Long Inverted Hallway by me on flickr

It’s the old allegory of the cave.

Last Friday I was leaving the school and I popped into my VP’s office. Among other things, Anthony and I often talk about technology in the classroom. One thing led to another and I showed him the YouTube video that was the subject of my last post: iPhone tutorial from a two-year-old. It was shortly after this, while I was saying something, that Anthony interrupted me:

“You can’t go back now, can you?”
“You could never be able to go back to teaching without technology, could you?

Driving home after our conversation it occurred to me what a transformation my teaching has gone through in the past couple years. Could I go back to a classroom and teach void of blogs, wikis, & online networks? Well, of course I could, but I just wouldn’t want to!

Not only do I never want to go back, but I have become an evangelist.
However I’ve noticed a bit of a backlash among teachers. Comments like “We can do that without technology” miss the point about what students have the potential to do. “Every time I get them in the computer room all they do is Facebook” recognizes that technology is a tool, not an answer, but comments such as these are used as excuses rather than challenges.

In the past few weeks I’ve heard more than one teacher say, “What is Facebook”, and “What is a wiki?”. This I can handle. But then I hear about how technology is evil; about what a distraction it is. Well here is a little news flash… IT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE!

There are times I just want to put my head down, improve what I am doing as a teacher, and forget that there is ‘work to be done’. I can’t. Not only can’t I return to life in Plato’s cave, but I am also compelled to ‘share the true light’. I now realize that at times I am destined to be seen as ‘blinded’, such will be the lot in life for many of us.

Can you go back now?

Originally posted: December 17th, 2007

Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:

I’ll let the comments on the original post speak for me.

  1. No David, we can’t go back. We have come too far along the road and know too much about what is out there to go back. We are willing to take the good with the bad and suffer some of the things that come along with knowing – like sleepless nights, frustration of things not working, having to re-explain to students, losing things in cyberspace, etc. We are willing to go through these because we have experienced the joy and fun and exhilaration and…. when something happens. It’s so constructivist that we cannot understand how others don’t see how great it could be. But, just like Darwin argued for changes in education over a 100 years ago with little change, we need to change much more than just the tools we use. We need to change the way people view learning. Keep up it up! We’ll get there!

    Kelly Christopherson on Monday, 17 December 2007, 23:18 CET 

  2. Hi Dave,

    your post is very inspiring, and for me in many dimensions. In the first glance it seems to be the expression of skeptical view of all ongoing development. The sort of skepticism we may all know. (Won’t Work, etc.)  But this vibes in me in sustainability.   It seems to me now that this should be a good point growing and going in concrete. Yes – i also would answer, that i couldn’t go back teaching my university students being creatively – expressive… poetaster’s group host. Getting organized – … And its is the effect of the new technology as an crystallisation point of all those affords and their solutions. But – and this has been deeply grown for me now: There is a lot of work to transport our learning experiences – observations – effects – because they are complex to observe and more than than complex to transport – especially to those who want to access it theoretically.

    Maybe – and this would be my answer: “I cannot go back – because I’ve seen the glance in the eyes of the students. I cannot go back, because they have implemented my top level aim: They changed the verbing from :”I am podcaster at University-Koblence” to “I have to do something for my podcast”) This are the points you cannot explain to somebody who hasn’t got infected Wink.

    Best greetings from the icy-cold Germany – and forgive the typos – my English @ school has been a long time ago 😉

    Andreas Auwärter on Thursday, 20 December 2007, 10:16 CET 

  3. Kelly,

    Constructivist indeed! That’s the challenge for those looking from the outside trying to understand.


    Thank you for looking beyond your first glance, and seeing beyond an expression of the skeptical view. My intent was NOT to say, “Oh no, I can’t go back!”, but rather to identify that what lies ahead is much too exciting to go back again… and I can tell that you saw that!

    The transformation that you see in your students is an excellent example of why so many of us are, as you say, ‘infected’ – (a brilliant choice of words that only arises from a second language speaker:-)

    Your students are fortunate to have you guide them. I am sorry that I do not speak German and the English translation of your Podcasting for Learning does not do justice to your writing, as your comment demonstrates.

    Thank you both for your comments!


    David Truss on Thursday, 20 December 2007, 18:40 CET 

  4. David,

    I love this post!  I can’t go back and I don’t think kids can go back either–and we all need to remember that.

    It is discouraging sometimes to feel like the one shouting in the wilderness.   I’m eager for the day when many of the research studies going on will show the value of what we know/feel to be true!

    Thanks for the post!

    Carolyn Foote on Tuesday, 08 January 2008, 20:58 CET

2 comments on ““You can’t go back now, can you?”

  1. David,

    I followed your evangelist link and read Liz’s post and the follow-up comments. I too find it hard to curb my enthusiasm about the benefits of using tech tools and experiences to deepen kid’s learning.

    But in my context (an elementary school where teachers have yet to have a computer in their classrooms, with one lab for 450 kids, and no integration support save occasional after school one-off pro-d) I can’t help put a fair portion of the responsibility for lack of growth at the feet of a system that isn’t responsive to learner needs.

    The gradual release model (I do, we do, you do) has had the essential middle piece cut out. Imagine teaching a group of students to hold a pencil, then walking away, hoping they will figure out how to write a sentence. There are so many invisible skills in tech use in an educational context. The needs of each teacher learner are unique and complex; the missing pieces of their comprehension net cause any casual pro d to fall through. Another metaphor: the scaffolding isn’t there, so this constructivist process hasn’t got a brick to stand on.

    As I move along the tech road, cheering all the way, I try to remind myself to look over my shoulder and see who is laying in the ditch. There’s a reason why our kids have their learner’s permit for a whole year before they get their drivers licenses: so we can be right there in the car with them, teaching, guiding, building their competence, encouraging, and gradually releasing to them the wheel, so they can drive away with a strong guarantee of success.

    If the Department of Motor Vehicles has figured this out, why haven’t we?

  2. Jan,

    It has been almost 2 weeks and I’ve actually written a response to you twice and then not published it.

    I feel your frustration.
    You have made me realize that I must change one of my presentations in Boston to talk about scaffolding with teachers as well as the scaffolding with students that I was already planning to do. Thank You!

    Jan, I have two things to say:
    1. Mentorship
    2. Collaboration

    We are still at a stage where in many schools these are not fully supported, but you have a network of people at Classroom2.0, and right here with me, that will offer help and support in any way that we can… no driver’s permit required! 🙂


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