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Tag: alan november

Tech Training as a Subversive Activity

Yesterday we had the opening-of-the-school-year mini conference with our school-based trainers, which due to the budget, only ran half a day. Even so, still a lot of fun.

Continuing our efforts to chop off the talking heads approach to training (often accompanied by the deadly verbose slide shows), we structured the breakout sessions as discussions rather than lectures.

Our theme was collaboration with colleagues, with the conversations centered around using a variety of web-based tools to connect the staff at their schools and for them to connect with educators and others beyond those walls.

Of course, almost all the same tools and sites could also be used to help students connect with their colleagues and others.

Except that most of them don’t fit neatly into the restrictive regulations for student use here in the overly-large school district.

Web 2.0 applications have this annoying tendency to live outside of the direct control of our IT department. They allow kids to communicate in ways that aren’t completely controlled by teachers and administrators.

However, that doesn’t mean rules and attitudes of absolute control can’t be altered.

By getting the teachers hooked on using Google Docs, wikis, social bookmarking and the rest, some of them will realize that their students could actually benefit from having an authentic audience outside the walled garden.

And, as teachers often do, begin using them without bothering to ask permission.

But there’s really nothing really subversive or insubordinate going on here.

We’re just playing off similar messages presented by Alan November to the assembled masses of school administrators a few days ago. Someone who was asked by the superintendent to offer his ideas on changing education.

We only want to make sure that those ideas don’t get forgotten in the rush to roll out the big “curriculum assessment tool”.

This is going to be a fun school year.

Thanks, Alan

If you’ve heard Alan November speak at tech conferences more than once (and I certainly have), then very little in his keynote this morning would be new to you.

But that didn’t matter considering that, to most of his audience, this was all pretty much new territory.

Alan’s two major points were that we need to help our students find a world-wide, authentic audience, and that students need to do more constructing of their own knowledge.

Both radical ideas for a school system that is still largely wedded to the concept of teacher-as-distributor-of-knowledge and learning-as-measured-by-standardized-tests.

Ok. To be fair, however, that pretty much describes most schools in this country.

It was also fun to watch Alan run through examples of potential student assignments in which he used all kinds of tools that probably made our IT administrators nervous.

Few, if any, of them will work well inside our walled garden known as Blackboard. Or fit comfortably into our policies that say kids can learn about working in the outside world without actually going there.

So, although the themes Alan used in his keynote were very familiar, it was still a lot of fun.

He was presenting us with more ammunition to help people understand the overall point that technology will never improve education unless we also change the focus and structure of learning.

Sometimes in the overly-large school district at the center of the educational universe*, it helps to use the coat tails of the outside expert with the long resume.

* Not really. :-)

Bringing the Leaders Together

Today is the annual Leadership Conference here in the overly-large school district.

Something like 2000 principals, district administrators, school board members and a whole bunch of us central office types will be spending the morning at one of our secondary schools (grades 7-12 in one building) to hear from the superintendent and others.

Mercifully, the event will only be half a day this year since the budget doesn’t allow for serving everyone lunch as in the past. (But that also means no taco salads.)

Another high point is that our keynote speaker is Alan November. We’ve been lobbying the organizers of this meeting to invite him for at least five years.

I’m hopeful that Alan will slap our school and central leaders across the head (in his usual folksy manner, of course) and that they will pay attention to what he has to say about the need to change our educational focus.

I have some reason to be optimistic since many of them responded very positively to what Daniel Pink and Jennifer James had to say last year.

Anyway, I’ll probably be tweeting from the overflow room as I watch the proceedings.

Alan November

Although I was pretty sure what he was going to say, I went to hear Alan November in the huge theater this afternoon anyway.

Even if he doesn’t include much new content, I still enjoy Alan’s presentation and the way he interacts with the audience.

But another reason for going is that Alan has been booked to keynote the Leadership Conference next month in our overly-large school district.

This is our annual event where all of our school and central office administrators gather to kick off the start of a new school year and get inspired.

I’m hoping Alan will slap them across the head as Daniel Pink and Jennifer James did last year.

However, while he makes some excellent points during his rambling, seemingly casual approach to a presentation, he’ll need to be more focused with our administrators to make that happen.

Most of them have attention spans that rival those of their students and probably won’t appreciate the presentation we saw this afternoon.

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