While I was off on a different tangent a few weeks back, I had a chance to spend a couple of minutes talking with David Jakes about a couple of different subjects, but one thing that he said that really resonated with me was that teachers needed time to internalize technology before they begin the process of making technology integral within their curriculum. (David, I hope that I don't stray too far from your meaning.) While our discussion began revolving on the concepts of lifetime learning and teaching, I was really struck by how often we kept revolving around the idea of internalization.
Teaching is often looked at as a reflective process, and as such we often view it in almost the light of scientific methodology. We begin with a skill or concept that is going to be taught (Define the question). We develop a lesson or unit with curricula to engage and convey the concept (Hypothesis and data gathering). We teach the lesson/unit (Perform) We develop a formative assessment to gauge learning and assess student comprehension and achievement. Then we "reflect" (oh, how I hate that word) on the entire process to internalize the lesson/unit and it outcomes and begin planning adjustments. While this is not a bad model for lessons and units, when it is used with making technology integral to teaching, in my experience it simply breaks the process.
Students do not have this internalization process. They simply utilize whatever is at hand… be it a technology or anything else. In the retail world we would call them the ultimate consumer. Today's students ultimately use a "SEE IT, USE IT, TEACH IT" methodology. Ryan Bretag tweeted yesterday about how he helped his mom learn how to use skype… then he corrected himself and said he sat back and watch his niece and nephew use and model skype while he sat back and watched. Another example, I was attending a conference last year where Wes Fryer was presenting and he told a story of how a group of students had developed an online presentation and an hour before they were due to present the District blocked that resource… Now for a teacher that would possible be a crushing blow and cause a major hiccup in their lesson for the day and tarnish that type of tool for future use, the students simply found a different online presentation tools, and in 20 minutes moved their entire presentation over to the new resource and they were ready for class…
As an educator how would you have reacted to that situation? There is not time to internalize a new tool…
This is the difference! We need to move away from the need to internalize or we begin to lose engagement.
Too often I have seen teachers look at a tool, and simply refuse to do anything with it "because no one has shown me how to use it" (<- that is a future post I will be making.) or they are given training or investigate a technology and determine that at this time there is too much on their plate to focus their attention on it at this time… then they simply file it away regardless of the impact it could have on students… (or worse they don't know anything about it and they assign a projects with the use of the tool as a requirement for the output but cannot support students when they have questions – here the rational I have heard is "that they are young they can figure it out") but I digress… now the knowledge for this tool is rattling around in his or her brain for a use… then comes the time where they are hard pressed for "something" because the demands of their class / curriculum require something… (internalization) and OH YEAH! I remember something about "X" that can help here… Hello new tool! However, also quite often they do not remember how to use the technology or have not truly made it integral to their teaching, but use it as an alternative methodology… with the world we live in today this simply does not work. We need to begin to investigate, adapt, accept, and embrace at a gut level.
I realize that with technology, teachers often fear "breaking" something, or feel they do not have TIME to be open to learning something new as it "adds" to their workload. (as opposed to replacing or enhancing their current instruction) OK, I know that this post will feel like I am coming down on teachers, and in a way I am. I also know that there are a LOT of great teachers out there embracing technology and driving their students to the edge of capacity, but there are also a great number of educators who simply do not want to even think about 21st Century skills because they have their curriculum established and opening that door makes revision necessary. There are a lot of folks out there that discuss the issues with teaching or education reform… unfortunately too often those in the spotlight are NOT educators themselves, but we [educators] have to live with the decisions uneducated lawmakers impose on education. However, often the people who really get in the way of educational reform are teachers ourselves.
Ok, I said it, kill me now and let the flamewar begin.
We are so caught up in content or standards that we are not looking at what is crucial to the world today and how our students will need to interact on a global level when they stop being OUR students and need to have skills to survive beyond the educational process. David Warlick has had a number of great posts along these lines one on Pedagogy Getting in the way of Learning and a more recent one on What Would you have Them Say. Additionally, Marc Prensky is speaking around the country with his Engage Me or Enrage Me topic set. While some (including myself) challenge some of the extravagant statistics he throws around, and well sorry Marc horrible ugly slides, his message is sound. The students we are teaching today are growing up in a global connected authentic world. I presented on this topic myself last November.
Ok, so the questions that keep bouncing around in my head are:
- Where do we go from here?
- How do we create (or re-find) that childhood love of investigation for all educators?
- How do we break down the fear barrier?
- How do we become comfortable moving away from [canned] curriculum?
- How do we meet the needs of 21st Century learners?
- What is it really going to take to make technology integral to learning?
I would like your thought and comments… even negative ones. We all learn best from our mistakes.
Photo from Flickr: Comte de Cagliostro