Death of Distance.

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I’m hesitant to read other blogs because I don’t want to steal other people’s ideas (I think I have said this before, but I can’t remember for sure).

You get to a certain point in life where it becomes hard to recall things. Like whether or not you said something out loud or just thought it. Or if you ate breakfast today (and what you had). Or where your car is parked. Or your wife’s name (I often confuse this with my daughter’s name… when I can remember that). And anyone’s birthday, including my own.

I suffer from some, if not all, of the above. Plus a whole lot more.

My middle-aged memory prevents me from reading a lot of blogs. Also affecting this is a lack of time, but that is a different story.

I really do worry about accidently stealing other people’s thoughts and ideas. I want the incoherent ramblings of my blog, to be mine and only mine.

It may not be full of quality, but its mediocrity is all mine. death-of-distance

So in the interest of self disclosure, I didn’t come up with the title of this blog. It was a phrase used by a speaker I heard this week at a conference.

Google also tells me it is also a title of a book from 2001. Now I don’t feel so bad in stealing it (quick question… if you steal something that’s already been stolen, is it really stealing?).

The basis of the speech (which was very good) was the world is getting smaller and how educators are reacting to it (or more likely not reacting to it).

Communication is easier and quicker than ever before. A lot easier and quicker.

Technology is allowing us to not only interact with our neighbors, but with people from all over the world.

My question is why are schools struggling with this concept? Why are we reacting to this process instead of leading it? Why aren’t we jumping all over this?

Students don’t have to be confined to the brick walls where their desk is located.

Why do I get the feeling that people who used rotary phones and watched Andy Griffith (the best show ever) as kids are the ones dictating how our students are learning?

In too many cases, educators spend more time giving excuses about not using technology than actually offering students these opportunities.

Kids in my daughter’s class will be my age in 2042 (as old as I feel some days… I am not really that old).

I don’t feel like we are preparing these students for what they will face in the coming years. And I am even more confused by the fact that this doesn’t seem to bother a large percentage of people in education.

Even worse, far too many people don’t even understand that they don’t understand the changes taking place.

We all could be doing more.

The world is changing.

And getting smaller. And smaller.

Distance isn’t just dying. It’s already dead.

Now some of our old ideas on how to educate students need to die.

And we can’t be afraid of the new ones being born.

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10 Responses to “Death of Distance.”

  1. Dlowry
    on Apr 5th, 2009
    @ 6:52 am

    “In too many cases, educators spend more time giving excuses about not using technology than actually offering students these opportunities.” – you are so right.

    How do we overcome these fears? How do we encourage our staff to become less afraid, reassure that them that exploring technology with their students is not time lost. That trying new things is not a diversion from the curriculum? Understanding that concepts not content need to drive what students learn, understanding that our students have a new and changing literacy, which includes technology (in many different forms).
    I also struggle with some of the same questions or comments that you raise in your post. We need to overcome these fears/road blocks so that we can continue to advance our learning and subsequently student learning. I would love to know how you have attempted to overcome some of the barriers to technology within your school.

    Keep spreading the good word.


  2. diane
    on Apr 5th, 2009
    @ 7:00 am

    I watched Andy Griffith and used rotary phones. And I believe I’m the most connected teacher in our district. All of our administrators are younger than I am, but they are not innovative leaders, nor do they welcome or support innovation by others. Until the state or federal government at least endorses some of the tools I use in my daily, non-professional life, they will not be made available to our students. I’m not afraid of change, but too many of my “superiors” are.

    Todd Hunt Reply:

    My daughter was given a “late assignment” slip for word processing her story for literature class because it was supposed to be handwritten. So as any good parent would do (especially a principal dad) I brought the state standards in to the teacher and asked where they addressed penmanship for a 7th grader. She could not find them, but we did find several technology standards. We really do hold kids back and it a case by case basis. Many teachers and administrators are charging ahead and welcoming technology such as phones, handhelds, and mp3/ipods in our schools, but too many are afraid of the technology. We need to facilitate learning, not strangle it with textbooks and worksheets.

  3. Joe Miller
    on Apr 5th, 2009
    @ 9:44 am

    I noticed the kids in my class copying typed papers the other day. When I asked what they were doing, they told me they had to turn in a handwritten rough draft of their research papers. The kids had typed out their rough drafts and were now having to hand copy them in order to meet the requirements of the assignment. Does anyone still hand write a rough draft anymore? I’m sure the two teachers who assigned the paper don’t.

    The problem I have is when ever I try to use technology it breaks or doesn’t work and no one in my building can figure it out. The other day I tried to have the kids use an online photo editor to label some pictures of the moon and on over half the computers the editor didn’t work because the correct version of flash wasn’t installed. I don’t have time to check and update every computer. I don’t have time to figure out why the video I just uploaded to edit can’t be edited (after many hours of searching, I needed new codecs, I stopped doing video editing in class after that problem, the trouble shooting was too much for me.) I want to be innovative, but it’s difficult when there is no one to help and I have to try and solve every problem.

    But as frustrating as it is, I keep trying new things because I have to keep in mind what is best for the kids (and it keeps me excited about teaching). Besides, I know I always got a kick out of watching my teachers struggle with a VCR, I’m just trying to pass the tradition on to my students.

  4. Tim
    on Apr 5th, 2009
    @ 9:55 am

    I read the stories about teachers ignoring technology and yet the problem seems to me to be so much bigger than single teachers, administrators, schools and districts. State writing tests have to be done by hand in many states. Who makes these rules? I can’t remember the last time I did a writing task without a word processor (with spell check turned on) outside of the personal letters and cards I send that I want to have the extra “human” touch. State governments and educational agencies need to wake up and let students live and work in the real world.

    Really, if my students were to type their homework on their despktop, laptod, iPod, submit it via e-mail and have it in on time I would be thrilled to have their work in on time and done. It would also reflect how I get my work done… Real world.. what a concept.

  5. Dan
    on Apr 8th, 2009
    @ 2:08 pm

    I try to use technology all the time, and the parents hate it. They hate they have to look online for homework and news letter. They hate that all the grades are online. They hate that I created a wiki for my students to use. They hate it….

  6. Louise Maine
    on Apr 9th, 2009
    @ 2:58 am

    I use technology a lot. In fact, my classes are wiki-centric and last year I was paperless. This year there are more papers turned in due to pushback of these students/parents. I allow as I always said I would listen to my students. What I won’t listen to is the criticism of the difficulty of the thinking I make students do. It was a rough year as assignments are not all “regurgitate information. ” Use of inquiry and critical thinking which is much easier to achieve with technology is a threat for students who have succeeded playing the game. Many other students though love this as now they excel. No mater the negatives, these kids will need these skills later and I refuse to let the opposition from the parents deter me in this.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Louise Maine, Well done. You should be congratulated for doing what you think is right.

    It will get easier, especially as we get parents who are more and more technology oriented.

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