But if we don't know it, how do we learn it?

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Thank you to those that responded to my last post. It is an interesting question and one that we as professionals find hard to answer. I agree with Doug that the problem starts with the way the question is stated:

What specific Technology training would you find helpful next year?

Very open ended and gives no direction to the educator on what is out there. If educators responded with PowerPoint, is that because it’s what they know? How can you answer this question if you don’t know what specific technologies exist?

What if the question was phrased like this:

What technologies, with support, would you like to use in your classroom next year?

This question or a similar question gives two specific focus points for teachers.

1. It clearly states that we expect you to use technology in your classroom. We are not talking about the technology that technology teachers teach, but specifically the technology used in the classroom. We change the focus to a technology integrated question.

2. The question states “with support” allowing the teacher to test the waters and take a risk in trying something they may not try without support. By adding “with support” to the question you accomplish two things: A) You tell the teachers they will be supported in their technology endeavors and B) you allow them to think outside the box, because they know they will be supported. Their technology anxiety level drops allowing them to think “That would be cool”.

It’s funny how the way a question is worded can impact the fear level within someone. The original question asked you point blank to pick a technology, which means you must know it exists, and then admit you don’t really know it. i.e. asking for help.

Although this helps in opening the educator’s mind to possibilities in using technology in the classroom and taking a risk, with support, it still does not allow them to think about that in which they do not know.

Teaching what they do not know

There are a million and one ways to introduce educators to these new tools. But I think the worst thing you can do is have a traditional staff meeting format where everyone sits in seats listening to you talk and looking at another bullet point filled slide show of information. What if teachers brought their laptops, if they have them, or you hold the meeting in a computer lab where you had a 1:1 teacher to computer ratio? Instead of using PowerPoint, you use Firefox or some other tabbing browser and you have the educators preload a set of tabs. This becomes your presentation, interactive and personalized.

If we want educators to understand the knowledge and the scope of information available on the web today, then let’s show it to them. What about telling the new story as David Warlick puts it. Sharing stories about information, the changing face of the Internet, or simply how many Internet users are out there. (I wonder how many teachers know we passed 1 billion Internet users last year?)

Then how about allowing educators to search for information at learnerblogs.org. I would have them search for subjects that they are currently teaching and see what comes up. Then take them to edublogs.org and let them search there.

Next take them to wikiville and show them the power of a wiki. Studying your own culture or cultures of others is in almost every grade level curriculum? What if you did it on a world scale?

Next quickly explain these little orange buttons appearing everywhere. You don’t have to get into the details. I’d even start by asking them how many read a real newspaper? An online newspaper? (As an overseas educator this would be a skewed result as most overseas educators read online newspapers from their home towns.)How about sports fanatics?

Of course depending on time you could keep going. Online calendars, personalized homepages (such as netvibes), flickr, skype, and the list keeps going.

Would that work? Would you be able to introduce what they don’t know to them?

The most important part, I feel, is not mentioning the word ‘technology’; this is a focus on information and communication. A focus on using these tools in the classroom. Get educators hooked on how the information and communication tools can change their classrooms, and then teach them the technologies. If they can’t see the larger picture, the picture behind the technologies, the “Why are we doing this?” then you will not get the buy in you are looking for. I would end the session by asking the educators how many times did they hear the word ‘technology’ mentioned? Hopefully you’ve done a good job of avoiding the word. This only drives home the point of why these tools need to be integrated. They are not tools that can be used in isolation. Blogging doesn’t work if you don’t have anything to talk about. Wikis can not be completed if you don’t have time to research and find facts. These tools need to be integrated into everything you do; they need to be part of the classroom, not part of the lab.

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Barnabas Jons Reply

    Hey I’ve finally found a technology I can totally relate to – it’s called Freepath. I tried the trial download of it for free and it saved my butt! I tried it for a presentation I had to make the other day to our board. Here’s how it works; when you’ve got to make the old PowerPoint show – Freepath shows it but also shows it with ANY kind of file like Word doc’s, PDF’s, video, music, spreadsheets or anything. Would someone else try this and let me know if this is as good as I think it is? If so I’m probably going to buy because it’s $100 bucks off for a couple weeks. I got all this off there web site, http://www.myfreepath.com.

  2. Jeff,
    Your discussion of staff training is very interesting, and the timing is really good – at least for schools in the US, which are winding down right now, trying to make some plans for next year.

    I question whether the current model of staff training should be followed at all anymore. All the impediments talked about have been around in many subject areas for decades. Training is hard to do, buy-in is low, there’s the us/them thing to constantly fight, etc.

    Seems to me the people pushing web 2.0 technologies have the answers in their hands, but have limited themselves to using outdated and ineffective methods of spreading the word.

    Use the new technologies, for goodness sakes. Right, powerpoint is not a new technology, neither are web pages. Don’t use them. I don’t have the answers right now, but I know they are out there. The model of staff development in schools as is should be totally scrapped. Wipe off the table, clear out the preconceived notions. Start over.

    Along the same lines, some interesting thoughts from David Jakes, worth a read: http://jakespeak.blogspot.com/2006/05/things-that-keep-me-up-at-night.html

    – Mark

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