Monday, September 21, 2009

First Renewed and then Re-olded

A friend of mine recently said that I was the only teacher she knew who was really looking forward to the start of the school year. While some may see this as a sign of mental disorder, I prefer to think that it has much to do with getting into technology integration-- I've felt renewed by the fun and challenge. But I'm starting to feel a bit reolded. There are crusty old features of our school routine that kind of wear me down. I'm feeling a little grumpy, so I've decided to air them out.

We have a 1:1 computing school, but some folks in my building must believe that online communication only belongs in the academic realm of a school. (I'm sure this is not unique to our school community and would love to hear from others). These are the kinds of things distractions and annoyances I'm talking about:

P.A. Messages- It's too easy to just grab the mic and broadcast a message across the building with a P.A. blast, (even though it may be during class). Often the full school announcement is directed to a couple of class officers or concerns one person's misplaced backpack. Tryouts for teams or groups are announced day after day. Never mind that everyone has their own private communication access in the form of a laptop. A couple of years ago, $50,000.00 was raised at one of our fund-raisers for a new P.A. system. Wow, in my opinion that money could have better spent on more nuanced mediums of messaging or training for individuals on how to set up a group email for their club or team.

Student email-- This piggybacks on the last one. Ironically, I recently sat in a department meeting where a request from our Curriculum Council was shared, asking that we remind the students to check their email. Could it be that the students don't check their email because they know that the messages will be redundantly communicated on the P.A., often several times? (And was this a worthy agenda item for the face-to-face meetings where the rather impotent request was made?).

Staff Meetings (large and small) where one-way communication from behind a podium is featured. Face to face communication may not needed for reports and directions that could be blogged or emailed, but those with the power to gather a captive audience, squander dozens of potentially productive hours of staff time this way. I've noticed that this kind of communication usually involves non-curricular matters.

Vote Tabulations - This "Spirit Week" we will be doing tabulations in our homerooms this week to determine how many students are showing spirit that day. OK, fine, I'm all for spirit. but then staff is required to take these required to immediately walk these paper tallies to the front desk for tabulation. What a waste of fifty professionals' time, when there are innumerable electronic alternatives. Granted this example is only a one week sideshow, but it is somewhat representative of the nondigital nature of our homeroom doings.

You are correct that if you have concluded that I am blowing off steam about pet peeves. But in a 1:1 school they need to be called out. Besides disrespecting others' time and attention these "old tech" habits erode progress toward building a school culture that nourishes 21st Century communication networks. This is about all staff modeling and embracing the new tools that we hope our students will master. The medium is sending the wrong message.

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Amish Parking Sign Flickr CC photo by margotmiller

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Didn't the school change the policy to only do announcements at the end of the day and keep people in their seventh hour, so that there would be fewer interruptions during the day? I think that lasted about...5 minutes?

Larry Baker said...

Well, the mic is just a little too tempting for folks to use throughout the day, so quite often everyone "hears" a message that is only really intended for a few ears. If teachers are setting up group emails, club moderators could also do so. A variety of online bulletin boards might be used, some which might actually foster 2-way communication (Now, there's a novelty). The constant use of the P.A. undercuts the formation of good online habits.

Ann Lusch said...

Well, we are only a couple of weeks into the first year where every single student has the tablet. But I agree totally -- it's time to start utilizing what we have, and it means a new mindset. We are just used to doing things the way we always did.

Maybe this post will be a nudge towards the new way.

Bobsophist said...

Better be careful there Larry. If you don't tone it down they may start calling you Bob K

WillKnott said...

Spirit Week. Dedication ceremony. APUSH gave me juice for a few years. But it was all the same old same old stuff that you point out here that killed me.

Larry Baker said...

The dedication ceremony actually gave me another post idea (coming your way soon): We had a great "career day" type of speech about more women going into science. But I wonder if the message sticks. Why not use our technology to create networks of alumni, parents and students for career information? The old school way is to have a career day, talent show, or even spirit week and check them off the list, considering those things covered for the year. Why not work to build something more nuanced that lasts? I told someone today the the new club I would moderate hist year would exist online and not have physical meetings. (You can bet I won't be making P.A. announcements, either). I could tell she was startled. But it makes total sense to me in a community where it's logistically difficult to rope folks together unless you declare it "mandatory." Yes, Ann, it's all about mind sets. Old mind sets = old stuff.

Ms. Waldsmith said...

I agree completely, especially with the outdated requirement of using tally marks and then walking these slips of paper down to the reception area every day. Advisers do this outdated type of thing repeatedly throughout the year for student elections, etc. Other than adding to my daily walking workout, it's such a waste of time!

Will said...

Well Bob K, excuse me Larry!! Great thoughts that we need to be noodled about! Procedures we can move forward on, for sure! I do need to correct the $50,000 funding number. Try $10k.

Larry Baker said...

Thanks for the post & clarification, Will. Perhaps I misremembered the $$$ Steve G. was asking for on auction night (which is where I got the figure). Didn't mean to amp up my cheap shot. Still, I would like to shut that P.A. sucker off for a few hours every day, or limit its use to messages that are urgent or all school. (One man's dream).

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