Sunday, February 22, 2009

The 5 – 95 Question

Today I had the privilege of attending a conference called “Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation.”  It was a gathering of educators mainly from Colorado, but some from across the region and the country (both physical and virtual) to discuss teaching, learning, and technology in education.  The conference was put together by an idea of Karl Fisch’s two years ago.  The conference was focused on three main principles:

1.)    That this conference would be participatory.  It would not be presenters talking to you and you not taking anything with you and actually applying it in the classroom.  Instead, this would be different.  It would be a conversation that continues on into the future and that you would actually understand how this applies and not say on Monday morning, “That’s a great idea, but I have no clue how that would fit into my curriculum.”

2.)    There are no vendors at this conference.  The purpose is not to sell things to people, it is a conversation, a learning, sharing, interactive conversation that focuses on the question of: That’s cool, but now what do we do with it?

3.)    Student involvement is a must.  Students are the heart and soul of what we do.  We can not be educators without students, so they need to be involved (and were involved) in the conversation.  

Needless to say I think the whole premise and three main points of the conference really set it apart for other ones that I have been to.  That being said, today I joined roughly 200 physical participants and a lot more virtual participants at this conference and I learned, reflected, and literally joined in on the conversation.  

As I was driving back home, though, a question popped into my head: The 5-95 Question to be exact.  It really, truly seemed like the educators who attended this conference are literally at the edge of the educational technology knowledge, experience, and field as a whole.  They are trying out new things, pushing students and computers in new ways, and really knocking down the walls of education – in very effective ways.  I will write more about the sessions and the ideas I took away in later posts, but I want to focus on this question.  As I left my last conversation of the day we all exchanged Twitter names and del.icio account addresses.  We are apparently past the point of cell phones and way past the point of e-mail addresses – at least the group of people that I was with today.  I saw it everywhere and I was surrounded by it: educators on their computers checking their Tweet Decks, pulling up resources and showing them to other people, and really sharing and adding to the conversation.  What struck me, though, was that the people there today are not your normal run of the mill educators.  They were the elite, the dedicated, the hard working, the want to push the limits, tech savvy, and edge of the knowledge type of people.  I consider myself pretty learned in the area of educational technology, but I was surrounded by people that were using and knew about the same tools that did.  For once in my life I was surrounded by people that share the same passion for education, technology, and students as I do.  So if I was to gather and say that those that were there today were roughly the top five percent of educators – those that want to learn, engage their students, and incorporate technology into their classrooms (give or take a few percent, remember I am a Language Arts teacher and not a math one).  

That leaves 95 percent of the teaching force out of that top five percent.  Where were they today?  What is holding them back?  Are they abrasive to the technology?  Do they consider themselves too much of a Digital Immigrant?  What is the case? 

This all leads me back to my question: How does the five percent deal, train, help, collaborate, and remember the 95 percent?  I think it is totally awesome that we all met today and learned, pushed our thinking, made new connections, and will continue on learning.  However, what happens to the 95 percent of the teachers that were not there today?  How do we push their thinking in the areas of technology, learning, and education in general in the future while still pushing the five percent as well?  

I guess that’s why if I had an answer then it wouldn’t be called The 5-95 Question.