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It Is Still About the Learning...

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:28pm

I was over on Christopher Sessums site today. If you do not have him in your feed, you are missing out. His blog is the perfect mix of art, information and intellect. This post caught my eye: Educational Technology and Teacher Preparation: Bridging Theory to Practice. Chris does a wonderful job of looking at the struggles teacher educators have with technology adoption, which in turn creates a struggle for preservice adoption, which in turn carries over to the classroom. As you can imagine a wonderful, engaging conversation began in the comments. One comment jumped out at me... Kelly says...

Christopher, so much to be done at so many levels. After reading through Will Richarson's discussion with soon-to-be-teachers and having several interns in our school in the past few years, it is clear that the new teachers will not bring about the momentus change in technology use that many thought would happen. From my perspective, we need to look to the people in the middle, those who have been teaching for a while yet who are willing to try new things. To me, they are the best hope. They are not struggling with all the stresses of new teachers nor are near the end of their careers. Most have children that are "wired" all day and see the possibilities of what could be done. We almost need to focus on a retraining program and then have these teachers be mentors. As someone in the middle of my career, I would love to do more work with technology and help others to do it but the time just isn't there no matter how I refine my schedule. As for higher learning, it is in the same rut. We've been waiting for quite a long time for there to be a change in teacher education. It must become a priority and this will only happen once we have gone the next step and begun to hire people who see that technology is important and not an add-on because they live with it. I feel that, until we see a movement in the upper administrative positions in these areas, technology will not be a part of the whole picture.

There were other comments too - all passionate and brilliant laying out well thought ideas. But Kelly's comments and one about tech integration kept gnawing at me. So I responded with this:

We have to stop thinking of it as integration and start thinking of it as teaching in the 21st Century. At what point did we stop thinking of the whiteboard as new technology and it became simply a medium through which we communicated to our classes.

Not sure I agree with preservice teachers not being part of the solution. If Ingersoll is right and 1/3 of the teaching force is retiring or leaving, then these bright idealist could truly become the tipping point for true educational reform. What I have noticed is this--

1. Who we think of when we think of netgenrs are not showing up in my ICT education courses. It is as if we draw the technophobic/resistent to education.

2. However, when they spend a semester in a virtual community with tech savvy minds from the blogosohere, when they start blogging for deep reflection based on what they are reading in their content classes and in the edublogosphere, when they start co-creating the syllabus and direction of the class and actually start using the tools and planning for the kids to use the tools to create and collaborate in their lessons--something happens. A light comes on and they see kids getting totally turned on by learning. Then they become true advocates.

My last few weeks are spent showing them how even as novices entering the workforce they can be teacher leaders. That teacher leadership is when you have an expertise to bring that can help other teachers- help their students achieve. That their expertise in 21st Century teaching skills makes them teacher leaders by default and advocates for children. By cultivating an attitude of advocacy early on, these fresh minds who can still remember why they went into teaching- "want to change the world and help kids"- are bold in advocating for using knowledge management tools, adaptive expertise, modeling connectivism, and being ok with the messy side of change.

I do think we need to be breathing life into mid-career teachers as  well, but I place my money on those who havent been tainted by the system or jaded by disempowerment- as being the real power behind educational reform.

We really need to focus on teacher prep programs -- cant wait to read Linda's new book, thanks for sharing.

Then I scooted over to David Warlick's site reading this post. Diane Hammond rocked my world with this-

“She talked about how they teach teachers to collaborate.”

I wonder if we shouldn’t be lowering the profile of the technology in these conversations with teachers and just focus on getting the job done. Why do the teachers want to collaborate? What do they expect to accomplish? What impact will collaboration have on professional practice? These are the questions they should be getting their heads around. The technology should be incidental, merely tools to accomplish specific tasks.

I don’t notice “technological apprehension” in other professional groups as much as I do in education. For instance my husband had a new ocular imaging system installed in his office last week. This is completely new equipment, software and processes for the office staff. This week staff are familiarizing themselves with the camera, imaging and analysis software, and patient database. We aren’t hearing questions such as “Why do I have to learn this; how will I learn this; how will I keep up?” Everyone is focussed on the end result, improved patient care. The staff are getting some preliminary images that are too dark or out of focus. They are practising and working together to take clearer, sharper images that will show the healthy eye, or the pathology, the doctors are looking for. Along the way…they’ll master the technology…

Why don’t we do that in schools - job-embed learning opportunities and give teachers a variety of tools to meet their pedagogical goals? Then along the way…

It Is What You Want to Do and Learn That Matters!

I couldn't agree more. I ask teachers all the time- When do you think about the air conditioning/heating unit? They always respond, "When it isn't working." EXACTLY!  Web 2.0  and other technologies should be just like that. You do not even notice them. They are so not the point. Have you ever seen this?   Proving change is always seen as premature.

Change will happen when we have a reculturation of the institution of school. When we focus on what is important rather than the tools. We are like a bunch of 4th graders who have just been given math manipulatives for the first time-- we have to play and explore with them first before we can actual get down to business of using them for learning.

Photo credit: http://flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/434872938/

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