We Love to Talk About Change
And skip the hard work.
This is something that has been bothering me a long time. Let’s see if I can explain it well.
A lot of the problem is the press. As technology has grown in influence over the last several decades, news outlets have hired technology writers, and published a steady stream of their work. In an effort to fill column inches, they tend to speculate about tech that mostly exists in press releases, and is not yet a shipping product. Sometimes, they breathlessly repeat what they have been told by very skillful marketing executives at tech companies, in an effort to grab eyeballs with the latest thing. It is also driven by an effort - I think - not to be left behind. To avoid being the last media outlet to recognize that change was coming.
I understand all of that - we all do. But what happens next is what I am more concerned about.
Primarily because of this onslaught of reporting, we - leaders, teachers, administrators - are often distracted away from the hard conversations. And particularly administrators don’t mind that - I think they even like it. It helps them sound like they can predict the future - something we all wish our leaders could do. But for them, it is easier to talk about some distant future that makes us sound smart than it is to move our faculty even one or two steps in the direction we need now. It reminds me of Dug the dog in the animated Pixar movie classic “Up,” who gets continually distracted by seeing a “Squirrel!”
We get distracted by the latest shiny “total change” toy, and it can take our attention away from critical issues in education that we need to be wrestling with instead. MOOCs, Artificial Intelligence, VR - the list goes on. There were rivers of ink spilled about how MOOCs were going to change education forever. It was bunk. But the meetings, the hard decisions to play or not to play - it took us away from working on much more important topics.
What we tend to do is examine the latest thing, briefly, for fear it may change everything and when satisfied that it will not, we move on. We make pronouncements that education in the near future will all take place virtually. That robots will teach our students. It’s all bunk. And it’s free - in 5 years, no one will remember we said that, and ask us to account for doing so.
It is not only bunk, I will go so far as to say it is irresponsible future gazing at the expense of the hard work we should be doing now. And it is easier – and lazier – than engaging with hard changes that need to be begun, some of them urgently.
A recent example was how we focused on the “threat” of MOOCs instead of doing the hard work of preparing for a hybrid online future. Local, teacher-based, student-focused, hybrid learning. And what happened? We were not ready for the pandemic, and much disruption - and poor educational outcomes - occurred as a result.
What if we had a concrete 10 year plan, and adjusted it as necessary as each 10 year period unfolded? What if we executed on that plan, and avoided wasting time speculating about how everyone is going to go to school in their VR headsets all day? It won’t happen, so let’s stop talking about it, and talk about how to do hybrid learning well.
Letters of Recommendation
If you have not seen the movie mentioned here - Up! - you really should. That is my recommendation for the week. Bring it up on your streaming service of choice. Here is the official trailer:
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from the poet Pádraig Ó Tuama:
We are interested in holding wonder in one hand and work in the other. Wonder at all we do not understand; work to support each other, help each other, learn, commit, change, and improve.