I love teaching teachers. And I'd like to think I'm fairly good at it. As a teacher, however, I've never really enjoyed traditional professional development workshops. You know what I'm talking about: an expert in the field lectures at you for an hour, provides you with some websites and handouts, and then sends you on your merry way, uninspired and convinced you've wasted five hours of your life you'll never get back.
Personally, I don't like to make my workshops about me. (Which will certainly come as a surprise to anyone who knows me!) Yes, I like to provide useful websites and some kick-start ideas for incorporating them into your teaching. But, no, I don't particularly care to lecture at teachers. Time is a rare commodity for teachers, so instead of wasting their time, I much prefer making the best use of it. When I present, I keep it short and sweet and hand over the remainder of my allotted time to the teachers. The idea here is that they get to use the time to research what I've presented, to collaborate on some new ideas, to share insights, and to revise their own lessons using what has been offered in the presentation. Isn't that the true essence of a "work"-shop?
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to come across a blog post by Christopher Wooleyhand in which he introduces the concept of extending EdCamps to school-based PD. An EdCamp is an "un-conference" in that it flips the idea of traditional PD on its head and makes it more about the teachers and less about the presenter. EdCamps are participant-driven in terms of content and interest and are becoming increasingly popular, although I have yet to have the pleasure of attending one. EdCamps are teacher-centric events, with the teachers driving the content and collaborating; they're a celebration of teachers and what we know and what we bring to the table.
So with all this recent talk about flipping our classrooms, it only seems fair that we flip our approach to professional development, too. If you're interested in attending an EdCamp in your area, check out this list of upcoming events around the country. If you've attended an EdCamp, please share your experience in the comments section below, or email me. I'm looking for an EdCamp in the Cleveland area, because I still have a lot to learn!
Of course, I'm sure I could just take matters into my own hands. I'd like to see some happy campers for a change.
I recently came across a thought-provoking post by Dana Huff about the qualities inherent in an exceptional Technology Integration Specialist (TIS) and it got me thinking about why more schools in the 21st century don't hire at least one TIS per district...if not one per building.
I've been lucky. The teachers with whom I've worked have been (mostly) receptive to my (gentle?) push to integrate technology into their curriculums, even if they're not entirely sure how it all works.
And parents are certainly supportive of this initiative.
And students...well, the digital natives are getting restless.
So guess what happens when students use technology better than teachers? Guess who gets left behind? Guess who becomes obsolete? Why are we still seeing so little tech innovation in our classrooms?
Thus, my four arguments for the employment of school-based Technology Integration Specialists to assist classroom teachers:
1. Time is Not On My Side
If you're a teacher, time is something of which you never seem to have enough. Lesson planning and grading take up the majority of your time, and what precious little time remains gets gobbled up by parent conferences/emails/telephone calls, department meetings, committees, club advising/coaching, after-school tutoring sessions, attendance taking, field trip money collecting, detention duty...blah, blah, blah. (Need I continue?) Finding time to explore unknown territories is a very rare occurrence for teachers today. A TIS has the time to explore, experiment, and advise teachers.
2. Some Digital Immigrants Need a Translator
The more of a digital immigrant you are, the more likely it is you'll need guided assistance. I don't want to be accused of ageism here, but teachers who have been less exposed to technology are sometimes intimidated by it and often less inclined to use it. Those fresh out of college are, obviously, less intimidated. But still, a TIS can provide guidance and assistance to teachers who want to take the plunge.
3. The Times, They Are A' Changin'
I once considered getting my Master's (or at least an Endorsement) in Educational Technology but found myself frequently advised against it on the following advice: most technology programs are outdated by the time they're designed. In fact, everything I've learned about technology in the classroom I've taught myself simply by sharing ideas with other EdTech specialists, subscribing to blogs, and attending workshops. With EdTech transforming daily, how can we reasonably expect teachers to keep up with it? Again, another job handled by the TIS.
4. Special Is as Special Does
Before we blame teachers for failing to embrace the technology, think about this: Would you see an internist to cure your plantar fasciitis, or would you be best-served visiting a podiatrist? Specialists are highly skilled, specifically-trained people who we see when we need information that we can't get on our own. Doesn't the education of 21st-century tech-savvy students--students expected to compete in a global economy--command "special" treatment?
Simply put, it is incumbent upon our schools to support our teachers to advance their own digital literacy.
And it needs to be done soon. Before the natives realize they don't need us anymore.
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.