What’s the point of a day?
There will always be critics. And I wonder sometimes, are we too critical? Is there such thing as hyper-criticism? Then again, perhaps I’m too sensitive. I need thicker skin to make it, perhaps.
Last Wednesday, February 6, I had the opportunity to participate in Digital Learning Day
in Washington D.C. In one way or another all fifty states, nearly 25,000 teachers, and millions of students participated. I had the opportunity to be a part of a panel of four educators (here are my slides
) to kick off the event at the Newseum
. It was then followed up with a group of educators sharing some innovative ways in which they are engaging students, through technology, and providing more meaningful learning experiences in their various K-12 classrooms. We then all moved downstairs to the big studio
for the digital town hall
. All in all it was memorable experience. I was able to connect with dozens of educators from across the country, see first hand what they’re doing, and share ideas on how to improve our practice.
The days leading up to Digital Learning Day were filled with tweets and links and blog posts (many of which were retweeted by me). Along with that came the critics. There were also a few comments made the day of February 6 and some following up the days after. I believe in discourse and sharing. We all learn far more about others (and ourselves for that matter) by asking questions than by assuming answers. So I decided to ask some questions. Here is how it started…
I’m not sure if you read that entire 72+ tweet-versation that we had, but I invite you to. There were a lot of great questions asked.
And let me say this now, the point of this post isn’t to point out what ONE individual is doing, but to ask what’s the point of this so called Digital Learning Day; is it necessary; and are we asking
the right more important questions about learning.
If you had a chance to look back through the tweets, you’ll see Will
both ask (essentially), why have a “day” devoted to all this? They question its purpose, focus, and relation to “regular old learning
.” Will continued to press. His questions were/are important. He reiterated that all teachers need to be teaching with technology. That’s a given. But why a “day” for all this?
Well, why do we give a “day” to anything? Why do we take moments in time to reflect and focus on something? My good friend Rachel
told me, “Change comes from deliberate and attentive focus. And actions.” We need days like this that provide us an opportunity to refocus.
I think change comes in phases. I look at educational technology. It could be a cycle. Most everyone one starts with an infatuation for a tool or a device. They are distracted by the bright shiny object. It’s cool. It’s novel. Then that novelty begins to fade into utility. We see the tool or device as a means to an end. We begin to share with others how we are using it professionally and how we have began to implement it in our classrooms. It’s no longer bright and shiny, but covered in finger prints and smudges.
And honestly, that is where a lot of teachers stay. The tool helps them do a lot of the things they were already doing, but digitally (which is what I believe is one of Will’s concerns from our conversation). Why do we get stuck here, though? What keeps some educators from moving beyond using the technology to merely digitize our “old ways”? I think. I think it is because we don’t all have people around us asking the more important questions — this could be a segway into PLNs and all that, but I’ll spare you. We need those people. We need Wills and Jons asking, “Why?” It makes sense, but only when we begin to listen to those questions and search for answers. Hopefully light bulbs begin to turn on and we start to rethink our practices and ask ourselves what’s most important.
Then comes the next part of the cycle. We realize that it isn’t so much about teaching or the tech (which Will points out
). It is about learning. The teacher shifts from worrying about how they will “deliver” a lesson to how they will provide a space in which learners can self-direct and create meaning from what they are learning. The tool is no longer seen as a means to an end, but a means to support us along the way. The process becomes our focus.
Now I may have left out a few (read: many) nuances that we go through in this cycle/process, but I think you get the idea. My point is, not all of us are at a place where we are as reflective and thoughtful about the tools. We need people asking those questions, the more important ones, along the way. We also need a place to start, however. So that is why I say we need days like Digital Learning Day. We need opportunities to see the bright shiny objects being used in more meaningful ways by teachers AND students–most importantly the students.
I appreciate the tweet-versation that I had with Will and Jon, and the many others that supported and pushed back (again, make sure to read the tweets). The one thing that stood out the most to me was Will’s emphasis on the idea of learning. That should be our larger question. What are we doing to improve student learning in our schools? It makes me think of something Thoreau said about technology,
So what are we doing to improve that end? What are the bigger questions that need to be asked?
(skip down to TECHNOLOGY AND PROGRESS).