We don't know what we don't know

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The response today from a teacher after asked this question:

What specific Technology training would you find helpful next year?

We don’t know what we don’t know

A very appropriate response I felt. How many teachers feel like this? They don’t want another PowerPoint session, yet they do not know what else beyond that exists. What happened in Technology training that teachers were trained really well how to use PowerPoint and then we stopped. Meanwhile students produce PowerPoint presentations in astonishing numbers. Why? Because “We know what we know” and what teachers know is PowerPoint.

If teachers knew about blogs, understood how they could be using and how to integrate them, would they become as popular as PowerPoint? What if teachers had as much training on blogs, wikis, and web 2.0 as they have had over the last 5 years in PowerPoint. Would we see the same use?

Another teacher stated:

PowerPoint is easy, it just replaced the poster. We (teachers) could see how to use it, understood it, and had a place for it in our classroom.

Sounds like doing old things in new ways to me! Maybe that’s the jump we can’t make. Maybe blogs, wikis, and Web 2.0 force us to make that jump to doing new things in new ways, and for many it’s just time consuming to learn and then take the leap into that ‘new things in new ways’ realm.

The exciting part is getting teachers to admit “We don’t know what we don’t know” in knowing there is something new, something out there they have to learn. The problem is they don’t know what it is they need to learn, and who is suppose to teach it to them? I guess those are the next questions that need to be answered.

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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. Hi Jeff,

    I am frustrated by my response to this line of questioning as well. It also pops up when asking for building tech plans.

    My push has been to change the question from “What specific technology training would you find helpful next year?” to “What are your biggest educational challenges/goals for next year?” and then think about how technology can be tied back into them. I also like to ask “What is your WORST unit and how might we add a tech component to it that will improve it?”

    I sometime wonder if a) professional journals read by content area teachers address technology use and b) whether any of my teachers read their professional journals anyway. I don’t expect people to read Leading and Learning, but you’d think they would read The Reading Teacher or English Journal or whatever the math/social studies/science.health etc counterparts are.

    Just some thoughts,


  2. Jeff- I am stuggling with the same question in a different way. I am trying to get teachers motivate to come learn about some of the web 2.0 tools but am having a hard time. They don’t know what it is about and don’t have the time to read about it. They won’t come to a workshop because they don’t think they can use it. So I have to resort to tapping into individuals and working with them on a one-to-one basis. Not entirely an efficient way to work but I’m open to suggestions.

  3. Many years ago, one of my sons asked me, “Do you know everything about Daddy?”. When I said that I didn’t, his next question was, “What don’t you know?”. When I related this story to my husband’s family that weekend, they roared with laughter. And they were right: it is a laughable question!

    So, to an extent, I’m with Doug. If you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you possible know what training to ask for? But without knowing what you don’t know, you might be mistaken on what your biggest challenges are and you might state goals that would change, if only you knew more.

    Hmm…is a puzzlement.

    Perhaps those who do know what the teachers don’t know could say, here is a brief overview of the sort of things you don’t know, and this is how they might be applied. Which of them would you like to learn more about?

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  5. Yesterday I had 15 minutes to present my invitation to a workshop I’ve developed for K-12 faculty on blogs, bloggers, blogging. 2/3 of the faculty had heard of blogs, all said they knew their students were familiar with blogging, and less than 1/3 signed up for the workshop. For many of the teachers I sensed “time” being the number issue for them. Most teachers have an incredible amount of duties and responsibilities on their plate and the idea of attending a voluntary workshop just does not fit in their moment-to-moment schema.
    I spoke with the school director afterwards and talked about making professional development (PD) part of their duties as educators. The director agreed and noted that PD is part of their responsibilities when hired as an instructor. So it seems that “not knowing” is only part of the equation. Time and time management seem to be part of why there is little follow up to the “not knowing.” Does that make sense?


  6. I agree with Doug that reframing the question gets closer to issues. It’s not reaaallly about the technology, but until it “the technology” takes on more of a utilty chararcter, it hovers over us and the faculty who want to use it but don’t know how. It’s got an additive rather than an expressive quality to it still. The challenge I notice is bringing faculty around to the notion that there exists a body of knowledge on how people learn. If we could just get more folks on board there, then the tools would have the potential of making more sense. Mastering the mechanics of technology is no small feat for some though. For the courageous few, I try to emphasize that the steep learning curve at the beginning actually pays off in the long run. The transfer of the skills, knowledge and metaphors to other technologies is remarkable. I get from faculty that they don’t know how to “get help;” they don’t know how to use Help or find help on their own. It sounds like a minor thing but tis not. There’s nothing worse than being highly educated and sophisticated and feeling helpless.

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