Teacher Professional Development and Products that Ship
Publication Date: 2015-04-03
Google offers its think team two years to produce something shippable. Current teacher professional development seems to be operating on the same premise.
Invention with a timeline: Do relevant things or stop.
Arne Duncan and his merry band of deformers embrace this concept. Everyone in a straightjacket. . . with the clock ticking.
Teaching with a timeline: Raise test scores or die.
I don't know anything about the economics of turning an idea into an invention-for-shipment, but I guess this is what Capitalism is all about: The dollar imperative driving production--and invention. What you do needs to make money.
I guess it was naive of me to be shocked that an outfit as wealthy and clever as Google can't put a little money into thinking time, without the strict deadline for a shipment-ready product. Yes, the clock was the keystone of the Industrial Revolution, regulating industry and men, but now we have the clock run amok. Digital Age workers can never get away from The Clock.
Google Lab jettisons project leaders after two years and hires mostly outside experts. The Wall Street Journal terms this "the leaner faster way to find the next big thing." In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, Evgeny Morozov asks us to "radically question our infatuation with a set of technologies that amount to the silicon Eden. Morozov entreats:
Public schools are submerged in the same mentality. Pressure for schools to meet shipment deadlines comes right from White House appointees:
Wrong. What we should be able to do is look every second grader in the eye and say, 'Enjoy a safe, happy, bountiful childhood.'
"Happy children" sounds so old-fashioned, a relic of Howdy Doody or Mr. Rogers. Now a kindergartner without a career path is cold mashed potatoes.
The Twitter Answer
People may see me as just a old fogy for rejecting Twitter as a nifty curriculum delivery device, but here's the ultimate: Someone who describes himself as Master Teacher and curriculum coach noted that there were two conferences held simultaneously that he wanted to attend. Alas, he couldn't attend either one because his son had a sports event.
Twitter to the rescue!!
And since one of the conference presenters shared slides from her entire presentation on Google, "Now the world can view this awesome presentation."
I agree that Twitter is sufficient for gathering lots of links to EdTech apps but if a presentation can be captured in Tweets, then it wasn't worth attending in person.
For those who are enamored by powerpoint, don't miss The Gettysburg Address as a Powerpoint. Me? I loathe powerpoint "live" and wouldn't consider slogging through it on the Internet.
The fact that lots of people are now pushing Twitter as a vehicle for professional development shows two things:
1) Contempt for teachers
2) Shallow world view
I don't remember Tweets that I--or anybody else--made this morning, but I remember the first professional development course I took as a beginning English teacher in New York City--more than 40 years ago. One week W. H. Auden talked to us about teaching poetry; the next week Stanley Kunitz came. And then Denise Levertov. And on and on.
Most of today's teachers can't even imagine an administration that cared enough about teachers--and kids-- to bring in eminent poets. Those of us who took the PD course could also sign up for a poet from the community to come to our classes. My poet was a young fellow who was exceptionally good with the students. So we had PD to benefit the teacher intellectually and spiritually--and provide very direct benefit to students.
Nobody offered slides, powerpoint, or products that would ever ship. Not being traveling salesmen of test alignment and student achievement, these poets took the long view, offering themselves and their nuanced worldviews on teaching poetry. Maybe it was a product that never shipped but was a big plenty that influenced my work with many students. . . and has stayed with me all these years.
The New York City Education Department did not collect any data on that PD course. I figure they had faith in teachers and in poets, figuring if they were brought together, good things would happen.
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