Cracking open “The Passionate Learner,” (by Robert L. Fried) I was struck by the following quote and its relevance to a conversation going on over at Dangerously Irrelevant:

The true challenge for any teacher is to make caring the threshold for student work in any subject where thoughtfulness, imagination, analysis, reflection are important aspects of the knowledge and skills. When teachers focus solely on performance or compliance, we get the typical range of responses…But if we first ask, “Does the student care about what she is doing?” we open the door to a more engaging dialogue, leading to a more satisfying and productive teaching/learning relationship.

It would be easy to read Dr. Green’s guest blog entry at Dangerously Irrelevant entitled “Should We Get Rid of Technology Directors?” and walk away with the following conclusions:

  1. School culture and technology have changed to the point that implementing and maintaining technology is like managing utilities.
  2. Technology usability has increased so that anyone can model use of technology–think of Dr. Tim Tyson at as he converted his campus teachers into bloggers–in the classroom provided the technology tap is “turned on.”
  3. Designating people as educational technology directors is no longer worthwhile because we want to move ownership of technology use closer to the desired user–teachers, administrators, and students.

Yet, I keep coming back to the experiences I have had as a director of Instructional Technology Services. Often, I am the only person in the room who can explain the techno-babble of Technology Departments. It has taken years and countless hours of research on my own to serve as translator for the work committed Technology Department staff do every day. Yet, more importantly, it is my work in sharing exactly how technology can support instruction that is most important.

When I opened up a network/information systems magazine–too late, I threw it away yesterday–I was shocked by the attitude displayed in it. There was an attitude that the user is the enemy, the point of vulnerability in the network, and that the user’s actions must be restricted whenever possible. When support is limited, a network tech’s job isn’t to teach people how to do it right, but to fix the problem. Soon, network support becomes an enemy to the primary mission of schools–to teach and learn.

As an educator, my experiences have taught me a different lesson that involves creating “conditions that promote authorship,” as Bolman and Deal put it in one of their books (Leading with Soul, I think), authorship that does not thrive in top-down, aggressively managed school networks many educators–and students–find themselves circumventing with tethered mobile devices. The role of an ed-tech director isn’t too challenge network policy but to find ways to help teachers and students learn what they must so that they are not points of vulnerability, alien bodies that must be attacked by the white blood cells of school district technology departments.

The truth of the matter is that an educational technologist could always exist or do an awesome job as a teacher or leader. When asked, “Should we move educational technology under curriculum or under Finance?” the answer should always be, “Why aren’t you moving Curriculum & Instruction under Educational Technology?”

Yet, that seldom happens. It seldom happens because edtech is about letting the genie out of the bottle, of embracing your enemies–those you serve–and giving yourself completely over to their service and learning. Our approaches to Curriculum and Instruction, Technology always seem to involve the sacrifice of creativity, discovery learning, authentic learning experiences in favor of artificial (as Clay Burell puts it, “schooliness”) activities designed to improve performance on high stakes assessments.
Simply, a school district without an edtech director committed to these authentic learning experiences, using the digital media tools of the day, has little stomach for passionate learning focused on reclaiming the “joy of discovery.”

As an instructional technology director, I often pray that technology would become so essential to what we do as teachers and administrators that if it broke down, we wouldn’t be able to do our job. The reality is often quite different…what we do as educators is irrelevant to the experiences our children have when they are passionately engaged in discovery learning.

For fun, what if we re-wrote Fried’s words (my apologies):

The true challenge for any edtech director is to make passionate engagement that empowers student the threshold for student, teacher and administrator work in schools. This is engagement that taps into the thoughtfulness, imagination, analysis, reflection critical to learning in technology-rich environments. 

When directors focus solely on network performance or compliance, they get a typical range of responses…use of technology for data analysis, disaggregation and management, locked down technology that is to be held above passionate learning conditions….

But if we first ask, “Do we, as directors of educational technology, care about how technology can serve as a tool of liberation and empowerment?” we open the door to more scaffolded technology use that facilitates engaging dialogue, leading to a more satisfying and productive teaching/learning and leading relationship.

I should point out that I am a director of instructional technology. I could easily see my job disappear but then, I know what would happen. A critical voice would have been silenced…while some may have chosen, like Dr. Green in his story, to revel in irrelevance, the loss of voice comes at great cost to the people one serves. We must not forget that we are human beings, and though there is much that is of inestimable value, we also remember the words of Frederick Douglass….

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. 

Frederick Douglass 

Are schools today adopting technology for use in the classroom or is technology dangerously irrelevant to the work of education? If so, technology directors must be like Mr. Douglass, mindful of the truth that power concedes nothing. Yes, those at this blog may be willing to concede everything, but as for me and my colleagues….

Watching you other people making friends 

Everywhere ~ as a dog makes friends! I mark 

The manner of these canine courtesies 

And think: My friends are of a cleaner breed; 

Here comes ~ thank God! ~ another enemy! 

Note: Ah, Cyrano de Bergerac. I hope you had as much fun reading this blog entry as I did writing it!

Or, “if an educator tells you he loves children, but denies them technology, he is a liar!” (adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s quote on labor)

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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