I heard a great story in a workshop in which I was involved with a group of educators. We were talking about ‘Rethinking Education’ and in particular the way in which technology is impacting on education. As you can imagine it was an emotive and challenging discussion as assumptions, worldviews and even values were all under the microscope, and for some, it felt like they were under the cosh! It was a time where one of my favourite quotes by Mark Twain was vividly coming to life: It is not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble but rather it is what you know for certain that just ain’t so. There is a lot about our understanding (perhaps on how the world works) that when it comes to the current context and reality that ‘just ain’t so’!

There were the predictable concerns around controlling the technology and the usual suspicions about the technology in the first place. Many of the educators were on the back-foot; they were on the defensive as after all, they were the ones ignorant in much of the technological ways that are ‘first nature’ for the Digital Natives that inhabit their classrooms.

It was in this context that one of the workshop participants told of an incident where one of his teachers had reclaimed some lost territory. It was a generational fight back of note! It was turning the beast on the handler.

A grade 10 pupil was using the classroom to catch-up on some much-needed sleep. Most students do this of course but the trick is to somehow look attentive yet be slumbering. I can recall an incident from my own school experience when one classmate was so fast asleep we were able, with the teacher’s full cooperation, to evacuate the classroom whilst leaving him isolated and alone in his slumber! He woke up sometime during the following lesson surrounded by strange classmates!

In this particular case the disguise element left something to be desired and it came to the teacher’s attention that this pupil was in fact fast asleep. The response? Take a picture. Out came the smart phone and one click later the picture was on the classroom smart board and was sent to the pupil’s father. Bam! Father gets a picture of his son sleeping in the classroom asking if this is the best return on the substantial tuition fees paid? There is no need to imagine what unfolded from that point onwards!

Yes, techno-savvy Boomers can be dangerous! Technology goes both ways. Technology has to be part of the 21st century classroom. If it isn’t we might as well use caves and write on the walls. The challenge is neither the technology itself nor the Digital Natives (the learners)…the challenge is getting the educators up to speed with the technology. It is getting the teachers to understand what the technology can do, how it could be incorporated and of course, the dangers present. The glaring irony for me in facing this challenge is that the answer, or part of the answer at least, is right under our noses!

Get the kids to teach the adults in this area. In business we call it ‘reverse mentoring’. Why not?

Without getting to far into the whole debate, one that is more complex – and more important than I am acknowledging here in this blog, let me raise some important thoughts associated with this story. I must confess that these additional thoughts were raised by one of South Africa’s most respected and experienced educators who happened to be reading this blog as it was written. Here was his input: One of the things that kids hate most is when educators involve parents in what happens at school. What would be the consequence to the trust relationship between teacher and pupil in this incident? The second provocative thought associated with this incident raised by my friend was this: where would it all end? What if the pupil retaliated and had the teacher started something he couldn’t finish?

Ummm…certainly worth thinking about but still, I just loved the story and the initiative taken by the alert teacher. It was not my intention to unpack some of the deeper issues that could be the consequence of the action taken.

That I will leave to you. It is your story to enjoy and yours to now reflect on and explore to a deeper level.

Class dismissed.

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