How to make sticky technology for PD

Last year I managed to scrounge some money to buy 30 or so iPads. I know lots of people are using them in education, but I thought I’d share why I wanted them. I don’t actually care about educational apps. As most people only use evidence arguments to avoid agreement with what you’re proposing – just avoid the whole situation.

Most people experience professional development in essentially two ways. Sitting in rows being PowerPointed, or in a workshop where you get a little bit PowerPointed then asked to do something with a computer. Neither is very satisfactory – or generates a stampede of people wanting to do it these days. It’s nice to have a bit of time away from the usual day, but increasingly in-effective.

Most see PD with technology as having to overcome an avoidable obstacle – those that don’t will figure it out anyway. We need to get over this idea that the role of teacher-educators is to collapse the fog that surrounds complex computational concepts and operations – or be the new eBilly Graham of the early 21st Century. It’s just weird – but obviously supports a multi-million dollar circus.

Our brains know that there are other ways to learn these days. Even grandma’s heard of YouTube and I doubt theres a district or system that hasn’t done at least a little ‘shift happens’ shovelling.

But the first decade of Web2.0 has passed. It isn’t the same as it was back in the day. We are less life long learners integrating technology and more life long ‘social’ learners interacting because of technology.

We subconsciously see laptops as hard work and view PowerPoint with waining attention past the first 10 slides. Our brains are onto us. We know that transferring what we’re told to action is further hard work. The net result is that most people have an enjoyable time, but few are truly able to go back to the busy desk and take up new challenges.

Ipads ambush the mind for one big reason. They don’t hold deep anti-thoughts. That is most people’s subconscious relationship with laptops and desktops. You are not opposed to giving iPads a go – as we are curious monkeys. When we discover that we can do cool stuff in minutes, we get that feeling game designers call ‘fiero’ – the emotional high you get that makes you feel great.

The iPad is the first device in recent educational history that manages to do this. Game handhelds and consoles have been doing it for ages of course, but most teachers don’t game with technology – and few see a laptop or desktop as ‘fun-work’ worth doing. They are tied down, obstinate machines – full of snarky dialogue boxes that programmers use to make non technical people feel stupid.

It’s a revelation to discover you can master it really quickly. Good apps let you master them fast – bad ones have a gazillion stupid menus that make you work hard, but never feel like fun to use. Amazingly, you learn to spot a crap app in about an hour. That’s a transferable skill.

To me, $700 is a cheap way of getting people to feel good about their relationship with technology.

We give them iTunes cards and no instructions at all. We don’t even give them advice. But we do wrap them up like gifts – everyone likes presents right?

In a room full of people, all feeling great because they just become masters, not subjects of technology – it’s a rare feeling. The rest of session becomes fun-work, being able to goof off, play with the iPad around whatever you’re talking about. People begin to see what you are saying as achievable good-fun-work. Of course you have to design PD like a game-experience (rethink your PD model or die),  but it’s not as impossible as the brain-missing idea that we can PowerPoint people into submission.

One thought on “How to make sticky technology for PD

  1. This is a fundamental shift in thinking around PD that many have already made with their students but have yet to implement with their own staff. Hope to now make a few changes to our own PD. In reality not all have to be iPad centred, it is just as important to provide the Fun and the Success elements that you discuss. The iPad just happens to do this very easily. Thanks for the insight

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