So there’s been a lot of angst flying around the edbloggosphere of late regarding what in the heck it’s going to take to get all of these changes we think we need to make kick started in our schools. Take for instance David Jakes, who responds “Wanna Bet?” to an eSchool News e-mail header that reads “Emerging technologies educators can’t ignore.”
But how many teachers can even design an effective presentation in PowerPoint? How many take advantage of the professional development opportunities available to them? How many internalize technology tools as significant and mission-critical tools required to teach today’s kids. Sadly, the news is not good.
Blogs? Digital Textbooks? Cell phones and iPods? Are you kidding me?
And then there’s Alan Levine, who is wondering if we’re all just “singing to the chorus” rather than really changing our practice:
We know the current generation is almost a different species than our own (a trend that goes back as far as you can go, right?). I’ve heard another presentation where this is highlighted the point again, and at some point, it gets a tad repetitious. At some point we ought to be talking more about what we are doing to address this, strategies for making change, etc. And the irony, of hearing this again at a presentation last week (and even duly noted by the presenter) was that the mode we are communicating this (a single speaker lecturing to a passive audience) is in direct contradiction to the message that learning is social, active learning is the key to engagement, etc. etc. etc. Why are educators in their professional gatherings not changing their own practice?
Oy. (The good news is Alan’s self-medicating and should be back to his more happy self soon.)
In the current issue of EdTech Magazine (free registration required) Pinellas (FL) superintendent Clayton Wilcox voices a familiar refrain.
So, here’s the superintendent’s dilemma: How do you create a compelling picture of our young people’s future with people who are less technologically literate? How do you move people from what they have known to what they have never seen and, in some cases, never contemplated? How do we educate today’s kids for their future rather than for our past?
Good question, it seems. Tough question. How do we do this? Or do we stop trying, accept that it’s going to take a generation for schools to really figure this out, and just try to model what we can where we can? I’ve been really inspired by the work of our teachers in the Tablet PC pilot who for the most part, young and old, are really finding the technology transformative in many different ways. But we’ve been able to give them something we’re not normally able to give teachers: time. Over 20 hours of training, consistent follow up and technical support, and ways to communicate. We’ve coddled some, and prodded others. And, not surprisingly, the younger ones have been riding their tablets the hardest.
This Friday, we get the whole faculty for four hours to hopefully engage them in discussions about process and planning and to show them some of the things the cohort is doing. We’ve been working a plan for the day pretty hard, and I’m hoping it will worth the effort. But I can tell you it won’t be overly effective in bringing too many teachers to the technology table. Not enough time or individual attention. And that’s really what it’s going to take to move people like Tom McHale at my school, or the science teachers at David’s. And that’s the tact that Clayton Williams seems ready to take:
Well, having seen the future, I know where I will start. I am going to tell the story about a boy and his friends who multitask with the best of them, who are not afraid of technology, and I’m going to tell all who will listen that students will gladly volunteer their time when something commands their attention. The great educators I know will find a way to do just that.
Maybe I missed the true nature of my dilemma. Maybe it’s not about creating the compelling vision of a different future for our kids because it’s here for all to see if we just look. Maybe, then, my role is to find the resources so teachers can command their students’ attention in a digital world.
Raj Boora says
I have a hunch that the great mass of teachers out there in k-12 and in post secondary are going to be forced to change by students faster than they are by people like us ranting on all the time. If nothing else we should try to help those we can and the rest will be swallowed by a wave of technology that will likely (in some manner) cause a revolution of sorts in education.
Granted, people have been saying this for a long time, but now even some of the nay sayers are starting to think twice.
Rob Lucas says
Raj is right. We’re not going to make much headway trying to persuade a lot of these teachers with the force of our words. We need to make it as easy as possible for new teachers and the vets who are inclined toward using technology to do so. We’ll make steady progress as the least tech-savvy retire, young tech users enter the field, and some of the fence-sitters see how effective and fun tech-enabled teaching can be. And then we’ll reach a tipping point where curricula are designed with technology as an assumption, and the last holdouts will have to fall into line.
So for now, rather than banging our heads against the wall trying to persuade the unpersuadable, let’s make sure that everyone out there with an inkling to explore the read-write web has the technological and human resources to do it.
Anthony Hardwick says
Leadership. Adminstrators who embrace and use the technology will influence the bodies in the classrooms. Think about the incredible amount of inter-departmental paper flying around schools and school districts. If the administrators take the (r)evolutionary step of refusing to print and distribute or e-mail routine misives and tell their staff that they’ll need to read it on their newsreaders…well, I wonder what else might happen…
Jay Pfaffman says
Teachers as a whole will never, ever be as tech-savvy as their students. I remember being in 3rd grade and the teacher not being able to operate the cassette tape player that went along with the filmstrip projector.
I think that providing students with lots of computers that work and provide the basics that have made computers effective tools in business may help to transform how kids learn. I’ve seen this in one school. I stuck 5 Linux thin clients in each of 3 teachers’ classrooms (largest class is 10 students). Kids now write a lot more and surf the web in ways that they never did before. It’s not only because kids have access to computers but also because their settings (desktop images, files, bookmarks) are available wherever they log in. They aren’t itinerant computer users relegated to carrying stuff around on USB drives.
I opine about this a bit on my blog
Janice Friesen says
TIME is really the issue. I recently worked in a grant funded professional development program called eMINTS. It worked because teachers received 100 hours of PD plus classroom visits. They worked collaboratively with a group of teaches and so had support as they made changes. What is happening with blogs in education reminds me of introducing email and then classroom web pages.I blogged about this..
I am fascinated as I read your blog and others you have mentioned, but I do wonder if what you are saying about “preaching to the choir” is true and the real change is NOT happening.
Janice Friesen says
In Union City, New Jersey they did find that investing in introducing technology at the elementary level forced teachers to change as the students who were used to a different type of learning grew up through the grades. See Edutopia Story