Lead Learners More Than Words
Educators passionate in making a difference sometimes get caught up in the words and definitions they use to describe great education initiatives and purpose. The use of the phrase “Lead Learners” is a perfect example. This word haggling often leads to meandering side-trips away from true, positive and successful actions intended by those same words. It’s easy to do, and I’m certain we’ve all done it at least once. At the end of the day, if words and definitions are all you have, then it’s not enough, is it? We tend to spend too much time deciding the proper words in education to call a thing, and a lot less time actually doing the thing. Of course, that can probably be said for most businesses as well—it’s not exclusive to education.
A very good friend of mine shared a really good post with me the other day. It used the phrase “Lead Learners”, which has been used frequently since being coined somewhere by someone. I’ll bet the term is ancient, which means it pre-dates the Internet and Google. I actually told my friend that I attended a seminar, given by Socrates, held under an olive tree, in which he used the “Lead Learner” phrase. Anyway, it turns out that someone had taken exception to the use of term “Lead Teacher” in the post. I’m certain there wasn’t a doubt of what was meant by those words in the post, but someone had gotten stuck on the words—and couldn’t get by them. That word whinging probably redirected some away from the actionable thoughts in the post. I know we’ve all done this, too. We always think we have a better word, or a better name for an education crusade.
Funny, I can actually see how “Lead Learners” could rattle a few cages—in more ways than one. Usually those rattling the cages can be calmed by a few specific and concrete action suggestions, which far outweigh what we call anything. That usually doesn’t happen in blog post comments. And we all know that there are a few, who love confrontation, and look for these sorts of things—word mixes—for getting into the debating ring for 10-round word bouts. Usually those bouts usually don’t lead to action, but rather one, or the other, or all opponents walking away—and solving nothing. “What’s in a name?”
Now, if the contest were to list 10 things, with action solutions attached, that “Lead Learners” do to make a positive difference—then that would be something. You can call them whatever the next buzzword feed brings—it doesn’t matter when positive action is the successful result. Whether you call them lead learners, or lead teachers, it is what they do to improve learning for students, colleagues, and teaching as a whole that has the true meaning. So, I don’t mind the word battles if the action behind the words is allowed appropriately to race forward unimpeded.
I think that sometimes it’s difficult to separate our own agenda, as well. It’s because we are so passionate, that not only our well-intended words can impede progress, but our vision of how it should be can obscure reality, too. I once sat across from a young educator, who suggested we needed to get rid of all other technology save smartphones. I told this young educator that he was very lucky to be in a place, where he could use cell phones, exclusively, and that his administrators were wonderful to let him do it. I went on to point out that most teachers weren’t as lucky, and many shared one document camera, or whiteboard as their only classroom technology. That last statement hasn’t changed much either. Just the other day, I gave a very enthusiastic teacher an idea, and suggested it could be done on student tablets. She informed me that she’d try it on the class tablet. Now, that’s worth a battle, and a lot of words! A classroom tablet, today, is like saying, “We’re sharing a piece of chalk and a slate.”
I don’t think we’re ready to get rid of all perfectly useful technology, whatever it is, based on one educator’s wonderful knowledge of how to use one piece of technology with kids, no matter how cool or trendy it is. It’s not, yet, the real world in classrooms. Of course, someone will say, “Technology is no different than handing a student a pencil; they figure it out.” Well, a cell phone is not a pencil, and while it’s true many students can figure it out, that’s not exactly a great education plan; is it? For that we need “Lead Learners”, or “Lead Teachers”, or whatever you want to call them. I call them necessary.
About the Author:
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.