Focusing on the wrong tools

A couple of weeks ago, the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center held a panel to discuss ways to implement technology in the classroom.

Marijean Jagger, Waldo Jaquith, Sean Tubbs, Jim Bain, and I were some of the “tech folks” invited to participate along with several members of the Charlottesville and Albemarle School systems.

What technology did we recommend? The “tech” folks in attendance agreed on many things, most strikingly that focusing on which tech tools to use was not the best use of resources.

Reading, writing, critical analysis, independent thinking, independent research – from multiple, often contradicting sources – these were the skills that the tech people thought should be the focus.

Technology is changing too quickly for cumbersome organizations to keep up with daily and weekly trends. Evaluating the right tools to use is a time consuming process, one of trial and error. Recognizing that technology is but part of the solution is part of the struggle to evolve.

If you want an example of the fleeting nature of tech, read this story – Facebook is so 2008. By the time bureaucracies figure out how to use Facebook, something else likely will be emerging to take its place.

Changing gears, the argument is often made that “we’re in the real estate business, not the technology business!” Those of us reading and writing real estate blogs likely are in both – and to varying degrees. Some are bleeding edge, some merely cutting, and some are sitting back trying to take it all in.

What’s next year going to bring? Changes. Changes in how we communicate, whether it’s in 140 characters or less, video conversations, or good old fashioned blogs, effective communication will remain in demand. Fragmentation of the message will continue in 2008, but there will be an equally vigorous effort to reassemble (and profit from) the disparate messages and mediums.

Dustin said it perhaps best:

I really don’t care if its a new CMS, new listing tool, new social network, new blogging tool, new MLS backend, or new analysis reports… If you can get enough consumer eyeballs, the real estate agents will follow.

Same goes for the school system. How can schools use Twitter effectively? Ask the kids.

Here’s a related post at Marijean’s blog.

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  1. Michael Wurzer January 2, 2008 at 07:22

    Jim, this is quite possibly the best post I’ve read in months, making me think a lot. I also enjoyed the link out to Marijean’s blog, who I’ve never read before, and the discussion about blogs in education. Fascinating.

  2. Maiaoming January 2, 2008 at 11:38

    Yes, great post. You’re always very thoughtful and circumspect about things, but this one I found particularly interesting. Of course, I had heard the story already from one of the panelists you mentioned – he was so extremely frustrated by the schools’ attitudes he suggested we avoid public ed for our kids altogether. Hopefully they heard you guys at this meeting… or will read this blog! I hate it when orgs get obsessed with the tool as an end product, forgetting the content. I mean, kids need to have something to say, not just the means to say something – right?

  3. Sean Tubbs January 2, 2008 at 13:15

    This may be just the fire I need to produce the podcast of the event, which is about two hours long.

    I’m about halfway through the post-production on it, which will include some writing to explain the ten minute video they showed us.

    Anyone interested in hearing it?

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  5. Jim Duncan January 3, 2008 at 10:24

    Michael – thank you. That means a lot.

    Maiaoming – I had similar thoughts, but think that the real education begins at home. Any system designed to target 100% of a population is doomed to fail.

    Sean – I’d listen to it, and hopefully more of those in the administration would as well. God knows they need to hear it.

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  7. DBonham January 7, 2008 at 19:01

    Thanks for attending the meeting. I enjoyed everyone’s input. Sorry for such a late response. I know you have already seen the video, but for those who haven’t, check my reply at

    Passion in education can be a good thing.