The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flexibility in Times of Change

Last week’s post referred readers to the blog of Scott Jantzen and his suggestion that we become increasingly creative in our attempts to interest and engage our students in what we are trying to have them learn. This week, I again turn to another educator, this time Sarah Edson from a school in Connecticut who writes about the power of flexibility in this time of rapid change.

Sarah first remarks as to the awesome power of digital communications. “With more of these lightning-fast connections at our doorstep, we find ourselves within reach of some of the most powerful learning resources that have ever existed on Earth. Simulations, animations, readings, publishing platforms, images, audio, video, discussion fora, and networks of experts and passionate learners abound. The quantity of choices intimidates many. However, the beauty of having so many choices, the beauty of digital media itself is its inherent flexibility and potential to serve all learners.”

Notice her mention that, along with the ability to serve, this myriad of options has the ability to intimidate, and I will add, frustrate the prospective user. How do we choose, how do we know, where do we turn? As Ms. Edson asks, “What more can we do to ensure that schools' technology infrastructure and resources are not disproportionately more flexible and therefore powerful than their people?” Indeed, how do we avoid having this powerful learning resource remain untapped because the people, that’s us, are unable and unwilling to utilize it?

The answer lies in the power of flexibility, the willingness to stretch, to bend, to reach beyond where tradition and precedence finds us. As athletes and dancers stretch to improve their performance, so we as educators can increase our flexibility and thus our abilities within the digital landscape. So how do I stretch? In the words of Ms. Edson, “My stretching is my ongoing professional development. I do a little each day on Twitter, Google, and Skype. Whenever I can, I seek out chances for more extensive, intensive PD. At each turn, my ideas multiply, my reach expands, and my willingness to lean into the momentum of these changing times fortifies my capacity to lead students in powerful learning and growth.”

The key word is “willingness,” knowing that the world has changed and is ever changing and that I must change with it, agreeing to try, willing to do that little bit each day, seeking opportunities for growth that will ultimately make all the difference for me and my students.

So, on the margin of a flooded river, trees bending to the torrent remain unbroken, while those that strain against it are snapped off. Haemon in Sophocles’ Antigone

(for posts by Sarah Edson go to

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