My (Not So Grownup) Christmas List #1: Tidings of Comfort and Joy

OK, took a week off after the 30 Blogposts of Summer slogfest, but I’m ready now to push on to the end of the year. Since I enjoy having an overarching theme, I’ll call these December posts my Christmas list. The (as of yet indeterminate number) posts will talk about something I would like to see in the year (or years) ahead.

I’ve said it before here, but I love The Innovative Educator blog. Lisa Nielsen, who writes the blog is one of the most revolutionary thinkers in the area of education, particularly at the nexus of education and technology. What I like most about her blog and related Twitter posts is her ability to shout out what others a afraid to say. Her scalding criticism of the intransigence of the education establishment at the cost of authentic learning often shakes me (as deep within the belly of the beast of an education establishment) to the core. I often don’t agree with her, and we have had more than one Twitterspat about an issue, but I am always better for having read her articles.

However, it is not her, but another story related in her blog last week. Under the title, “Microsoft big says stop doing 1:1 technology programs.” I encourage you to read the entire article here, but the opening paragraph is as follows:

You might be surprised that when Anthony Salcito, VP of education for Microsoft speaks with educators around the world and asks them who’s doing a 1:1 laptop program or 1:1 tablet program or 1:1 interactive whiteboard program, he tells those with their hands up :

“Stop doing that.”

Obviously Mr. Salcito was not actually discouraging the implementation of 1:1 programs in schools. In fact, in the comments to the article, he suggested that the headline mischaracterized his position. He was using this statement as an attention grabber to move to his real point that students, not devices, should drive technology initiatives…and who could disagree with this?

I do.

Not to his premise, I agree that student learning should be the factor that leads all educational decisions. However, I disagree with two unstated assumptions of this presentation.

The first silent assumption is that educators as a whole are “gadget crazy,” and that their decisions do not consider student learning, only new flashy toys. While I would be stupid to speak for the whole of my profession (and I’m sure they’d be equally happy that I not speak for them), I find this assumption to be insulting to those who are working hard to create authentic learning environments using technological resources. Mr. Salcito, most of these program you cavalierly dismiss were started with specific learning goals and strategies in mind, even the ones that didn’t work.

The other assumption that pervades the world of education is that there is a clear and obvious right way to do this, that a study of student learning needs will yield the golden path (which he also suggests that he knows…somewhat humorous to have a MS exec talking about recognizing the clear path of the future). I don’t have to go into my “15-20 years of messiness” tirade again, but the fact is that teachers and schools take steps based on what they see at the time, and what we see today is often not how tomorrow plays out. Lots of mistakes are going to be made…even from completely student-focused deciders…but those who wait to do the perfectly right thing will do nothing.

So my Christmas wish today is for gentleness and generosity when talking about this. Too many (including me at times) are quick to judge and criticize, instead of encourage. I know this is part of the game, to build up my plan by knocking down other plans, but we can’t forget that our job is also to bring tidings of comfort and joy.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Image: ‘Comfort & Joy’ Found on


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Date: Tuesday, 4. December 2012 20:11
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  1. 1

    Very reflective on the student centred aspect of the entire enterprise. Some teachers love gadgets some only what is truly useful, and not all that is new is useful. Not all curriculum benefit equally or well from the various technologies. Education remains, as it has always been, an art. Ultimately it is the art of communication. Some are just more gifted in the end. Keeping the bright lights burning is the greatest necessity.

  2. 2

    Wow. I love how you sort of summed me up in the lede of this post. Thank you. I will be sending that off to my loved ones 😉

    I do want to clarify my impression of what Anthony Salcito said, and maybe I’m projecting my own bias in this because I agreed with him. I know in MANY cases purchasing decisions are NOT made by the educators. I attempted to help a principal a while back when her IT guy was hell bent on Smartboards for every class. It didn’t matter that she did not feel this was educationally sound and she let the learning drive her tech decisions. It didn’t matter that she provided research to support her decision. The IT guy was making tech purchasing decisions and like it or not tens of thousands of dollars went toward equipment she didn’t want.

    The same held true in my own work. I was forced to implement a 1:1 laptop program where every classroom got a Smartboard and every teacher got either a Mac or a Tablet PC. One size fits all across the board and I encountered VERY pissed off teachers who didn’t like this thrown on them without any conversation or consultation.

    I see this time and time again when the very people getting the technology have no say in the purchasing decision.

    When I ran grants in my previous job, I made sure to change that. Equipment was given to teachers who wrote proposals that included learning goals and then they were given a budget and the ability to select the equipment that best help them meet those goals. We also asked them to have their students partner with them to write the proposals.

    Something I apparently did not make clear in my initial post is that Anthony does indeed really trust and value the decisions of educators. What I liked about him is that he doesn’t talk about the technology or promote products. He and the teachers at the Global Forum talk about best ways to learn and the tool (just like a pen and paper would be) are in the background.

    I also don’t think he believes there is a clear and obvious way to do this as was evident by the variety of ways these amazing educators were allowing students to drive learning in ways that made the world a better place.

    So, perhaps I need to be more clear on my post. Perhaps an addendum (or a brand new post) is in order to provide clarity on the issue that bothered you and likely others.

  3. 3

    I think it is great that Lisa suggests having teachers be part of the process in purchasing equipment. If a teacher is given tools that they are not comfortable with or don’t meet their big goals, then what’s the point?
    Well done, Lisa. Thank you for sharing further. I am also happy to have a great new resource and reading material!

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