Sunday, October 28, 2007

Teacher Beliefs of Technology

When doing some research while writing an article and for a series of graduate school papers, the following themes seemed to jump out at me:

1. Teacher's beliefs of teaching (pedagogy) and student learning (epistemology) affect teacher technology adoption.
2. Teachers who engage in more teacher-led pedagogy adopt less technology.
3. Teachers who leverage constructivist-centric pedagogy have a tendency to use more technology.
4. Teacher's beliefs and values are not hardened systems; however, they are complex and prone to revision.
5. The richness of an environment (technology, support, quality, quantity) can change a teacher's beliefs and values in learners and pedagogy.
6. The manner in which technology is presented-teacher-centered or student-centered-impacts those teachers holding differing views.
7. Web 2.0 and 21st century skills are collaborative in nature; thus they are constructivist. This collaborative and constructivist nature of the technologies require teachers to adopt their beliefs which brings us back to theme #1.

The focus of my research has been on teacher technology adoption, its influencers, and detractors. This is fascinating to me since as I have remarked in much of my other writing, this research can shed light on why there can be such differences in technology adoption just in the same hallway of a school. Secondly, this for me is the "root issue" at hand with 21st century skills and web 2.0. We can show the coolest tools, in the coolest ways, to teachers espousing the need for students to learn these skills but it takes a teacher to believe that the technology they are using is better than the way they are using to teach the content.

In the 12 years I have been giving and around technology inservicing, the "oh, wows" are common when showing a new tool. But I don't think we can judge the effectiveness of our training on that response alone. While it gives me optimism and excitement, to this day, to hear these responses, day-two adoption doesn't always correspond.

What surprises me is that our dialogs don't involve teacher's beliefs or the human nature surrounding technology adoption. And when it does, it involves a great deal of negativity - teacher apathy, not willing to do the work, or not smart enough to get the technicalities. This isn't to say there aren't many dedicated people doing many great things; there are! Just look at sites like Classroom 2.0 where dedication, dialog, and creativity abound among in this amazing community.

Literacy today as defined web 2.0:new tools, new schools by Solomon and Schrum is

"acquiring new skills, including those using technology, understanding science, having global awareness, and most important, having the ability to keep learning, which involves gathering, analyzing, synthesizing, and presenting information as well as communication and collaborating"

The mechanics of implementing such literacy is approaching teachers as technology consumers with choices and complex, fluid beliefs that drive their technology adoption. Also, key to this discussion is the fact that for many teachers, including me, comprehension in web 2.0, collaboration, and constructivism requires participation in web 2.0, collaboration, and constructivism.

A new way of learning, teaching takes time to get our heads around and that doesn't even include learning the technology that is instrumental in this new way of learning and teaching.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Learning the Tool and Using the Tool: Driven by a Teacher's Belief

After spending a lot of time the last few weeks researching influencing factors of teacher technology adoption for a grad school course, I've come across lots of fascinating research. Also, I've tried to synthesis the major research themes (teacher beliefs of teaching, learning, inservicing, major influencers) into web 2.0 tools and 21st century skills.

It occurred to me after reading scores of research that highlight how powerful teacher's beliefs of teaching and learning are on technology adoption, that we can't just dump web 2.0 and 21st century skills on the laps of teachers. Why? Most web 2.0 tools and 21st century skills are constructivist in nature. The research is quite convincing in my opinion that teachers who use a teacher-led format of instruction generally stay away from technology while those who already gravitate towards student-centered/created classrooms adopt technology more readily.

As promising, needed, and powerful web 2.0 tools and the 21st century skills framework are, they virtually command a non-teacher led approach. While web 2.0 tools can be presented in a teacher-led format, their inherent collaborative (and thus constructivist) nature is squelched. They are almost cancelled out not living to their full potential.

Saying to our teachers, you need to use a web 2.0 tool, or dropping a bunch of tools during an inservice may help learn the technicalities of the software. But the belief in learning and pedagogical will decide whether it gets used in the classroom no matter how cool the tool or important the 21st century skill. Wikis are a great example. They're quite easy to get setup and going. Teachers can be taught the technical skills in a little bit a time. The difficult part is utilizing the wiki to take advantage of it's collaborative, problem-solving, and constructivist knowledge presentation/creation potential. That is because beliefs of learning and teaching ultimately need to change commensurate with this tool to include collaboration, problem-solving, and constructivist knowledge presentation/creation potential.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ed Tech: It's All About the Right Fit

In setting up this new blog, it occurred to me that it's important to remember that there's an element of finding a tool that has the "right fit". I personally have found some blog interfaces unintuitive and difficult to navigate. Additionally, some I found that I was spending way too much time on the technology and not enough on the content. A tool, for me, in and out of the classroom is something that I can use to quickly and efficiently accomplish my goal. With time at such a premium most days between work, family, and graduate school, I don't want to have to "futz" around trying to get something to work.

That is what I love about many Web 2.0 tools but especially Wikis. Wikis require navigating to the page to be edited, clicking edit, updating content, and finally clicking save. As an indicator of their ease of use, I have successfully used wikis with my 1st grade classes. Also, my teachers have created them many commenting on their ease of use.

Back to the "right fit" theme. What may be an easy-to-use tool for me, may not be for others. This particular blog interface I find easier to use than most, I find the links, navigation, and descriptions fit me well. For others, it may be different - they may find this particular interface more difficult. I think this is an important point to remember when offering inservicing on ed tech tools. While we can educate and instruct our teachers how to use the technology, I think there has to be an intrinsic level of comfort with the technology especially if we want to build towards sustainable technology adoption. I think this is an an important concept to remember while planning or delivering teacher inservicing - the tool doesn't fit everyone the same.