This has been a great vacation week, I have taken part in several online discussions about education and attended several Webinars, the one’s with Alfie Kohn and Daniel Pink being the standouts so far, tonight is going to be Clay Shirky, so we shall see. But I am starting to notice something that can be interpreted as either really great or very disturbing – the names at most of these activities are usually the same.
Most of the participants are teachers at some level, a few administrators, some consultants, but it seems that the names don’t really change that much from one session or activity to the next.
How many people are actively involved in the teaching/education professions? According to the following:

Teachers and Other School Personnel 6.8 million
Number of teachers in the United States. The bulk of them (2.6 million) teach at the elementary and middle school level. The remainder include those teaching at the postsecondary, secondary and preschool and kindergarten levels. (Source: Upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007)
Back to School: 2006-2007

I wonder how many of those 6.8 million in the U.S. are actively participating online? Perhaps there are 10,000 or even 20,000 people worldwide actively involved in EdTech online community in the U.S. (I would like find out just how many education personnel consider themselves active educationally online beyond using “search”, email or their school’s websites? Even if that number of people was 100,000 it would still be a small minority. I am sure that while many might agree with much of what we are saying, there are also many of those 6.8 million that would disagree with the EdTech communities’ vision of the future of education.
The more I listen to the conversations in here in my community, the more I think that many forget that we are not and do not appear to have the majority view regarding many of the discussions we are having. Our views and opinions of what the future of education should be, while seemingly common sense to us, is not common sense to many, many others.
Indeed they have very different visions of how education needs to be improved and how educational professionals need to be held accountable for the poor performance in many of America’s schools (the inability of graduates to read or write adequately, poor math skills, lack of background knowledge, poor work ethics, lack of job skills, etc. the problems are many), they are just as frustrated with education as we are.
The people who disagree with us and are actually making the changes that are being implemented are tired of the status quo and the lack of progress by educators and educational leaders and have taken what they have had success in and know – “the business world” and are attempting to use those methods to improve education. Are they wrong to try to change education for the better – no, but are their “business models” going to fit in education or should education change to fit their models or is there a hybrid model that would work better? Those are the real questions.
We in the EdTech community sometimes look for the ulterior motives or conspiracy theories of these other groups or individuals who are trying to improve education their way. We ask: “Are they trying to do away with public education?” “Do they actually know what is happening in the classroom?” “Don’t they realize how horrible standardized testing is for students and teachers?” and all the other comments that I have heard and said myself regarding the “outsiders” efforts to change education.
We in the EdTech online community pitch a fit over our perceptions of too much intervention from those “outsiders”, but what have we done to clean up our own house, so that the outsiders will leave us alone? In the 10 years since I have become an educator – nothing or very little that is readily apparent to me.

We historically do not get rid of teachers who should not be teaching and allow them to damage our profession’s status and creditability, not to mention the damage they do to students lives.

Teacher preparation programs do not realistically prepare teachers for the classrooms. Many are ill-prepared for the daily pressures of the classroom. Why are so many new teachers leaving 3-5 years after starting disillusioned and burnt out.

We change our educational philosophies like we change clothes, we something new that looks great and want to try that and don’t have the opportunity to become expert enough at any philosophy to make a difference.

We are divided on the use of technology in the classroom.
and a host of other problems.

In the online EdTech community we seriously discuss these issues and more, but the same discussions are repeated and repeated, the same things are talked about ad nauseum, but based on the repetitive nature of our discussions few changes are taking place in the classroom, policy making or at leadership levels.

As much I enjoy the conversations and other online activities, it seems that we have become the ECHO CHAMBER and don’t accomplish too much.

I know that the EdTech online community that I belong to, means well and wants to change the future of education in positive ways and the Personal Learning Network I am a part of are indispensable to me as a person and teacher.
But I have to ask are we doing enough to change education for the better or do we simply bitch about it and then do very little in our spheres of influence to make a difference in our schools or in education as a whole. Can we do more, should we do more?
I guess it comes down to whether we are an echo chamber or are we the leaders who are willing to provide the necessary leadership needed to improve education wherever we might be. It won’t be easy, but when is change ever easy?
Did you make a difference today? How?

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