Thursday, April 12, 2012

Too Late to Educate?

This is a journal entry as part of my participation in the 3D GameLab Teacher Camp. This particular quest had me watch the following video and reflect in a blog post.

Too Late to Educate?

Watching David Perry's TED Talk helped me define a feeling that has been growing in my gut for about three years. If you haven't seen it and have 20 minutes, here it is:

To give you a little context, I'm 41 years old but have a couple of things going against me:
  1. I'm a theatre artist. With degrees in Drama and Theatre Directing, I've been accustomed to the term "play" being a part of the fabric of my work and life. Communication is my forte, collaboration and performance-based assessment my norms.
  2. I'm a high school teacher. There's a passage in Frank McCourt's book Teacher Man: A Memoir (that I'm going to paraphrase until I can listen to the whole thing and grab the actual quote) about how after you teach high schoolers for a while, you become one of them... you're sort of trapped in their thinking and world of communication. I've always loved and identified with that idea and I think it's helped me get through times when my "adult" friends don't understand why I'm not thinking about the world in the same way they do.
  3. I hold three positions at the same school: Theatre Arts Director, Technology Coordinator, and Media/Tech Academy Director. I know, I know: "Just put down 'Teacher' and you'll feel better." Hardly.
What's happened lately is that despite my being "ahead of the curve" with regards to educational technology (and I'm reminded regularly: recently a national foundation asked to use my template from a popular Web 2.0 tool to help out their other members), I've been hit with bouts of melancholy with regards to my work. Nevermind that change happens so slowly in public education, nevermind that money and access DO have everything to do with it regardless of how innovative you are, and nevermind that we are moving forward despite all the challenges: 

We're too late.

That's not despair; I'm not that good a writer. It's just reality. My evidence? Anecdotal. Limited to my experience. But nonetheless relevant.

My acting classes are a hotbed of experimentation... of the technological kind. I try everything. How is it relevant? It's all communication, baby. I poll my students about things like what device they'd want to check out of the library instead of textbooks. Taking photos of things and tagging them properly is regular practice. Next month my acting students are going to make apps that collect information on their favorite performer so they'll no longer have to "Google" Justin Bieber and can learn a new medium of demonstration.


The problem is that I'm just trying. These kids are going to miss out. The seniors are going to be gone in two months and some will step backwards into a lecture hall where they won't excel either. When they say "Aw, that sounds cool! Why couldn't MY classes be like that?!?" as I explain how I'm going to work in these tools and techniques for next year's academy (at least as best I can given what I'm given), it breaks my heart.

Problem is, even the kids who do get to have "classes like that" will be behind the curve. Technology changes/grows/moves/progresses so fast that education will never be in front of it. We move too slowly, for various reasons that aren't all bad. Sure you have "Amazing Online School" here and "Smarten Up Through Gaming School" there, but as hard as I... we? ...we work, there will always be huge groups of kids that we miss. As sad as that sounds, the key is this: The fact that it's too late is the reason to keep going, not a reason to stop. I just have to keep telling myself that.

Spring break is almost over. Time for this teacher to get back to learning.

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