To renew learning with technology is to give teachers and students practical strategies and methods in their environment. Its easy to peddle snake-oil, but a lot harder to compliment with practice. This post is to help newcomers get to grips with self-development of professional practice, and overcome the ‘fear and pressure’ in taking action and becoming a confident user.
I’m beginning to wince at the now obligatory ‘Twitter Shout’ when talking to newcomers. It’s impressive to show the world is connected to you and you to it, but the imperative to me is to connect teachers to students and students to outcomes first. Another niggle is to read or hear the orbital leadership questions “How do create 21st Century blah …”. I find myself wondering if they added “to boldly go where no teacher has gone before”, it might at least get an overt laugh. They miss the point time and time again.
The challenge is to teach every day in technical ways that initially need no more skill than sending an email with an attachment – and focus on practice, not technology. There is a problem when the pitch is too high by both ‘technocrats’ and ‘leaders’. Many teachers say they feel further disconnected and powerless after hearing the 21st Century call to arms.
Emotionally, we want teachers to feel ‘wow, I want my class to be like that all the time’ and ‘I can do that!’. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but lets look at one, peer observation (which is not new at all).
‘Team teaching’ in the classroom (with or without an expert mentor) – supports and allows peer observation in authentic settings. This strategy provides focus on practice, techniques and student behaviour through observation and reflective notes. It might be a focus on the way students are given instruction; they type of instruction; the time management of activities; the type of questions being asked or reactions to events. Secondly, agree some facets of their teaching that they feel they want to work on with technology. Agree some element of the class that they wish to try-out. 10 minute activities are great for focusing practice and student attention. So in an hour, 15 minutes is given to the newcomer trying out agreed methods and techniques.
I’m advocating very simple tools and services – no where near the levels of skill needed to podcast or use an IWB. Newcomers need things they can learn in 10 minutes or less, then go and try for 10-20 minutes. It’s the gamer approach to learning. Easy entry, easy win then level up and try again.
They came back to Liberty Square with a message: update the attractions. The Liberty Square ad-hocs were the staunchest conservatives in the Magic Kingdom, preserving the wheezing technology in the face of a Park that changed almost daily. The newcomer/old-timers were on-side with the rest of the Park, had their support, and looked like they might make a successful go of it. (Doctorow, C. 2003 “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”)
I advocate professional learning for newcomers to focus on ‘transitional technology’ – learning how to be an effective facilitator in online spaces; building learning communities; moving between online, classroom discussion, exams and essays, to support and promote socially constructed, meta-cognititive learning. Teachers are often highly successful and want to stay that way, don’t scare them off.
Lethargic students who ‘game the system’ can be overcome more easily if you use a online ‘space’ well. Gifted students can be extended, slow ones catered for etc., but most of all, teachers operate inside, not outside the system, holistically on their practice to norms in their classroom. We never put the calculator at the centre of a maths lesson – so why assume that the laptop will be the centre?
Create (and model) activities that are sufficiently motivating to participate in , neither too facile or too hard and discouraging time-wasting, which leads to being off task conflict. Buddy up; start simple and don’t get intimidated by the snakeoilers.
I’ll be running a 5 hour, over 5 week course on this soon.