Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leading with Learning

I love NECC. I love it and I hate it. I come home after four intense days of lectures, workshops, debates, and playgrounds, all fired up with the latest and greatest means of teaching better through technology.

Then I return to my school and try to share what I’ve learned. Let’s face it; it’s a foreign language to most teachers. What I struggle with most is guiding teachers to the tools they’ll need to implement a 21st teaching pedagogy, tools that will help them connect to other teachers and classrooms. Just when I feel that I’ve reached a point where teachers don’t roll their eyes or snicker when I say “wiki” or “blog,” I am confronted with new tools. Do I dare introduce Twitter as a tool for learning? Is now the best time to share Digg, Facebook, VoiceThread, or GoogleDocs with teachers who are busy preparing for a new school year? Our Tablet PC program is starting its fifth year. Is now the ideal moment to tell them we should be exploring the power of Netbooks and handhelds in the classrooms? Does it undermine the legitimacy of these new, powerful tools if I send out a tweet to all my peeps in the Upper School faculty room asking them to join my LinkedIn network?

The reality is that the pace of technology far exceeds the pace of change in most schools. However, the thing that is most constant, our mission and our purpose, is that we seek out every possible way for all our students to learn in a way that is both powerful and meaningful. On that we all agree. So when I speak with teachers, I don’t lead with the latest app or cool new gadget, I lead with learning. What’s the most challenging thing to teach? What’s the most difficult concept for students to grasp? What resource might help turn the corner and make the lesson come alive? That’s when good teachers are ready to ask the question: “what’s new?” When I lead with learning, it is easier to translate “geek speak” into a language we all understand.

-- Renee


  1. And as much as we might have "techno-lust," as Alan November called it, after a visit to NECC, we all know that truly leading with learning, in another sense of the word, is what we are all after in the end.

  2. It's also important to remember that not all tech ideas will be embraced as helpful. I'm not in education but teachers are people, co-workers, team members and some will see the advantage of Twitter but might totally miss the point of Digg. While leading with learning, remember to include variety when it comes to technology tools. You may be surprised by the creativity of a teacher who comes up with a use for a tool you hadn't thought of...ok, maybe. :-)

  3. Hi Renee & Susan - I happened upon your post as I run a social network "The Mindwire" (www.moblear.ning.com) and look for educational tags. I read your post and was extremely interested as this is something we (I) have been discussing. I'm with an organization that develops 21st Cent tools and content and the challenge has been to create opportunities - it's not about those that can't or won't, it's about those that will. We always say, if we are talking about it the debate is already over as the kids are 5 steps ahead of us and already are using technology. Best - Supra

  4. Thanks for commenting. We love to keep the dialogue going.

    Good advice here on variety and not getting hung up on specific tools, as well as willingness. The big question is how do we encourage "willingness"?