We Need an Education Victory Garden #iste12

I'm convinced that politicians, actors, and businesses are in the business of education because education hasn't taken care of its business. I don't think that educators should sit back and complain about the current state of education because the current state of education is in place largely because of our own state of mind. It is time to change our minds about what we can do and do it. It is time to stop talking and start living it. Get to work at work worth doing.

We need educational victory gardens
I think that an excellent example of a massive societal effort is that of the Victory Garden which resulted in over $1.2 billion in food being produced by the end of World War 2. Victory Gardens were planted on public and private lands to grow food and take the pressure off of suppliers. In Britain up to 40% of their vegetables came from Victory Gardens. Everyone took responsibility to do their part or more than their part to help.

We need lots of educational opportunities from many sectors. Creating educational opportunities and helping kids find them should be our education victory garden. Everyone should do it but it cannot replace schools who should be a virtual garden of educational choices.

Laborers together
The great thing about going to ISTE is the kind of people you meet and are around. People in IT in education are some of the hardest working people I know. Teachers are very hard working. The people that take time out of their summer and money out of their own pocketbooks to attend such a conference are the “salt of the earth” type people who guide their lives with their hearts and work hard with their hands to make the world a better place.

We need to equip us to know what to do with those hearts and hands. I spoke on Saturday to the “ISTE affiliates” a message that I want to give here because it needs to be said. The 3 things we need in our education victory garden are:


Educators need to know it is possible to improve education and that society supports their efforts to work every day towards improvement knowing that we are all flawed people. The toxic environment of unforgiveness and crucifixion of those who make mistakes is making education into a place where people don't want to innovate for risk of hurting themselves and their families.  

Never mistake the threats to industries that support education (like textbook companies) as a threat on education itself. Learning is an essential part of any advanced society. The way we learn must change to adapt to the ways we now interact and share.

Many education-related companies and organizations including publishers, traditional higher education, and eventually schools are going to experience MAJOR upheaval in the next 10 years but remember that it is because new ways of educating and sharing are emerging. Teacherpreneurs are going to be a hot commodity. Traditional ivory tower, exclusive, organizations are going to be in trouble. The change coming to the education industry is going to make the music/ Hollywood transitions of the last 10 years look like ants fighting on an ant hill. We are talking major societal shifts and scared company execs. Scared people are easy to control.

If educators are well educated, life long learners, plugged into a PLN and are networking online -your opportunities are going to be profound. I can't say the same for unplugged teachers – it may be a lot harder for them, however, even then, don't give up hope. Likely you may look at having to change jobs and schools as administrators look for people to blame for the shifts happening in education but you'll still be needed. As older educators retire, we're actually looking at a shortage of teachers in the next few years.

But there are those who would rather have a pity party than a victory party because it is easier to be afraid and complain. Times are tough but if you look at the great Depression, they've been worse. Work hard at work worth doing and you'll find meaning money can't buy.

Massive change equals massive opportunity for those with a little savvy about it. Just like surfers like those big waves, some people (like me) are in for the ride of our lives. I'm excited and full of hope because great teachers are no longer islands – we're finding other teachers to magnify and make us even better. For us, this is a great time to live and teach.


Technology is maturing and so are the best practices that surround the use of education tools. If you talk about apps you should be talking about application. 

App makers of educational apps need to be held accountable to give us the learning analytics and link back to parents and teachers we need to help kids improve by integrating apps into the overall personalized learning environment for students. 

Teachers want to know what to do and how to improve. Tell them. Encourage them. Show them. But most of all INVOLVE them in the change. Stop the hypocrisy PD! We can't talk about all of these educational theories about how to properly teach students and hypocritically lecture to teachers about it. Teachers should be involved and integrated in PD (like we talk about in Chapter 11 of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds) and in the change that needs to happen as schools transition to an electronic architecture under girding their education.


We need to give teachers back their hearts. 

These are numbers…

These are not….

As Sir Ken Robinson said in last night's keynote, as parents we know that every child is different. We have attempted to standardize something that is entirely personal: children. We must personalize the learning experience and change how we approach education. It is time.

Thinking we can standardize children is like telling artists to standardize their paintings. You end up with one original and a ton of bad copies. We must become artists adept at helping children paint their own lives full of meaning, a quest of knowledge, and excellence. This doesn't mean we sit around all day, drink tea and throw rose petals in meadows. We have hard work to do and so must our students, but the drill and kill is killing our education system as we know it. Which brings me to my last point.

This is a no Hype Zone

I pondered last night's keynote at ISTE all night and into this morning. Hype is like spinach — kids always know it is there even when it is made to look different. Kids feel deceived. Last night we got political infomercials and an advertisement for a company wrapped up in the Brilliance of Sir Ken Robinson.

While I firmly advocate no mob behavior on Twitter, our collective #iste12 frustration was apparent with the Hype-laced session last night. Never confuse being nice with being agreeable. I can respectfully disagree with the choice to put a vendor on stage without the qualifications to engage one of the foremost minds in education thinking in the world. It wasn't a good fit for the audience and what we needed to be doing.

I can also respectfully disagree that ISTE is the International Society of Technology Educators and it should act like it. I do think that best wishes for Don Knezek were in order (but also Anita McAnear) and it is appropriate for many people to thank him. I think, however, that political speeches targeted exclusively to US voters and comments directed to exclusively US public school educators alienated many of the audience in one way or another and didn't fit with what ISTE is SUPPOSED to be.

There was no reason for anyone to walk out of a speech by Sir Ken Robinson, the problem was they didn't walk out on a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson. The audience was enraptured as he spoke. He just didn't speak enough and they walked out when they realized what was happening.

It is time to get real and cut out the bull. We know when hype is there so stop it. Be honest and authentic – disclose motivations. There is a place for vendors and making money but don't pretend it is what it isn't. And remember that we can be kind as we confront injustice. Our kids need us to focus on them. When improving education is less important than selling a product, then we won't have a victory garden – we'll have rich vendors and poor students. That is where we are right now.

We need practical advice and honest researchers instead of the “researcher for hire” (a/k/a “researcher for hype”) approach that is becoming an alarming trend in education circles. Be skeptical of any research that proves the efficacy of a product that was paid for by the maker of that product. Just as journalists have now been exposed as having bias, unfortunately it is becoming apparent that that bias extends to some researchers. Educators grab onto it, however, because it gives us a way to justify purchases that we know we need to make, so in some ways, we are to blame for this trend. We say we need it so they give us what we “need” and we've gotten what we don't want. We don't know who to trust anymore. 

In Summary

So, am I negative about education? No.

But I'm reading the Last Lion this summer and notice how Winston Churchill continued to warn the English about the threat of Germany but no one wanted to hear it. He was ostracized but he was right.

Courage not stupidity

I go to the church that filmed the movie  Courageous  and our pastor talks a lot about having courage. This is a time that calls for courageous people. A person who jumps off a bridge blindly doesn't have courage – he is dumb. A person, however, who climbs a mountain to rescue a child using the best technology to get there and good guides, is courageous. We have lots of mountains and lots of children but we also have lots of guides with the wisdom to help us get there.

We're not going to get there thinking that we can be transported by any software, app, hardware, or technique. We need good, solid, educators making the best use of the best technology they can afford and supportive administration who is willing to remove obstacles accompanied by supportive parents who know that education doesn't stop at the door of the schoolhouse. We need schoolboards that understand that spending must shift into technology from other areas that are being rendered obsolete. We are accountable.

We must work hard. It is time to get real, get serious, and get honest about education. I, for one, am not going to be quiet. I want to encourage and help teachers change from the inside out. It starts today.

Another quick note from ISTE12.

Speaking of today…
 If you want to say “hi” – I'll be running around but will be on the stage outside room 20D from 10:30-11 and presenting in Wonderful World of Wiki Teaching in SDCC 31AB at 2:30-3:30, and facilitating helping teachers find each other to plan their own global projects from 5:30-6:45 at the Flat Classroom Birds of a Feather in SDCC30CD. 

Tuesday morning I'll be sharing a 2 minute shred at 7 am in SDCC 33C, having a book signing from 10-11 in Pearson's booth 3513 for Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds , and facilitating a panel on “Collaborative Writing and Common Core in the Classroom” (including info from my new book Collaborative Writing in the Cloud) where the panel will take the 10 writing standards and show what they look like in the classroom from 12:15-1:15 in Room 8. At 3:45-4:45 – I'll be sharing with Suzie Nestico and Diigo founder Maggie Tsai “Bookmarks, PLN's and MOre” in 31AB. I'll finish up the day at Sylvia Martinez and the Gen YES Birds of a Feather talking about getting more girls into STEM with my daughter where she'll say a word. (This is an important topic, I hope some of you who care about girls in sTEM will come to this birds of a feather.)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere