Wes Fryer posted notes from a SITE 2007 keynote by Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra called "Confronting the Wicked Problems of Teaching with Technology." Their presentation dealt with a technology integration framework called TPCK that seeks synergies in the intersections and interplay between three major areas of teacher knowledge: content, pedagogy, and technology.
But that’s not why we’re here. Wes caught my eye by noting the speakers’ comment about how we use the phrase "best practices," and adding his own bracketed aside:
We shouldn’t talk about “best practices” we should talk about “better
practices” and stop searching for the silver bullet
– I can embrace the idea
of “good practice”
[I THINK THAT IS A GREAT POINT. WE NEED TO RESPECT CONTEXT AND DIVERSE
LEARNERS BY STOPPING USE OF THE PHRASE BEST PRACTICES.]
In a 2006 paper that describes their TPCK framework in more detail, Mishra and Koehler talk about the inherent flaws of a superficial, skills-based "checklist" approach to technology integration professional development. There are no silver bullets, no authoritative checklists of "best practices," no Good Housekeeping Tech Integration Seals of Approval to be passed out. Not that "best practices" is a flawed concept; it’s just that technology integration is too much in constant flux to make sense with the kind of deliberate, gradual accumulation of tried-and-true knowledge we usually mean when we say "best practices." Best practices presupposes a lengthy process of sifting and winnowing, of getting the cream to rise to the top, of learning from our elders. Given the protean nature of technology, trying to apply our traditional sense of "best practices" seems misguided. I agree with Wes: let’s ditch "best practices" and start talking about good practice, meaning good teaching. Which, as Mishra and Koehler, point out, is a "wicked" endeavor: creative, complex, and even mysterious.
Patrick Higgins got me going yesterday on the idea of blogging as professional practice, and on what we mean by "practice" in general. Patrick was talking, I think, about practice as craft, art, adherence to a chosen discipline, professional mindfulness, whatever you want to call it. A much broader, more inclusive connotation. Mishra and Koehler’s wicked/tame duality reminds me of Gary Snyder’s writing about Zen practice in his 1990 collection of essays on nature, wilderness, and the environment, The Practice of the Wild. He writes about wildness in a way that mirrors what Mishra and Koehler say about wickedness. This excerpt from a Shambhala Sun article describes Snyder’s Zen practice in terms that also offer a good working counter-definition of wickedness:
If embracing the responsibility of the place and the moment is his
prescription, a key principle in this creative stewardship is waking up
to "wild mind." He clarifies that "wild" in this context does not mean
chaotic, excessive or crazy.
"It means self-organizing," he
says. "It means elegantly self-disciplined, self-regulating,
self-maintained. That’s what wilderness is. Nobody has to do the
management plan for it. So I say to people, "let’s trust in the
self-disciplined elegance of wild mind". Practically speaking, a life
that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor,
gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking, brings us
close to the actually existing world and its wholeness."