Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Response to "teacher fear or teacher laziness"

I linked to Connie Cossar's blog post by way of following Dr. Alec Couros' Twitter links to it and course presentations on Ustream. While I, like Connie, observe few local adopters of the technology , I'm not convinced that neither fear nor laziness could account for so few adopters. You have to assume that the number of teachers she is working with probably represents a poor sample of the population. Yet the number of teachers integrating tech on the order to which she alludes, would lead me to the conclusion that almost all are afraid or lazy. For example, we have 160 teachers at our school. Most are using email, Google searches, and learning Powerpoint. Of that 160 I am the only teacher that has posted a podcast, or utilizes blogs and wikis with students. ( I have taken on a technology learning group of 5 teachers so my hope is that will change). By my calculation then, better than 99% of the teachers at my school are afraid of technology or are lazy based on your criteria. I know this is not true. (Though yes, some are apprehensive and/or lazy!)

I agree, though, that most are "teaching" in their comfort zones. They have established their curriculum and their pedagogy in order to meet the needs (success) of most of their students. This, however, leads to a curriculum which is very inflexible to meeting the needs of all students. The technology they utilize is probably restricted to the technology that was available at the time they developed their teaching style, which, will probably shortchange students preparation for a technocentric future.

After teaching for twenty years I too, as in Mr Shareski's comment, am a bit more sympathetic to those teachers. When the administration tells teachers they are to developed 10 minute focus lessons for each period and teach a 25 minute focus lesson at the middle time block each day in order to prep for the state assessment (as well as teach their prescribed curriculum) well, lets face it, there are only 8 hrs in the school day. Also, in Florida a percentage of a teachers salary is dependent upon student performance on the state assessment. You can see where the state places the incentives.

So, one interpretation is this:
1. Teachers learn early on to prioritize. With the time available; What do I need to do to meet the demands of the administration? What do I need to do to meet the demands of my students? What do I need to do to meet the demands of my professional development?
2. The teachers/educators using technology are the ones that "get it". (But no one "gets it all". A total perspective is impossible. see Trin Tragula and TPV) This is that scattered but entrenched few that always look for a way to reach a few more students. They probably would have been the ones to embrace the "Open Classroom" and "Team Teaching" in the 1960's and 70's had they been teaching then.
3. Most adoptions/integrations are teacher initiatives and as anyone who has been teaching for awhile will tell you, teacher/classroom initiatives are rarely supported. So, unless you are in one of those rare districts where an administrator or IT director is the one who "gets it", widespread adoption of technology will more than likely be a prepackaged CBI.

The difference between now and 40 years ago, is the ability to network. Teachers will no longer have to work in total isolation. Innovation and support won't have to come from a University lab School. Most integration for the time being will be individual teachers, in networks, figuring out the what, the how and the why.