Posted by: bwoof | July 23, 2011

EPDC Reflection

In July 2011 I participated in the Experience Principals Development Course, Module 5, Digital Citizenship: School Leadership in the 21st Century. I selected the course for two reasons: 1) to start my EPDC program and intentionally focus on stretching myself after four years of being a Vice-Principal and 2) to purposefully take time to consider the impact of technology on education and how it might impact my practice as an administrator.


In my previous role at HWDSB I spent five years as the district Information Technology Consultant for Secondary Schools and invested almost every waking moment thinking about the intersection of technology and education. In many ways, therefore, taking this EPDC module was nothing new. But what is new is that I now have a slightly different perspective than when I was a technology leader. Now I’m ‘on the ground’ directly with teenagers again, and while technology is a huge part of their reality (and mine too, and the whole of society for that matter), what I’m more aware of now is that social/emotional/mental considerations play an enormous part of their lives—and I think their lives are more complex, perhaps more disillusioned, and maybe even more disconnected.  And, despite my huge affection for technology and ever-present commitment to leveraging technology for good learning, I have begun to wonder if we’ve missed some important sociological implications of all our fast-growth-ever-present-personal-mobile-always-on technologies.


Ken Robinson implores us to be creative and to use the technologies at our disposal for such purposes. I agree!  Yet I cannot avoid noticing that on a daily basis I’m dealing with students so distracted, if not distraught, by their technologies that the capacity for creativity seems largely extinguished, and that the love of learning seems distant, and that the ability to sustain connected thoughts over a period of time is lessened and shortened. The speed of the technology matches the speed at which they jump to conclusions and trigger short tempers, perhaps even previously unimagined levels of disrespect for themselves and others, particularly anyone who might stand between them and their ubiquitous technologies (cellphones and mobile internet devices in particular).


I hate to admit it, but I, too, am changed by these technologies. I read much differently now than I did 15 years ago. I’m great at skimming and scanning for information that I want…not that others necessarily want me to catch. I find it harder to read densely but carefully constructed arguments or theses. I must now force myself to slow down, read each word hang ideas on one another, clause by clause. I feel frustrated at the slow pace of such activities. And, I’m an English major! If it’s happening to me, what then might I surmise about my students who have, with all due respect, significantly less experience than I at reading/thinking deeply. Or, is this all a good thing? Have I evolved quite handily and am I now much better equipped to live in an information-saturated world? Am I a better reader because I can filter out much of the dribble that is out there? And, is this what I want for my students?


Reflecting on this module causes me to remember what I wrote down for our Pre-Module assignment. My questions remain, and I will continue to think…deeply, frequently, collaboratively, and humbly on the following:


  1. The world has changed (I point to the year 2000 as the tipping point) and I need to change, too. How will that affect my role as a Vice-Principal? I need to be open to new learnings in this area.


  1. It seems that people still want to ‘connect’ with one another. How does genuine relationship and connectivity happen in an education setting, and how do educators develop learning settings that help all learners reach their full potential, even in a society where technology ‘distractions’ run the real risk of diverting people from important things?


  1. Choice is huge! This concept came through loud and clear in the module and in our class discussions and readings. Unlike the ‘olden days’ when there was little choice other than to follow precisely what the teacher said, today’s education settings have to somehow provide relevant choice that allow learners to tailor their learning to things that carry personal meaning.


  1. There is a management/organizational component for educators to figure out. For me this is manifested in practical ways, i.e., how do I help keep the school functioning orderly and respectfully while simultaneously celebrating the new role of technology in learning? I need to be able to do both ends of the spectrum and will spend this coming year intentionally seeking new protocols and practices that make sense.


In conclusion, I have very much appreciated the time-out to think about Digital Citizenship. I think it may be the most important topic of the 21st Century.






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