Times they are a-changing… right Bob? Well, they are, but they always are.
Then again, they aren’t. Things are moving forward, but not all opinions, values, and mindsets are, yet. We look at who we continually vote into power during the elections (you know what I mean, Alberta). You look at comments from parents and many other advocates, “Back to the basics,” “Where are the pencils and mad minutes?” “Facts, facts, facts!” Heck, I have students that just aren’t into computers, or into blogging. They will use the tool now and then, but would rather show off their work through a booklet. It sounds weird, I know, but should I ostracize them for wanting that? They are learning. They are demonstrating. They are engaged. They are and will be successful.
I have read dozens of blogs about the future of education, about the future of technology, about the future of learning. Most point to increased technology and computer use, which excites me, but also could terrify me in different ways.
Currently, I have a group of students that I would say added up and divided by the whole are average tech users. I have some way above the norm, some way below and a few in the middle. Now, I’m talking tech as in computer usage, blogging, site navigation, social media, all of it. Reflecting again, maybe they are slightly below average users. Anyways, the point I am trying to get at here is, if we parallel this “skill-base” with that of reading you can start to see how the average teacher may get terrified yet again. Without adding something else to a regular classroom, even 4 years ago, teachers were exhausted trying not to leave behind those that could not read or write. Now, we need to teach the skills (technology), with the curriculum, add the project and then say go. All of that may even be fine, but what about Jim the boy that can’t read? He can’t type in a word to search for his research project. What about Trish the girl that doesn’t ever use a computer, AND can’t read? She looks at the screen, drops the mouse, switches hands, ah! What now? What about the dyslexic child, or ADHD child that cannot separate all of the adds and other flashing items on a website and zone in on the appropriate? Cloning has not been approved yet so how can the average teacher do it all when all of these students I refer to are in her class?
I have not mentioned behavioral issues. I have not mentioned teacher confidence and lacking skill issues. As well, some parents holding back. So, add these up and the image can be terrifying. Why bother? Is it worth it? I don’t know if I can handle this? What do I do with Johny, the kid that isn’t allowed online? What about Billy, the kid that will not stop streaming Youtube, and how does he always hide it before I get there?
Are teacher’s really not willing? Or are they just scared, overwhelmed, realistic, and maybe even justified?
Now, I do have the skills. That makes life so much easier. Once we get 1-1 laptops, life will be even easier because right now the students with skills can and do and I do not want to stop them. But, the students that can’t and don’t need the skill sessions, need to learn, and do not get enough time to practice when we are sharing the technology.
Some of the issues I mentioned above, students with dyslexia or attention issues could benefit from Google Chrome extensions like: Readability Redux, Chrome Page Reader, or Yawas Web Highlighter.
Get out of the boat! You can’t roll!
I have worked with a number of colleagues with a range of skills. I have been told I am very patient when I help out and I believe that is true. I can relate feelings quite well, such as trying to learn how to roll in a kayak. Well, when you roll upside down guess where you are? That’s right, underwater without a source of air, and only you can solve this problem which can quickly raise the anxiety! So, when I lend a hand I think of that.
Unfortunately, I still cannot roll. My husband tried to teach me, but you know how it is with a spouse, sometimes it is difficult to hear what they are saying. That means I need to go somewhere else to learn and then I will probably succeed. Of course, practicing only once in a while isn’t enough and even worse you will never learn it in a stressful time – right when you need to. Sometimes sink or swim does work, but not when the challenge is too great.
Instead, we develop bracing techniques to avoid going underwater. This I am seeing in the blogging at our school sometimes. Teachers are scared. They believe they need to and they want to blog, but when? How? Fine, I’ll do a quick newsletter or reminder post and that’ll do. Fair enough right? Do we want more? Yes, but if I never learn how to roll can I still go kayaking? You bet I can. I just will not feel as confident down a really fast river. My husband realized this and so he bought me, a few years back, a canoe style, sit on top, kayak. I love it! It’s so stable I can even go fishing from it. The point now is, do we ostracize these teachers for not learning the skills necessary? Do we leave them behind forever because they can’t? Let’s not say because they won’t – otherwise we sound just as bad as a teacher saying Fred just won’t do his work. Maybe Fred can’t do it the way it is presented. Why can’t we DI for teachers too? Teachers are just older students, we all know that 😛
What to do then?
The blogging type of exercises that I mentioned earlier (newsletters, updates, announcements, spelling lists only), are not engaging , but rather continue the old fashion way of telling. So, what can we do to help these teachers get on board with the new way? What about the students that aren’t into it? Well, I think, yes, time will help. I took a long time to get blogging. I still do not do it often enough. Ideas – I have tons. So, maybe I have more of a time management issue or maybe I am letting my students try out my ideas instead. But, like I said before, I do have the skills which means, those people without are in even more need of help.
How can you help a colleague?
- Offer to have your class comment on a critical thinking blog they do and brainstorm with him/her for the activity
- Email or share some sites that demonstrate classroom blogging ideas
- If it is a matter of skills such as embedding videos into a post, etc, see if you can offer a student to share their skills with the teacher – students love to teach adults!
- Be patient with your colleagues (can you roll in a kayak?). As adults we hate to not know sometimes, and worse we hate to be told we should know (children hate this too).
- When you notice blogging etiquette no-no’s bring them up casually. Sometimes people copy off of another person’s blog to get an idea, or picture. But ideas need to be your own and pictures must be referenced appropriately. Perhaps the person is not aware of the procedures so a gentle reminder should suffice.
Blogging within a group of people can be difficult, because it is you and your ideas out there on display. It is, or at least feels personal, which can then become competitive. That’s why caution and care should always be taken when giving advice when advice was not asked for.
I know I am rambling and reflecting a lot in just one simple post, but maybe through some of these comments you can find some inspiration and confidence to ask someone that seems to have the skills for a hand when it comes to blogging (say). Maybe even find the courage to let go and let a student explore a different way of demonstrating their learning as well. And, perhaps you can find a tactful and kind way to offer to help out a colleague that is behind.
They may always be behind, but maybe they can find a way to succeed, just as we hope and guide our students to succeed at their own rate and create their own success.
As I think over my post I realize I am speaking about blogging and tools. Tools are simply that, tools. Perhaps they are for learning and perhaps they are simply to show off and present. Is a teacher as good as her tools? I think not. A teacher is as good as her own ability to help students realize their abilities.
I leave you with a couple of videos. The first one was shared to emphasize the importance of project-based, or more engaged, learning.
The second is an inspirational video, “Teaching for Success”.