In a recent blog entry, Learning for Relevancy, Daniel Rezac (Adventures in EdTech) starts out with some simple statements of belief…do these resonate with you while at the same time making you feel a) connected with your place of work and the culture that supports you; b) disconnected with your workplace and making you ask “Why am I here?” or c) Ready to embrace revolution in your school system and others?

Your reaction may be a telling indicator of your beliefs about teaching, learning and leading in a technology-rich environment.

Dan Rezac’s beliefs about learning:

  1. I believe you are more likely to engage and create a future scientist when you use the tools of the period and you make their learning authentic with what’s happening in the world at present. 
  2. I believe it’s a teacher’s responsibility to teach their students using the relevant platforms of the modern era. 
  3. I believe integrating relevant writing platforms (blogs, social networks) into writing classes would improve student communication overall. 
  4. I believe that teaching a student how to access information from the Internet is relevant to living in the 21st century. 
  5. I believe that art and music teachers have the responsibility to empower student artists with technology to be creators and sharers of their works, and to responsibly show them how to share those works with an online audience. 
  6. I believe it is the responsibility of every teacher to use all means necessary, including technology, to reach all learners, whether joined by diversity, ethnicity, or special needs. 
  7. I believe a 21st century teacher:
    • should know how to communicate using email. 
    • should know how to use collaborative online tools.
    • should know how to do research (access information) using the Internet.
    • should know how to create a “learning stream” for themselves using Online tools to keep themselves abreast of new strategies and tools in their field.
  8. I believe it’s the responsibility of a school district to offer an environment that allows veteran teachers to improve their teaching skills, to embrace the modern tools of the classroom. 
  9. I believe an excellent teacher seeks out new knowledge and prepares themselves for their students with the most up-to-date methods, strategies, and information related to their domain.

It’s really all about engagement, empowerment, using current tools, be lifelong learners in Dan’s beliefs, whether you are a student or teacher. I can feel the enthusiasm just coming off the “digital page.”

As I meditate on these beliefs, it occurs to me that each of these beliefs could take a lifetime of learning to actualize in one’s own life and in the classroom. What happens if we don’t share Dan’s beliefs? What do these beliefs actually mean in practice, and is adherence to these beliefs sufficient to over-turn centuries old approaches to teaching and learning?

Shouldn’t beliefs like these–that impact teaching, learning and leading–be grounded in research of some kind? Isn’t that the kind of question that we should ask as professionals?

While being able to use collaborative online tools is nice to know, how is it relevant to school district curriculum and what the State’s essential skills say students should be learning? How is knowing how to be collaborative online going to improve test scores? Where is the definitive series of research studies that proves that?

What about these “research-based” assertions, worded as belief statements?

  1. I believe we can improve student learning if we hire teachers whose race matches that of the students they serve. (Source: Texas Urged to Hire More Minority Teachers)
  2. I believe we need to increase equitable access to books, whatever their media format. (Source: Changing the Standards Will Not Improve Achievement and eBooks Outsell Paper Books)
  3. I believe technology can improve students’ productivity, much in the same way it does for office workers and other professionals (Source: Are Computers for Every Student a Wise Investment?).
  4. I believe students should have access to faster computers so they can avoid the hourglass syndrome (Source: Hourglass Syndrom Affects Canadian Students)
  5. I believe students should work in groups when interacting with technology rather than on their own (Source: Using Computers to Teach Children with No Teachers)
  6. I believe educational leaders are bankrupt in technology use in schools and that failure impacts the entire school culture (Source: National study strongly links educational leadership to student achievement)

We could probably play that game all day, huh? After all, it’s not that hard. Find the research, formulate a belief statement and see what happens. But aren’t school environments and leaders’ lack of vision to create technology-empowered learning spaces (online or face to face) the real problem?

It’s difficult to get away from a straightforward observation from Dr. Don Knezek:

Either they are coming out of teacher preparation programs unprepared to integrate technology effectively, or they’re entering a school environment where they’re not encouraged to do so.

…frequent technology use is associated with greater emphasis on and perceived benefits of 21st-century skills. 

While many of us are speaking about how important the 21st Century skills are, it’s clear we still haven’t quite mastered the “20th century” skills. As Dan Pink points out, those are still very much needed, just insufficient (although some folks don’t even agree with Pink on the necessity!). In this Instructional Design podcast, Shanna Smith-Jaggars challenges online learning findings from Dept. of Education.

“On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” Shanna Smith-Jaggars, Senior Research Associate at the Community Colleges Research Center challenges this assertion in her response to the meta-analysis  (July 2010). Jaggars more fully explores the comparison of online and face-to-face instruction and finds only 7 studies out of 51 can be used to shed light on this question. Of these 7, Jaggars concludes that there is no significant difference between learning outcome achievement in face-to-face or online courses for certain student populations. 

As Jaggars puts it in this interesting interview, “what we really need to be doing is spending more time and effort in trying to figure out what are the most effective instructional practices in both modalities”.

Does our education system support people like Dan who have these kinds of beliefs, or does it work against them, trying to use them as instruments of indoctrination?

Excellence is achieved through individual mastery, a collegial network awash with inquiry and creativity, undergirded by trust and tangible support from the larger community. (Peter Henry as cited in GenYes!)

Of course, isn’t it true that people are perhaps a bit carried away with technology? Should every student be blogging their learning, or is blogging just one of those interchangeable terms for reflective writing?

Blogging  is a crucial 21st literacy skill. Why?…
It creates a personal identity/digital brand/footprint. Blogging puts on view, who we are, what we have been involved in, how we think, what we like, our skills, what we have created, it is our online advertising  etc (Source: On an e-journey with Generation Y)

Is it, really? I’ve certainly found blogging useful, and I realize that keeping a paper or electronic journal just wouldn’t have done the trick…the trick is that what I blog about actually gets shared with a worldwide audience and they sometimes, if I’m fortunate, write back. But when everyone can comment on your work, does the value endure or is it just a fad?

Technology use in schools…a matter of irrelevant or, rather, irreverent beliefs?

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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