I teach in a traditional neighborhood high school and I admire and respect my colleagues. I do, however feel increasingly isolated in my acceptance and belief that we are in the midst of an educational revolution, being driven by a profound change in technology that is reshaping our society. Steven Downes writes in his 2005 article, “E-learning 2.0”:
As we approach the halfway mark of the new millennium's first
decade, the nature of the Internet, and just as importantly, the
people using the Internet, has begun to change. These changes
are sweeping across entire industries as a whole and are not
unique to education; indeed, in many ways education has lagged
behind some of these trends and is just beginning to feel their wake.
While many of my colleagues profess that change is a wheel that perpetually runs us over every decade or so, I am not so cynical and I do not subscribe to the notion that the Internet is a passing fad. For me the Internet and e-learning represents a paradigm shift as profound as the invention of the printing press and the proliferation of the written text (Carr, 2010). And yet sitting quietly amongst a group of educational leaders this morning, I felt alone with this knowledge, this obvious truth, burning inside me, but yet hesitant to express myself for fear of being labeled a zealot. I imagined Magellan at a dinner party choosing to keep his revolutionary views to himself for fear of imprisonment or worse social embarrassment. His poor wife pleading with him not to bring up his hypotheses on this fine evening, so for once, just once, they could enjoy the company of their guests without the evening spiraling into conflict and awkwardness. Delusions of grandeur aside, as I do not profess to be a revolutionary educator, I do often feel alienated and alone in my practice. How does one progress in this environment? I suppose the greatest challenge is to not get mired in negativity. So I remind myself, do not let frustration or excuses divert you from attempting new things. Feed off of the beautiful energy that a student who is finding success radiates. Stay positive, accept and learn from your peers for the many gifts they continue to offer, even if they still believe the earth is flat.
I remember a beautiful piece of wisdom, bestowed upon me by my Dad on a trip to Austria in 1992. Traveling to Bludenz, we visited and stayed with my Great Aunt, Tante Lidiya, an aging but independent woman suffering from lung disease. Planning a day trip into Switzerland, my dad asked Tante Lidiya if there was anything we could get for her. She requested 2 cartons of Swiss cigarettes, which my Dad, a physician gladly obliged her. Horrified, I quickly questioned this terrible decision, feeling I could not be a part of this immoral plan to further poison an ailing woman, who needed to give up cigarettes and quick if she had any hope of salvation. Calmly my dad explained to me that Tante Lidiya had lived a long and fruitful life, raising 3 children and outliving her husband by eight years. Granting an old woman some form of comfort was not a gesture of corruption, but compassion. I suppose I need to remind myself that not every battle needs to be fought all the time. As educators we are all at different stages of our career cycles, and compassion and respect goes a lot further than intolerance and arrogance when it comes to relationships with our peers.
Stephen Downes. 2005. E-learning 2.0. eLearn 2005, 10 (October 2005), 1-. DOI=10.1145/1104966.1104968 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1104966.1104968
Carr, N. G. (2010). The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.