Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shifting Paradigms from Tech to Teach




The image shown above is borrowed from my National Writing Project colleague, Troy Hicks.  He credits the image to Evernote: http://www.evernote.com/about/media/img/devices/evernote_mac-notes_lion.png
I love the spirit of play invoked by the storyboard.  Troy has generously shared this morning his “Five paradigm shifts for K-12 Education” in an on-line audio/video presentation and he invited "backchannel":

Troy’s five distinctions that you'll find in his presentation articulate very important movements necessary if educators are going to seize the day offered by digital media.  In this moment as economic and motivational pressures make almost inevitable a change from print to wired, our profession stands increased risk of an embarrassing and unfortunate replication of “same-old.”  For example, back-lit e-books can be produced and taught like musty re-used textbooks, and smartboards are often simply free of chalkdust.  

If educators are to act as professionals in this crucial time, we must transform.  A fundamental paradigm shift essential to the five named by Troy requires letting go of the rule by dominant authorship (owning & dispensing knowledge) and leaping for an embodiment of shared authority.  It's the kind of leap one makes for a trapeze high in the trees in a ropes course. This leap also requires that we face up to and give up our underlying distrust of authority.  Our children and learners of all ages are in desperate need of leaders who teach from integrity that embodies knowing in our whole beings (mind&body&heart) and that flows from an articulated “felt sense” of the goodness (work&play)of shared authority.

What I’m calling “embodiment of shared authority” exists outside the experiential knowing of most teachers, I believe, because our schooling (including home, church, & workplace) has not regularly engaged us in the feel of positive authority.  Most of what I know of positive authority comes from being coached in horsemanship where power relationships are magnified sufficiently to be articulated and reworked/replayed until harmony and balance are accomplished and named.  It's so important that with the size of the horse’s body and heart and with wise coaching, I could practice as long as necessary to develop “a feel” for good work. 

To my knowledge, in English Education, the prime example of this kind of knowing comes in Sondra Perl’s work on Felt Sense, drawn from Eugene Gendlin’s Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning.   I believe quality work in digital media depends on this kind of felt sense instead of the kinds of knowing that have been and remain hegemonic.

Although we have denounced the funnel-model of transmitting knowledge for a long time, most teachers still feel vulnerable when they are not pre-planned and positioned as expert, when they don’t own pre-made information that can be leveraged “this will be on the test” the way a harsh bit or spurs “motivates” and de-spirits a horse.  Given the accountability madness of politicians and administrators, teachers are at risk for trying to shift paradigms.  Our children are at risk if we don't.

When teachers, often bravely, attempt a more democratic approach to knowledge, I see group activities that feature opinion-giving where any supported statement is relatively valued and/or simulated reproductions of previously discovered knowledge. This happens often in the development of ethical and cognitive development (see William Perry), but we can't stop there.  If we allow stagnation in the "all opinions are equal" stage, we are fermenting a disbelief, sometimes a cynicism, about powerful constructivist knowledge.

Given these obstacles, it’s not surprising that teachers are fearful around leaping into the paradigm allowed by Web2.0 & collaborative discovery.  Mistakes mark the pathway in this paradigm.  

What a challenge we face!  What an opportunity!