Tom Whitby

College/University Professor

Sayville, NY

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 17 Days ago
  • 1.7k

Change Is Our Enemy

I recently attended FETC, which is considered to be an annual, premiere, national education conference. The vendor floor consisted of hundreds of companies hawking their wares to an audience of educators, many of whom are recipients of an education that was limited in its exposure to the advantages of today’s technology. That will probably always be true of educators, when we consider the rapid rate of change that occurs in technology on an ongoing basis. Educators will always have new and different technologies available in their teaching that were not available in their own education. That combined with the fact that most people are not comfortable with change in general makes it difficult to affect change in an institution, which is considered by many to be on a conservative path, and slow to change. Many of the philosophies, priorities, systems, beliefs, and methods in education date back centuries. Change is hard even when we see the need for it.

A great many of the products that were being viewed on the conference floor at FETC needed to be viewed with a relevant eye and a growth mindset. That would require educators to be open to new methods and ideas to replace, or at the very least supplement what they have already established as the basis for their own teaching methods.

This requires for example more than substituting a word processor for a pen and paper, and teaching writing the same way as in the past. It requires the idea that rough drafts will be built into the ongoing writing process. Grammar check becomes a frequently used tool. Spellcheck is a fact of life. Edits are made easily and more frequently with less effort, becoming less of a deterrent for good writing. Teacher feedback, formative assessment of the students’ work, can be more detailed in written or audio forms. Digital files may archive every students’ work to compile a portfolio of writing over long periods of time to demonstrate progress in real terms. And finally, the astounding fact that any student can publish any work at any time to a global audience. Much of this was not generally possible way back in the 20th century. All of it is possible today, yet I question how much of it has become standard practice in teaching.

Failure to change is the greatest enemy of education, and comfort zones are the greatest roadblocks. I often say that if we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators. How we are educating those educators seems to be lacking in so many ways. It is not for lack of trying that we are failing in this effort. I recently had this discussion with my friend Lisa Schmucki the CEO and founder of EdWeb Her company does hundreds of great webinars for tens of thousands of educators on many relevant subjects. Even with this herculean effort to educate educators, change is still slow in happening. On this Lisa and I agree. Why? Where are we going wrong? Why are a majority of educators so disappointed in their professional development?

Professional development has rarely been prioritized with support from the system itself. Often the bulk of PD is determined and paid for by the educators themselves. An annual professional day or two typically held by many districts across the country will never be enough. Throwing lectures or digital lectures, webinars, at teachers is not educating them. What would happen to the teacher who did nothing but lecture students every lesson every day? PD must be an ongoing requirement of the educator’s position. The districts must constantly support it. The best way to educate our kids in relevant ways is to have them being taught by relevant educators. That does not happen on its own. In order to maintain a relevant faculty, we need relevant administrators. That does not happen on its own. In order to have any change be effective we need to have people believe in and support change. We need a recognition that change will occur no matter what our position. If students are part of that change, they will probably benefit more from it then if educators who resisted it never prepared them for it.

We need to recognize that if we expect educators to change we must first recognize and acknowledge them for what they bring to the table. We must determine what each personally needs to know how to move forward. We need to collaborate and communicate more openly and frequently in order to affect change. Teaching educators and students alike how to learn, critically think, and collaborate while effectively communicating content should be every school’s mission statement. After examination and reflection we need to accept some change as a positive addition and not a loss of tradition. We need to make acceptance of change an easier transition and eliminate those blockades of comfort zones. We need a re-examination of what we have and what we do, to eliminate the gap of where we are compared to where we should be. If PD is the most important factor in maintain quality and relevant education, constant change will always be a component. Rapid change has become the world in which we live. We have no choice in that. We need to learn how best to deal with it.

Here is something that we should all keep in mind. When it comes to continuing to always do the same thing, even we can learn from monkeys.

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