McKenzie Speeches

Toolishness is Foolishness

There are no global boundaries when it comes to toolishness.

It has spread far and wide . . . a fondness for tools that transcends purpose and utility . . . as when folks grab a hammer to paint a flower just because they like hammers or because hammers are trendy or when they allow a computer to speak for them to an audience instead of telling their stories with a natural voice or when people turn to search engines to find truths more likely to reside in books or their own hearts.

Toolishness is closely associated with other terms such as Foolishness, PowerPointlessness, MicroSoftness, Mentalsoftness™, Disneyfication, Edutainment and Infotainment.

In this presentation, Jamie McKenzie shows you how to recognize the signs that toolishness may have crept into the thinking of your school district and offers a series of bromides (antidotes) to help cure the illness before it spreads too far and undermines the integrity of the budget by shifting funds from books, libraries, librarians, art programs, guidance counsellors and worthwhile technologies for tools that contribute little to learning or student achievement.


Scoring PowerPoints

If we are not careful, there is some danger that presentation software will seduce students into creating flashy presentations with little content, rigor or thought - what the Australians call PowerPointlessness. In this presentation, Jamie McKenzie offers strategies to combine such presentations with thoughtful writing so that students are learning to analyze, interpret and communicate in line with state standards.

The Total Cost of Technology Ownership

Teachers around the globe are complaining about the lip service paid to professional development, program development and technology support personnel while billions go to purchase equipment and wire schools. The statistics on the dollars spent and the hours provided for teachers to learn profitable use of this equipment are disheartening.

McKenzie takes a business concept - "The Total Cost of Ownership" - and shows how it applies to the technology planning process so that funds will be applied in a balanced manner to cover all of the program elements necessary to launch a technology program that will actually make a difference in the lives of students and teachers.


Digital Distress: Dangers along the Highway

Not all digital experiences deliver an enhancement or lead to improvements in student learning or abilities. Some are poorly disguised marketing incursions selling a digital lifestyle as if remaining constantly wired and connected were a desirable goal. Others are rather shabby, ill conceived learning products that do not meet basic design standards.

McKenzie pokes fun at ad campaigns pushing digital messages such as "I am my office" and "I am everywhere" and asks the audience to consider how such messages might violate sound educational philosophies. He shows how district policies on the selection of curriculum materials, advertising and commercial messages can help moderate the impact of such lifestyle pitches. He argues for that digital resources deserve the same scrutiny hitherto applied when introducing print and video resources.


Verity: The Search for the Difficult Truth

In this presentation, Jamie McKenzie argues that schools are charged with the responsibility of showing students how to struggle thoughtfully with the difficult questions, choices and problems of life. He warns against the dangers of "virtual social studies" and glib thinking - a pattern he calls "Mentalsoftness." Using the study of cities as an example, he illustrates how easily students can be drawn to a superficial view of complex subjects and issues by new media and new technologies. Finally, he shows how good teaching can equip students with the capability to look more deeply in search for the difficult truth.

Is Digital Literacy a Passing Fancy like Computer Literacy?

Schools need to be careful about trendy new concepts such as digital literacy that may represent marketing attempts by technology companies and interests intent on selling a digital (connected) life style along with broad band access and associated products. If digital literacy is a valid concept, how about paper literacy? McKenzie leads the audience through a critical review of this concept set against the broader context of true information literacies such as text literacy, media literacy, numerical literacy, visual literacy, social literacy, emotional literacy, ethical literacy and artistic literacy. Does digital literacy measure up to the others as a major category of understanding, insight and knowledge, or is it the invention of clever marketers? You be the judge.

When Fear and Threats Fail

In some school districts and states, business leaders, school leaders and politicians may indulge in intimidating top down directives to coerce reluctant, skeptical teachers into making use of new technologies, but this strategy is unlikely to improve the prospects for daily, smart use, McKenzie argues. He provides a brief review of the research on effective change in schools and explains why fear and threats are likely to be counter productive. He points to the work of Michael Fullan as a better approach to the leadership challenge.

Making Wise and Discerning Technology Decisions

Schools face tremendous opportunities along with substantial risks as new technologies promise new kinds of learning and impressive changes in student performance. How can we maximize our return on investment, back winners and avoid losers?

Jamie McKenzie shares a dozen strategies to help teachers and administrators make discerning use of new technologies along with sustained use of classical technologies and learning strategies. He suggests ways to sort through the noise of conflicting marketing pitches and claims to focus in upon value, reliability and authenticity. The goal? To avoid what Shakespeare warned about 500 years ago - a technology rich program "Full of sound and fury signifying nothing."

Is Sharing Out of the Questions?

Technology companies often promote one-to-one equipment schemes so that each student has a personal laptop, but McKenzie argues that this level of equipment may act to distort the educational agenda and actually over equip a school. In addition to pointing out the false assumptions underlying this strategy, he offers alternatives such as strategic deployment and shared equipment that deliver "just in time" equipment rather than "just in case" equipment.

Buy a laptop for every student? Sheer folly, he argues, citing disappointing and thin research evidence to justify the huge expenditures involved.

Churn is Not Good Change

Smart leaders take care of organizational health and introduce change in measured, carefully paced stages so that teachers can maintain some sense of balance and focus on effective learning programs without being swept up in the turbulence of continuing churn - disruptive, unsettling, chaotic change that does little to contribute to the goals valued by the community.

McKenzie tells stories of change for the sake of change, technology for the sake of technology, life on the bleeding edge and obsession with the new new thing and offers up an approach to change that is much more nurturing and solid.