Monday, March 8, 2010

Are We Listening?

ears I watched an old episode of West Wing today and the priest told a story to the President. It is a story I’ve heard before but I still love hearing it. Here is one version of the story.

A man hears on the radio that a huge flood is coming and everyone is warned to evacuate. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

The flood waters come and flood the house so much that the man has to climb out on his roof. A boat comes by and the people try to get the man to get in the boat to be saved. But the man refuses. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

As the waters continue to rise, the man climbs to the top of the chimney to keep from drowning. A helicopter arrives and the pilot tells the man that he will drop a ladder for the man to get in the helicopter but the man again refuses. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

The man ends up drowning.

When the man arrives in heaven, he angrily says to God, “I believed in you so why didn’t you save me?”

God responds, “I sent you a radio message, a boat, and a helicopter. You wouldn’t listen.”

Now I’m sure you are wondering what this story has to do with education but I think it says a lot about it.

The economy stinks. Money is tight. Schools have to tighten their belts and cut out a lot of extras. Teachers are getting laid off or furloughed. Cutbacks are happening everywhere. Everyone is running around asking, “What are we going to do?”

I think districts have tons of resources all around them that is available during these difficult times. They just need to wake up and use them!

I was saddened when I saw a colleague post on Plurk that Skype is blocked in his district and he has been unable to convince them to unblock it. This is such a valuable free resource that districts need to embrace and use. It can connect them to authors, other educators, or even professionals who could offer professional development to a small or large group.

There are lots of free professional development events online that are available. Many of these opportunities can be taken advantage of while they are happening or many of them are recorded and can be viewed at a later date. If school districts can’t attend many of these professional development events, why not get groups together to view some of the sessions and discuss them? A variety of recorded sessions can be offered, and people can get in groups to view the session that is relevant to them and then have a discussion. For example, there is K12Online Conference, Educon, or Classrom2.0. I have attended sessions at all of these virtually and watched recorded sessions and feel they are very relevant to education today.

Teachers should be encouraged to connect with colleagues in their district or state or even other countries. These connections go a long way in helping teachers learn new strategies and techniques to use in the classroom. Social networking is a great way for teachers to connect. There are many ways that would be an excellent and free way for teachers to connect. Using Twitter and Plurk has been instrumental in my growth as a teacher.

Collaboration is important for teachers and students and can be done at no cost to the district. The use of Wikis is a great way to collaborate and there are different platforms for wikis depending on personal preferences. Google has all sorts of tools that can be used to connect, create, and collaborate.

With all of these free tools out there, I wonder if we need to ask ourselves if we are really listening. Are we being open enough to use the tools that are available to us or are we hiding behind fear or ignorance that keeps us from using them?

What is/are your favorite free tool(s) that you would recommend to a school district? How do you use it and how has it made a difference?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'What did you say???' by: Keven Law

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