Monday, December 14, 2009

Glass ceiling

Working with net-based education is fascinating and a never-ending learning process. I often have to revise my views and have no doubt displayed a few inconsistencies since this blog began. The frustrating side is that, despite so much evidence that education can benefit greatly from technology, there is so little enthusiasm from educational leaders. Edtech conferences are nearly always stimulating but tend to be gatherings of the converted; the top decision makers are conspicuous by their absence. As a result there's a massive disconnect between the edtech community and the leaders.

I read Bill Ferriter's blog post, Retaining net gen teachers: an impossible dream, with great interest, nodding in agreement at most of it. His point is that innovative, "net gen" teachers all too often leave the profession after getting little or no response for their creative ideas. I'm not sure about the net gen label he uses as there are plenty of older people who are much more net gen than many teenagers. Let's call them innovative teachers instead.

These innovators soon become frustrated at the built-in conservatism in education and leave to find more stimulating work in the business world instead. Maybe it's all part of the educational cycle where those who enjoyed and thrived in a traditional school environment then study to become teachers and continue the tradition. To break the circle we need more disruptive teachers, especially those who did not enjoy their schooldays. But how?

"Our senior leaders do a ton of talking about the power found in collaborative teams but do little to create the kinds of structures that might make achieving something worthwhile alongside motivated colleagues possible......... Not only will it be difficult within the current structures to find the resources to reimagine our profession, I see little political will to make the kinds of changes necessary to retain Net Generation teachers."


  1. Hey Alastair,

    Glad my post caught your attention, and you're right that it is hard to put a label on the kinds of teachers that grow frustrated with the status quo in the system. Needing to settle on something, I took the term that Tapscott used in his book, which was the basis for my thinking.

    I wonder if the type of person drawn to teaching in general is also drawn to/by the comforts of traditions. Is it possible that the only people feeling frustration by the disconnect between teaching and the rest of the world are a small handful of "odd ducks" who are questioned/doubted/judged/ridiculed by their peers to begin with?


  2. I fear so. There are of course many committed and innovative teachers in there but in general you have to accept that you're always playing into the wind. Sadly for many you either get out or go with the flow.
    Nice to make contact and I've RSS-ed your blog for future reference.

  3. Teaching is not alone in this and in many ways this is not a new problem. The old saying is that generals are always preparing for the last war. Teachers are always teaching the last generation.
    My point is that every profession is being rewritten with this information revolution that is going on - but those at the top of any profession will, by and large, be conservative. They know what worked for them and will be loathe to embrace a different paradigm. They are busy yelling "Get a horse" at the car they're passing - and putting money into buggy whips. The article expresses a thought that those who are disillusioned may well develop their own model and system. Indeed, when the visionaries can make the new models the norm, the old model and those who stay with it, will crumble just as the generals who fight the last war are doomed to lose and pass the command to those who can see the new battlefield.