I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve had the great fortune this year to team teach the technology part of a doctoral course at Seton Hall with Alan November, and tonight we were back in class talking about blogs and wikis and the like. There are about 25 students in the cohort and about half have dipped into blogs in one way or another. I’ve linked to some here previously, but I found out tonight that there was quite a bit of blogging going on under the radar as well. There was actually blogapplause…cool!
What was most interesting were the ways in which they were using blogs and the process some of them had to undertake in order to get them started. Some had to literally jump through hoops to get Weblogs “approved” first by principals, then superintendents then boards. Others just went ahead and starting using them without asking permission. Some used them to carry on conversations about policy and planning. Others used them to have conversations about technology and blogging. Many formed partnerships and collaborations through their sites. In all it was pretty interesting mix and really fun to hear about.
But the bottom line was that for most, the implementation of these technologies is still a huge mountain to climb. One of the “students” who is an administrator at her school talked about how difficult it was for her teachers to see the potential, to think creatively about the technology. She said that so few of them were current with the tools and that few were able to easily get to the ways they could be applied. And I got the sense that this was true for most of the people in the room. And I know it’s true for most schools. We don’t do a great job of helping teachers stay abreast of what’s happening in technology. We need to show them more clearly how these technologies can change their practice and their classrooms. RSS feeds, screencasts, podcasts…these are all technologies that we can use to get teachers interested in what’s out there and model their use at the same time.
This post hits home for me as I will be starting a position as a “Technology Resource Teacher” this summer for a small county in SW Virginia. I don’t yet know how much teachers use current technologies in their schools and curriculum, but am anxious to find out, and excited to share with them ways to use this “stuff.” Do keep writing about this–about how we can teach teachers, who can then teach students who can then teach each other, etc. etc. -Sean
Terry Elliott says
There is an order of at least one magnitude between teachers who are oriented toward getting things done in the classroom with web and electronic technologies and those who aren’t. This is a tipping point issue. As the digital generation takes over the classroom, change will come. I believe that the problem is in our own orientation: we are carpenters and every problem can be solved best with a hammer and nail. Here is the problem in a nutshell. We must put ourselves in the shoes of the non-enamored and skeptical. If we do this, then the proper order of business at the beginning of any professional development training becomes (1.) what do you teachers want students to be able to do in your content, and (2.) what are the best tools for doing it? Real 3 by 5 cards might just be a more effective tool than a weblog.
We need to know what our tech tools do best and then back off if there are other alternative tools available. Wouldn’t we be better off developing methods which help teachers decide on the best mix of all available tools and that includes which ones fits our teaching personas best. That’s a lot more nuance than most of us blogvangelists have been able to muster. Until the ed schools get off their butts to do this, I think we better get started with it.
As one of that group of Seton Hall students (there are actually 32 of us), I must say how much I have enjoyed the skills acquisition over the past six months. Prior to November (the month, not the person) I had not heard of a blog, and never imagined the potential for the medium in schools. I have now become a blogger and, more importantly, a blogvangelist. I have turned four teachers on to blogging for a variety of purposes, and through my Bloglines, follow several blogs and many news sources daily.
One of the key items we discussed was the need to transform thinking about kids and education if we are to achieve meaningful change. We discussed constructivism and multiple intelligence stategies throughout the course and the application to them.
On the way home this afternoon, I was listening to a talk radio pundant who announced that he podcasts his entire show daily. How cool. I need to get caught up with some of the new technology, but that will come with time. Of course, by then, there will be new stuff out there.
Thanks again, and stay in touch.
Will R. says
Certainly the choice of tools should be driven by the goals of the instruction, the skills that we want to deliver. I think blogs are one of the best ways to nurture critical thinking skills, better than most any tool we’ve had in the past. The engagement that blog conversations such as this one require makes forces us to think carefully about words, connections, ideas and expression. That the tool happens to be a technology, however, makes it difficult for many non-technologially inclined teachers to consider the possibilities. And it’s not just the older ones; many younger teachers are just as hesitant.
I agree, Terry, that technology is not the answer for every problem. But for teachers to know the best tool to take out of the box, they need to know what each tool can do. The ed schools, from what I can tell, don’t have much of a clue right now. So how do we do that?
I don’t disagree that sometimes a 3×5 card is the best choice. But I guess I’m not concerned with that because my teachers know the 3×5 card well. What they don’t know is blogs and rss and audiocasts.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Terry Elliott says
Steve Dembo of Teach42 has a podcast about our discussion. http://www.teach42.com/podcasts/teach42-050205.mp3
He says in effect that blogging is not intuitive and that’s why you need to do the blogging 101 thing over and over. Part of the reason I don’t blog personally as much is because I am doing a lot of this. So… let’s keep doing the 101 thing, but let’s also figure out how to make blogs “useable” to the novice.