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.

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