Struggling for Significance

StruggleThere are some things that you hate to admit… Being wrong… Occassionally being right… That you liked Millie Vanillie or Vanilla Ice… Or if you are and educational technology advocate that you cannot come to an agreement or find a compelling significance to change from the old standards :0|
Today, I had a great time working with my direct counterparts in my district to discuss the merits and limitations of two online resources: Google (docs and sites) and Zoho suite (office suite, wiki and Zoho Business which pulls them all together in a nice dashboardrd package).
Effectively for about 3 1/2 hours we discused the applications and possibilities for time investment as classroom resources, our own personal use, the future direction of our district, and the possible Microsoft alternative with the launch of the Tech Preview on Office 2010 yesterday.
Some background: As a district we make a significant yearly investment (~$140k) in Microsoft applications. Additionally, this summer we are undergoing a Novell to Microsoft NOS transition to better position us for planned future application and platform enhancents. All of these initiatives seem to be both driving us toward a client based application platform as well as toward a desired cloud based environment. Especially if we begin to realize our planning for a 1:1 computing environment for our staff and 13,000 students. Lowering costs by moving to a cloud based office application suite will help offset the increased hardware need to satisify 1:1…
Our goal for the day was to end up with a strong enough argument to choose one platform (Google or Zoho) and commit to it's a group for our collaborative use for the next two years. This coupled with a strong desire to have a flexible enough environment that will allow for our sharing outside of the group via a wiki type interface with other members of our community (faculty, staff, and possibly students) on an as needed basis. The last part of the challenge was/is to have a relatively secure enough environment to share some material that may be considered sensitive by some, irrelevant by others, and critical by a few…
While the discussions themselves were great, I was left disappointed that even I struggled to be able to make a full committment to an online resource. I was even more frustrated that some of counterparts were only willing to invest time in a limited subset of applications as opposed to committing fully to a suite in a completely collaborative environment. I was especially saddened because some of the arguments each of us used (myself included) were the same arguments we struggle against when working with faculty and staff in general regarding technology and change: don't want to complicate things by adding "more," I don't need another email account, let's keep this simple, I don't have time to learn all of this… blah, blah, blah…
What I am struggling with is the fact that if we (the people looking to drive dynamic change within our curriculum's and the ones responsible for leading the way into learning centers leveraging technology) cannot move ourselves from the "known" (Office Suite) to the somewhat "unknown" a fully collaborative environment leveraging outstanding web-based applications, how can we ever expect to help move a hesitant, reluctant, faculty and students into this arena?  Is there a compelling enough reason to leverage these technologies on a full-time basis for educational and personal use, or is there not?  Are gravity and fear of change enough to overcome compelling reason? Can you preach without practice? What will be a significant enough factor that will influence this change?
Will Richardson's post on "Tinkering with Utopia" hit home today after my experience.  His reflections of Phillip Schlechty’s book “Leading for Learning: How to Transform Schools into Learning Organizations” make me concerned about change in the educational arena overall.

Schlechty refers to past efforts at reform as “tinkering toward utopia” and says that if we continue to introduce change at the edges, we’ll continue to spin our wheels.

I know I am just taking a snippet of Will's thoughts and the actual direction for his post are divergent from mine, but there are definite undercurrents of change happening in education today… However, in practice I fear those currents are having the overall impact of canceling each other out. I question whether we can possibly learn as leaders to begin to really align some of those currents to become mutually beneficial to effect the real change that Will and many others are looking towards. Are we spinning our wheels?
Photo "graffiti struggle" from zen on Flickr
— Post From My iPhone

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