Friday, April 24, 2009

You Betcha I want to say Yes!

Dan Meyer of dy/dan fame picked up one of my rants a while back.  I just found it now.  Here is what he said:

Gary Ball, edtechnophile:

I want to be a Yes Man. I want to be a Lets Find a Way Man. I want my job to be finding ways to say yes to educators requests. Educator: "Can I do/have (insert random skill/technology/tool)?" Me: "Heck ya - that sounds awesome. I am not sure how but lets find a way!"

Mark Weston, Dell's educational strategist:

Asking the question, "Does technology improve student learning?" is the wrong question. The question should be, "Does technology support the practices that improve student learning?"

After reading the comments and thinking about it for a while I wrote this reply.  I figured that I should share it here.

Dean Shareski has the essence of what the post was actually about. You are quoting me a bit out of context.

No division could afford to keep me (or any good teacher) fully stocked up with all of my (our) whims. There has to be some sort of system of checks and balances to see that funds are truly spent on technology that supports students learning (and the practices that improve it). However I was not ranting about whims. Any conversation that starts out with a NO probably won’t get far. I want to be heard out and considered before I get a no (and please leave out the capital letters and the exclamation mark).

Innovation and creativity (which we need more of) sometimes involves picking up something new and asking “What can I do with this?” It involves playing with the new shiny thing and finding interesting ways it is useful.

I do agree that we need to have the conversation about how things will improve or support student learning. Anything that does not in some way improve student learning is money wasted. I don’t advocate blindly saying yes. I do advocate for innovation, creativity, and the conversations that should come with them.

As I have said before - I enjoy when people disagree with me or challenge me (as long as they do it intelligently.)

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pcone said...

Well articulated Gary. When I start feeling too much of the pain you describe, I start "numbing out" professionally (teaching becomes too much like a job and too little like a profession.)

Ryan Nickell said...

I think you hit the nail right on the head. Yes, there does need to be a balance and yes, we do need to make sure that money spent is in support of student learning. But how can we say that we are advocates of student learning when we say no to ideas before pursuing, experimenting, and discussing those ideas. What if those ideas have the potential to lead to huge amounts of student learning? And to be fair, saying no to ideas before they can be developed and considered should not be part of our educational system. We all know that we are educating students for a future that we know very little about. Shouldn't this influence us to be open to new ideas and innovation? If we were part of the corporate world we would be asking for a "bail out" because too often we say no based on budgets and hierarchal power. In today's world companies flourish because they are extremely open to innovation that will foster progression and success. When someone in the corporate world consistently says no to an idea that hasn't even been considered two things usually happen: another company develops the idea and profits from it; and that person eventually gets fired. Now, we are not part of the corporate world, and luckily our competitors do not capitalize on missed opportunites and our businees does not suffer, for our clients keep coming back. But who does suffer? Sadly, innovative educators...and let's not forget - our students.

Gary Ball said...

Last night I watched a TED talk video about a couple of innovators. The premise of their company is to look at new materials and try and think of applications for them. They were successful because they got the new things in their hands and played with them. Nobody said NO! to them.

Ryan - you and I have had this conversation before. Creativity and innovation are what keep us fresh - but there does need to be at least a little restraint on the financial side. That is why you passed on a SmartBoard.

Ryan Nickell said...

Good point...but I think that you have just provided another example of how discussing "those" ideas can lead to higher levels of student learning. Our fist SmartBoard in the school...awesome! But it might not be put to best use in my room because I am not yet sure how I would use it. We know that you would use it...on a regular basis. And you have a talent for taking something, getting excited about it, and finding meaningful uses for it. So why don't you put it in your room. Not only will you use it to start improving student learning, but you will also get us excited about using it as well. In the end, a higher level of learning will be pursued because we took the time to discuss how a new technological tool could benefit our students. Oh, what video did you watch?