Time to play

I had two really interesting experiences today, both directly relevant to the use of technology in the classroom, both essentially reinforcing a point I believe passionately in. That point is really simple.

  • If we are to make a dent with teachers on getting them to use technology in their classrooms, they need to know that they can use this technology in their own lives.  We need to allow them to find out how incredibly easy it is to integrate this technology, they need to be able to use it at home as well as at school.

What I mean by this, is that teachers must have technology put into the palm of their hands and be encouraged to play (for lack of a better word) with it, there should be no expectation that they should also start using it that day.  We already know that a large number of teachers are techno-phobic to a certain degree.  Up until last December I would have counted myself among that group as well, it wasn’t until I got my hands on my iTouch, that I began to imagine the possibilities of it.  I found it interesting that the more I played with it, the more my mind began to mull over what I could do with it if everybody had one in class.  What could my students do with one; could they all conduct independent searches; could they access Wikipedia to answer a question they might have that might be important to their understanding but not necessarily germane to the topic; if I was a math teacher could they save money by not having to buy a ‘graphing calculator’ and just download the required app?  The more I played with it, the more I felt my mind expanded to the possibilities, so much so that by the time I took up my new position in September I was ready to jump on the new technologies as they were laid before me.  The more stones I turned over, the more my I absorbed, the more excited I became about the possibilities.

Now that you know my background, let me tie that into what happened today.  This afternoon I was part of a meeting that was looking at integrating technology across several different areas of study (English, art, computers), and it is a quite exciting concept, and something that is very important and has a lot of potential for increasing engagement of students in school.  One thing stopped me though, was one of my colleagues insistence that there be time granted to teachers for professional development, because, and with this I totally agree, we often give up our time too easily.  He believes, and based on what we were reviewing today he is right, that that specific technology is hard to learn, it does require pretty specific knowledge, and because of that anybody wanting to develop this sort of cross-curricular project will need time.  So on the one hand we have a great idea, on the other we have some obvious barriers to implementing it.  I do think that the high-end graphic production that we were talking about today is of immense value, and this project does have a lot of promise, but I think that it is perhaps missing the possibilities of so many web 2.0 tools.  They can make it so much easier to do a lot of the things we were talking about today.

What this showed me was that I have redouble my efforts at showing new tools to teachers, especially showing them how easy it is.  Will this work?  Well this morning before my meeting I happened across a math teacher who proudly described how he had been inspired by my presentation a couple of weeks ago on Animoto, Glogster, and Voice Thread.  I had mentioned in passing that with Animoto it was possible to create a quick video for almost any reason, and that they could make a quick video for their significant other that would be really special.  Sure enough that’s exactly what this math teacher had done, he made a video for his family that had apparently really impressed his wife.  This is the door opening, he has now played with it, he was amazed at how easy it was, and now all I have to do is find him some examples of how it could be used in class (I’m sure I’ve seen some somewhere).  Having ‘played’ with it, I’m sure he’d be confident enough to use it in class.  The trick of course is that there is never enough time to say everything you want to say, so I just need to spike the curiosity of a few each time and getting back out in front of them and trying something new.  They also need to know that they don’t need to ‘learn’ how to use a special technology.

The best solution would be support from the top for this approach, but for a whole lot of political and financial reasons I won’t be holding my breath, so I will just keep plugging, turning over one math teacher at a time!

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2 responses to “Time to play

  1. You’re hit the nail on the head with this post. In our District we use a learning team action research model of PD whereby teachers can choose to learn together throughout the year on some topic. We had over 300 teachers (of 1800) choose to do this with learning/teaching with technology as a key focus area, last year.

    Teachers meet a min. of 6 1/2 days (3 during the day with release, 3 after school with food) with a facilitator. I facilitated a team of seven K-5 teachers last year who’s research question was “will smart boards transform my teaching and my student’s learning”. They went through the valley of dispare and overwhelm but came up at the end of the year energized to take this tool to new levels this year in their classrooms. Having access to play, experiment, etc. was absolutely key for them. They all had laptops, projectors, and most had a fixed smart board.

    You’re absolutely right that teachers need the tools, need to see the possibilities, and then need TIME to play, learn, experiment, and grow their practice.

  2. Pingback: Technology and teachers « Greg's eduweb blog

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