Friday, March 5, 2010

Getting Skeptical Teachers on Board the Tech Train

At the risk of stating the obvious, I feel the urge to share some thoughts about coaxing reluctant teachers on board the tech train before it leaves the station without them (or they derail the locomotive!).

This urge comes from two sets of interactions. Early this week I sat down for mentoring session with a terrific teacher to give her some suggestions and training for setting up a small social media project with her 9th graders. This was obviously a big step for her and sitting down with me meant that she would expose some of her confusion about basic tech operations tool. (I'm happy to report that both parties left the session quite pleased). Later this week I chatted for an hour with a visiting team of administrators from Little Rock. Their school is about to take the plunge into a 1:1 program, and the subject of bringing staff on board arose.

My reflections:

* Teachers are inclined to feel unappreciated and undervalued if tech is thrown at them as something they must urgently do to be relevant in their students' lives.

* Conversely, when presenting to co-workers it is important to express sincere appreciation for their talents and assure them that their devotion to their students will lead them to explore powerful methods for building student learning networks.

* Teachers need good modeling from school leaders. Those espousing change need to walk the walk. It's even more important that they don't become scolds.

* Teachers are used to (and many perhaps drawn to) terrific control in their classrooms. It's understandable that would feel very uncomfortable shifting their roles and allowing the students greater control over creating their own learning networks.

*After my experience leading the MHS in-service, I am more convinced than ever that the best way to coax teachers towards giving their students more control over building their networks is to show them how to develop their own personal learning networks with technology.

*A strong staff mentoring program is a must.

* Most teachers love to share their discoveries. We must not make them feel as though they should master everything at once.Let's give them the satisfaction of becoming proficient in the tools they need for a simple project or lesson that really connects with the kids.I'm for encouraging them to take one step at a time, giving them credit for doing so in the midst of a typically harried school year. Then we should urge them to pay their knowledge forward, since that, after all, is their vocation.

"Tough Customer" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by James Jordan


WillKnott said...

One of your very best on this subject and one which should offer comfort to all teachers at MHS but not too much to Administration. I love the idea that teachers should be praised for what they are doing--individually, not the bland general praise--and that they should be shown, clearly and specifically just how what they do in their individual classrooms, with their subject matter and their teaching styles could be augmented and made richer with technology.

I fear that at MHS anyway these are the things that have made so many teachers--myself included--turn a jaundiced eye to all of it. You have made me a believer and I would probably be burning up much of your spare time if I were still among the troops.

I do think that much of this has been stated in one way or another to the administration but they have, perhaps because of their own discomfort with technology, or lack of expertise, not truly heard. What they hear is the sound of heels being dug in, at least from much of the staff, and what they don't seem to understand is that teachers have days and evenings and weekends filled with work, at least the good teachers. So, somehow, they need to find new methods of educating the teachers beyond those 35 minute off-day sessions they tried, or having teachers come in early or stay late.

I am still for having summer workshops, where teachers will be reimbursed for the time they spend, and I am also for having a teacher whose full-time job is to work with individual teachers in whatever way they need, and when they can find time to meet.

They need a teacher who will not threaten them, who can be the model for them, who understands their fears and who can lead them to use tech to augment their goals, not subvert those goals.

In short, LB, they need you.

I know this sounds crazy, but you might think about drawing up a proposal to be that teacher, a teacher of teachers and if your need is still there, in some much reduced way, a teacher of students, maybe for two periods a day--AP and film, or less if you would feel content doing that.


Larry Baker said...

Thanks for the compliment. I do indeed enjoy the mentoring and presentations very much. I would love the opportunity to work in a more concerted way on staff development, but would need release time Right now I am pretty limited to a once and done approach.

I talked to several tech coordinators in Florida at the ADE Institute this past summer. From what I gleaned, our MHS experience of moving by fits and starts to 1:1 computing is the norm. (So are those dug-in heels!). After all, we're really talking about a radical shift in school culture. And while the culture evolves at an ever so slow pace, the tech landscape shifts quickly, creating even more anxiety and frustration.

The Arkansas folk were very eager to learn from our bumps and bruises as well as our achievements. They sat in on my sophomore classes and I told them that this years sophs are far and away ahead of last year's, technically-- all because a critical mass of 9th/10th grade teachers have been reached in terms of utilizing google docs, wikis, podcasts, etc. And of course the kids are expecting information and access from ALL teachers, now (a very different type of pressure!).

The visiting principal really "got it." She commented that my kids were learning so much tech simply because they were expected to use it to navigate the course and pursue their projects. This of course would not be possible unless other teachers were doing the same thing. I think we're turning the corner in a positive way.

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