Ben Wilkoff

Denver, Colorado

Ben Wilkoff is a 7th/8th grade Language Arts teacher at Cresthill Middle School in Colorado (a Denver suburb). He has been immersed in the world of school 2.0 ever since he started reading Will Richardson’s blog in 2004, and he was recently awarded the Totally Wired Teacher of 2007 award by Edutopia Magazine. Ben has also designed a school 2.0 within a school model called The Academy of Discovery.

Web Presence:

Presentation Title
Starting From Scratch: Framing Change for all Stakeholders

Presentation Abstract
Starting from Scratch tells the story of education transformation. Its point of view is the classroom, with all of its eccentricities and complications. The characters are students, teachers, administrators, and parents, with all of their hopes and fears vying for attention. Its plot shows measured steps down the path of real change. This presentation chronicles one educator’s experience with crafting a voice at the intersection of research, pedagogy, and technology. It outlines a way forward for teachers who recognize the obstacles to opportunity and still want to press on.

Presentation Description
Starting from Scratch is about creating change in your school without having to make teachers, administrators or parents uneasy about your approach. It is about using the right words and preparing the right data to convince anyone that change is both essential and within your grasp. The process of framing is all about appealing to emotions, ideas, and concepts that other people already understand. After tapping into their frame, they become the biggest advocates for change that you could want. The presentation centers upon my own process of going through many obstacles to create change within my school and my classroom.

For example, at the beginning of last year, I had four computers in my room and a principal that knew I blogged. Now, I am ordering a class set of laptops and my administrators are setting up meetings with assistant superintendents to get more for our team. The difference between then and now was the frames that simultaneously convinced parents, other teachers, and administrators that School 2.0 isn’t scary or a pipe dream ( Be sure, I do not have a method for writing grants or squeezing money out of people, but getting others on board with your change direction is even more important.

The purpose of this presentation is to show teachers that creating change is possible, no matter the situation. You do not have to hide the fact that you are using podcasts as text in your classes, or doing a reflective blog about your practice. I want everyone to be aware that there are ways of changing even the most “traditional” teacher’s minds about social software. Any attendee that listens to my podcast, reads my blog post, or interacts with the presentation will know what framing is, and how to use it to create change within their school, both in others’ perceptions of Classroom 2.0 and in their advocacy for it. The attendees will be able to recognize and implement the most successful strategy for their school situation, whether that is data-driven, concept-driven, emotion-driven, word-driven, or pedagogy-driven. They will also learn how to create a resource (wiki or series of online documents) to house all of their framing, so that anyone can take a closer look if they have questions.

Many teachers have encountered resistance when they start the process of going from 1.0 to 2.0. I know that this was definitely part of my experience, from wrestling with schedules to find available computers to convincing people that I wasn’t throwing away the standards when my students were blogging. We all need a way to combat this resistance, but instead of fighting it head on, we need to reframe our work so that everyone can understand it and appreciate it. We need to reframe it so that no one can argue against it. We need to be able to categorically say that using social software with an appropriate pedagogy leads to higher achievement in higher order thinking skills, reading comprehension, writing proficiency, and mathematical understanding. Only if we frame it right, will people get that message rather than the message of, “I’m doing something different, use skepticism at all costs.” The former is harder to argue against than the latter, and that it the real obstacle for Classroom 2.0. It is the fear that we are just one more educational fad lacking substance. We are not, and we need to be able to prove it to anyone who cares to inquire.

The boundaries of what is possible are set by us, not the ones resisting our call for change. We set the boundaries based upon what we perceive the resistance will be, but if we are able to create advocates out of skeptics, the boundaries fade away. We are then given the ability to push out further and further to find a greater community of support for our vision. The process of framing School 2.0 is one of convincing others that the boundaries of the classroom are fictitious or, at best, artificial. We should be in the business of showing what is possible when the walls dissolve and true collaboration between diverse student groups as well as diverse teachers. That is how we play with boundaries. By showing others how to dissolve our boundaries, we are making them into a part of the movement rather than someone who is on the outside looking in.


Link(s) to the actual presentation
Coming on October 26th

Links related to your presentation
Coming on October 26th