So I started a new “Teacher’s Toolbox” workshop last night with five brave souls, regaling them in the wonders of the RSS/Wiki/Furl/Bloglines/del.icio.us thing. Coincidentally, Alan and Brian were doing something similar at Educause, albeit with much more organization and preparation. Frankly, I didn’t quite know how to approach it; there seems to be a very fine line between inspiration and overwhelm-ed-ness when it comes to these topics. So I ended up giving them the tour yesterday with the idea of putting them to work tomorrow night when we finish. And I think it went pretty well; just a little bit of glazed eye syndrome when we were done.
But the interesting thing, at least to me, is that I felt so far removed from what their reality is with all of this is. At one point I just decided to give them a five minute “here’s how this stuff works for me” demo and I have to tell you, I felt like an alien. Not that this group isn’t smart or open to technology. But I guess what struck me on the way home was how many hours of reading and experimenting and tweaking and thinking I’ve put into this with the real belief that these tools (or at least the concepts) are potentially important for teachers and students to understand. And I guess I’ve been immersed in them for so long, and they have become such an important part of my routine, that I kind of lose sight of the fact that in a school of almost 300 professional staff members, I’m the only one (save a couple of people who I have accosted in the hallways) who has really incorporated any of these tools into my work. And so I can’t help but go back to that “What’s it all mean?” place where I wonder if 10 years from now I’ll look back on this and go “Why? Why? Oh why?”
Ok…maybe that’s a bit dramatic.
But still. The workshop group talked at the end about whether there should be a class in these types of tools for kids, and I said that the class would probably be about 30 minutes long. (Ironically, just yesterday I was reading the Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants piece by Marc Prensky where he talks about the different approaches to technology that teachers have as opposed to their students.) These kids would just “get it” from a user standpoint. But what they wouldn’t have are good models to show them how to use the tools for critical thinking and reading and writing and for making sense of information. And to do that, we need teachers who are willing to integrate the practice into their own routines and teach to a student’s future, not his past.
Ok…maybe that’s a bit dramatic, too.
But that’s where my disconnect lies…my jump up and down “wait ’til you see what you can do with this!” blogvangelist self vs. the reality of the classroom. There is this whole sea change in technology in general underway, all these new tools and ideas. It’s fun to be immersed in, at least for me. But I have to keep reminding myself that much of it doesn’t translate as easily as I want it to.
Will, I know how you feel. I’m so into this stuff and also have a hard time convincing anyone else the “how and why” it is important. I have got my pastor blogging so that is a small measure of success.
I haven’t really got into all of this as yet. Actually, to be perfectly honest, my blogging aspirations went by the wayside on a personal level, and like you Will, I’m still grappling with how and why this is or can be pedagogically beneficial. Now RSS really gets my creative juices going, I can see the potential for both information dissemination and information overload depending on how the faculty applies it. On a personal level however, the geeky me is gleefully rubbing her hands in glee at all the new toys to play with ;-). Ah the dichotomy of an instructional technologist’s life!
Alan Levine says
I feel your pain, or discomfort, or vertigo…
While I feel immersed, energized with all the new stuff I write about, I find that RSS, blogs, et al are not even on the vocabulary radar scope of most of our system, including our IT people. I tried promoting RSS as a means of sharing system updates, but the consens fell back to good old email. The focus on most mindsets is adminstrative systems, course management things, classroom presentation technology.
It’s just a matter of time, and at knowing people have to go more or less at their own pace, with a few nudges where you can get ’em in there.
My real test of technology reaching that Gartner hype curve level of wide adoption is when ym Mom uses a technology– and she is just about there with email 😉
Corrie Bergeron says
The image keeps coming back to mind of black-robed Herr Docktors sitting in the moisty stone cloisters, and asking each other, “So, zis ‘printing press’ of Gutenberg’s – it iss here to stay, jah? Vat den schal ve do mit it, hmm? Und vat vill it do TO US, I vonder?”
Face it, Will, hanging off the bleeding edge is a lonely place.