Monday, April 24, 2006

Speaking with authority and credibility

I will not make many friends with this post. If I distance myself from those I admire and respect because I think they're off base and out of touch on this, well, that's the way it must be. It's just one of those things I must say, I believe it that strongly.

I have truly had it with the pontificating from various corners and from various levels about what the problem is with technology in the classroom.

If anyone wants to speak with authority and credibility on technology use in the classroom - and wants to be listened to by teachers, they must be involved in the classroom - now. It is changing so fast, life in the classroom of the 21st century. And technology within the classroom is changing faster than anything else in that classroom. If someone has not taught in a classroom within the last year, they have no idea what is going on there with technology right now. I'm talking everybody from college professors to computer lab teachers to keynote speakers at tech conferences. I cannot listen to them any longer. They do not know what is going on. They do not have anything to offer me.

So what should people do if they want to speak with authority and credibility about technology use - but they are not willing to be a classroom teacher? Well, my first response would be to tell them that they just can't. But if they REALLY want to get it, I would tell them they need to get themselves into a classroom, once a week, at the very least. Talk with a classroom teacher, F2F, once a week, at the very least. This will give them maybe a chance of understanding a little. Walk a mile in my Rockports...

Now, folks can continue to spew forth their technology-in-the-classroom ideas based on what they think are good ideas generally, or what they remember from who knows how many years ago when they were in the classroom. Being a computer lab teacher does not count, nor does being an "integration specialist". Many will be listened to by administrators (like George, maybe) - or not. This means less than nothing to me at this point. (I refer you to Charlotte's Web for Wilbur's delightful interpretation of what "less than nothing" means)

I will listen to and learn from classroom teachers. They live where the rubber meets the road. Time for new rss feeds, links, and all the rest.


Anonymous said...

I guess I'll just remove you from my RSS feed. I taught for 12 years, but since I don't do it now I might as well just shut up. Never mind that I have been working with classroom teachers on an almost daily basis for the past years. I don't know what's going on and I have nothing to offer.

Mark Ahlness said...

People like you and I (and I take a chance here to lump us together) care so much, that it is painful when somebody makes a harsh comment that just may include US. There are folks where I work who will feel the same as you do, I am sure of that.

The bottom line for me here is that I am speaking for the classroom teacher - the forgotton one. The one who supposedly doesn't know what he should do with technology. I maintain the classroom teacher is the ONLY one who truly understands what to do with technology in the classroom. I am trying to give that teacher a voice, some recognition, and some respect.

All the best - Mark

Anonymous said...

For me, the teacher isn't the forgotten one at all. They are the ones I communicate with daily. They and the students are why I do what I do.

Ewan makes a good point about the luxury of time. Because I don't have to manage students all day, I can find new things for teachers in our state to use. I meet with them, show them what I found, and help them use it if they feel it would be beneficial. Teachers thank me all the time for finding things that they would never have been able to find on their own. The teachers I work with have a voice, recognition, and respect.

Anonymous said...

I certainly sympathize with your frustrations, Mark.

I was a staff developer for technology for several years and found myself talking the talk but not doing as much walking the walk as I was asking teachers to do.

I went back to the classroom a few years ago but I find myself more like crawling the walk these days.

Maybe someday I will reach Shangri-La. and, I must say, those keynote speakers, etc. in my RSS feed do make help forge a path for me. But I also have as many, if not more, teacher feeds in my reader and those are the ones that really get me going.

Now, if I can only get a class set of Internet ready laptops without jumping through grant hoops then I may be able to get off my knees and REALLY start walking the walk.

Mark Ahlness said...

When in the world are you going to get youself a personal blog?! Your voice needs to be heard in this mix. I look forward to it... - Mark

Jeff Allen said...


You are a stud!
Your passion for your students is alive. As someone that's been out of the classroom for comming on seven years now...I am not in the least offended.

I've been following along and reading about your frustrations lately and sometimes it breaks my heart to hear about someone that lives the potential of technology in schools. You do great things. Don't let the rocks in the road diminish the flame.

Wesley Fryer said...

Hey, it is great to read a post written with passion. I actually found this post today from Brian's post about passion in education-- clearly you have the legitimacy to make these statements, Mark.

What I hear you saying is that people who are pontificating about educational change, reform, engaging kids, tech integration, etc. need to be very close to where the rubber is meeting the road. I heartily agree with that perspective. My own experiences in higher education for five years showed me that many faculty are very happy remaining distanced from the actual K-12 environment. My own teaching in the past year was limited to volunteering in a kindergarten classroom a little, working after school with 2nd graders on podcasts, and teaching three undergraduate and graduate classes for pre-service and in-service teachers. Plus a fair number of teacher workshops. Yes, that is teaching, no, it is not the same has having my own classroom of kids 5 days a week.

In defense of myself and those who are speaking out on issues of educational reform, but are not currently classroom teachers-- I'll say that I think often what needs to be said and can be said by classroom teachers is not being said-- at least in public forums where policymakers, administrators, and others need to hear those messages. You are saying things here in your blog that many should listen to and act on-- but I think those messages need to be carried out to a larger audience. I know that when I was a classroom teacher and I spoke out, even publishing some articles that were perceived as critical of my own school district, the response was heavy-handed and very negative. They were not interested in listening to my ideas, in fact they basically wanted me to shut up and not be critical at all, certainly not in a public forum. This dynamic was and is not unique to that school district, generally most schools are not friendly to public criticism.

So, I appreciate hearing your view, and my takeaway is to remember how important it is to work with REAL classroom teachers and not get detached in an ivory tower..... :-)

Mark Ahlness said...

Wesley, thanks for your feedback. I appreciate your honesty. Since I wrote this piece, I have thought about it often. A couple of weeks later I posted Speaking with authority and credibility - revisited, a softer, more thoughtful view of what I had said...

You mention the need to bring the messsage to a larger audience. Maybe I'm all wrong, but I think I can do that, too. The playing field is leveled (I'm so tired of saying the world is know), so in theory, my voice is as loud as yours, or Dave's, or Will's... That is where I'm going, when I can find a way, find the time, and find the audience. - Mark