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 .


Sue Waters said...

I would love teachers to be able to teach themselves the required skills unfortunately until we are able to get them to a certain point this will not happen. It is very easy to take someone who is already competent using technology and show them how to use it with students. But such a long slow process if they are not comfortable.

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE

Anonymous said...

What I have discovered working in technology for a while myself is that there is an impatience in the older generation with technology. Where as people who grew up with it and are surrounded by it are more willing to take the time to figure out the problems they encounter with technology.
Might I suggest we begin teaching skills like where to find solutions, rather than solutions. Unfortunately it may be another 10 years though before such an approach is viable as the older teachers who are less willing to live with technology retire.
As for the Elf yourself... Almost all contracts now days ask for your permission to use your likeness in perpetuity in all known and unknown mediums. This is the staple line in all film and television contracts and I would be less worried about my head on an elf dancing (which most find cute) than my likeness in a snuff film. You make your choices, and live with them.

Anonymous said...

"...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 make it a point to show the teacher our troubleshooting process, to try to give them a peek into what goes on in the "tech person's" brain. It's (usually) not rocket science.

It would be awesome if we could eliminate curveballs, but we all know that's not going to happen. We might as well show teachers that the majority of these curveballs are not a big deal, and are pretty easily dealt with.

Liz B Davis said...

Tim Best - Are you the famous Tim Best, as in the former ITS at Wellesley High School? I've heard so much about you. I am usually introduced as the "new Tim Best." You are a hard act to follow.

Thanks for your comment. I hope to meet you at SLA when I visit in January.

Anonymous said...

I have found that the more we can model effective practices, the better. For example, I work very hard when creating online PD to design that which works best with students. In other words, when a teacher has a successful online PD learning experience, that comfort translate into job-embedded practice.

Often teachers will collaborate on work together. There is a fine transition here for us to remember that students who conduct work in a similar fashion may likely be learning (not, dare I say, cheating) as well.


Anonymous said...

You guys ought to try doing this at the higher ed level. We are trying to require all incoming freshman to arrive with a laptop, they mostly are arriving with a laptop, the problem is no reason to use in their classes. It is slow developing to say the least.

Marcelle said...

The Power of Educational Technology: This article addresses an issue that I am facing right now engaging in learning about podcast, wikis, voicethreads and videos as a tool for education. I see technology so important as a teaching media, the educational media vanguard and a motivator for kids. However, as an adult learning to fish through these educational media I must admit has been a challenge and in the process I get side tracked and my time flies. So, I would have to say I fit in to the “older generation type” (that AFP addressed) and to get on the state of being comfortable with use of technology take me time. I am taking the class, TECS 390 Instructional Technology for Elementary, I like what I am learning more and more, but I do not have the experience. Through my job I barely use the computer, other than checking Madquest addresses and some applications, but I am thinking so many ways we could apply technology and become a better community. I wonder, about "time" to fish or/and cut bait for adults like me. It is time that comes from planning time, personal time, in-service time? I believe that the management or administrators of the schools or other institutions should establish a plan of action to allocate time for every teacher to learn technology and perhaps study with more experienced colleagues’ .Then every teacher in the school can become in the same “fishing” page.