Never going to happen?

True statement by a teacher (said with all sincerity) in one of my workshops this semester:

We’re so far behind our students. How do we catch up and move past them so that we can then teach them things they don’t know?

22 Responses to “Never going to happen?”

  1. I wonder about this sort of comment. I hear that from time to time especially where technology is concerned. I think though that often adults over estimate how much students know and underestimate how quickly a motivated educator could catch up with the right training and attitude. The attitude of many adults with technology is that they assume they can’t learn it and then set out to prove themselves correct.

  2. As a trainer at an ESU in Nebraska, I hear this occasionally as well and it is frustrating. To me they are saying, “… and I don’t intend to try either.” These teachers wouldn’t accept that kind of an answer from students but they want everyone (me, their administration, their board, their colleagues, and most importantly, their students) to accept that from them. So what do we do? Is our time well spent on moving these few forward?

  3. Jim Collins said it best:
    How to change and transform a good company into a great company.
    1. Get the right people on the bus.
    2. Get them in the right seats- Put the right people in the right place in the bus
    3. Get the wrong people off the bus.
    How do we “Get these people OFF the bus”

    I would add : Who is driving the bus?

  4. My own grad students express this sentiment in form or another many times… I think it stems from an old paradigm of information being scarce and experts being the ones that control it. Hence, if no experts are “blessing you with this information”, then you can blame them, the system, the technology rat race, whatever…

    Once my students come to an understanding (and this takes time) that this is has all changed… that information is no longer scarce, that experts are no longer the gatekeepers of information, that they can be participants, contributors, and part of living, vibrant learning communities where resources, tools, ideas, and encouragements are shared and problems solved… it all begins to shift for them. But it is a constant battle, fighting the old mentality that if I don’t get to sit and someone doesn’t show me, then I can’t learn _______________. I constantly tell them that it is not the technology that is what’s difficult; it is the learning. It is the pedagogy that facilitates great things and frees minds to be active learners rather than merely receptors… Part of the problem is that when one is stuck in the “sit ‘n git” style of pedagogy, this all seems so foreign and unknown, making it very hard to jump into the information lifestream and flourish.

    Language is first best learned by full immersion into the language and culture. I have a feeling this new type of technology-facilitated learning is also best learned the same way. 1 hour workshops just do not suffice when there is so much ground to cover and mindset to be changed…

  5. Who says we have to move past them? Why can’t we learn WITH them? I think it does our students good to see that we are constantly learning too. My students love to hear about conferences and workshops I’ve been to. It makes me the same as them for at least a little bit, and it lets them know that they never get to stop learning.

  6. I am with Christie. Teaching is learning… constantly, all the time, everyday. There is nothing wrong with allowing students to be the expert in the room. In fact, I think it’s vital to building authentic learning communities.

  7. The statement implies students can only learn what the teacher already knows.

  8. Hi Scott,

    I hope this teacher remembers s/he still brings a lot to the table in a technology environment:

    No matter how sophisticated the N-Geners are technologically, in matters of ethics, aesthetics, veracity, and other important judgments, they are, after all, still green. By virtue of our training and life experiences, we can apply the standards of older technologies (the pencil, the podium, the book) to those which are now technology enhanced. And we’d better. Given the choice of having Socrates or Bill Gates as a teacher, I know whom I would choose.

    We old people give ourselves too little credit sometimes.


  9. I’m with Christie and think that we should strive for both teachers and students to work together to try and stay on top of the fast-paced changes that are happening today. Both sides need each other. Sure this may require a change in mindset on the part of teachers, but WE know that when it happens, it’s magical.

  10. To start, one needs to realize that technology is “simply” a new collection of tools to be used in concert with the other tools they should be developing with teacher guidance–critical thinking, learning, self-expression, etc.. That students are interested enough to learn about these new tools on their own (and in their own way) should be applauded. Perhaps they need to be challenged with integrating the old tools with the new AND explaining (thereby teaching) their process not only to their peers but also to their teachers. If successful, this method can be a win for everyone–students, their peers, and the teachers.

  11. “The attitude of many adults (STUDENTS) with technology (MATH/SCIENCE/ENGLISH…) is that they assume they can’t learn it and then set out to prove themselves correct.”

  12. We teachers need to start accepting that we are no longer simply the deliverers of information to our students. Why is it such a challenge to accept that teachers can learn from students too?

    Teachers don’t need to know more than students do for learning to occur. We need to be able facilitate the process of learning for our students and the content will come, and it will be richer, deeper, and retention will be life-long, not just until the test.

  13. It takes us all; students, faculty, admininstration, staff, parents, community, etc. to make this work, and we all will have some levels of discomfort and lack of preparation. The fact that we don’t have all the answers has forced a shift in the thinking from a climage of dissemination of information to a climate of searching for solutions and answers. There is still some content that teachers will need to have a deep understanding of, but the tools are more flexible to be accessed and used as a team. None of us has all of the answers, and that paradigm shift has enabled us to collectively search them out and work WITH students and others to build the best opportunities for us all.

  14. We’re so far behind our students. How do we catch up and move past them so that we can then teach them things they don’t know?
    The statement was indeed sincere and made out of fear. Fear that she/he would not be able to teach effectively and perhaps fear for job security. I remember hearing a five year old student saying,…” but what if I never can learn to read!”. It is the teachers job to get that child to read through whatever resources are needed. It is the educational leadership staff who should be reassuring and finding resources. It is also the responsiblity of all learners to be courageous with the help provided.

  15. I have to say with my own sincerity that I am surprised you openly criticized the comment of a participant of one of your workshops on your blog Scott.

    Of course you have every right to say what you believe, but am surprised you chose to do that.

  16. Hi Joel,

    1. I didn’t think what I said was critical of the teacher at all. In fact, I didn’t really say anything at all. My intent when posting was simply to throw up something to which others could reflect and respond. Can you clarify what you think was negative? Other than restating her comment, all I said was that the statement was true and sincerely made. I guess I don’t see the negativity in that. I know you’ve been unhappy (and probably deservedly!) with what I’ve said in the past but…

    2. I think comments made by participants in workshops are fair game, just as are comments made on the Web. As long as I’m not personally demeaning anyone, I think I should put things out there for discussion. We can’t address issues if we can’t talk about them…

  17. I probably agree more than disagree with what you have said in the past. (Such is the life of a political arena like education – hard to find people who agree 100% with each other on 100% of the topics). I generally like your work, and find your approach to looking at leadership admirable.

    Having said all of that, you certainly have every right to say whatever you want about participants of your workshops. It is a free country in this manner and should be.

    You purposefully chose the comment, title, and words like “said with all sincerity” (which, to me, says you find the teacher’s comment to be almost too hard to believe). You state that you were simply restating it – I perceive you found it to be further proof that teachers are out of touch and used it to make that point.

    Since no context is provided around it (such as your thinking), it is left up to the reader to determine what you might have meant – and this is my interpretation. Given the your previous posts, I don’t think I am far off. If I am – well, I would be happy to be wrong.

  18. Students DON’T know more than teachers. If they did, why keep them in school? Just send them on out into the world. (imagine businessmen using Leapsters and DSi, lol)

    Unfortunately many teachers and administrators mistake a student’s fearlessness with technology for knowledge. Just because a kid will push the button doesn’t mean they understand what will happen or why the button needs pushed.

  19. We have to believe that as adults with life experience and knowledge of our subject area that we have something new to add to the conversation.

    IT’s about the learning, not the tools.

  20. @Joel Verduin:

    Let me explain my original thinking and see if it helps you feel any better about this:

    1. Word choice of “said with all sincerity”: I included b/c at the time I wanted readers to understand that this was a genuine, sincere comment, not some flippant, off-hand, disingenuous comment. The teacher was very concerned about this. This was an important issue for the teacher.

    2. Word choice of “Not going to happen?” in title: This was my response to her – that it was unlikely that this would ever occur – but I phrased it as a question in my blog post title b/c that opened up the door for others to disagree with me.

    So… that’s it. Nothing negative in my original thinking. No desire to disparage anyone. Just a post to start some conversation. As to whether you’re far off or not in your interpretation, I guess it comes down to whether you believe me or not that there was no negative connotation intended.

    Thanks for keeping me honest. =)

  21. Ben got it right. Students need teachers who will wade into the fray and help them use technology to make sense of the information overload. More than ever students need to be good evaluators of content. They need to see how the communication tools they are adept at using can be used to foster useful collaboration. Teachers excel at the real purpose of these tools. They can’t just throw their hands up and say “I can’t do it.”

    With that said, there is obviously a leadership opportunity here as well. What is the best way to approach a staff member with this belief?

  22. shibumi

    Shibumi is one of my favorite books – it was written by Trevanian, a brilliant author of among other things, spy stories. “Shibumi” is described on P74 of the book: “Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge. Eloquent silence. In demeanor,…

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