Monday, December 17, 2007

Teaching Teachers to Fish (or cut bait)

Learning anything new is frustrating. Learning how to use new technologies can be especially frustrating. I think it is a given that nothing ever works the way that it is supposed to - especially not the first time. In my experience, the model for rolling out new technology to teachers is to provide them with training and support materials in an effort to help them avoid those frustrations as much as possible (the other model is to provide absolutely no support at all).

I'm beginning to wonder if we need a new model. A model that celebrates frustration and poses a challenge to teachers to try to figure things out on their own. Most technologies in the "real" world don't come with user manuals. I constantly have to figure things out. I do (often) get very frustrated. But, the more I do it, the easier it becomes. If we constantly baby-step people through every new process, will they ever learn to feel confident doing things on their own?

As teachers, our ultimate objective is to prepare our students to face and conquer whatever challenges life might throw at them. We teach our students to think critically and help them to approach life's problems with a tool box full of good strategies. Why should we expect anything else from ourselves?

Many could argue that since this is what I do for a living, of course I feel comfortable and of course I'm willing and able to devote my time to figuring things out. Others might suggest that I am trying to get out of doing my job.

I would respond that instead of focusing on specific applications and stepping people through them, we should be modeling and teaching general problem solving strategies so that they will be able to handle the curve balls that technology will inevitably throw them. We need to teach teachers to fish - not just serve it them on a platter.

So the question is - how do you we do it? How can we help teachers to interact with new technologies in a confident way so that when they are faced with a road block they can navigate it (at least initially) on their own? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions.

Image Citation: Eesti, “Big Fish Story” The Rocketeer's photostream. 8 Aug 2005. 17 Dec 2007 .
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