I've been interacting with teachers all over more than ever this year, and I have to say that I'm sort of surprised by their level of engagement with technology. I think I've really misread where the regular, average teacher is at with technology because I live and breathe this stuff all the time. I still feel that I have to prove the worth of technology integration, particularly deep uses of it. I frankly don't see a great deal of deep technology in my limited circles.

The post Are They Really Digital Natives? made me start thinking along these lines. Like Sylvia said in that thread, I think a lot of teacher's reluctance to try news things has nothing to do with technology. What is this mindset exactly that we're dealing with and how do we encourage others to do in another direction? How do we help others see that technology related stuff is not an add-on? How do you accurately gauge the levels of ability and usage in your colleagues so that you can provide meaningful support?

These are some of the ideas that have been floating through my head as I try and devise a tech professional development plan for my school.

Your thoughts?

Tags: development, professional, teachers

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hi Lucy, in my reply to the Digital Natives post, I wrote about exactly this topic and confessed that I have actually given up on trying to assist my colleagues in learning about new kinds of technology. In an admittedly calculating way I have decided it is just not worth the effort with my colleagues - with my students, it's just the opposite: it is ABSOLUTELY worth the effort with the students.

Students may put up an initial resistance because of fear (especially the better students, oddly enough, who worry about their GPA...) - but the students all overcome their resistance. Plus, it's not an age thing; I have many older students! it's a learning thing: the students know that their job here is to learn, and they do their job - they learn! I love teaching students about blogging and web publishing.

Like students, my colleagues also have an initial resistance because of fear (that's human nature in the face of something new)... but I've concluded that they also have many more, deeper layers of resistance. Over many years of teaching workshops (so many workshops...) and trying to provide my colleagues with the same kind of help I give my students, I have given up. I no longer do technology workshops for colleagues at my school.

I have a FEW success stories with fellow faculty members - like Joshua Landis's SyriaComment.com blog - I am so proud to say that I got that man started blogging! I am a happy blog-godmother to that blog... but aside from that: not much to show for all those workshops.

Every semester, though, blogging and web publishing with the students is a huge success. I've decided to focus on that success and not worry about helping my colleagues. They say they want to do more technology, and I think they even mean it when they say it... but in the absence of follow through, those good intentions are not enough to help them overcome the resistance, whatever that might be - because they are teachers, not learners maybe? Really, I am not sure - it is baffling to me.

I teach fully online courses at my school, but the vast majority of the other faculty teaching these fully online courses do not even have a website or a blog of any kind; they just rely on the D2L course management system for their online presence. If they are happy with that, so be it... although I will be curious what insights other people will have on this huge problem.

Meanwhile, you can find me blogging and publishing happily with my students! :-)
I think a lot of technology workshops for teachers teach a technology tool rather than teaching how to specifcally integrate that tool into the curriculum.

Just like for students, you have to make the technology relevant to the task at hand or they're not going to use it.

And provide follow-up support which is what is often lacking and why most professional development (not just tech-related pd) is ineffective.
I agree with Lucy, Laura and Matthew. About 15 years ago I helped write a 1/2 million dollar federal grant for computers/software for our district's special ed students. (I teach in a state mandated program for gifted students serving kids from 11 different elementary schools.) Since then I've used technology of all kinds in my classroom, presented at NECC 5 years, presented at state and local conferences, recieved 5 other technology grants, etc. I was a tech vigilante!

Then I suffered a major tech burnout that lasted about 2 years. I felt no one was listening or if they were they weren't making changes in the classroom. I realized I had more exceptional tech related ideas for my own students to last me until I retired or died! Then, NCLB was passed. I think it made things even worse. Everyday I hear teachers say there is no time to be creative, there is no time to learn new skills, we are being told what to teach and how to teach it. So, I'm with Laura, if teachers ask I share but I don't do presentations, workshops or inservices---I focus on my own students.
Karl Fisch wrote an interested related post yesterday on this. Check it out!
thanks, Lucy - I did not know this man's blog before - now I have subscribed. super. thank you!
Lucy and Laura, Whoa! He must have had a week like mine- Thank you for the pointer in this direction. It is forums like this that keep me going.
It REALLY IS about our students and everyone's future after all. We cannot ignore the fact we are responsible for how well our children learn to to be safe, efficient, and even have good manners on the web.
In dealing with colleagues, I've moved past the "you might find this interesting" to "I'll be in to help you with using technology in your teaching." Teachers have a professional obligation to expose students to a variety of learning strategies and are to keep up with progress being made. Unfortunately, for most, the extent of this comes from the "inservice" they receive from the district/division. Now some are given inservices about technology but, as has been stated, they see it as an add-on to what they already do.

My take on why most educators do not use these tools is fear. They fear having to learn all over again, of having to work and change what they are doing, fear of having to ask for help, fear of not looking competent, fear of things not going well, fear of not having control if the technology works, fear, fear, fear. As it now stands, they control the classroom and they like it that way.

It's like the student who came into my office earlier this week and wanted out of a math class. He said it was too difficult and he wanted to take a different class (where his buddies were). I began to investigate if this was the case. In fact, he was a capable math student. His mother felt he should stay in math. When I talked to him again later in the week and began discussing this with him, he still felt he shouldn't be in the class. I asked him to stick it out for a few days as there was a quiz coming up. He did. Bombed! Well, his point had been proven. He couldn't do the math. Luckily, I had been working with his friends who were taking an online computer course and they told him he was better off in math - they were having to work way too hard! Amazing thing happen. He rewrote the quiz - over 80. Teachers are human. If they don't want to use it, it will fail unless they see that the alternative isn't what they thought it would be. The big question is what should be the alternative?
I agree that fear may be a factor but at the elementary level I see another factor--inability to change. I think by nature, classroom teacher don't embrace change and don't take risks (I know that is an exageration, but it helps me make my point). As we work through the change in our building it takes to make AYP you can seem everyone's comfort level dissolve. "What do you mean, I can't continue to teach the same way I have for 35 years!!".

Also I've seen teacher try to integrate technology (something as simple as sharing a webpage) They take 25 students to the lab; possibly the server is down, psosibly the projector doesn't work, possibly some students don't know their passwords. The activity is deemed not worth it and they don't try again.

Final comment, Kelly, it's too bad we need a blanket aleternative to either. If we could look at the profile and interest of ther kid that would be helpful. I've quoted this before (it might be worth discussion) Carol Tomlinson, differentiation guru from Univ. of Va says "a perfect match between curriculum and ability would eliminate 95% of the discipline problems in your classroom". If the low guys got the help they needed and the bright kids could move along at their own pace...who knows what would happen. Have a great weekend.
Nancy, I don't think we need a blanket solution. But, as has been said by many, we cannot continue to wait until teachers want to use the technologies. I like your quote from Tomlinson - I've been using the book she co-authored Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design in my own teaching and in my administrative practices. More teachers need to read/use this approach and we would have less problems especially if we used the all the tools that were available. With your example of the teacher, some people do try but end up with technical problems but they don't plan with the idea that something may go wrong and have an alternative ready. My experience is that it's most likely that there might be a problem so plan what you will do if things aren't working.

You're right that teachers want to just teach, preferably the way they have been and with which they are comfortable. I agree that most teachers are not risk takers and we don't support the ones that are very well. Whatever you want to call the reluctance to change, there needs to be a recognition that schools cannot continue the way they have. We have the knowledge, the understanding and the ability to change education. Teachers resist, "I'll just wait this new fad, administrator, superintendent, etc" I don't say we legislate things but, as Barbara over at the "Wow factor" discussion has said,

I agree that technology for technology's sake is not effective but I also believe that what students need to learn has changed and that we can not met their needs without technology.

Denial isn't doing any good and those of us working diligently to bring about change are on the fringes, although that is changing, and, as JoNelle says in the next post, technology is here to stay . Schools, and particularly teachers, seem to be the last area coming to grips with technology and it's taking longer than ever. Maybe we need to "make" it a requirement and move teachers along although I've heard that that doesn't work either. (How can people not follow policy and get away with it?" )

I think we're all on the same side here, just maybe at different stages of our careers and in different positions. As an administrator, one of my roles is to ensure teachers are continuing to current in their teaching - which means they all need to be learning. It makes some uncomfortable but I wouldn't want a doctor that wasn't up on their knowledge nor would I want a mechanic that wasn't certified. Why allow teachers an out?
I actually just thought of something I meant to add in my previous post--our district has had technology standards for years and I've heard rumblings at by such and such date the state technology standards will have to be met by both teachers and students. That may help teachers focus on technologies in the classroom.

I will retire in 2-3 years, so you are right. How hard one is willing to fight, evangelize, and encourage technology use to others does definitely depend on one's stage in the game. I love technology, currently author 2 websites, 3 blogs (2 topical; one student), 5 wikis (latest on Pirates), two online book discussions for 50 kids...so I do stay busy! BTW, Wednesday is Talk Like a Pirate Day...Arrrrrr... Matey. N. ..
Can I suggest a different take on this? I did an in-service this summer on using Movie Maker for student projects. My first "neighbor" in the class was a senior teacher who informed me that he was retiring at the end of the next school year. He spent some of the beginning of class searching for his retirement condo on Maui. He also kept talking about how exciting technology was, and it was the future, but he also had limited interest in it because he was retiring. After the first batch of off-topic behavior, he was really paying attention, and participating. Why? It was interesting, and as he himself said, "this trainer is a really good instructor". Even someone with little interest can be engaged if the lesson is good and well-taught. That is something to consider when we talk about training staff, and also teaching our kids.
Sometimes as mentors we have the luxury of sharing technology with those who are interested. We choose a core group of open minded or like minded educators. We train them and spend time creating lessons that beautifully integrate the best we can find with the core curriculum. We have a great time sharing and we are all happy that many more students are going to have more ways to learn. We watch it flow and spread from the enthusiasm and support of others who share our belief in the importance and fun of integrating technology. What is wrong? The spreading has limits and does not seem fast enough.

Other times we have the task (whether forced or self induced) to require teachers to learn to integrate technology. Some of these teachers, who are otherwise pretty normal human beings, have interests and motivation that lie in other areas. We find the usual bell shaped curve in reactions – bright-eyed eagerness to downright refusal. Why are we surprised? It still catches me off guard. I still run the through the same reactions and emotions express by others here who are in charge of change.

Last week I dusted off a text from a course that I took recently and saw all of the levels we see in educators when change is taking place. “Change” has been researched and documented well. Change takes a group willing to take charge of planning, encouraging, documenting, evaluating, cheering, insisting, grouping, altering, and staying on top of things for a long time. Longer than that. Longer and more consistently that we normally experience. Unlike the new bandwagon that educators tire of riding, technology is here to stay and will always be changing faster than any reading or math program ever thought of flashing by our schools.

Just like with students we all find creative ways to convince others to learn new technologies. Don’t tell anyone, but one of my best success stories happened by accident. I had been trying to organize groups to train during school hours so that teachers would not have to stay late to learn how to use our new website. I was working with one teacher and another one eavesdropped and sat down, then another and another and then one called some more and before I knew it the whole group was there - interested and involved- hmmmm. So keep it a secret? Act like only a select few get to know- I thought I was on to something big! Well it was short lived, but a good thing for the day.

After a grueling - and exciting - first few weeks of technology changes in school this year, I have come to believe that if we want to work in a place that has our same beliefs, passions and practices, we need to create specialized schools....but that’s another hot topic.

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