Thursday, July 30, 2009

Teachers are like Twin Otters

Yesterday I spent the morning in Edmonton at the Alberta Aviation Museum to witness and be a part of aviation history. While serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1951 to 1978, my grandfather, Maj. Jack E. E. Nichol flew many airplanes including the F-86 Sabre. This year marks the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada, and to celebrate, a team of people has worked tirelessly to restore a Sabre called Hawk One. This special Sabre was part of a demonstration team from 1959-1964, and is now flying across Canada at air shows and events. I was fortunate to be able to meet one of the pilots Lt. Colonel (Ret'd) Dan Dempsey who is also the team historian and former colleague of my uncle's with Cathay Pacific Airlines. Dan served with the RCAF and was one of the last pilots to fly the F-104 Starfighter. The highlight of the day for me was sitting in the plane that my grandfather flew over 50 years ago! (Check out my Flickr set of the event). While sitting in the plane, opposite the lucky hulu girl, I noticed that there was a Garming GPS in the cockpit which got me thinking... 

Last week I watched a news story on CBC about the great Twin Otter that was originally broadcast last February. I have been inspired by a blog post this summer by Wes Fryer who talked about airplanes and technology during his visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. After watching the story about the return of the Twin Otter, and spending an amazing morning with family and Hawk One I can now conclude that many teachers are like Twin Otters and Sabres when it comes to technology. 

How? I see many teachers who are like these planes. They are beautiful, do amazing things and are workhorses. The Twin Otter is such a good airplane that it is now being rebuilt using original plans and documents for use around the world. Over 650 of 850 Twin Otters built are still flying today, a true testament to their quality and usefulness, however as they are being built from scratch on the outside, they are getting totally renovated on the inside. New technology including mode
rn wiring, communications and navigation systems are making this Twin Otter "2" a plane that is relevant, functional and safe to operate today. The Godlen Hawk has a GPS, a hulu girl and a new seat from another plane to make it safe to operate. 

The same needs to happen with teachers.  

That is our job as early adopters. To help the Twin Otters and Sabres to be refitted with new technology that will
 help them to continue to be great educators. To help them see that without embracing the use of technology in the class they too may become like so many Sabres: left behind when newer planes (students) come in the doors of their classrooms and are demanding that the teacher catch up. This must be done delicately, but swiftly because education as a profession is already behind the 8 ball. Viking Air president and CEO David Curtis said in his interview with the CBC that their purpose is not to build a replica of the Twin Otter, but to build a contemporary aircraft. The same should apply to teachers and technology. If we try to replicate the use of technology in the classroom from 50 years ago to as recent as even 5 years ago, we will not be doing our best as educators. While it may seem that it is taking a long time and many of us want others to catch up, I need to constantly remind myself that many of these Twin Otters are already flying overtime and putting in long hours in the air. Giving them small, easy to install tools in their classrooms is a great place to start. I am also encouraged by how so many are taking it upon themselves to be refitted with new technology skills. These planes who are first in the hangar will eventually help to lead and pressure others to come in for an overhaul themselves.

Photos: Jack E Nichol (top), myself with Dan Demspey in the Hawk One (middle), my son Jack admiring Hawk One (bottom). 

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! Talk about deep thinking. The analogies you have blogged about this summer are great!!!

    You have an incredible way with words. Your message in this post is soooo true. I need to come back to this post from time to time to remind me of what my mission at our school and in our district is.

    Thanks for these great thoughts.