Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mrs. Bartow's Packing

My first grade teacher is one of those people whose face I'll always remember.  She was infinitely kind and understanding.  It was her first year teaching, but I knew her from when she was my preschool teacher.  When I began working as a technology integration specialist, she was one of the teachers on staff at my base school.  I have tried, but I can't possibly imagine Mrs. Bartow packing heat in the classroom.

In keeping with the ludicrous arguments that have defined the most ardent supporters of the 2nd amendment, many have suggested in the wake of the most recent mass shooting that fixing the problem would be best accomplished if we had even more guns.  Specifically, if teachers had guns.  Teachers like Mrs. Bartow.

Sometimes, adding more of what is causing the problem works.  When fighting forest fires, for example, it is fairly common to light a fire intentionally in the path of the fire to burn up what would be fuel.  Putting guns in school is so far from logic that it's difficult to understand how a thinking person who is elected by popular votes could even utter the words without fear of being the butt of jokes and the victims of a recall election.

Most schools across the country aren't even allowed to physically restrain an intruder for insurance purposes, and you're telling me that there are legislators who think teachers should shoot them?  We can't escort an angry, abusive parent from the premises, but we can shoot someone in the head if they are aggressive?  Big shift.  If we're talking big shifts in policy and practice, why don't we start by paying teachers for the job they already do before adding the requirement that they be trained as a Navy SEAL.  

Most kids don't want to be at school.  We require them by law to go, and there are a lot of unhappy people in any given school building at any given time.  We have every student, regardless of their needs, in public education.  We have the ones who are excited to learn, and we have the ones who throw chairs at their teachers and threaten to kill them every day.  You think it's a good idea to introduce guns into that situation?  You think that there will be less violence in school when there is a sudden possibility for accidents that didn't exist before?  You think that by having more guns around the possibility for someone to use one of them in the heat of the moment doesn't increase?  You don't think a student would ever get their hands on one?

Aside from all of the obvious flaws in judgement with such a ridiculous proposal, let's consider the people who commit these crimes for a moment:  they are mentally unstable and are carrying multiple high capacity weapons with lots of ammunition.  Do you really think a handgun wielded by a 120 pound secretary is going to deter them?  In this most recent case, the only person who had guns and the ability to defend herself was the first to die.  The availability of loaded guns didn't help her.  Neither did her training.  Nor did her familiarity with the shooter.

There are no laws, policies, procedures, or practices that will end this type of violence.  The only thing that would prevent future tragedies is to have a society that values, above all else, human life and a commitment to treat one another with respect and dignity.  Violence needs to become a way of the past.  That isn't the message being sent when the teachers carry weapons.

Not Enough Time? Use What You Have

You can't have it both ways.

You can't complain about how much information students lose over summer vacation anymore.  You can't gripe about the time lost on the two days leading up to winter break and the day or two it takes for you to get students back and settled into the groove.

You don't get to say that you don't have enough time for everything you are expected to teach, or that you don't have the opportunity to try new teaching techniques.  Don't even think about saying something about how your students waste time or procrastinate.

You can't complain about those things while simultaneously cueing up the movie for your class to watch all afternoon, running copies of mind-numbing, holiday-themed worksheets and activity pages, and hosting holiday parties.  You can't gleefully waste class time with such fluff and then turn around and complain that, when you do decide it is a good day to learn, your students don't retain the information.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are We Hopeless?

In this article, the award-winning Technology Leadership professor and founder of CASTLE Scott McLeod laments the current lack of technology fluency he sees in the teachers he works with across the country.  Scott cites instances of educators who still don’t know how to work an Internet browser-despite being widely available and hugely popular for daily use for more than a decade-as well as many other tech-challenged examples.  

Then Scott asks these questions:  “What hope do these teachers have of providing meaningful, technology-rich learning experiences for their students?  What hope do these leaders have of creating and adequately supporting powerful, technology-rich learning environments for students and staff?”  He posits little to none.  

I invite you to discuss your thoughts in the comments below.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Leading From Behind

Student, to Technology Integration Specialist:  I need some help with this project my teacher assigned.
TIS:  What seems to be the problem?
Student:  I don't know how to do it, and neither does the teacher.
TIS:  Let me just make sure I understand you correctly, your teacher assigned you something they don't know how to do?
Student:  Yes.  It's due tomorrow, and I've got to get it figured out!

I wish this was a rare occurrence, but unfortunately, it isn't.  There are lots of teachers who, for various reasons, have yet to dip a toe into the Technology Integration pool.  Yet, they still assign students to do things with technology tools.

While I give kudos for the effort to integrate technology, I find this situation frustrating.  It is akin to a driver's education instructor who has never driven a car, a wood shop teacher who is afraid of the power tools, or a language arts teacher who still has not learned the difference between they're, their, and there.

You cannot lead where you have not been.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rotten Apples: iPad Mini Announcement Fails Schools

As excited as everyone else seemed to be about Apple's recent announcement of the iPad Mini, I was bitterly disappointed.  I think Apple missed a real opportunity to make a difference in education while still making tons of money.  They seem to be focused solely on the money part.  

Education didn't come up in the presentation by mistake.  Apple has already made millions from schools from iPads, and they stand to make much, much more.  They have poised themselves to dominate the education market not only with the devices they are famous for, but the textbooks they are trying to revolutionize as well.  If things go according to plan, they will have the number one computers used in schools, the number one tablets used in schools, and the number one textbook market used for schools.  Can you imagine how much money they would make if they had come out with a $199 iPad mini?  Even at the lower price, they would sell so many more of them because schools would be hard pressed NOT to buy them.  

But Apple is no friend to education.  If they were, they would worry less about profit margin and more about availability of quality learning devices for every student in America, not just those who happen to live in areas that can afford them.  That's what the iPad mini was supposed to be.  Like the one laptop per child initiative, it was supposed to level the playing field by giving every student access to a quality learning tool.  Instead, it's just another overpriced tool that may do a lot, but is a much more difficult sell to school boards and parents in districts where money is tight.  Right now, money is tight in every district.  

No, Apple seemed more intent on taking some market away from tablet competitors.  Here again, I think Apple was dumb in their pricing with the iPad mini.  If they made the iPad mini available for under $200, who would buy any other tablet for the same price?  It seems the only competitors would be those who make e-readers that strictly work as readers with a possible web browser.  A @199 iPad mini would kill every other competitor by Christmas.  

If their goal was to help education, price was key.  If their goal was to eliminate other tablets, price was key.  They missed the mark on both counts.  Apple could have done a lot more to help schools with a lower cost iPad mini.  Instead, they stuck to trying to be the richest company in the world.  Too bad…schools need companies that will support their objectives, not pick their pockets.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Invention

"Class, I'd like to introduce you to something magical.  It is an invention that allows anyone, almost anywhere in the world, to have access to nearly everything that any human has ever known.  It can almost instantly give you answers to nearly any question.  It can connect you to people who know the answers so that they can explain them to you."

"It can show you almost every work of art ever created.  You can use it to learn about music, and listen to the greatest masterpieces ever created by mankind.  You can look into outer space.  You can watch animals being born.  You can see what is going on nearly anywhere in the world.  You can see how a cell divides, or how plants turn energy from the sun into food."

"It can be used to find the location of almost any place in the world, down to a few feet in accuracy.  You can use it to meet new people, explore new ideas, or share your own ideas with the world.  You can use it to do nearly anything, because there are countless people out there using it to show you how."

"It has been used to revolutionize oppressed nations, to organize opposition and overthrow tyrannical governments.  It has been used to bring things to places that would never have them otherwise.  It can be used to change the world, if used correctly.  It can be used to work with others, to get feedback on our own work, to stretch our thinking, and to share what we create."

"But, when you come to my room, we are going to pretend it doesn't exist.  Instead, we are going to continue acting as if I'm the only person in the world who has the knowledge you need to succeed in this class.  If I see you trying to use this amazing invention, I will take away the device you are using to access it, and you will be punished."

We may as well hang this statement on our classroom walls.  In our district, nearly a third of all classrooms ignore the fact that the Internet exists.  They use computers once or less during the entire school year.  This data comes from a survey that teachers in our district took.  That, in itself, was a difficult process-there were many teachers who flat out fought about even having to log in to a website to take it.  

What makes us think that we don't need this tool, this invention that has literally changed the world we are supposedly preparing our students for?  How can we be so arrogant to assume that what was good enough for us is even remotely close to what is best for students today?  Have we not noticed that the Industrial Revolution is gone and not coming back?  Have we not been paying attention to the exponential advancement in technology?  Is it even possible for a teacher who cares about the success of their students to think that they are preparing them well for the future that they largely ignore is a reality?  

Come on, people.  It's time to get past your own hangups about using technology.  It's time to do the real work of preparing students for the world-the real world-in which they live, not the one that only still exists in your past.  

The Coach

As a star athlete transferring from a large school, Joe Student was excited to attend his first basketball practice.  Finally, he would feel that he belonged.  His first day was filled with uncertainty, unfamiliar faces, and confusing corridors that always seemed to lead him away from his next class.  Here, on the court, he felt at home.  This, he knew.

But as he entered the gym, he was again hit with a thick cloud of uncertainty.  What was going on here?  No one was suited up.  There were no basketballs to be seen.  The team was seated, in the same clothes they had worn to school, in front of a large whiteboard.  The coach was there, encouraging everyone to sit down and get quiet, handing out packets of papers.  Was this a meeting?  Had he misunderstood?  This was not the practice he was used to.

Things got more confusing from there.  It turned out to be a practice, but not like the ones Joe was used to.  Instead of running drills, getting tips, going through plays, doing sprints, working on ball handling, or scrimmaging, the team sat and listened.  The coach drew plays on the board.  He told players what to do in this situation or that situation.  He quizzed them on procedure, rules, and plays.  There was a quiz the following week, he said, over what was covered in today's "practice".  Joe wondered how this team was ever going to perform in games if they never did anything but listen and think about the plays.

If school is supposed to prepare you for life, why isn't school more like life?  Sitting down and listening to explanations, doing worksheets, and regurgitating information for tests doesn't work any better in school than it would in the basketball scenario.  Students, like athletes, need to actually practice and apply what they are learning in order to be successful.  They need to try, fail, get corrective guidance, and try again until they are successful.  The failing part might be the best way to learn.  Just as athletes watch film of mistakes and analyze what should have been done differently, failure is possibly the best teacher.

In school, we don't allow for failure.  We don't have time for it.  We make everyone do the same things, at the same time, using the same materials, so that it is easier for us to "cover" all the material and "manage" our classes.  That way, it can be regurgitated for the test.  But then it is forgotten.

Preparing students for life by doing things that are so far removed from real life that they can be forgotten within a week is definitely not what is best for them.  So why do so many continue to do it?  I think that can be summed up by answering the following question honestly:  Am I doing this because it's easy for me, or because it's best for them?

The Shop Class

As students arrived for the first day of Wood Shop, they noticed at the front of the room a table filled with tools of the trade.  There were various instruments that seemed to be for cutting, several others that looked like design tools, and many more that these first year students didn't recognize.  Imagine their surprise when the bell rang, the teacher stood at the front of the room and announced that they weren't going to be using any of them.

He explained that he didn't know how to use them, and so the students wouldn't be using them, either.  It would be dangerous for students to use things if he wasn't familiar with their proper use, he said.  It would be distracting to students if the sounds of the different tools hammering, sawing, and sanding could be heard during class.  Rather than risk anything unsafe, unfamiliar, or distracting, they would instead learn about how to make things without using any of the tools.

They would watch a video now and then, but mostly they would receive instruction in lecture format and practice the basic knowledge with worksheets.  If they wanted to use any of the information they might pick up between naps, they would have to do so at home, on their own time.

If this sounds ludicrous to you, think about how you teach your own subject.  Are you allowing students to use the tools available?  Are they using the best tools, or the ones that you are comfortable with?  Are they using or learning to use anything they will likely need in their own lifetimes, or the ones that you became comfortable with in yours?

Another scenario could have described a table with only the tools used hundreds of years ago, and none of the modern tools of today's carpenter.  This would be a fairly accurate comparison to schools today, as most classrooms operate they same way they did when they were modeled to fit the needs of the Industrial Revolution.  We operate as if in a time capsule, assuming that what was good enough for us, our parents, even our grandparents is somehow enough for today's students.

Teachers need to know what tools are available, how to use them, and how to teach students to use them effectively in their own lives.  To make the assumption that kids know enough about technology already and don't need anything from their teachers is to assume that knowledge of video gaming and texting will somehow transfer to corporate success.  Here is the truth:  kids aren't technologically savvy.  They know how to do what they want to know how to do, and nothing else.

Students need their teachers to be knowledgeable about the things that they will need for their futures, not be limited by what was good enough for their teachers' pasts.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not Enough

It's not enough anymore.  

It's not enough to teach the way we were taught.  The world has changed.

It's not enough to let students use computers and digital tools.  They need to be taught to use them.  

It's not enough to hand out countless worksheets to demonstrate mastery of a skill students knew coming in, when they should have already been allowed to move on-and actually use that information on something that matters to them. 

We can't keep doing what we've always done and expect different results, and what we've always done before isn't enough anymore.  

Imagine a carpentry apprenticeship, or even a middle school shop class, in which the teacher spreads all the tools out and tells the students the first day that they will be using these, but they'll have to figure out how to use them on their own.  Even if the best of things happen, the skills and things created won't be as good as if they were taught to use the tools effectively from the start. 

And that means that it's not enough to have the tools and to let students use them, we need to know how to use them, too.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Here we go!

As we come back for a new school year, hopefully reenergized and excited about the possibilities, I have a message for you.  It isn't "Here we go again" but simply "Here we go!"  Let's make this year different than all the rest.  Let's not just do the same thing for another year.  Don't dig out the same files you've used for years.  Pitch them.  Don't teach the same class you've taught before.  Use that beginning-of-the-year energy and excitement to learn something your students need you to learn, and commit to trying it-even if it means you fail miserably.

Let's talk about that failure part.  Many of you don't try to use technology with students because of it.  You're afraid to fail.  Why?  As teachers, we all know that failure is a part of the learning process.  How many times during the year do you tell your students that failure leads to success?  Here is your opportunity to model it.  Fail.  Fail right in front of them.  It isn't a waste of time.  Your students will see first hand that it's OK to try and fail, and when you try again the next day, that it won't make you give up.

I'm here to help.  I am here for you and your students  in every part of the process, from looking at your curriculum and finding the best tools to use, surveying your students' interests to help with differentiating instruction and which tools your students may want to use, teaching you how to use the tools you select, modeling the use of the tools with your students, and helping you evaluate the entire process for tweaking the next time.

It's a new year.  Make it the best one ever for your students.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Given Up? Get Out!

Have you given up?  Are you at the point where you just don't see the point in doing anything differently, in learning anything more, in trying anything new?  Have you been at it for a while?  Are you comfortable with things the way they are?  Are you planning to just keep on keeping on until you can retire?

Get out of the classroom!

This may sound harsh, but I think it needs to be said.  Too many people are in the profession just hanging on until they age out of the system.  Tenure protects them.  Difficult procedures are in the way of getting them to leave by force.  So just quit.  Do all of us a favor and find something else to do with your time.  Teaching is not a profession where you have the luxury of becoming complacent.  Kids deserve better.

So, get back on your horse, or ride it into the  Don't wait those last few years.  Whose kids are you going to cheat out of a better education while you ride out the last few years on cruise control?  Not mine.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 7


**comments from the survey are not listed on the last few blogs in this series because all comments have been posted at least once in other categories.  

This category includes all kinds of fears:  fear of messing something up, fear of asking for help, fear of letting go of what you've done for years and shifting pedagogies, fear of venturing into uncharted territory professionally, and fear of students misusing the technology. 

I can't ease all of those fears, but I can offer some sound reasons why you should do whatever it takes to conquer them:
  1. Your students absolutely need you to.  I don't know if anything else is needed after that, but I'll keep going anyway.  
  2. School is the best place to experiment and learn.  If you mess something up, you learn from the mistake and Larry fixes it.  No biggie.   
  3. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Don't worry about letting go and doing things outside your comfort zone.  You have to start somewhere, and remember that everyone feels like a fool when they are learning something new.  I'll support you.
  4. It will be tremendously rewarding.  Some of the happiest and most professionally satisfied teachers I know are those who have let go and were willing to do things differently.  They find that they have much more time to spend with individual students, and that their practices are in line with their beliefs about what teaching and learning should be.  Just remember you are supported.  I'll help you get there, and it doesn't matter how long it takes.  
  5. Failure leads to success.  Don't be afraid to fail. The alternative is to continue doing what you're doing and always ask "what if?" 
  6. Your students will enjoy class more.  Kids in classrooms that use technology for all parts of the learning process report that they enjoy learning much more than those who don't.  One of the things I hear all the time from teachers who use technology is that their least engaged students tend to work harder than they've ever seen them work on "normal" activities.  
  7. Kids need a safe place to make mistakes.  Think about this one:  if students misuse technology at school, we have safeguards in place so that it is a learning opportunity.  If they make mistakes online at home, it could be MUCH worse.  What if no one ever teaches them how to leverage the power of the Internet for good?  How to stay safe?  How to be smart about what they post?  Each of those things could haunt them down the road.  School is traditionally the place where kids are taught all the things they won't likely get elsewhere.  
  8. No more "Why are we learning this?" questions.  Once you learn how to plan authentic learning using technology, kids no longer doubt the relevance of what they're doing.  
  9. Technology enables students who struggle.  Students who can't or won't do things using traditional methods often take off in astounding ways when they are allowed to use technology to express themselves.  Here's a true story to reiterate that point:  a second grade student had to write a story using her iPod touch and a note taking application.  The application allowed for the use of pictures as well as other media, along with text.  Knowing she was not a strong writer, the student (without any direction, I might add) figured out how to record her voice instead of text.  The result was the best story she had ever made by far.  She had dialogue, characters, and told the story with wonderful expression.  When the teacher showed the story to the little girl's mom, she had tears in her eyes.  Powerful stuff.  
  10. It is the ultimate differentiator.  Technology allows students to do things in different ways, at different times, and to different degrees without anyone else knowing a thing.  It allows your students to each be challenged to explore and create, applying what they have learned in different ways, without the scrutiny of classmates like in a normal room in which everyone is doing the same things at the same time. 
That's just a start.  I can give you a reason for any excuse.  Try me!  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 6

No Computer Lab Teacher

It would be great to have a computer lab teacher in each building.  This person would teach skills in context with projects being done in class, or would create other projects to highlight necessary computer and Internet skills.  There would be extra planning time available as a result, and kids would have a more consistent base of basic knowledge moving forward.  We could even be sure to teach the required Internet safety skills, so that all students got a consistent message about staying safe online and having good digital citizenship.

But, even if we had such a position in every building, it would still be the classroom teachers' job to model the appropriate use of technology tools in class.  It wouldn't give you a free pass to leave technology out of your classroom, lessons, and projects because the students were getting it somewhere else.  This is something we all need to be doing.  

Imagine this scenario:  a scientist discovers something that will benefit the entire human race-something huge.  This one discovery could benefit the world, making it possible to solve problems we never could before.  In fact, this one discovery would make lots of things possible that never were before.  But instead of sharing his discovery with anyone, he takes the discovery with him to the grave.  No one benefits.  What a tragedy! 

Here is a fact:  experts estimate that 97% of all human knowledge is available for free online.  We're talking all human knowledge; everything we've ever learned, everything our ancestors have ever learned, and it's safe to say anything we will learn in the near future will go directly to digital print and world-wide availability.  Plus, it is increasingly easy to find this information, and even to have it taught to you through free courses from the likes of Harvard and MIT.  F-R-E-E.  This is a huge event in human history.  Yet, the majority of classrooms operate as if digital tools don't exist, ignoring the possibilities and opportunities they provide.  This is also a tragedy.     

Pretending (or even behaving without the intention to pretend) that it hasn't happened, that nothing has changed, that it doesn't exist, is a mistake in much the same way as the fictional scientist scenario.  Just as the scientist has a moral obligation to share his discovery with the world, teachers have an obligation to show students how to leverage the power of modern technologies for lifelong learning.  

Anyone who says they want their students to be lifelong learners, but doesn't show them how to use modern tools to learn anything, any time, anywhere is not being honest with themselves.  

The Internet can be the very thing that helps you to reach your ultimate goal for students.  Why would you continue to teach as if it doesn't exist?   

Friday, April 27, 2012

Help Get a Conversation Going!!

Finally, there are some people starting to read this blog.  Unfortunately, they tend to be those who don't need to be challenged or inspired by it.

Help spread the word, and get a conversation going around these topics.  Send the link to colleagues who need to read it.  Invite them to comment, even anonymously, and start conversations around the issues of educating 21st Century students.

If you are not "nerdy" yet, (I use that term affectionately) just enter your email to the right and hit submit, and you will get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Whether you agree with what is written here or not, we need your voice in the conversation.  Please join us!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 5

No Time

This could easily be everyone's number one concern.  My take on it probably won't be very popular, either.  Let me ask a few questions:

Do you skip teaching or using anything that you don't already know how to do or use?  
Do you believe students need to learn how to use technology for more than FaceBook, texting, and iTunes?
Do you think that students in your classes today will need technology skills in their future?  
Do you think things have changed in the workplace and economy since you were in school? 

You can see my point.  I know that balance in our lives is important, but does that mean that you don't do anything?  Isn't it better to get started than to do nothing?  

Almost every teacher I've met cares deeply about the success of their students.  They have almost always done whatever it took to prepare students the best way they knew how.  If there was something that could help, they learned it and gave it a try.  

But something about technology is different.  People don't seem to have the same willingness to learn how to use it effectively that they demonstrate for nearly everything else.  This is in spite of the fact that we are surrounded by reminders and wake-up calls to reform schools and change the way we teach.  Public school has become all but obsolete in today's world.  

Let me give you an example.  Take Mark Klassen.  He's a cinematographer.  He has a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Vimeo page.  So what?  These are his teachers.  He didn't learn and hone his craft in school, he learned it from others who were interested in the same things as he was. He got online and got mentors.  He got feedback, which helped him grow and learn even more.  His audience is global.  He learns from everyone.

"Sharing my work online so that other people can see it and give me feedback and advice on it has become a huge part of the way I learn…It's inspiring and motivating, and a lot more people are finding me now."  --Mark Klassen, 2011

Do you see the difference?  There isn't a teacher alive who can stand at the front of a room and deliver that kind of education through lectures, with cell phones off, with no one talking to their neighbors.  This is how the world is changing.  This is how the spread of knowledge, the availability of information, and the abundance of others with things to share are making school a place where kids power down and turn off.  

This is our wake-up call:  if we don't do something drastic, we are going to make ourselves obsolete.  Unless teachers can become stewards in this information age, we will be nothing more than overpaid babysitters.  It doesn't matter how good of a teacher you are, because you are only one person.  You don't have all the answers.  You can't do everything that the 145 contacts in Mark's Vimeo network can do.  

"My question:  At a moment when our kids have (or soon will have) ubiquitous access to the content, resources, and people they need to learn whatever they want or are required to learn…a moment when they can create and share works of meaning, beauty and importance to inspire the world…which is a more compelling story of learning for our students?"  --Will Richardson, from TIE presentation, 2012

In the end, you are a teacher, those students need you to prepare them for THEIR future, not YOUR past.  So move on, get over yourself, and dig in.  Just get started.  I know it's overwhelming, but understand you don't have to know everything, and no one else does either.  You only have to know enough to model things you will use with students.  You will learn the most along the way after you get going anyway, so quit procrastinating or hoping retirement will come sooner.  The kids need you NOW, not when you get around to it.  

Survey Comments that fit this category:
"Sometimes I feel like I don't have the time to TEST things out before hand! I spend a lot of time researching and finding new things, but time seems to run out!"
"Time to cover the "basics" as required by ACT and curriculum. There is very little time for "extra"."
"What holds me back is that there is only so much time in the day for work, caring for my family, and other obligations. Learning new technology takes time for exploration, learning, and practice."
"Lack of adequate professional development and time devoted for professional development (unless it is all on the learners own time)."
"Time is limited on using the equipment. When we have a class of more than 20 students, we are unable to use laptops, because many are not in good running order. This leads to frustration for students and staff. Staff is not trained in all the aspects, nor do we have the time to learn it all. It would be great to have a tech person that could teach students."
"When technical issues occur and I cannot fix them on my own in a timely manner it takes away from instruction time. I have concluded that it is not worth wasting my classroom learning time trying to trouble shoot technology. If I had more training, I would like to incorporate more technology into my classroom, but at this time the pros do not outweigh the cons."
"Time to learn all I need to know to be able to trouble shoot problems that come up."
"-Lack of time to "weed through," view, and practice apps, etc. before using them with students
-Cost of apps
-Little glitches that take too much time to fix leaving little time for work on the activity
-It would be helpful to have more technology, apps that kept records (data, scores) on student performance. There are probably some out there but it takes time to find them."
"Not enough time to get efficient on technology!"
"Getting discouraged with roadblocks due to lack of knowledge to move ahead with an idea or project.
Other commitments that take time and energy, so at that point I'm too drained to add something else to my "to do list".
Finding the time and motivation to spend A LOT of my home time sitting at the computer trying to figure out what I know and don't know how to do.
Being afraid of having to asked for help or support.
Lack of computer time with the students. During a normal week when we have school on Thurs. afternoon my class gets 50 minutes per week with their hands on a computer."
"What holds me back at times is: 1) lack of proficiency with the technology, 2) lack of time and higher priorities that are more "pressing". I figure no parent is going to sue me because I do not use enough technology in my classroom, but they could sue me if I do not properly implement their child's IEP. That is what I mean by "more pressing priorities"
Training during the workday.
"Limited training opportunities during contractual time. Have second job to complement low teacher salary. Can not do training outside of work day."
"I believe the number one reason that keeps us from using more technology is the lack of time needed to learn about devices and programs."
""Time"---the time it takes to learn how to use it and the time to prepare the lesson or material included in the new technology"

Friday, April 20, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 4

Lack of Training/Expertise

Several of you listed your own lack of knowledge as the reason for not using technology with students.  There is never any reason to say you don't use the technology you have because you don't know how to use it.  Whose fault is that?  In a few cases, you even blamed me for not following up on training that you received.  In most of the comments that fit in this category, you just haven't bothered to ask.  For the record, in every single workshop I conduct, I say something along these lines:

"I don't expect you to be an expert in one hour.  I don't expect you to go back and use this stuff right away.  That's why I'm asking you all to ask me for help when you want to use these tools.  I can come help you plan, coach you in using it, or just be there for support.  I want to be in your classrooms, not here at the CO."  

Do you know how many times I've been taken up on that offer?  I can count them on one hand in the two years I've been here. If you want follow up, it's an email, phone call, or click away.  As a matter of fact, I've written the entire staff several times, telling them what I am here for and to please feel free to use my services.  I've encouraged everyone again and again to please get help with anything you need.  The last newsletter I sent was focused almost entirely on this, and yet there has only been one person to contact me after sending it.  That person doesn't even work in McPherson, and isn't a certified classroom teacher.  So, it's difficult for me to accept "I don't know how" as a reason for not using technology.  All of the evidence points instead to "I don't want to".

There is another subcategory that emerges when you read the comments related to this section.  Basically, you want more training during the school day, instead of everything being offered only after school when you have family obligations, other jobs, coaching duties, etc.  This is a legitimate concern, and I addressed it in the last edition of my newsletter.  At this time, there is a policy preventing me from taking teachers out of class for training.  That does not prevent anyone from getting help during the day, however.  You may still address many of your concerns by simply asking me to be there (lack of know-how troubleshooting, lack of ideas to implement what you know, etc.).  Plus, I can come to your collaboration meetings, PLC times, and planning periods.  There is no reason to say that you don't have time to implement technology in your planning, because that's one of the things that I can help you do.  You don't have to figure it all out yourself.  It is much faster to have someone there who can help you plan, and who will show up when you use your plans to make sure things go smoothly.  

Just to be clear, if you ever need help with any part of technology integration, that is why I'm here.  All you have to do is ask.  Don't feel like a burden.  I get excited when I get to work with teachers and students in their classrooms.  You're making my day, so don't apologize for needing help and speaking up!  Here is a short list of possible ways I can help:  
  • Teach you how to use a tool that you want to use for teaching/student projects
  • Model the use of a tool you want to use with your students
  • Team teaching
  • Continuous coaching with technology integration
  • Planning for the use of technology in your existing lessons
  • Help rewrite lessons to incorporate technology where appropriate
  • Generate ideas
  • Help in finding appropriate technology tools to solve problems
There is a lot more we can do.  Again, just don't hesitate to ask.  Everyone starts somewhere, and every step along the way is important.  

My job is to meet you where you are and take you where you want to go, step by step.  I don't care how small those steps are, and I promise that I will be so excited to be working with a teacher who wants to learn that I will never lose patience with you or make you feel silly.  After all, everyone feels like a fool when they are learning new things.  Failure leads to success, right? 

The only true failure is failing to try.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 3

Behavior Issues/Class Management Issues

There were a few comments about how using technology is a hassle because you have to monitor what students are doing.  Two points about that: 
1.  Do we stop using everything that is a potential problem?  
2.  Is modeling proper use of any tool important when teaching students, whether it be a book or the Internet?

If we are going to quit using things because kids might do something silly or stupid with it, then ban paper right now.  Kids have been wadding it up, throwing it, passing notes on it, using it to make spit wads, and it's flammable.  Oh, pencils are also out because of the sharp points and that annoying tapping that kids tend to do.  I saw a student hit someone with his binder the other day, so we had better get rid of those, too.  You get the idea.  Class management is tough.  You are tougher.  Give kids something authentic and meaningful to do, and they will goof off much less.  If kids see what they are doing as important, they don't have time to look up ways to make fart noises with their armpits.  

What can they do with the things you are teaching them that people in the "real world" do?  How can they use what you are teaching to do something that they want to do?  How will knowing this help them? Is there something they can produce that contributes to what is already available?  Here's an example:  a middle school class talking about pirates in a book they were reading started talking about piracy in another sense:  online piracy.  Recognizing a learning opportunity, the teacher let the students explore online piracy.  What they found was disappointing.  There seemed to be a lot of information, but it was in legalese and difficult for kids to understand.  Ironically, the students reasoned, most piracy was done by the very people who would find it difficult to read the information about it.  That could have been the end of the little side venture, but again recognizing an opportunity, the teacher asked the students if they could make something that explained online piracy for kids their own age better than the things they were finding online.  Le Arrgh was born:  the Digital Teen Anti-Piracy Website.  

Think about all the skills that these students used in the creation of this resource!  They researched, analysed, compared websites, sources, and the information itself, they collaborated (by placing a conference call with a bigwig record company executive for a live interview), wrote, edited, proofread, and published an entire resource for others.  

The point here is that the teacher could have stuck to the plan.  They could have just read the book, discussed the questions, given assignments, and had a test.  But they didn't.  As a result, the kids learned more, practiced skills, and therefore learned things more deeply and remembered more about the book they were reading (which, by the way, had nothing to do with online piracy).  Amazing.  

Modeling our expectations is HUGE for class management issues.  How in the world did it come to be that perhaps the most powerful invention in all of human history-the Internet-is rarely modeled for appropriate use in schools?  It is tremendously dangerous to expect kids to grow up teaching themselves how to behave online.  Where are the adults?  Teachers:  it's our job to step up and show them the way.  We live in a time when the exact same tool that can be used for infinite growth and learning could also be used by the same person to do nothing but entertain themselves into an ignorant stupor.  Which way will we show them?  If we don't choose either, and leave it up to parents and peers, are you confident in the way things will end?  

In conclusion, don't let class management issues be the reason you don't use technology with students.  If you need help, ask me to come in and help you get things going.  It may be a stretch for you to think of the ways digital tools could be used to further your class goals.  Let me help.  If management gets in the way, I'll help find solutions for that, too.  Don't be afraid to lean on me for support.  That's why I'm here.

Here are the survey comments that fit this category:
"I have attempted many times to allow students to use technology for research, but 1/3rd to sometimes a 1/2 of the students will begin using the technology for other interests other than what we are to be working on. It's just another discipline issue to deal with on top of everything else."
"Some students change web pages to their own interests if they think someone is not watching them. They quickly switch back if a teacher gets in their area."
"It's just one more thing that I have to watch."
"I can't trust students to be responsible with it on their own, and I don't want to have to walk around and monitor what they are doing all the time."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why Aren't Teachers Interested in Learning?

I have noticed a trend in the technology workshops that I offer staff in my district:  if it's something that people feel they have to do, teachers will show up.  If it's something that they should do, the only people who sign up (with a few exceptions) are those who need the hours for recertification or for the extra pay.

Why is this?  If there is one thing that all teachers should believe in, it's modeling a desire to be a life long learner.  However, the biggest obstacle I face is what seems like a total lack of desire to do anything differently by the vast majority of teachers.  Most seem to want to be left alone until they retire-doing things the same way they did when they began teaching, the same way they were taught, and often the same way their parents were taught.

When you think about what has changed in just a generation, it's staggering.  It should be considered educational malpractice to continue preparing students for their future when we are actually preparing them for nothing more than our past.

I hear all kinds of "reasons" why attendance at trainings is so sparse.  People are busy.  I get it.  I was (and am) busy, too.  I still find time to keep up to date with the latest in 21st Century teaching and learning.  Why?  Because that's what students need.

The practices are outdated.  The vast majority of the way we spend our school day does nothing to prepare students for their futures.  Most will succeed despite their education, rather than because of it.

If you don't care about what your students need enough to continue learning, it's time you find another profession.  I don't want my kids, my future doctor, etc. to be in your class.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is Holding You Back? Part 2

Doesn't Work Properly

For part two, let's look at all those frustrating things that aren't working properly.  Sometimes it can be fixed with a little planning ahead, sometimes you have people who can help, and sometimes it just needs to be fixed.  All that and more, dear reader!  

You may notice some of the comments from the survey that fit this category were also included in part 1 (and you might notice some of the same ones in later posts).  This is because many of your comments fit in several categories.  If it fit at all, I included it.  Thanks again for all the feedback!  

Sometimes, this is a valid concern.  Other times, it feels valid, but really it could have been avoided.  Let's separate those out, shall we?  

First, all of those comments about network connections, slow connections, dropped connections, etc. are valid and understandably very frustrating.  I'm happy to report that they should all soon be a thing of the past.  Larry is working hard right now to ensure the network has a beefy upgrade when you return next fall.  He's not just getting it up to speed for today, he's planning for what we might need down the road.  You should notice a big difference when you come back to school.  

On the other hand, for all of those things that you tried at home and then they didn't work at school, or you tried it in one place but it didn't work in the lab, PLAN AHEAD.  My first year teaching, my principal frowned at me when my lessons weren't on my desk for him to easily find, and told me that if I fail to plan, I must be planning to fail.  Some famous coach said that first, but it is true for us, too.  If you're going to use it with students, it's imperative that you test it on the same things they will use.  How else will you be able to anticipate problems that might come up?  Many people voiced frustration with not being able to fix things on the spot when they happen.  Testing it first, you'd have encountered those issues and worked through them, and they'd be in your plans or taken care of ahead of time.  If you plan to use the lab, test it in the lab.  If you find a site at home, make sure it works at school.  

There are a few things you can do to help yourself.  Remember the zone of proximal development?  It's that range where a learner can work slightly above their own ability before becoming frustrated.  That's where real learning takes place.  It isn't too easy or too hard.  As soon as frustration sets in, you back off or provide the help to get them where they are going.  You need to give yourself the same leeway to back off when you get frustrated.  There is no reason for you to fiddle with things for hours when there is someone in the district (me) specifically placed here to help you with things like that.  As soon as you get frustrated, let me take over.  You've got more important things to do.  I don't want frustration to get in your way while you learn to use technology any more than you want it to get in your students' way when you want them to learn your content.  So ask.  I'll help, and I'll be happy to do so!  

Another thing to remember:  you can get sites unblocked.  If you try a site at home, but it's blocked at school, just ask Larry or I to unblock it for you.  We'll give it a look and make sure it isn't something that needs to be blocked (there are a number of reasons why legit sites are still blocked) and then we'll simply remove it from the filter.  Just don't ask us to do it "before next hour".  Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for someone else.  Again, plan ahead and all will be fine.  

I'm sorry to say that, at least for the foreseeable future, we can't do anything about BPU turning off A/C on hot days.  We can, however, keep things from overheating if they are simply turned off.  That makes them difficult to use, but it keeps them from getting damaged.  

Lastly, I'd like to address one specific comment about the districts "narrow definition of technology".  I don't know where you're getting a definition of what the district views as technology, or what you think it is that we supposedly don't, but I can guarantee that whoever made that comment hasn't talked with me about technology use in their room and what would count as "technology".  I know it's not just computer driven.  The abacus was cutting edge technology at one time.  That's not the point . How is this a roadblock?  It seemed like a shot at me personally, so I thought I'd take a moment to say "you missed".  

Here are the survey comments that fit this section:
"Little glitches that take too much time to fix leaving little time for work on the activity"
"Time is limited on using the equipment. When we have a class of more than 20 students, we are unable to use laptops, because many are not in good running order.  This leads to frustration for students and staff.  Staff is not trained in all the aspects, nor do we have the time to learn it all.  It would be great to have a tech person that could teach students."
"having a reliable internet (airport access)"
"In August when air conditioning turned off in building, per BPU request as USD 418 an interruptable customer, equipment overheats.
Difficulty in connecting and staying connected to wireless airports.
District's narrow definition of "technology". Today's technology is more than something computer driven.
Classroom computers loose connection to server.
Limited training opportunities during contractual time. Have second job to complement low teacher salary. Can not do training outside of work day."
"When technical issues occur and I cannot fix them on my own in a timely manner it takes away from instruction time.  I have concluded that it is not worth wasting my classroom learning time trying to trouble shoot technology.  If I had more training, I would like to incorporate more technology into my classroom, but at this time the pros do not outweigh the cons. "
"I find really great sites on my computer and then take the class there and the lab computers don't have the plug-in needed to run the program--this happens a lot!  Very frustrating."
"Time to learn all I need to know to be able to trouble shoot problems that come up."
"Lack of properly functioning hardware combined with large class sizes.
Some days it seems that even the newest machines seem to be hanging on by a thread.  Or they work a certain way one day and they work a different way the next.  Or half the computers are desktops and they work a certain way.  The other half of the computers are  laptops and they work a certain way.  I spend most of the time giving every direction two times.  One set of directions for the laptops and a different set of directions for the desktops. I might start an hour with 27 students and 27 machines, but end the hour with 27 students and 24 functioning machines.  You have to do so much trouble shooting that you don't spend time teaching the lesson. (In case you can't tell - I am at the middle school!)  Which of course also lets you know that some of the discrepancy can come from the user - the students can be just as fickle as the machines! :) It can be a challenge to be sure all 27 students and all 27 machines are working in harmony - but when it all comes together the computer lab can be a thing of beauty!
I am not necessarily scared of technology. I can usually pick up on new things quickly and I also don't mind the trial and error method of learning/teaching."
"There is not currently enough computers to use with the students.  When I have asked for computers, I get the old computers that are not able to connect to the newer airports and do not have the capabilities needed to run the programs I would like to use."
"Laptops to use in the classroom are older so they don't hold a charge long enough and with some of the larger classes the number of lap tops does not equal a class set."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Job Number One: Modeling Online Learning

The most important goal of every teacher today should be to successfully model how to use the Internet for learning, creating, collaborating, problem solving, and DOING rather than merely using it for entertainment.

Why?  Because the Internet is both the keeper of all things known to man as well as the keeper of all the evil distractions.  A person can learn anything online, or they could spend the rest of their life watching YouTube videos and playing Words with Friends on FaceBook.  As of right now, we aren't using technology enough in our learning environments to teach students anything about its most powerful abilities.  Most teachers, for whatever reason, refuse to embrace its use or modify their lessons to leverage its power.  They won't take the time needed to learn what is necessary to teach kids how to use what could be the most powerful human invention ever for good rather than evil.  OK, entertaining yourself into a drooling mass of meat isn't exactly evil, but it's a far cry from using the Internet to its potential.

Here is an excerpt from Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin:
Just as online shopping scaled, an inexorable rise due to the efficiencies of the connections created by the net, so will the digital delivery of information permeate every nook and cranny of what we learn.

What we can't do, though, is digitize passion.  We can't force the student to want to poke around and discover new insights online.  We can't merely say, "here," and presume the students will do the hard (and scary) work of getting over the hump and conquering their fears.

We (educators) have to model that passion.  We have to be the bridge between the world of knowledge available online and the method of its delivery, since teachers' time as THE method of delivery is over.  Our desire to entertain ourselves may outweigh our desire for knowledge unless someone shows us the way to love learning digitally.

Who is going to do that?  Certainly not the teacher who finds every excuse NOT to use technology.  Definitely not the teacher who says they don't have time to learn how to leverage the Internet's capabilities in their classroom.  What's scary is that the vast majority of teachers I've met fit into those two categories, despite what they may say about the importance of using technology or how much they say they want to use it.

If you are one of the teachers who says they don't have time:  make time.  How did you have time to learn anything you know today?  Didn't it take time?  It's a matter of priority, and I don't want to wait until an entire generation of Internet users care only about their high score to decide to do something about it.

What is Holding You Back? Part 1

Education often operates in a state of contradictions.  On the one hand, we are preparing students for the future.  On the other, we are one of the most antiquated institutions in America.  We want only the best for our students, but scrutinize every program, every decision, every move with prying eyes to save a dollar.  Most of society agrees that we need to be giving students a world class education, but the community won't support outfitting them with the modern digital tools to ensure that it happens.  We have tons of evidence and research telling us that we need to change the system, yet we still shuffle kids through a system built for an age that doesn't exist anymore.  

In my job, I am often confronted with contradictions of word and deed.  I hear all the time about how far behind the K-12 system is, and how we need to be doing so much more to help students navigate their way in an increasingly digital world.  I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn't care about the future success of their students.  I very rarely talk with anyone who disagrees about technology's importance in their future success.  Yet, I find that very few teachers are willing to put forth the time or effort to learn how to leverage this powerful tool for the good of their students.  It makes me wonder:  why not?    

So, I asked everyone in USD 418 what is holding them back from using technology to teach and learn with students.  I wanted to know:  if they think it's important for students' long term success, and they want their students to be successful, why aren't they doing more to be technologically literate?  

I have made some categories that I believe the majority of the comments fit into, and will respond in general to each category.  Responses fitting that category have been copied verbatim at the end of the post.  Each post in this series will deal with another category.  Let's get this series started, then, shall we?  

Availability of Equipment
It always baffles me when we justify spending billions of dollars on war machines without so much as a blink, and then scrutinize every dollar spent educationally as "waste".  Obviously, funding is the biggest issue with the availability of equipment in the district.  The priorities for spending during years of budget cuts have gone toward keeping staff and programs, and it's hard to argue with that decision.  

We missed an opportunity here.  Before I came to McPherson, there was an initiative to bring laptops to the HS for every student.  It failed, and it failed miserably.  Ever since I arrived, I have asked questions about that initiative.  What caused it to fail?  Who was opposed to it?  Why?  What was said to rally against it?  I have often found surprising answers.  Apparently, there was quite a bit of dissent even among staff about the proposal.  Folks at other schools felt they were being slighted, even though the rest of the High School's tech budget would have gone to their schools and accounted for a large increase in equipment there as well.  There were teachers who spoke openly in opposition to the initiative, for whatever reasons they had.  

In the end, no technology initiative is going to pass a community vote if the teachers don't even want it.  Maybe you should talk with your colleagues about how much having more available technology would help you and your students.  A big part of the reason we don't have more "stuff" could be right down the hall from you.

Survey Responses in this category:

"the number of computers available to each student"

"Some students change web pages to their own interests if they think someone is not watching them.  They quickly switch back if a teacher gets in their area.  As far as using technology without students having individual laptops, I find a lack of experience and training on my part, and a lack of equipment in the room as the main obstacles in the class"

"Ability to understand how to incorporate that technology into the lessons I provide and access to the technology in my own classroom."

"Lack of computers: certain teachers/departments always seem to be hogging the computers and they are not always available when I would like to use them. At MMS, it would be helpful if each department (core areas) had a cart that could be shared among the teachers (or some kind of rotation between departments). It would also be extremely helpful if we could see a calendar of when computer carts/labs are being used so I can make arrangements and sign up for computers ahead of time while doing weekly/monthly plans."

"There is not currently enough computers to use with the students.  When I have asked for computers, I get the old computers that are not able to connect to the newer airports and do not have the capabilities needed to run the programs I would like to use."

"Either we do not have have them or we are introduced to great websites, applications, etc., but there is no follow up on how to truly work and use them."

"There are not enough teachers to cover all of our students to make a technology classes available for everyone in the building.  One to one laptops would help tremendously to give all students access.  There once was a time that notices would go out to inform us when there were ESSDACK events/workshops or other outside trainings to make sure teachers know about them without having to search for professional development in technology. Some of us need more than what is provided in just USD 418."

"What holds me back is that there is only so much time in the day for work, caring for my family, and other obligations.  Learning new technology takes time for exploration, learning, and practice.  I am wanting my students to have a full class set of computers in my room.  I do know how to use those…"

"Laptops to use in the classroom are older so they don't hold a charge long enough and with some of the larger classes the number of lap tops does not equal a class set."

"devises.  the ability to continue work with students when they go home (they don't have computers/internet at home)"

"Some times it's the lack of having it to use. Then other times it's a problem of myself not having enough knowledge to help them. I do feel that are kids are not having enough learning on the technology but we also don't have enough computer to for them to learn on."

"There is absolutely no technology in my classroom. There is not a projector, a screen, anything to use. My kids (pre-k) love when we let them do computer activities, and I know they would love to be more hands-on. We could also project online stories on a screen or Promethean board."

"Never getting a cart checked out when I have asked. Other departments are higher on the list or always seem to be using them.  Also, I don't always know what my plans will be far enough in advance to get the machines reserved.  Limited number of machines available."

"Lack of access to computers; working with preschoolers in general.  I think that at this age the focus is on other skills with just a basic introductory focus on computer skills."

"*Many things are filtered out.
*Taking the time to set up students' emails on each type of technology - it is difficult to collaborate if we do not have that set up and ready to go.
*Sometimes it is getting access to the technology (lab, individual computers, etc.)
*The training sessions available are good but need more time to actually work on setting up the project / and or ideas.  I tend to go home with ideas but have difficulty setting them up after I leave the training.
*Can the lab computers have photo/video capability?"

"The availability of the computers. The frustration of being able to connect to a signal with some computers while others are waiting to load/connect. Lack of money to adequately fund the technology for the classroom. Lack of adequate professional development and time devoted for professional development (unless it is all on the learners own time)."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Educating Our Way to Prosperity

We will never fully recover from this recession.  At least, not by doing what we have been doing.  It doesn't matter who is elected president, or if congress suddenly realizes that toddlers do a better job of compromise, step up to the plate and stop bickering long enough to actually run the legislative branch.  No, those things will have little or no effect on things because the real problem in the United States is that it has turned its back on the one great economic stimulus engine we have:  the free public education available to all citizens.  

I don't know how to make this any simpler:  unless you educate our youth to compete with the rest of the world, we aren't going to be able to compete.  Until we stop teacher bashing in the media and look for ways to help them do their nearly impossible jobs, until we respect education as the great equalizer that it is, until we stop taking money away from schools and forcing them to cut programs that are proven to help kids learn, and until we invest in our future at at least the same level as we invest in protecting ourselves from those who would do us harm, we don't have much hope for the future.  

The world's problems are big.  The jobs that students today will need to do in the future are complex.  We cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results.  The data is in, and it's glaringly obvious that testing kids to death doesn't make them smarter.  Filling in bubbles doesn't help them solve problems, think creatively about solutions to complex issues, or collaborate with others on difficult tasks which require experts from various fields.  Giving them drugs to make them sit still, be quiet, and listen to more lecture isn't going to create the kind of worker the future-and this economy-needs.  

We don't need assembly line workers anymore.  We don't need thoughtless clones who follow orders without question.  China and India each have more honor students than we have students.  Can you blame American companies for going outside our borders to recruit?  They can't find enough qualified people here to fill the kinds of jobs that are in high demand.  

We don't need standardized tests to help us do it better.  "Better" won't cut it anymore.  We need "different".  The entire model of school needs to change.  It needs to be more like the life we are preparing students to have.  

We need thinkers, collaborators, problem solvers, effective communicators, and most of all-we need learners who know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn as things change.  We need people who can evaluate things from different angles, then invite experts in to help them with the things they can't solve themselves.  In schools today, that's called cheating.  

The old way doesn't fit our needs anymore.  It's time to stop talking about how to make it better and dig in with the real work of retooling our education system to meet the needs of the learners.