Questioning My Qualifications

Another post today has me questioning my qualifications to talk about the My Wired Life main topic: technology integration in education.

This post is from a tech director as a letter to Will Richardson. Read the full post for the whole story, but my main takeaway from the post is that anyone not currently in the classroom shouldn’t say anything about education and classrooms.

I gotta admit, this one punches me in the gut — HARD.

I am a former teacher, but it has been years. I’ve been out of formal education for a long time. How can I possibly even think about opening my mouth about what I think about the role of technology in the classroom?

I worry about this – a lot. It really bothers me, and I know I’m not taken seriously, being a parent, and not a current classroom teacher. I know it means I have little “cred” when I talk to teachers and administrators. I know that’s why I get the door politely shut in my face. Even in my work (where I have been studying educational technology fulltime for almost two years) I know I have little “cred” because I’m not teaching.

I often wonder I keep doing this. Something keeps propelling me to be so passionate about moving schools to teach 21st century skills, to integrate technology, to make changes. Why? Because I’ve been motivated by amazing teachers. I’ve seen their work, I’ve seen their success. They’ve motivated me to keep going.

I am convinced that my employer needs to keep moving in the direction to provide digital content. It’s where schools need to move. I am lucky – I have the time to do all this research. I have time to communicate with teachers all over the country through social media, blogs, conferences and more. My ideas come from integrating what all these amazing people talk about.

These amazing teachers that have convinced me to keep going on this have given me what I need to know I’m qualified — they made ME think outside the box. Everyone needs someone to push them a little to think differently. No matter what job we have, we need to keep learning, keep looking for new ideas and new answers. We need someone to keep pushing us to move outside our comfort zone. If I only listened to people who work in my specific field, or  in my department, I’d be stuck in a rut. It would be boring, I’d be bored and never learn new things.

While I’m not in the classroom, I can still respect the struggles and constraints placed on teachers. I think anyone who sticks with teaching is an amazing, dedicated person. The job is relentless and unforgiving. The demands are unrealistic. I see that – it’s obvious, even from a parent point of view.

While I know  that in the eyes of those who think only teachers can have any thoughts about teaching my qualifications are limited and my credibility is zilch, I will still keep talking. As a parent and an informal educator, I, too, have a stake in education. We all do.

Engaging Parents is a Good Idea

Interesting blog post from The Fischbowl about getting parents involved. He’s following up on a post he saw on Will Richardson’s blog where a superintendent talks about needing to engage parents in the conversations.

I have to say that that my experience at my kids’ schools has been the opposite: I’ve been kept at arms length. I’ve been trying hard to respectfully engage school leaders in conversation about 21st century skills, including integrating technology, allowing students more flexibility in assignments and learning opportunities, empowering students using the tools they use 18/7 (outside the school day),etc. I have never been rudely shut out, but I certainly haven’t been taken seriously or given more than cursory answers. Usually, I am treated as one more complaining parent with smiles, but that vacant look that tells me they are really thinking about something else while we’re talking. I’m not sure what I’m doing that is getting the door gently shut in my face.

It is a totally different story when I approach schools as a part of my work. I have talked to school superintendents, technology directors, teachers, curriculum directors. I have been welcomed into their schools, classrooms, conferences and conversations. We have engaged in serious, thoughtful conversation about the same topics: 21st century skills, technology integration, digital literacy and responsibility, flexibility, testing (amazing how they universally dislike testing!). The conversations have been energetic (watch for flying coffee!), passionate, and invigorating for all involved. We mutually bemoan the fact that there is little quantitative data about success, yet the observed and anecdotal data is overwhelming. Not that this is about me, but in those settings, I am treated professionally; my thoughts, opinions and work is treated professionally and taken seriously. We are partners.

Why aren’t I taken seriously when I approach the schools as a parent? Am I a threat? Am I complaining? I admit I am complaining when my daughter can’t use her iPhone graphing calculator. I only want what’s best for the kids — and not just my kids. I see such overwhelming success in the schools I visit that are ahead of the curve: those that incorporate 21st century skills, those that have thoughtfully integrated technology into all classes. I started out just asking what the schools are doing about these topics. It is no secret I think they need to do more, but I have tried to offer support for whatever steps they are taking. My offers to help have for the most part (with a few notable exceptions) been ignored.

To get back to my main point: I’d like to be engaged by my child’s schools. I will be your strongest advocate and supporter. I know this is a big step, and I applaud and support all the steps you’re taking. I’ve got your back. I’ll do whatever I can to help, and I do know what I’m doing — even if I’m not currently teaching in a classroom. Please don’t shut me out.