Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Relationship-Based or Technology-Based: Is It One or the Other?

Having just recently returned from the 2009 NAESP Annual Convention in New Orleans, my mind is racing. And it's not from too many beignets!

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a pre-conference workshop on "Relationship-Centered Leadership." The presenter, Tom Wojick of The Renewal Group, explored the power of strong relationships with students, staff and faculty. His discussion of emotional and social intelligence clearly resonated with workshop attendees, who were eager to apply his insights to their work in schools.

The following morning, keynote speaker Ian Jukes officially kicked off the convention, delivering a rapid-fire presentation on the exponential growth of technology. His phrase, "Info-Whelming," certainly hit the nail on the head. As attendees left the presentation, I overheard many describing the information as "scary," "daunting" and even "painful."

On Saturday, former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) knocked our socks off with a presentation that brought attendees to their feet. In his address, Gen. Powell called for young children to get "more lap-top time"—not more time on their computers, but more time "on the laps" of families members who care for them. At the core of his remarks was a focus on relationships between children and parents, family members, principals, teachers and mentors.

And, finally, on Sunday, I attended a breakout session by Matthew Hayden, elementary/technology teacher, Bristol Township SD (Levittown, PA). Hayden did a nice job of answering the question, "OK, I realize technology is changing the classroom—but how is that relevant to me and what can I do about it?"

With each day of the conference, it became more apparent that we all are trying to reconcile the implications of technology with human relationships. Can an education leader value technology and relationships equally? Or does technology result in a "disembodied" education for a children?

In a breakout session, Jukes offered this thought: "If you are an educator who can be replaced by a computer, then you deserve to be replaced by a computer." In other words, technology is a great tool—but it is not a substitute for human-based teaching and learning.

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