Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Teachers, People, and Chief Technology Adopters: Can There Be a Balance?

There's no doubt they work hard...I'm just not sure they're working hard on the right things.
This quote was said by an administrator I respect a great deal. I often keep it in mind when I'm trying to prioritize tasks, my thinking, and my work.

In thinking about EduCon 2.0, I am very excited about participating in all the great conversations, meeting folks, and learning from others. In reflecting and refining my conversation on teacher technology adoption, I keep going back to these questions:
  • What does teacher technology adoption look like?
  • What are our expectations? Are they realistic?
  • Are some teachers overwhelmed by choices?
  • Are we technologists clear in articulating what a 21st century, technology adopted class looks like?
  • Do we sometimes loose focus of the goal of student learning with technology's "oh-wow" factor?
  • Do we loose sight that teachers are people with families, outside commitments, non-school responsibilities, hobbies, and non-technology professional development?
  • Is there such thing as an over-saturation of technology?
I find we collectively don't address this side of teacher technology adoption. For me these questions emerge from looking at teachers - our current, future, and potential chief adopters of technology, 21st century skills, web 2.0 tools, and the read/write web - from a human perspective. Some of what initiated this thought process is the fact that I just at 10:15 PM was able to have "me" time.

Prior to 10:51PM, I got up early to do some baby proofing around our house before I left for school. I had some coffee, did some morning routine chores, checked email and drove my 1 hour 10 minute commute to school. While it was great to get back to school after our long break, it became a busy day very quickly and didn't stop until I left at 5:20. I drove home in an hour and six minutes. As soon as I got home, I hugged my daughter, asked how her day was, and grabbed the pork chops to start cooking. My wife came home around 7:20PM from work and we finally ate around 7:30PM. After a fun dinner full of laughs, we did some playing and it was off the tub where my daughter learned the word "monkey". Then it was time for a snack, reading a book, and off to bed at 9:30PM. After some more chores and some quiet dad time, I got started on some that led me to this work. It's now 10:57 and I still have work to do but not technology work. And this isn't a night when my wife has a late meeting, I have a graduate school class, or that we need to run an errand to the store. Tomorrow night promises to be different as my wife has a late meeting.

I share my schedule not because I think it's interesting or compelling at all. I share it because I wonder how many teachers - our chief technology adopters - our 21st century architects and builders - have similar days? How many teachers are there that maybe aren't night owls who can exist on my usual 5-6 hours a sleep per night? How many teachers don't have a great deal of time during the school day for professional development?

But how many hours exist in 1 day to tinker with a new technology to learn a new (something)cast, to really engage in technology to feel comfortable with using it in front of the classroom? How many hours does it take to register for these great tools and just keep track of username and password combinations?

I'm new enough to marriage and family life to know that I sure don't have the blocks of discretionary time as when I entered into my current phase of life (for which I wouldn't trade the world). And this is all personal time. I'm not talking about the current list of professional responsibilities that teachers have. At the risk of sounding Todd Oppenheimer-ish, I'm not downplaying technology's role. Nor am I'm trying to making excuses. What I'm trying to be is realistic with my thinking about teacher technology adoption. Yes, I still dream and think big but there's a practical reality...even I as a technologist there's limits to what I can adopt.

There are five tiers of teacher technology adopters that seem to have existed throughout my 12 years in technology:
  1. jump-in with both feet
  2. migratory wading area to deep end travelers
  3. stay in the wading pool
  4. one toe in
  5. stay on the beach
What are the differences between the teachers in the same school who jump-in with both feet and those who stay on the beach? Do the jump-in with both feet teachers have more time and less personal commitments than the stay on the beach teachers? Do they engage in different teaching approaches - constructivism, constructionism, and hybrid? Do they work harder on the right things? Do they have a higher tolerance for complexity and possible failure? Do they build and leverage their own capacity or find capacity somewhere? Are they more savvy consumers of technology? Is somehow their total perceived pain of adoption (TPPA) lower than than their current pain. Put another way, is their current pain greater than their current TPPA?
Do they see something in the culture that others don't? Are they privy to a vision others aren't?

Is it necessarily bad to stay in the wading pool and not use every web 2.0 widget available but rather focus and maybe dabble with one technology?

How do we facilitate and encourage teachers - as chief technology adopters - to get into the wading pool and possibly into the deeper end? Is this where capacity, professional learning communities, and competent systems become vital?

Or does this come down to working hard not on the right things?

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