From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 1|September|2001

Looking Around

Sometimes it helps to wander further afield, step off the job site, travel to some exotic location that might stimulate new thought and provide new perspectives.

© 2001, J. McKenzie, click on picture for full size.

We are all at risk when it comes to producing new ideas. To some extent our surroundings, our groups and our organizations apply pressure for us to conform to certain expectations and honor certain boundaries.

If we are building something like an arbor, perhaps we climb aboard a ferry and visit some nearby islands to see how they've been building arbors.

If we are building ideas or new strategies of some kind, we climb aboard an airplane to see what folks have done on the other side of the mountains or the continent or the ocean.

We may sometimes delude ourselves into thinking our way is best. We stay close to home and pat ourselves on the back.

"The American way is best."
"The New York way is best."
"The Japanese way is best."
"The Australian way is best.
"The Magic Marvel School way is best."
"Our way is best."

But then we cross a boundary, step across the street, pass through the Looking Glass and discover how little we knew after all.

In my own case, frequent visits to Australia and New Zealand have taught me much that was worth bringing back to Americans. "The Information Literate School Community" is just one dazzling example of many great ideas springing up in the land of OZ but well worth carrying home.

Without crossing the ocean, I have found the same phenomenon to be true when crossing state boundaries. What are folks doing and learning in Mississippi, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan? What are teachers doing with rolling laptop carts in affluent suburbs? in big city districts? in independent schools?

We learn by looking around past the obvious, figuring out what has worked and what hasn't worked so we can create our own plans without repeating the same mistakes.

Can we teach our students that the best ideas may not be found in their own backyards? Can we develop a respect for the inventiveness and ingenuity of other lands and cultures? Can we inspire students to cross boundaries and barriers, learn other languages and ways of thinking? Can we cure them of narrow mindedness and ethnocentric perspectives?

Sometimes we want them to think in an Eastern manner. Sometimes we hope they will think in a Western manner. At other times we hope they will think Southern or Northern or compassionately or skeptically.

We know that narrow mindedness and prejudice are dance partners whose favorite steps cause much misery and pain. Can we teach them to build good new ideas that incorporate decency, consideration, balance and concern?

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.

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