what is causing apathetic behavior in school districts…too many rules (anomie), too much one-way communication from people too far from where the real work happens, to much disconnect between what is expected, the methods on how to achieve the expectations and the creativity to explore the gap. An administrator must stand up and ensure that educators have the authority to create in the face of rules, to defy them even if it means censure, jamming a spoke in the wheel if necessary.
  3. Don’t be judgmental towards the apathetic student. This is certainly a perspective I’ve had trouble implementing, but reading the blogosphere, I’m not alone. It’s so easy to look at those responsible for assuring AYP is achieved and criticizing and advocating for what they SHOULD be doing. In truth, aren’t they doing what they are told? Who has spare change in their pocket to find another job if they fail to do what they are told? So, one has to convey a sense of understanding and appreciation for the struggle and work to extend the sense of conscious awareness that we can’t get there from here if we keep doing what we’re doing. Even then, upper admin may be so disconnected or driven by other priorities that the best rank-n-file can do is make the journey a little less difficult.
  4. Realize that it’s up to the apathetic learner to change their attitude. In the end, a changed attitude is the best that can be accomplished. A changed attitude can lead to more substantive changes…but if you lack one, you won’t be able to grasp the opportunities in front of you because you hadn’t been open to them.
If you’re living in the midst of apathy, the only way to transform your organization is to change your own attitude, accept new beliefs, and encourage others to do so. Only then can more lasting change be achieved. In truth, it does seem it’s easier to switch organizations than try to transform one.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure