Friday, November 7, 2008

PD has me PO'd.

Dangerously Irrelevant wants to revamp Professional Development, to which I say "Hoo-Ah." Then I read the rest of it.

"Big idea 1: Most current staff development is awful."
Okay, for a Big Idea, this isn't much on the Wow scale. I thought this post was going to have some Ideas.

"Big idea 2: School vision statements are feckless."
Ummm. okay. I've never really felt that 50 words tacked over the door was much more than hokum, but this post isn't ringing my bell so far.

"Big idea 3: Schools have a great deal of internal expertise."
Ummm. okay. Sometimes though, this is the root of the problem ... many of those who are willing to get up some initiative are also those whose ideas are riddled with false intellectualism and educationese. You know, the ones whose jargon is meant to confuse rather than clarify.

Big idea 4: Students are experts too.
Ummm. no. They're not. They're willing to play with toys, but that doesn't make them experts any more than typing this blog makes me a Pulitzer-winner. Most of the students I've seen are technologically useless except when it comes to texting and IMing and Myspacing out. Games and toys are fine amusements for the young. Hardly what I'd call the qualifications of an expert.

All of this leads me to… Big idea 5: Have students deliver technology-related training!
Sure. Doing what, exactly?

Using the SmartBoard? If a teacher doesn't know how to use it, he should read the F Manual and work at it. You know, like we tell our kids to do - work at it, read the instructions, follow directions, practice, explore the software.

Excel or Powerpoint? Please. They do just enough to answer the question and then stop. Mostly, they play and attempt to copy off each other.

MySQL, Access? No.

PHP, ASP, JSP, AJAX? Right. In this lifetime?

FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL, C, C#, PASCAL, VBASIC? No7. This is too much like work.

Photoshop, Fireworks, Flash, Premiere, Final Cut? Maybe, but only if they can morph the teacher's head onto a naked body and dub in the sound of giggling.

The rare few with the maturity to make art or programming that's useful in some way are greatly outnumbered by "I'm a digital native because I can listen to an iPod" clowns. These few would probably make a nice presentation for the tech illiterate. For me, though, and those like me, the preferred stuation is for that kid to sit down and "Check this out. Look at what I made this do!"

The last thing I want to do is to sit in PD while a student attempts to teach me something I learned years ago or that I could learn easily if I had the need. A fundamental problem remains the teachers' lack of motivation to learn the most basic tech without screaming for "more training" and "I'm not working on this at home."

If the computer teacher spent her time actually preparing for her classes and writing her plans instead of whining constantly about how overworked she is ...

If the slackers spent less time making stupid surveys from SurveyMonkey trying to change the schedule ...

Give me a break.

I'll post the entire article for reference:

Student-delivered PD: An idea whose time has come?

A collection of thoughts about P-12 professional development, with a (hopefully) whiz-bang ending…

Big idea 1: Most current staff development is awful.

We have known for decades what leads to powerful adult learning and what constitutes effective professional development. Yet the 3– or 4–days per year, ‘sit and get,’ one-size-fits-all training model still persists on a large scale. Shame on us.

Big idea 2: School vision statements are feckless.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a school organization that doesn’t have a vision, mission, or purpose statement that says blah blah blah life long learning blah blah blah. And yet we don’t really model ‘life long learning’ very well. Administrators feel that they can show no weakness in front of staff or parents. Teachers feel that they must be the experts before they can ‘teach’ students. No one has tried to operationalize the concept or delineate what it actually looks like. In terms of impact on daily practice, it’s a meaningless feel-good aphorism (much like all kids can learn). Shame on us.

Big idea 3: Schools have a great deal of internal expertise.

At the risk of impacting my occasional consulting income, I’m willing to say that most districts would be better served by having in-house experts deliver training rather than paying some outside guru big bucks to come in for a day (or hour). There’s a tremendous wealth of in-house expertise that goes ignored within school organizations. Shame on us.

Big idea 4: Students are experts too.

Tapscott & Williams note in Wikinomics (2006) that this is the first time in human history when children are authorities on something really important (p. 47). In other words, when it comes to digital technologies, our kids often are (or, given the chance, could rapidly become) the experts. We ignore this expertise in most school organization. Shame on us.

All of this leads me to…

Big idea 5: Have students deliver technology-related training!

Put Big Ideas 1 and 3 together and it’s clear that school organizations should do a better job of peer-to-peer training. Throw in Big Ideas 2 and 4 and we see that many school organizations could easily structure technology training opportunities for educators, parents, and students where children and adolescents were the instructors or co-instructors. The kids get the learning power and social/emotional benefit of being teachers and leaders. Adults and other students learn from the true experts.

All we have to do is walk away from our egos and our fear and embrace our mission statements, the ones that say that we all should be learners and say nothing about from whom we must learn.

How about it? You ready to start doing this?


  1. "Photoshop, Fireworks, Flash, Premiere, Final Cut? Maybe, but only if they can morph the teacher's head onto a naked body and dub in the sound of giggling."

    That might not be so bad. Who chooses the body, us or the kids?

  2. I'd let you choose your own - it's an extreme body makeover for little to no cost. Just think, AHHHnold's body. Pamela Anderson's "brains." Your mind and abilities.

    Kind of a new meaning of development, eh?