Sunday, June 22, 2008

Are Teaching Tools Enough?

I'm excited to be participating in Scott McLeod's CASTLE book study group reading and discussing Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. I've always been a proponent of change. As educators, I believe one of our moral purposes is to adapt to change allowing our students the best preparation for their lives and the worlds they will face.

But in reflecting about the concept of change, I think sometimes we can get too focused on tools at the expense of the human nature, student learning, culture, vision, instruction, standards, and day-two implementation. We teach tools to groups of teachers in hopes that something that is said will transform their teaching, student learning, and ultimately our schools. I think we start with tools because they are neutral, keeping the focus away from intangible and sticky subjects of teaching and learning.

Teaching exclusively tools is essential. At some point, we must introduce how the technology works and let teachers use it during non-instructional time. But, I think, tools are inherently easier for us to present.
After all, cool, new technology has a way of presenting itself. We give teachers enough time in our training to muck around the tools. While we work hard at these things and our approach may be an important first step, I wonder if we truly are seeing the results we expect. Do we know what we expect from our training? Is it just tool proficiency? Should our expectations go beyond tool proficiency?

If I look back at the training I've given starting 13 years ago, I wonder how much of my discretionary training has had a long-term, residual effect. My ego says one thing but reality speaks a different tune. From my early days of "One Computer Classroom" presentations to present day "Web 2.0 Tools" (yes, I'm just as guilty), I wonder how many teachers have transformed their teaching as a result of my workshops.
Looking at a national level, I wonder about the adoption rates of technology training per training hour that occurs on a yearly basis. If I was a betting person, I'd suspect it's on the low side. Of those training hours, I wonder how much time is spent on having a conversation about human nature, student learning, culture, vision, instruction, standards, and day-two implementation?

One of most pervasive arguments I hear about technology is that ultimately it's the teacher's "fault" technology isn't adopted. But I can't help but to ask, "Do we blame students for low test scores?" Something tells me, there's a larger issue other than just willful non-compliance. And if it is just willful non-compliance, what can we do to change this behavior? After all, what is our role of trainers and teachers of teachers? Are we directly addressing new student learning theories, 21st century skills, and ways to work with the familiar standards. Also, are we providing a school culture conducive to technology adoption? Do teachers have a school vision to work with that includes an updated perspective of the world in which we live?

One of the early principles in
Influencer is the notion that identifying and changing vital behaviors is the key to solving a problem. Have we defined the problem? Is our training addressing these few vital behaviors beyond the tools?

Lastly, I'll end with this question: Is it time for us to construct some sort of training guidelines or training best practices that addresses these questions and hopefully ultimately vital behaviors? Is this a realistic step that the educational technology community can take to begin addressing vital behaviors?

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