Education Opinion

Who is Watching Out for Learners

By LeaderTalk Contributor — March 05, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Ryan Bretag | @ryanbretag

I find myself saying too often these days “that is killing our students”. It has me wondering who is watching out for the learners in school as a lack of systemic thinking and a focus on ego-driven decision making turn otherwise great teachers into one room schoolhouses.

So, who is watching out for learners when...

a student has 12 blogs tied to individual courses because a teacher wants one for their own class instead of the student using one blog throughout their academic career a student is forced to go to multiple spots with multiple logins for different classes to do essentially the same thing because a teacher decides my digital space is going to be built on something other than the tool the other teachers use a student is forced down one path with one outcome because a teacher learns about a new tool so all students must use it a student is given no guidance on the use of technology because a teacher assigns instead of teaches, guides, and facilitates a student is typing... typing... typing... instead of creating, communicating, connecting, and collaborating because a teacher sees the value of a $1,000.00 empowerment tool as a fancy type writer a student has to hide their personalization tools because a teacher thinks banning mobile learning devices is beneficial to learning a student spends hours upon hours on homework because a teacher thinks technology allows us to cover more content a student is expected to engage in a 24/7 environment because a teacher assigns more to do outside of class a student has no choice in self-authorship and publishing because a teacher makes the decision for them, forced or denied a student is expected to retrofit their personal spaces into academic spaces because a teacher wants to "go where they are" a student is told to publish their work (videos, written, audio, images) in numerous spaces tied only to that course because a teacher doesn't want to use what other teachers are using a student is physical engaged but mentally disengaged because a teacher retrofits technology a student has multiple digital calendars because a teacher likes a different calendar than the one used by others

The list goes on and it probably sounds like teacher bashing. It isn’t meant to be that way.

It simply is a reality that organizations appear to be facing when trying to effectively infuse social media into the learning environment.

Whilesome of it is leadership (in fact, you could replace the above with teachers and administrators) and some is professional development, there is another side that I think is a little dark secret.


I’ll tell you a story. I was not a good colleague my first two years teaching. In fact, I was downright selfish and egotistical. I wanted to be doing things differently than everyone else. I wanted the learners to like my class more than the other classes. I wanted to be known amongst the students as the innovative one.

This required me to push against the grain and do things differently even at the expense of the students. I would start on Moodle and be the biggest supporter of it until it became systemic. I would then go to something entirely different even though it offered little added value. But, I made it feel much better so I would return to my role as the “innovative one”. I became a master at discussions both physical and digital. I then did presentation to the faculty where many began using discussion boards and my discussion strategies. What did I do? I moved on to other things simply because I needed to be different.

How much of the above is a result of ego and selfish interest? I think plenty.

Yes, they can be great teachers with this mindset. But, they’ll never be teacher leaders until they think systemically and think beyond the one room schoolhouse... until they take into consideration what their actions mean for the whole child not just their individual class needs.

And, if schools are going to move forward, we need teacher leaders. We need them now more than ever. After all, we need people to look out for the interest and direction of our learners because THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE.

(Image: Mirrored self portrait, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from oter’s photostream)

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.