Seed Planting

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “how to” style workshop. I’ve purposely shied away from them instead trying to move the conversations more towards, “what might you do that makes a difference for kids?”  I’ve been referred to by a local high school principal as “Big Idea Dean”. I can’t say for sure, but I take it as a compliment. I guess I’m trying to aspire to this:

Wishful+Spring+ThinkingThe reason I’ve not done many “how to” or tool based workshops is simply because as an initial introduction to I don’t think it works. That said, I’ve done some in the past and do support teachers with just in time learning. I’ll get teachers and administrators asking about blogs. My first response is always “why?”. Without a belief and understanding of how it might help kids, it’s generally a waste of time. Instead I ask them to take a step back, do some lurking, determine what you want to do and then dive in. Backward by design. I’ve just seen my early approach of showing how easy things are to be less than successful. I’ve said it many times, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean you’ll do it or that it has value.

So I do more of these “big picture” style talks, focusing on shifts, and often leave wondering if I’ve done any good.

Lately I’ve had a number of conversations that tells me maybe I have. One teacher in particular tracked me down in a coffee shop and told me, “I get it! I didn’t get it 2 years ago when you talked about it but now I do!”  She went on to talk about how she uses a wiki to provide learning opportunities for her students, about how their work is public and transparent, how the look after each other and how the learn from each other.  I’m less frustrated, less concerned when teachers are banging down the doors to make shifts in their classrooms simply because I or someone else has presented a compelling idea for change. For many these talks and presentations need time to sit and stew.

They are seeing the shifts all around them as well. Whether it’s network news talking about the impact of twitter on election coverage or simply their own experience connecting and posting content on Facebook, teachers are beginning to see how these things might impact their classrooms.

So if you’re out there and feel like you’re a voice in the wilderness, take heart, you’re seed planting.

Image: ‘Planting Seeds
www.flickr.com/photos/99015524@N00/2397251693

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  • I like your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    John Pedersons last blog post..Thanks Doc!

  • I think there is room for both: big ideas and how-tos. I know that many people who are real interested in applying big ideas need practical concrete help making it happen. Big ideas only go so far. One of the big problems in education is everyone wants to come up with new big ideas and they are adopted and forgotten from year to year. No big idea seems to stick for long in education. In tech, we are doing a disservice if we are constantly moving to the next new big idea. I also don’t think we should spend time with how-tos on specific versions of software since new updates are released all the time. We should spend more time teaching kids the main ideas and how to transfer these ideas into new versions of software. Instead of tutorials on how to blog with Blogger, we should have tutorials on what is a blog? the main features? what they offer students in terms of control and value? Blogs will be with us into the future, so if we show the basic features, they should be able to adopt no matter WordPress, Blogger, or something down the line.

    Mikes last blog post..The Second Place is the First Place

  • Enjoyed the post and I agree fully. I also think teachers have to learn how to use these tools for themselves before they use them with students. Teachers who attempt to use wikis and blogs with their students without using them personally, I believe, are missing out on the big picture.

    Kelly Hiness last blog post..Are Textbooks So Last Century?

  • Mike,

    I agree, my point is not to discount how to’s but rather thoughtfully deploy them. I wrote simply to encourage those that focus on big ideas but see little immediate results. The shift here is not an idea that I think will go away. It’s not really a method or program but is societal and as I referred to in the post, it’s happening all around us and this is helping many teachers get it. Once they get it, it makes more sense to move into the how tos.

    You make great point about software specifics. I’m very clear to point out that it doesn’t matter what software or platform you choose, in most cases the main ideas are indeed transferable.

    Dean Shareskis last blog post..Seed Planting

  • I’m often described by those I work with as having the knack to have vision and then deliver on my thoughts. However, my visions or ‘big ideas’ seldom are articulated in the way you and other visionary educational bloggers I read are capable of doing so. I can describe my vision in only so many words, and often as a stream of consciousness … so, I leave my workshop presentations to be more of a ‘how to’ and incorporate examples of student or educator work as exemplars. In February, I will be leading a workshop on developing a PLN, and, I will be doing so in the context of research and discovery. Now that our teachers all have laptops for their own personal/work use, I know there is a need for many ‘how to’ sessions, but also a need for ‘big picture’ understanding of the tool our board of education has provided for them.

    Bob Cotters last blog post..A big job – first stage complete

  • Bob,
    I think the examples of exemplars are really critical combined with the simple questions of “Why do you think this is?” Some concepts and ideas are more easily articulated but I find that asking people to reflect on what they see as great work, deconstructs the big idea into something personal and in the end, more meaningful. At some point, they will have to own these ideas for themselves. The teacher I describe has done that and while it’s not fully developed (and who can really say they’ve figured it all out) she’s moving forward with some key concepts and building upon them all the time.

    You don’t have to abandon the how to stuff but you’ve also figured out that asking why will help make it stick.

    Dean Shareskis last blog post..Seed Planting

  • I agree! It’s only a matter of time that people “get it.” It’s just one of those generational things. The kids get it, and it makes sense to them, but only when the teachers start understanding it as well will things change. I’m glad you’re giving these kinds of talks, I’m sure it’s making a difference!

  • Nancy Caramanico

    It would be interesting to see how many presenters in the edtech related arena move from ‘tool how to type presentations’ to idea and theory based presentations. Having presented in both areas frequently myself, starting with tool based presentations, I agree with you that the ‘why’ and ‘how this makes a difference’ are essential.
    It seems as though if the why and the how can become personal to the teachers and administrators, they can feel that these changes are worthwhile and ideas can begin to germinate.
    I would agree though that there appears to be an abiding and real need for both tool and idea based presentations. Ideally these are presented in conjunction with one another either online or face to face or as a district offering.
    At a recent theory based presentation, I had a frustrated teacher approach and say to me… “I know that they world is flat, I know that my classroom needs to be an environment for 21st century learning, I know I need to add new instructional strategies, but I don’t know what to do. How do I make that happen?” As a beginner, she was directed to a web literacy and quality internet resources tool workshop that gave her both skills and resources. She later said ‘that was exactly what I needed’.
    That is where the tools can come in. We need the tools to dig down and to plant those seeds perhaps. They are the trowel allowing teachers to dig and plant the idea seeds. Ideas, tools, ideas, tools. Those seeds will take root, even in the wilderness.

  • It just takes time. As fast as technology moves, it takes time to get it into the brain, to figure it out. Seed planting is such a worthy activity, in all aspects of education. We need to step away from instant success and know that change is coming, flowers are blooming.

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