Friday, August 13, 2010

Thinking about Educators, Passionate Interests, and Last Night's Webinar

Last night's webinar was a real surprise to me.

David Wood, author of Get Paid for Who You Are, was the guest speaker.  I'd invited him on the FutureofEducation.com series with the idea that, like previous guests Dan Schawbel (Me 2.0) and Seth Godin (Linchpin), we would explore how the changes in our economic and work models have potential impact for thinking about the "what, how, and why" of education.

Charles Fadel, co-author of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, had been our interview guest on Tuesday night, and we'd had about 35 people in attendance--not bad attendance, but certainly lower than usual.  It's early August, and many folks in the U.S. are taking their last breaks before school starts--or even starting school.  So I had prepared myself last night to let David know that attendance would probably be low, but that the session would be recorded and that there would likely be many who would listen to it later.

Over 180 attended.

We actually crashed his site--or significantly slowed it down--when he gave the link for getting the free copy of his book (if you're looking for the book, see this post).

Our family spent much of our dinner conversation afterwards on what had happened.  In retrospect, I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise.  I was thinking this was going to be about the students, but it turned out to be more about the educators.  And that makes sense for two reasons.

First, talking about having educators teach entrepreneurial skills and the following of passionate interests is falling into the same trap I've noticed so often in the discussion of 21st-century skills.  How can you ask teachers to do that if they are not encouraged or facilitated in the use of those same skills themselves?

(I think, in many ways, that's part of what has helped Classroom 2.0 be of value to educators--it's using social media for their own professional development and also as the first part of thinking and collaborating with each other about how to bring those ideas into the classroom.)

Asking teachers to encourage students to follow passionate interests when the teacher is not in a position to do so as a part of his or her own career seems downright silly.  Of course, that should have been part of the my planning focus for the interview.

Second, given the current very tough economy and the particular job instability in teaching, of course many educators are thinking about their own personal careers.  This struck me so powerfully in the middle of the show that I did some polling.  How many in attendance were there because they were thinking about how this would impact their students and what they should be teaching?  105 said yes.  How many were there because they were thinking about their own careers?  109 said yes.  I'm guessing those numbers were even skewed by a sense of obligation to answer the first and maybe some shyness about answering the second.

We understand, and often take advantage of the fact, that teachers become teachers because they are passionate and they care.  Do they want to keep following their passions, or even start again if they feel they've stagnated in their current situation?  Of course.  That should have been obvious to me.

Leonard Waks, a past guest on the show, emailed me after the session last night with some of his observations, as well as some concerns that educators might get drawn into snazzy, hyped, info-sales pitches because of false expectations of making lots of money.  I agree.

At the same time, I think we might learn something from last night--that there is a need for some authentic information, help, and encouragement in this area.

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Full session recording (Elluminate):  https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2010-08-12.1605.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350
MP3 download:  http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/davidwood.mp3
Chat log download:  http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/davidwood.rtf
Past interviews page:  http://www.futureofeducation.com/notes/Past_Interviews
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