I had a great chat with Dan Kenkel, of Valemount Secondary School, in School District #57, on Friday. We are discussing ways forward to address the systemic, interrelated problems of: 1) preparing teachers’ (inservice, pre-service) innovative use of ICT for inquiry learning; 2) preparing teachers’ ICT leadership capabilities to provide Canada with a critical, informed, sophisticated technologically adept citizenry; 3) establishing a national online infrastructure system to support teachers’ innovative inquiry learning processes through the incorporation of ICT; 4) providing alternate educational experiences for educational professionals to address the ‘blind spot’ and seed resilient, self-efficacious communities of practice networks for ICT knowledge generation in the profession; and 5) develop an accreditation system for acquisition of educational innovation and inquiry with ICT that qualify ICT skills, characteristics, social abilities, and innovative capacities for professional educators.
According to my research, there is a vacuum of ICT leadership in education. This vacuum is not attributable to any one individual or organizational entity, as you will find pockets of educational professionals working tirelessly to change the system. Rather, it is a systemic problem that is self-reinforcing, as the very existence of the organizational structures of the education system depend on maintaining existing structures, methods, and organization.
I read Bruce Beairsto’s book review of Fullan’s Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge in the most recent issue of Canada Education Vol 52 No 5. Beairsto points out an ongoing issue in the field, which is, how to incorporate transformative learning experiences within an organizational structure that is founded on knowledge reproduction rather than knowledge generation. If the education system is going to reform itself, from a self-replicating system of knowledge transmission to an evolving system of knowledge generation, it is going to need opportunities to discuss and apply new understandings of educational philosophy, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment processes, technological cultures, and technological practices. It is possible to accomplish this magnitude of change, but it is not going to be accomplished in a graduated step approach.
There are some changes we can accomplish is small, graduated increments of change, as we consistently change our beliefs and put them into action, over time, we end up with a large degree of change. I’m thinking about sailing, and how one degree of course correction can result in a completely different destination, especially if that change in course is sustained over a long period of time. I’m also thinking about working with my big, reactive, dog, and how I must implement certain attitudes and behaviour everyday, and through my hard work, my dog gradually stops needing to attack any sudden changes in the environment. If I expected him to change in one big jump from one level to the next, I would be frustrated and unsuccessful. My expectations of his ability to change would be out of line with his capacities to change.
But I am also thinking about the renovation we are wrapping up right now on our house.
When we bought our 106 year old house, we knew the basement was damp, and we would have to do something about the drainage. We attempted a relatively small project of redoing the drain tile around the perimeter of the house, but this was not sufficient, and the basement was still damp. Not only that, there wasn’t enough headroom, it was drafty and cold, the furnace was covered in asbestos and lead paint, and the electrical system was a composite of multi-generations of upgrades, dating back to the knob and tube wiring. We realized any minor, small steps we might take would simply be throwing good money after bad, because the basement itself needed to be replaced. Finally, we simply had to lift the house, scoop out the old basement, and plumbing, and electrical systems, and replace them with new infrastructure. There was not small, incremental steps to prepare us for the moment our house was up on cribs and the excavator grabbed onto the foundation and snapped it out like a stale soda cracker. And there was no going back.
In this case, there was no graduated, step by step course correction or change in attitude and behaviour. If we tried to the lift the house inch by inch, we would have failed. Not only that, our house would have continued to deteriorate in its present condition, and eventually it would have to be torn down. We had to make a big jump from one level to the next, so that our house would be prepared to last another 100 years.
When we look at our early 21st century global societies, we can see the introduction of digital technology into our human existence as an order of change that indicates a level jump, rather than a small incremental step. Now, in our second decade of the 21st century, educational systems continue to struggle to adapt. What we are facing in education is not a gradual, incremental, step by step change in our educational technological cultures. Rather, we are facing a full-scale level jump, and that is what we need to prepare for.