Are you walking, or just talking?

We just finished up the Colorado Language Arts Society (or find ’em on Facebook) conference in Golden Colorado this afternoon. For me personally, it was a great experience. I heard some stimulating ideas, reconnected with collegues I hadn’t seen in a while, and met some new folks with whom I look forward to engaging in the future. We (Doc Z and I) gave a presentation (see post here), and no one booed or threw stuff. Which was too bad because Doc Z really wanted to collect stuff in her garbage can. You had to be there.

That sounds great, right? So why the overly aggressive post title?

Well, this is why. In all the good conversations, and presentations (Dr. Ernest Morrell was super and so was Travis Macy) about 21st century stuff, I noticed that there was a distinct lack of what I would call genuine engagement. What I mean by that is, a whole lot of people were nodding, and looking excited at the idea of getting their students to engage 21st Century literacy practices, and everyone (at least out loud) seemed in agreement that these were good things and our students should learn about them, and we should be the ones to teach them.

But it was clear that few, if any, of us, are actually DOING them. And by doing I do not mean having a blog so that your students can see what one looks like, or play around with the comments functions. I mean having a blog because it is a powerful 21st century tool for communication. I mean being on twitter because it is an incredibly effective way to communicate and converse with an awesome range of people over a broad range of topics in realtime.

I don’t write because I need models for my classroom. I write because I am a writer, and when I bring that to my classroom it changes how I engage my students about writing. I don’t blog, at all three blogs I write for, because I am experimenting with blogs. I do it because it is an incredibly powerful tool for disseminating ideas in a world where the competition of ideas is fierce, and if you aren’t prepared to fight for what you believe in, hard, then it will dissapear faster than that particle at CERN (which apparently is faster than the speed of light).

I post images online, at Facebook, on my blogs, and on twitter, because visual imagery is powerful, and those platforms allow me to use that power. I put videos on Youtube because I want people to watch them, and I mean a LOT of people, not three friends in my basement.

By writing this blog Doc Z and I hope that our ideas about education philosophy and practice can gain a toehold in the world. On twitter I have been able to converse with the Press Secretary for the Department of Education and Dr. Diane Ravitch, at the same time. That’s power. Real power. That is what Dr. Ernest Morell was talking about this weekend.

But, if I am just presenting this stuff to my students as another school event, if I can’t show them and tell them from my own experience why this stuff works, and how it can be used responsibly, then I am just a monkey reading a script someone else wrote. I won’t have any power, and my students will just do an end run around me on their way to someone who can show them power, but who might not be concerned with complexity, responsibility, and ethics.

It’s me. I am the guy. For the students I have right now it’s me or nothing. You are in the same position. And if you are just talking, but not walking what you talk, I promise your students will know.

A quick google search at the Starbucks in Golden produced the following data:

-Two sources of CLAS related content in the week before the conference. CLAS posted several times on the Ning and the FB page. Dr. Morell mentioned CLAS in a status update on the Columbia U website this week- thank you sir and we hope to be in touch!

-There was NO other content generated that I could find this week. There were several blog postings related to past CLAS conferences going back as far as 2007 (generally accepted at the year grownups got on the internet). But NONE of those posts were written by teachers, they were all by individuals who had been speakers but did not work in schools (as far as I could tell from the posts and websites).

So unles you are hiding it (in which case I must ask why?), few teachers are conversing, relating or connecting using 21st century tools. And we are going to teach anyone anything? And if I just didn’t find you, please send us a note or post a comment with links. We write the blog in part to create community, but if we can’t find you, then we have no community. If you are on twitter, find us there, and why weren’t you tweeting during the conference (twitter is at it’s best in real time)?

The truth is the world is changing scary fast. You can try to avoid it, but the pace of change is so fast that if you don’t jump in now you will not catch up.

And don’t be afraid. Rome was not built in a day and neither was Facebook (no matter what the movie said). But you HAVE to get in the game, or you, and us as a profession, will be condemned to obscurity faster than last year’s cast of the Real World. Nope, I can’t remember them either.

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2 Responses to Are you walking, or just talking?

  1. Makenna says:

    Jay! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I added you to an FB group that talks about ICT in Education (primarily for development) but it might be a good place for you to see what is going on in the space. There are of course lots of great folks there.

    Hope you are well!

    • MisterS says:

      Thanks Makenna!
      We appreciate the feedback and the repost. I gather from FB that both the South and academia are treating you well. Glad life is moving your way.

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