mixing and remixing to find a balance….
I was recently accepted into the 2010-2011 cohort of the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring Heads. I’m very excited to have this opportunity and am thrilled that Dane Peters, Head of the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, has agreed to act as my mentor in the program. I have known Dane for a number of years through the NYSAIS Tri-Committee (Professional Development, Diversity, and Technology) meetings and have always enjoyed our brief conversations, so I am looking forward to being able to work closely with him during this process. Dane is an avid blogger about education, which is one reason I decided to dust off this blog and use it to document my journey through the Aspiring Heads program.
Dane and I met for the first time last Friday over lunch to discuss the Fellowship. I feel fortunate that Dane is so supportive of the Aspiring Heads program; I am the sixth (or was it seventh?) mentee that Dane has guided through the process. His enthusiasm has already put me at ease since when I first approached him, I was afraid that my request might be a burden given the many demands he has on his time. Instead, he seems as genuinely excited about working together as I am. What more could I ask for?
Our first conversation gave me much food for thought about the journey on which I’m embarking, and Dane has already focused my attention on aspects of a head’s job that I hadn’t really considered. For example, he told me about an article he’s working on that examines the dynamics of the crucial relationship between heads of school and boards of trustees. He also gave me an article about the 2009 NAIS Leadership Research Study and recommended two books to add to my reading list: Saying Grace, a novel by Beth Gutcheon, and Daniel Pink’s Drive, a book about motivation (that Pat Bassett also mentioned in his keynote at the NYSAIS conference this year, and a topic Pink addressed at TED). I was struck how Pink’s notion of the importance of autonomy as motivation parallels an example of the power of positive reinforcement versus the “hot poker” approach to management that I’ve carried with me since James McConnell’s psychology class eons ago.
I head to San Francisco on Tuesday for the NAIS Conference and have my first Fellowship meeting Wednesday morning. Off we go!
Reflecting on last week’s NYSAIS EdTech conference, I’m reminded of the commonly held belief that early mapmakers marked the edge of the known world with the words “Here Be Dragons.” While this belief seems to be something of a folk myth, it provides an apt metaphor to describe the current landscape in the educational technology field.
With rapid technological advances, teachers and students face a brave new world out there beyond the known boundaries. Web 2.0 tools have the capacity to open up new territories in teaching and learning, but their promise also carries with it a fear of the dangers that lurk at the frontiers. Ed Tech visionaries extol the virtues of open, collaborative, organic learning environments, while at the same time parents, teachers, and administrators wrestle with the potential negative consequences in our students’ and children’s lives of venturing alone into these uncharted lands. To make matters worse, the children tend to be the explorers, even the natives, of this new world, while most adults struggle to keep up.
Furthermore, these new technologies are also forcing us to examine and reevaluate long-held beliefs and practices concerning teaching, learning, and knowledge itself. How’s that for a challenge? While this is a very exciting time to be in education, it can also be quite daunting.
What’s the answer? One step at a time, I’d say, even when those steps are sometimes quantum leaps.
Well, I’ve been playing with a number of 2.0 tools over the past couple of years, ever since hearing Will Richardson speak at Mohonk 2004 on a very snowy Friday morning. He convinced me that I needed to explore weblogs, wikis, RSS, and such, and I began to integrate these tools into my work at school and to advocate for their use in the classroom, but until now I never took the plunge and starting blogging my own thoughts and ideas. So I set up this blog and in I go.
It’s fitting that I should start this journey after again attending one of Will’s workshops, this one focusing exclusively on the use of RSS in the classroom. It really got the wheels turning. I’m already regularly using feeds through Netvibes and on my Palm via AvantGo (for the long subway rides each day), but Will’s presentation helped me to see some great educational uses, such as the ability to aggregate information (text, photos, video, etc.) based on keyword and tag-based search feeds and to consolidate a number of sources into a single feed.
Which got me thinking…. I tend to be a person who likes to look for the Swiss Army Knife of online tools–something that does it all well. I want my blog to integrate with my wiki to integrate with course management software and on and on. It’s a search for the grail–the killer information managment app. But then that leaves me open to the paralysis of “but what if I start using something now and then find something I like more?” Today I realized that perhaps a mix of different tools is really a more flexible modular solution. And RSS is the tie that binds it all together.
Which got me thinking…. If every teacher had a blog, and every student had an RSS aggregator, what other course management software would you need? If teachers posted comments, prompts, notes, assignments, handouts, etc. to their blogs, students could simply subscribe to the feeds to create a personalized course content delivery system. And if the students had blogs, and the teachers had aggregators, then the whole thing could become pretty interactive. I’m sure there are some stumbling blocks that aren’t occurring to me right now, but at first glance, this seems encouraging.
NYSAIS Conference – Mohonk 2006