First of all, I’m sure there is a story in the fact that as I opened my laptop this morning, in my hotel room at the Koury Convention Center, in Greensboro North Carolina, on the first pre-conference day of the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference (NCETC), my computer asks me if I want to connect to the wireless network entitled “Guest BG”. All of the rooms have free Ethernet, but someone has established an ad hoc wireless network for some reason, and I suspect that there is a story here, but not my story for the day.
My story came to me last night, when, after installing Audacity onto a dozen iBooks, I visited the conference registration desk to try to get a completed event program. The woman, whom I know from a dozen previous conferences, told me that a teacher just walked away, having learned that he did not have seats in the pre-conferences workshops he had signed up for (one of which was one of mine). His central office had not submitted the registration forms.
This teacher is not feeling very good about the leadership of his school district. But I want to be completely fair. At the same time that this teacher is enormously busy with escalating expectations, dwindling resources, and more and more of the joy of teaching being sucked out of the job almost every day, his central office leadership is even busier. In this school district, in one of the poorer more rural counties of the state, the director of technology, who neglected to follow through on the paperwork, probably wears the hats for student information management (making sure that required data gets to the legislature each month), elementary schools, media services, and also manages the buses and plant maintenance. That central office is still suffering the budget cuts ($1.35 trillion tax cut) of 2001.
Thomas Freedman says, in The World is Flat, that there are four kinds of people who will prosper in a flattening world. People who are
- Special — Michael Jordon, Robert Redford, Katherine Hepburn
- Specialized — Know things or can do things that others can’t
- Adaptive — able to learn and relearn easily and quickly
- Anchored — direct services
The special will take care of themselves, and the anchored (barbers, plumbers, & chefs) will survive only if the specialized and adaptive continue to be viable in an ever-changing economy.
If these suppositions are correct, then education must change dramatically in order to support students who must learn to learn, not learn to be taught.
How in the world are we going to do that when professionals in education leaders are too stressed to handle basic paperwork?