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The Dizzying Chasm July 28, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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Abyss   Reality and theory meet in the most unusual ways. The stark difference between what should be and what actually is can be a dizzying chasm, a black abyss. I encountered this yesterday after a discussion with my pre-service students about electronic portfolios. After some talk on the matter, they concluded Principals would never read them much less look at them during the hiring process.

A decade ago, when hiring teachers, aspiring teacher candidates would bring thick binders they called portfolios. Unable to convince candidates to leave them behind overnight, I had to limit my interaction with them to the duration of the interview. Later, we began receiving portfolio CDs containing everything that had once been in the binder. Upon asking around, my colleagues admitted they rarely slipped the CDs into their computers. Now, administrators are receiving links to online electronic portfolios or guest access to online portfolio services.

My jaded students shook their heads and worried that administrators would never read their words or see how much energy they put into their work. They worried aloud that the effort they put into creating a portfolio was a waste of time. Administrators, they lamented, did not get the new technology.

The finished product, I told them, was not the real end. The portfolio is a learning tool, a process. It helps you to reflect on your development through the teacher-training program. Paper or electronic, they help you to form the long view of your practice as teachers. Even if no administrator will actually open your PowerPoint slides and see how you carefully make images interact with music and the brief video of yourself in action in the classroom, you will have mastered one of the tools of the 21st Century.

The same day, I read that the prestigious University of Chicago Business School will accept four-slide presentations from applicants to their program. Just as I was about to lament the technology gap between Colleges of Education and Business Schools, a few lines deep in the article caught my eye:

Rosemaria Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions for the school’s full-time MBA program said, “The slides will be printed and placed in each applicant’s file for review, which means all the bells and whistles such as Flash, video clips, embedded music and hyperlinks won’t be considered in the evaluation process,” she said. “This clearly levels the playing field for everyone.”

I began to feel a little lightheaded. What the Business School was doing not only leveled the field, it flattened it, cropped it, and sucked the very creativity out of it. This, I believe, is the pitch-black and dizzying chasm, the point at which the world of the digital native meets the world of the digital immigrant and they stand in stark contrast to each other.

This is the difference between a butterfly in the wild and one pinned to a board in a display case. Perhaps I exaggerate a little. As a method of gauging the creative energy of an applicant to your program, making a four-slide presentation might be a good start. However, when you evaluate this creativity based upon two dimensional screen captures devoid of the very creative energy you sought to assess, you might as well have students submit their test scores and forego the charade.

Cross Posted to LeaderTalk

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