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March 6, 2016

Transformation: Maybe we are at the Tipping Point

by Peter Skillen

I experienced something wonderful this week.

fullanpanel

It was an event which perhaps has finally convinced me that this time it is different—this time we might have crossed the chasm…that well-documented adoption chasm.

The Think Tank for CECCE (Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est) did indeed bring together a wonderful panel of ‘experts’—but, let’s be clear: expertise is something that is both distributed and collective if transformation is to occur.

That collective was present in that room that day.


I was extremely nervous participating on that panel as one of those ‘experts’ – yet indeed honoured that my ideas were invited.

I introduced myself as the OG—the ‘original gangster’ (or, indeed the ‘old guy’)—because I have been involved since the late 70’s in the movement to transform education leveraged by the affordances of digital technologies. Among other things, I expressed my frustration at the lack of institutional traction to date. It has been an exciting journey these past 40 or so years but also has been challenging as efforts were thwarted or ignored.

But, the CECCE initiative is the one thing in this recent flurry of the past several years that has given me pause to reconsider. We might be at the tipping point.

My colleague and friend, Brenda Sherry, and I have often spoken about the peaks and valleys of the trends related to educational technologies and their impact. I have experienced several chasms*.

First Appearances – We smelled a revolution!

revolution graffiti-156018When microcomputers first arrived on the scene in the late 1970s, we saw an uptake and educational technology conferences were full. Mind you, the ever present discord between CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction Institutionalization) and constructivist/constructionist, student-driven approaches was evident.
These were the heady days of Seymour Papert, Logo, constructionism and ‘student-in-charge’! I headed up the Special Interest Group for Logo in Ontario. I was a regular at the Media Lab for their Logo conferences.

We were engaged in global projects focused on environmental and peace issues. Kids were using technologies to do research with other kids and subject experts across the world: National Geographic Kids’ Network, Global SchoolHouse, iEARN. Heady times indeed.

We smelled a revolution!!

But, alas, it slowed down.

head-663993_1920Second Round – The World Wide Web

Then, after our excitement with the onset of hypermedia (the ability to click on a link and go to another page) in HyperCard in the mid 80s, we saw the development of hyperlinking on the internet. Thus was the birth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.

We saw ‘non-computer users’ get involved with technology. This meant members of the general public—but, more importantly for us, we watched as system leaders in education took notice. They not only took notice, but they took charge. They started networking schools and pouring vast amounts of money into educational technology.

Once again, the excitement rose as the newer technologies afforded greater opportunities for student construction with new media. Global projects were easier and more accessible to greater numbers of students. Information was readily accessible. We saw the potential for great empowerment of students.

We smelled a revolution—again! 😉

But, alas, not everyone saw the vision.

And, things slowed down.

Third Round – The Ubiquity of Portability

consciousness stream-1106336_1920The smart phone and related connectedness.

The ubiquitous nature of technology and the social aspects have changed the cultural consciousness. This has empowered more individuals across the strata of decision-making. People who normally hadn’t taken to technology have become immersed. They have come to feel the empowerment that earlier adopters felt with previous, albeit lesser, technologies.

But, here we are. We are here.

Others have described eloquently the nature of the CECCE day. See Heidi Siwak’s The Ottawa Think Tank on Transforming the Learning Experience and Brenda Sherry’s inspirational observations regarding students’ comments in Think Tank: Transforming the learning experience.

I wish to simply thank some people for helping me to realize that I may have been too skeptical this time around! (Although I’m still at it—so I obviously had a good load of optimism deep inside!)

CECCE Team

First of all, thanks to Eugénie Congi, Superintendent of Education for her leadership and vision on this project.

And to:

I know I’m missing folks from this team. Forgive me. Please add them in a comment!

Friends on the Panel – from Afar

I must thank:

  • my old friend, Sylvia Martinez for her continued passion in this field.
  • Will Richardson—we have shared laughs and great thoughts.
  • Garfield Gini-Newman – much learning together from Ontario Teachers’ Federation events
  • Jacques Cool – a regular friend from Twitter—we finally met—and felt a real kinship
  • Heidi Siwak – who is teaching me about integrative thinking
  • Chris Dede – an inspiration to me for several decades now
  • Alec Couros – friend and colleague whom we have had at ECOO (BIT)
  • Marius Bourgeoys – an educator whom I wish to know better
  • Michael Fullan – a man who has obviously had incredible impact on this team and many others across Ontario and the world

and,

  • Brenda Sherry – my optimistic friend and colleague who shares the same deep passion for education as I do. She keeps me real and balances my skepticism with her hard work for a transformed educational future.

TRANSFORMATION

Normally, one could skip reading the ‘credits’ as I am listing them here.

But, for me, this is not an insignificant moment.

I truly have been transformed by what these people have accomplished and by how they welcomed this OG into their family.

I thank you all.

 

 

 

Notes: *This is somewhat different from the standard chasm described by Geoffrey Moore.

 

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