Monday, April 6, 2009

The Tools Have Changed.

One of the things I was really looking forward to on my recent trip out to southern Ontario was a visit to the 'ol sugar bush. I have so many fond memories of tromping through the maples with my Grandpa when I was a young lad and I was hoping to recreate this experience for myself. I was also hoping to treat my daughters to their first taste of fresh maple sap and soak up the atmosphere that can only exist within an old sugar shack. We stopped in at Drummond's Maple Sugar Bush in Spencerville, Ontario, just a little south of Ottawa. Drummond's is a family owned and operated outfit that's been in business for over 200 years in the same location. One of the first things I saw after climbing out of the car was enough to burst my bubble. It was this sign:

The methods have changed.
The experience of visiting a sugar bush is nothing like it used to be.
It's smoother. It's slicker. It's far more efficient.

Looking around the sugar bush, all you see is a maze of nylon tubing. This tubing strings from tree to tree, it gathers and collects the sap and it transports the sap instantly to the central collection area. While there's no question that this method of collecting sap from the trees makes much more sense than the traditional methods that were used, I was disappointed that my children couldn't experience this process first-hand. The tubing has allowed Drummond's to tap and collect sap from over 1600 trees, far more than they'd be able to manage with the old school ways...

However, there was one bucket set up beside the parking lot to appease people like me. My kids could see the tap in the maple tree. They could see how slowly the sap flowed from the tree. We talked about how long it would take to fill that one bucket with sap. This one bucket doesn't shed too much light on the entire process of creating maple syrup, but it made it so much more relevant than staring into a sea of nylon tubing.

Of course, this is a technology blog, and not sugar bush blog. The reason I'm posting about this experience in this space is that I've been hung up on the tools that we choose to use in our classrooms. As educators, technology provides us with many tools and resources that can make our teaching so much more meaningful for our students. These tools can help us tap into our own professional learning networks. These tools can help us, and our students, to be far more efficient and effective than we used to be. But even though these tools are readily available, some educators opt to stick with the more traditional tools.

My recent trip to the sugar bush reminded me that we shouldn't push teachers too hard to adopt the new tools that are available. Many teachers are steeped in tradition, and are quite comfortable using the tools that they know best. Only when we really see the merit of adopting these new methods will we be comfortable letting go of our traditions...

The tools have already changed.
Now we're changing.

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