On the need for clarity of vision…

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photo credit: snarl via photopin cc

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

— Lewis Carroll

There is a tendency when beginning a new journey to simply want to get on with it. Pack up, head on out. I have certainly been guilty of this myself. In the frenetic pace of activity and competing demands, jumping into action is second nature for me. Yet, without a clear vision of where we are heading, we run the risk of following any road and ending up nowhere. 

The many ways that the term “21st Century learning” has been applied — to various technology deployments, to flipped classrooms, to any number of digital tools — can blur our view of its meaning. At times, the discussions that swirl around these initiatives seem to place more emphasis on the device or tool, rather than on the larger purpose — what it is we want our kids to learn and be able to do as active, thinking, engaged citizens.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to digital learning tools or their use in classrooms. I am firm believer in the potential of technology  to transform learning by providing opportunities for students to explore, create, collaborate and communicate.  And, I also understand that there is a need for caution in not mistaking the tools for the outcomes.

Two thoughtful educators have helped me along my journey in bringing my vision into focus. In his recent blog post, “Varied Visions of 21st Century Learning“, Daniel L. Frazier (@DanielLFrazier) points out, it is not just about applying new tools to outmoded instruction, but rather making a real difference in how students interact with others, make meaning and share their learning.

Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) takes this idea a bit further. Drawing upon the work of Robert Marzano, Richard and Rebecca DuFour and Richard Ainsworth, he argues that we need to focus our attention on the knowledge and skills  that meet the “endurance-leverage-readiness test” — those that will have lasting impact, will have broad application and will prepare kids for the next level of learning. In short, he astutely concludes: “Wiki’s and Skype aren’t skills. Instead, they are tools that can make working with individual skills easier” (“Making Good Technology Choices“, accessed January 3, 2013). I couldn’t agree with him more.

If we want to make sure that we are on the road heading toward true transformation of our schools, then clarifying the outcomes our students will need to be fully prepared for their future is an essential first step.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and reactions. Please feel free to comment.

8 thoughts on “On the need for clarity of vision…

  1. Jennie wrote:

    At times, the discussions that swirl around these initiatives seem to place more emphasis on the device or tool, rather than on the larger purpose — what it is we want our kids to learn and be able to do as active, thinking, engaged citizens.

    – – – – – – – – –
    That’s a brilliant statement, Jennie — and I’m JAZZED to hear it coming from a Superintendent because YOU have the organizational power to make sure that technology purchases are focused on something more than the latest gadget craze.

    Classroom teachers — who have little control over what kind of technology rolls into their rooms — are often forced to “do the best they can with what they’ve got.”

    We count on folks like you to set the direction — and to maintain the organizational discipline to make choices that are connected first and foremost to moving learning forward.

    Not sure if you’ve seen it or not, but I also wrote a bit about the importance of developing technology vision statements to guide school and district choices:

    http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2011/01/does-your-school-have-technology-vision-statements.html

    Hope it helps somehow — and thanks for writing transparently about this!

    Bill

  2. Thank you for your comments, Bill. As always, I have appreciated your perspective. I also value your commitment that you’ve expressed in your writing about the critical importance of placing learning first and foremost and then looking at how technology supports learning. Your writing has definitely shaped my thinking about making good choices. I look forward to checking out your post on developing technology vision statements.

  3. Jennie,
    A friend of mine shared that quote with me a long time ago about “how any road will get you there, when you don’t know where you are going”. Its been very useful for me on my journey through life as a husband, father and educator. Yet, I know as a supervisor of educational technology this is not the best path to follow as you know well too in regards to technology integration. Our tech advisory committee meets this month to begin articulating our tech vision and writing our tech plan and I was so moved by your blog, I just shared it with the members of my team to reflect on before we meet. Thank you and I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

    • Michael,
      Thank you for reading my post and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your comments. I commend your tech advisory committee for reflecting on your direction before embarking on your journey!

  4. It seems as if many of us are reflecting on similar paradigms. We are in uncharted waters, with waves moving as fast as ever. Even though our vision might be blurred, we need to constantly refocus, as the powerful devices of today’s world are challenging previous means of learning. Its difficult and uncomfortable to refinine our culture of learning and emerge from ubiquitous digital transformations into a new focus of meaningful classroom engagement. The student and teacher collaborations within the classroom should embrace the unfamiliar processes, even though an overwhelming number of technological advances are moving the entire educational ship faster than the limitations of our portholes to view our journey.

    another great resource: http://www.newcultureoflearning.com
    Douglas Thomas & John Seely Brown

  5. Hi Dan,
    Thank you so much for sharing your reflections. I agree that “we are in uncharted waters.” I especially liked your suggestions perhaps our vision may be blurred, but that in such times of change, we need to continually refocus. A very good reminder!

  6. Pingback: Into the Stratosphere | Jennie's Blog

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