Sunday, May 23, 2010

Here There Be Dragons

I am fortunate because I have great conversations with intelligent educators through blogging and twitter. One theme that is revisited over and over again is the lack of "professionalism" in education. Many of my friends and acquaintances online are dynamic educators in their settings with a large percentage of them involved in leading professional development sessions. It is easy to forget these are not the norm.

Much of the conversations we share have to do with technology. Much of that deals with how we can disseminate the use of tech through our faculty. Again, I am not having these conversations with the average teacher.

There is often a conversation about how we, the teachers that use technology in our classrooms, have a difficult time getting other teachers and admin in our buildings or districts to see the value of using the tools technology offers. Does it have something to do with technology?

I came across this tweet by Gary Stager on my Twitter feed Friday. I questioned him about that, honestly I did not understand what he was trying to say. I asked him if there was an entry barrier to the teachers that didn't "get" technology.

I have thought about this for several days. Gary, you are absolutely right. We should no longer make excuses for teachers that choose to stay ignorant of the advancements in education. We have allowed them the comfort of the cycle of poor teaching, teaching the same ineffective way they were taught because that is what they know.

It is no longer enough for us to allow the teaching profession to wallow in what is known and comfortable, we need to push them into the unknown. We need to place them in the unexplored territory and allow them to fight the dragon known as change.


Damian said...

I'm with you & Gary here, but my question is: "Who is 'we'?" I think there needs to be a multi-pronged approach here, not only from teaching colleagues, but from administration as well. There must be support and encouragement (maybe mandates? I really don't know) from those at the admin level. It's not hard to imagine teachers willing and ready to take the plunge, but not quite sure where to start, and administrators terrified to let their teachers off their leashes on the Internet.

On the other hand, I know firsthand how a supportive administrative team can allow curious and creative teachers to do great things with their students.

Amanda Dykes said...

You are absolutely correct. I get so tired of hearing teachers say they don't have time to "learn" new technology or they can't come up with a ideas on how to use it. Really?! It leads me to two thoughts
1. Why the heck are you in a profession that focuses LEARNING if you are not open to do so?! Remember that teaching philosphy you had to write to get out of college? I bet ya a Coke it says something about "continuous learning" on it.
2. Educators are the most creative people on the planet. They can come up with 1000s of ways to use construction paper but can't think of one way to a digital camera?! Give me a break.

But really why change? Why take that leap or the time? If the administration thinks its OK to still use text books as only means of getting information and tests as main assesments then why not do just that? Why would they get off thier lazy butts and do something different? Time to stop thinking technology is a great idea and start making it the requirement.

Alex said...


Support and encouragement are fantastic from the educational leaders in a school, but when you start talking about 'mandates', things can easily turn sour. Our teachers were provided with two in-house means of creating web pages, and it was put in their PDPs as one of their goals for growth over the course of the year. I can't even begin to tell you how many teachers were pushing back, not only because of the technology usage, but because they resented being forced to create a teacher web page.

It's a tough situation to be in for me as a tech facilitator in my building, as everyone mistakes my suggestions and ideas, even just useful links I pass along, for using technology effectively and responsibly as yet another edict from our administration.

Glen Westbroek said...

This year has been fantastic for me. I have a new principal who secured funding to add significant technology to 14 classrooms. This includes document cameras, Interactive White Boards, Sound Amplification and LCD Projectors. The other classrooms had LCD Projectors and a Sound Amplification System installed in them. I previously secured grants to put all of this material in my classroom. I'm one of "those teachers" who thinks free time should be used learning new ways to use technology to benefit my students.

My principal asked me to provide after hours training for faculty who received new installations. He provided me with some remuneration for my time. I have seen teachers who were within two years of retirement embrace technology for use with their students. Our PD philosophy has been provide a short instructional training followed by "play in the sandbox" time. Teachers used this "play" time to design lessons for their classes using the technology. Students have been much more engaged in their learning in these classrooms.

My principal just provided a major financial appropriation to put more technology into other teachers' classrooms. These teachers are excited about what they will be able to do with their students. NOTE: the key here is WITH not FOR! I have been again challenged to share my "expertise" in the coming year. I hope that my suggestions will encourage others to use the technology effectively for student learning.

Damian said...

@Alex Yeah, that's what I was afraid of re: mandates. I ran a multi-day afterschool class on wikis a few years ago that one teacher basically pouted her way through. When I asked her why she was there, she told me her supervisor told her she had to make a wiki as part of her PIP that year, even though she thought they were 'pointless'. Ugh...

I guess my question then becomes, what of the unmotivated learners (on the teaching staff, not in the student body)? What drives them to try new things, if not their own intrinsic motivation? What role does/should administration play? Forcing a teacher to make a wiki for the sake of making a wiki is weak, but maybe something like, each department member will implement one new tool over the course of the year? Something less heavy-handed, with lots of options & support?

I really don't know the answer.

Wm Chamberlain said...

@Glen How much of the attitude of the staff is attributable to the new principal. We often forget how the educational leader in the building makes a difference in the teachers' attitude.

DeVo said...

This strikes deep in my heart! All teachers should be professional; I expect no less but my most collaborative, supportive colleagues are all on line! There should be a movie/book/ on "The loneliness of a teacher who knows technology" or such!

Glen Westbroek said...


Our new principal has not "MANDATED" the change - he brought forth the example of what has happened in rooms that embraced change. It started with two science classrooms. Slowly change is happening throughout the school. I have appreciated the recognition of many year's work. Other teachers are now asking for ideas on how to implement things in their classroom. We are NOT THERE yet - but I think we are on the right track. Our principal's attitude has been you may have technology ... BUT it must be used in effective ways in the classroom!

Anthony said...

Gary really hit the nail on the head when he said that teachers are highlighting their incompetencies by using the lack of professional tool training seminars as an excuse to remain ignorant about the keys to global connectivity. The question I have now is, how can administration motivate teachers to learn these tools on their own? If they spent less money on tech training and more on the technology itself, more access would be available to more students.

NZWaikato said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Gary at a New Zealand ICT Conference in 2009, prior to his Keynote Address, in the Lobby of the Hotel. He certainly had some creative ideas and was interested in challenging teachers!