Fungus on a Rock

New things grow on you, not unlike a fungus slowly creeping its way up a tree. In The Conqueror Worms (an end of the world tale by Brian Keene (language warning), fungus finds its way onto living creatures and earthworms explode from the ground to devour the bird out to get them. Unfortunately, it’s the idea of the fungus that grows in the midst of a deluge that covers the world underwater that’s sticking to me right now.

New ideas, new things grow on us. It’s a point that Dave Meister makes eloquently when he writes the following:

When did the stone age flintknappers actually realize that their skills had become obsolete?  Do you think they looked around at the folks who were working on making a hotter fire, shake their heads and say, “We have to emphasize stone flaking and drawing pictures of our hunts on the walls of caves. This playing with fire will only get us burnt–glowing coals, UGH!”? 

Over the last 17 years, I have always been on the side of change. “Bring it on!” my youthful self would cry, even as I sought to help those slow to embrace new technologies, in one case, with an 80-year old’s hand shaking so uncontrollably the mouse pointer danced on the screen.

Today, though, sitting in my office at day’s end, I contemplated the end of all things. Education funding has disemboweled educational technology budgets in Texas, the instructional materials allocation aside. The lack of emphasis on NCLB Title 2, Part D-Enhancing Education Through Technology, the joke that is the 8th grade technology literacy assessment–as one principal put it succinctly, “Thank goodness, we don’t need technology to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)!”–makes my job and that of my colleagues across Texas dangerously close to being swallowed up by a fungus. 
Whether you go slow or fast, edtech is breathing its last gasp. Consider this remark by a colleague–who shall remain anonymous–in a small, rural Texas school district:

This is how I feel but unfortunately because of scheduling in grades 2-8, Technology Application TEKS are not being taught in a consistent manner, if at all, and IMA committee does not want to spend the money on the subscription for this school year, 11-12.  Our subscription is up and the lab aids do not use it much and it is not used at all in middle school.  When the state took the technology requirement away in grades 9-12 they sent a terrible message, they devalued the importance of technology. 

I don’t know about you but I feel so frustrated with upper leadership (an oxymoron for sure), and upper administration – they seem not to have a clue about technology and learning.  They all like to prance around at TASA and rave about Ian Jukes but when it gets down to it, when they return to their districts, it’s business as usual and their district technology people are cut out of the loop of major decision making.  We should sit at the top because today, everything is “1s” and “0s”.

Since I interact with educators from all over Texas, I can honestly say that the expression of frustration above is accurate of many. I have become disillusioned, disheartened at the pace of change in schools with the focus on high-stakes assessment, the “commoditization” of every aspect of technology–especially online learning–in schools. Don’t get me wrong…we’re quickly moving to ubiquitous access to technology that has no need for an edtech clergy…we’ve been disintermediated. As a veteran middle-man, a conduit, a bridge from the time I traded Apple //e free utilities and games as a high school junior, I’m having trouble just “movin’ on.”
I wonder if by encouraging profound change, we haven’t sped up the selling out of America’s schools. When I read Dave’s remarks about flint-knappers–flashback to Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear stories–holding onto the past, I think less of the stick-in-the-muds who don’t want to change to next greatest thing (e.g. iPad), and more about the companies siphoning funding.
Do you ever feel, “Man, thank goodness we don’t need technology to meet AYP, ’cause there ain’t no way we could get this aircraft carrier moving in the right direction?” (the second part of that question is one a colleague a top 5 largest school district in the Houston area would say to me…get that aircraft carrier moving in a different direction was her equivalent of doing the impossible). How is your “learning organization” preparing itself to be nimble, quick and be ready to move on?
Scott’s final point urges us to embrace the change, give up what we want to hold on to. Heck, I’ve never disagreed with that perspective. The problem is, I don’t know what to hold onto next. Who ever thought I’d be in the old man’s chair?
Ah, gotta have faith. ;->

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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