So, I’ve been thinking about change and being on the edge. I think about it because of my primary role as Director of Educational Technology, but also reflect about my affinity, or not, for it when I was in the classroom.
I am currently participating in CLMOOC 16 (Connected Learning MOOC) and Kevin Hodgeson posted a link to his blog post in the CLMOOC Google+ community. He included this image and quotation (from Howard Reingold) which got me thinking some more. Most of the schools I have been a part of have not been the out there on the edge kind of places.
Kevin commented that he has sometimes felt pressure to move away from the edge, if I am paraphrasing correctly. In comparison, as someone in edtech I am often encouraging people to come closer to the edge, to experiment, to try a small change. I l
ure them with food and prizes try to help see why it might be a place to visit some times.
Then I thought about when I was exclusively a teacher and at first was thinking, “oh yes, I was totally fine with change and exploring the edge.” However, if I am more honest, I was enthusiastic about changes that I wanted to make, edges I wanted to explore. I tolerated changes and edges that I was indifferent to, but changes and edges that I did not like, I did not exactly embrace. This is hardly unusual. And, because I was not opposed to exploring the edge in theory, I always described my opposition as opposition to the particular rather than the edge, but I’m not sure that is 100% true. I got away with it because it was clear that I wasn’t just putting my head in the sand, and I led change or exploring the edge in other areas. Sometimes I had to back away from the edge, or was asked to, just like Kevin.
Maybe what frustrates me is when folks are not interested in even thinking about what exploring the edge might mean. Or, maybe what I find frustrating is that this disinterest in change comes across as prioritizing teacher ease over student learning. Exploring the edge just because it’s there isn’t what I’m suggesting. What I do think is important is to remember that the context in which we are teaching changes regardless of whether we want it to, grant that permission, or pretend otherwise. If we do not change as well, not only have we not even investigated the edge, in our stasis we have moved farther from the edge not remained in place.
The flip side of course is equally frustrating. An institution filled with folks on the edges of all different ideas, strategies, and curricula does not look like a school program so much as it does the 3rd day in a row of indoor recess. Schools have mission and vision statements, strategic plans, and cultures to guide them and help to determine which edges to explore. And, they are big beasts that do not make quick turns.
Individuals exploring change in the midst of bigger institutions is a tricky business.