Monday, May 31, 2010

The Pace of Change: Are we institutionally prepared?

To my fellow bloggers:

I would like to open by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and have learned so much from them! I really appreciate your unique experiences and expertise, and have also found myself admiring and enjoying your writing skills, as well as your sense of humor and style.

As I read your posts, I can relate to the general feeling that technology and new ways of learning are moving faster than we may sometimes be institutionally prepared for. In different ways, we all have stated that there are many questions to answer and clear goals/directions to set before deliberate change can occur. (Change is occurring all of the time, but it is not always deliberate.) :-)

As the Chapters 3 and 4 of the Web 2.0 new tools, new schools textbook reveals, there are many tools already available to support a learning communities approach and the offerings continue to grow at a fast pace. Lack of tools doesn’t seem to be at issue. Educational professionals have been sharing that the challenges establishing this new learning environment seem to center on (1) finding the time to stay current, (2) the lack of an adequate support structure and (3) legal/ethical issues.

As we all know, the pace that technology changes is fast and can be difficult to keep up with. As “Tentative Technologies” recently posted, it sometimes seems that by the time we know that an issue or technology requires structure, the “horse is already out of the barn.” The technology is already in use and we are late getting there. Add this to already growing workloads and it is difficult to find the time…yet it is critical that we do!

All agree that training is critical to success. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" and "Camilla's Ponder" both post, learning technology sometimes falls to the educator as staff training and development opportunities are not always readily available. Additionally, IT staffing and support seems to also be in question as roles and responsibilities are being redefined and the qualities necessary are explored, as discussed in "Chelsey's Chatter" post regarding Technology Administrators. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" posts, “Education needs geeks, but we need a special kind of geek who is one of us" guiding change.

Finally, while some concrete laws are in existence and have been clearly interpreted for us (i.e., FERPA), legal and ethical questions still abound. As “BlamSpot” recently pointed out, social responsibilities and etiquette need to be clarified. Proper use of social networks, mobile devices and other new technologies in an educational setting needs to be defined.

While these are challenges that we all encounter and are discussing, it is readily apparent that there are many, many individuals enthusiastic about the possibilities. Excitement is contagious and the anticipation of learning about new technologies and being a part of the coming change that will make a real difference to people has been expressed in so many ways. As our "Disrupting Class" textbook indicates “education keeps reinventing itself as the population changes what it wants from education”. It is exciting to be part of an industry that is continually looking for ways to improve.

In closing, as I think about my current position, an individual whose role is to provide the environment necessary to facilitate business and learning processes, I often wonder what concrete things I can be doing to help meet the challenges and provide a robust learning environment. As educational professionals, what specific things are you looking for from your IT support staff that will help facilitate the building and support of this new learning environment?

Image obtained via Creative Commons. Calgary, Alberta. Copyright 2010 D. Darwent. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Man- I envy your ability to write so so fluently! You can put into words what I MAY be thinking, but could not even come to close to making it sound as good as you do! Looking forward to working with bring a different perspective to the table that I need!

  2. Marty, excellent posting. I epecially enjoyed how you weaved all of our thoughts and ideas to support your point. I look foward to reading more from you!

  3. Wow, I got a mention in your post. It's like that scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin finds his name in the phone book: "I'm somebody!!" :) Your ability to post about institutional readiness by using our posts really is a great trait - and it makes a good case for your point. I do worry about our own school district (and others if I just had the time) to create an environment that allows technology to do what it is designed to do. So many times we're given something - an application, program, incentive, etc - and are asked (or forced) to make it fit into what we are already doing rather than taking the full potential of the "thing" and adapting. So, if you come up with anything good in THAT department, give us a call! :)

  4. Marty-
    What a great post!! If you don't mind, I may have to use it in my next post. You hit on some very important points that have been generating in my mind. I think the best thing our IT support can continue to do is providing us with examples of technology being used in the classroom, especially where the technology is beign "disruptive".

    Thanks for a great post!!

  5. Is it about waiting for our IT support people to provide us with EXAMPLES??!! I think NOT!!!

    Disruptive technology is about seeing what isn't and asking Why Not? It is about visioning into what might be and then making it happen ourselves. THEN we create the examples for the IT people. They must be the learners and we must be the leaders.

    Few school districts are looking into where we might be going. They want to use new tools to support the status quo. "We must teach for our students' tomorrows, not our pasts." (Pink, 2009)

    How can you or your students use blogs to "get the word out" to make a difference in the world?

    How can you blow the walls off of your classroom or office by communicating with people around the world from your desk? You can use the free video conferencing software that is available today. Notice that I didn't say Skype or Connect or any other name. I looked at the goal and then found the tool. It's kind of like pounding a nail. Might use a hammer or a bone or a wrench or a rock or hotdog, but you need to identify your goal before you get the tool.

    Marty, you ask some good questions about who is responsible for teaching/learning technology. It is US and we must lead the disruption!!!


  6. Thanks for your comments is great fun to get feedback! I'm very fascinated with your discussion of roles. Most often, my experience is one in which functional experts (business pros, educators, coaches, etc) describe a need/problem they have and the role of IT is to match that need up with an appropriate technical solution. In my experience, it seems that the most successful projects are those in which functional experts and IT staff are partners in creating a solution. In these situations, the functional staff are the creative force, defining requirements and measures of success, while the IT staff work to fit the solution into a stable, secure and technically elegant design.