Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Outsourcing. Everything?

A funny thing struck me tonight as I was getting undressed (ladies, take it easy--I'm happily married). I happened to look at the tag on my sport coat: Made in India.  And it got me wondering, "How much of my clothes are made in other countries?"  And, so,with my wardrobe today, I dissected where my clothes were made.  Know what I found?
sport coat: India
dress shirt: Indonesia
slacks: Hecho en Mexico
dress shoes: Brazil
belt: proudly made in China
tie: Made in the USA!!!! (Horray!!)  Except it was made with imported silk.*sigh*
 **Full disclosure--I did not inspect my socks--I wasn't going in there without being prepared for WWIII, and since the house was a bit cool when I got home, I did not go so far as to evaluate the country in which my skivvies are made.  However, I would be surprised to find anything here that was drastically different than the rest of my attire for today, which by the way, is not top-of-the-line clothing.  This outfit is from an average, every day line of dress clothes that can be found in most any department store.**

And then, I shuddered. Not from the chill in the air and me being as close as I could be to wearing my birthday suit in November, but because for some reason, I didn't like the idea that everything I was wearing was manufactured in another country.  When unemployment is so high in our country, but so much of what we buy is made elsewhere.

I understand Dan Pink's argument of the most basic, left-brained, automated tasks being left to laborers who are less skilled than others and that we should be educating students to be more big-picture, creative thinkers.  And I am all for that.  But what if our country becomes so dependent on other countries for all of the goods we purchase?  I mean, what if the production and manufacturing of all the goods we buy is outsourced to other lower wage countries.  All of it.  What happens?

Now, I'm not an economist (even though I did play one on TV); nor am I versed in the way of world currency, trade, GDP's and imports/exports (even after staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night).  So, even if the scenario above couldn't truly happen, then just consider this nothing more than a thought experiment.  How would your life be different if everything you bought, with perhaps the exception of certain foods--produce for example--was manufactured, assembled, produced, or processed in other countries.  Would that be a bad thing?  Would that create more of a job crisis than we have now?  Would we have more unskilled in the workforce looking for ways to help their families pay their bills? 

Or, would this open up more opportunities for our society to spend time and effort looking for the flavored toppings to place on the vanilla ice cream that is the global marketplace?  Would outsourcing everything allow us to teach our citizens the right-brained tasks of finding the value-added features in this worldwide economy and allow other, more routine jobs, to be sent elsewhere?

I guess the only thing I know is that I'm not smart enough to have any of those answers.  And if I did, I would still want to make sure my Brazilian-made shoes, and Chinese-made belt looked good, even if I'm spending my time getting undressed and being cold while looking at the tags on my clothes.

Friday, February 12, 2010


For some reason I just realized that my job isn't about technology.  Nor is it about education, per se.  Its really about change.  I guess on a subconscious level, I knew this, but I just now verbalized it for the first time.  My job is really about getting educators, and thereby education, to change.  The technology and instructional coaching that I give teachers isn't really about the technology or the instructional advice.  Those are just the mediums to getting to the bigger picture--that the institution we call education must change.  We are a 100-year-old institution that has only remotely changed in that time, although the rest of the developed world has changed constantly and in an on-going fashion. 
Specifically thinking about change, I think I spend most of my time trying to convince our staff (and really anyone who will listen) that there is a level of urgency that we must adopt if we wish not to fall further behind other nations out-distancing us with their levels of education.  I know it is a systemic problem as well, as other countries value teachers, and education in general, more than we do.  As one example, in some countries teachers are given up to 25 hours of professional development time each week to home their skills and practice their lessons.  In other places, teachers are paid on the same level as engineers (while I know no one enters the profession for money, it helps to attract the best and brightest when the pay scale is high).
So, knowing these facts and realizing that my job isn't about technology and teaching as much as it is about change, maybe I should make sure that I'm sending this message to more than just teachers and administrators as well.  I think our policymakers should be getting this message as well.  I wonder if they are?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's Best for Kids?

I had a discussion yesterday.  It involved the idea of online learning in our schools and I was shocked at what the other party was saying about the subject.  So, I'm now can we call ourselves educators if we aren't interested in providing the best opportunities for our students to succeed?

During this conversation, it occured to me that maybe what we need in education isn't more technology access as much as it is changing the perception of what technology means in our instruction and getting those who are respected members of the institution to understand how the power of technology can be harnessed.  I was reminded that it is human nature to fear that which we don't understand and perhaps my efforts to integrate technology into the classroom should be matched by my efforts to educate our teachers on the concerns that technology brings to our doors.

There's no reason to fear technology; there's a reason to fear technology when it is not used correctly.  Perhaps I should practice what I preach--look at my own level of self-efficacy.  Maybe I should be looking at what I can do better to educate our instructors on the wonders of technology, rather than getting frustrated with them for not seeing all the great learning that can be met with online learning?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tweets for Education?

I thought Twitter was dumb.  I didn't get the point.  I'm not that important that anyone cares what I'm doing at any given moment.  Plus, I don't really care what anyone else in the world is doing at any given moment.  The microblogging phemonenon was a fad and had no place for me, or in education.

Or so I thought.  Over the last few months, I've been turned on to Twitter's abililty to serve as an additional resource for me.  I've been able to network with fellow educators and instructional technology specialists who have shared ideas with me, in 140 characters or less, that I otherwise might not have come across.

Now, don't get me wrong; its not an addiction for me--at least not yet.  But I am seeing the powerful tool it can become for educators worldwide.  I think it is slowly starting to become my PLN of choice.  And because there are numerous Twitter apps for the iPhone, it keeps me linked to my network when I'm not at a computer.

I do feel that I'm still somewhat of a novice at using Twitter, and I probably still lurk more than I tweet, but I see the power it holds for us in instruction.  That being said, I've add a Twitter Update widget on this blog so that, if you haven't been turned on to Twitter yet, you might be inspired to follow me for a bit and see what wonderful resources you can gleen from my growing network.  Its not a large network, but I'm getting plenty of professional resources and ideas out of it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Its Not About the Technology.

I came across a great blog posting (at least I thought it was great) over at Edurati Review recently. The author talked about the need for a change in our education system. She argued that what we need isn't about the technology, per se, but a need for a change in our mindset towards instruction. Please click the link below to check out the article and tell me what you think! I'm interested to hear your comments.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why do we block Web 2.0 tools in school?

I was looking over a colleague's poll he posted on Twitter yesterday and it reminded me of an annoying philosophy that many schools have today. The poll was in regards to blocking users within the district from accessing certain sites, when those sites have very positive and obvious educational value. Sites such as Google Docs, Diigo, YouTube, Skype, Twitter....and the list could go on...are blocked in some schools. The rationale depends on who you talk to. I've heard "the filter blocks it and we aren't going to change the filter's settings", "we're too worried about a lawsuit", and "there just isn't a need to access those sites in school".

I can't stress enough that I think these kinds of statements are wrong!!

I thought we had policies in place for a reason? I was under the impression that we protected schools by creating policies. So why block the sites, if we have policies in place to deal with users accessing materials they shouldn't be? They have to abide by districts' AUP, just like every other user. I don't believe that we prevent 99% of our users from accessing tools that will add value to their education just because of the 1% who will use them inappropriately. We have those policies in place for this exact reason, don't we?

What's that? Some of these sites might be dangerous? Nonsense. You know that pencil or pen laying beside you right now? That can be dangerous, too, if it isn't used in the manner it was meant to be used, right? And we don't block students from using them because they are essential to instruction. In the same way, I would also suggest to you that these sites which are blocked can also be essential to instruction. It all goes back to education. We need to educate our users on the appropriate way to use the tools. That's all these sites are--tools. They are technology tools that enhance our instructional practices and in some cases, make learning more relevant and efficient in our classrooms.

So let's stop being controlling and start educating. We should be focusing our efforts on teaching students how to use these sites. We aren't doing them any favors by blocking them. What are we teaching them by doing that? Ignore it--it'll go away and everything will be alright. Except that it won't. Once they walk out our doors, all bets are off. Shouldn't we at least make an attempt to educate them on the wonders AND dangers of these sites while we have them in the safe confines of our schools?

Monday, June 22, 2009

When is it too young to learn to use technology?

I finally broke down last week. I bought my first Apple product--and my first cell phone in more than 4 years. Yep, I bought an iPhone. But not the "old" iPhone selling for $99; I had to get its newest brethren, the 32GB iPhone 3GS. And what do I think of it, you ask? I love it!!!! However, I felt selfish spending that kind of money on myself, so I thought I'd try to find some apps that other members of my family could enjoy on the phone as well. And, one of the first apps I downloaded was a game.

Remember the old card-matching games we played when we were kids? Where you turned over 2 cards at a time to try and find matching pairs, and had to remember where the match was in the set when the cards were turned back over? That's what I downloaded for my 3 year old. I got him to try it out yesterday, and while he hasn't completely gotten the hang of touching the screen, he has asked me to play it again at least a dozen times. And it got me thinking....when is it OK to introduce the world of technology to a child? On one hand, it is like a second language that they can pick up easily at this age, like living in a bi-lingual household. However from personal experience, technology, (while I do love it) has made my life more hectic with trying to keep "in touch" and "staying connected" with family, friends, and colleagues...not to mention trying to stay current on the latest and greatest hardware, software, and freeware available. Plus, throw in antiquated legislation that doesn't support the means of communication we have at our disposal, or the ubiquity of the Internet that can't be policed enough to safeguard our children--even though that should include teaching users how to navigate safely in it.....but I digress....., I guess I'm wondering if I'm helping him get acclimated to the world he will grow up in by playing a virtual memory card game on my iPhone, or am I just helping him along down the path towards a life full of reliance on that which we use, but which society hasn't truly figured out how to harness yet? On the other hand, perhaps when he is old enough to make some of these "user" decisions on his own that I grapple with regularly, the laws will have caught up with the tech, and society will have gotten a firmer grasp on the functionality that we have at our disposal and the myriad wonderful, positive, ways it can be used on a daily basis?'s to hoping so, anyhow!!