Why Technology: Starting the Discussion
Everyone in education knows that the most difficult piece of professional development is buy-in. Buy-in from teachers and from administrators. No matter how well-planned an in-service, workshop, or series, it’s pointless without buy-in. So before starting any type of ed tech training, you must answer this incredibly important (and often disregarded) question: Why? Why should I bother trying to change what I already know how to do? What’s the point?
In my experience, if you can convince teachers that what you’re asking them to do truly is what’s best for the kids, you’ll get their buy-in. Below are a few resources that might help you win that battle.
- When I train teachers, I always start with the most recent Did You Know? video (it’s usually updated annually). This video does a better job of answering “why technology?” than I ever could. Some teachers have seen earlier versions already, but they always find something new. And, for those who haven’t seen the video, it usually shifts their paradigm, at least slightly. Some more traditional teachers leave the video feeling negative, like they’re powerless and are failing their students. That’s when I try to shift the conversation — yes, the world is changing. That’s out of our control. But we really can prepare kids for it. And here’s how…
- The Sabertooth Curriculum (1939) is a great way to start a technology integration discussion, in-service series, or workshop if you have teachers who question the value of technology. In the story, teachers in the time of cavemen argue about whether or not they should adjust their teaching methods as the times change. Students had always been taught to defend against sabertooth tigers, but once the sabertooths become extinct and bears become more common, education radicals suggest that the curriculum be changed. Stop teaching students to defend against sabertooths and, rather, teach them to stop bears. The traditionalists’ argument that “what we’ve always done worked for us; why change it” has a familiar tone in this article, aimed to make us re-think our current perceptions about technology in education.
- The Creativity Crisis (2010) explains that, for the first time, research shows Americans’ creativity is declining. Why is a question that teachers can discuss after reading the article. No doubt, public school teachers will point to standardized testing as reducing opportunities for students to be creative. Some may suggest that technology itself doesn’t allow kids to be creative. But if you go on to introduce tools like film-making, cartoon-making, and blogging, the latter argument will be a hard sell.
- In the same vein, this TED talk provides an entertaining and convincing argument that schools, as they’re currently set up, kill creativity. After watching, teachers may be inspired to shoot for higher goals – which is the perfect time to start a series of ed tech workshops.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy (updated) can be found in nearly every K-12 teacher’s desk. Most teachers know that their goal should be to ensure students learn higher level skills on Bloom’s ladder. Technology integration offers tons of resources to help students analyze, evaluate and, best of all, create. Bloom’s provides a good back-drop to any ed tech inservice. When showing teachers the benefits of tools like blogging, it’s good to take a look at where such tech integration lessons fall on the taxonomy.
Social Networking Best Practices
If your school or district is considering creating a large-scale social network, using a tool like Edmodo (which is free), these guidelines offer a good place to start the discussion:
- Creating and Connecting: Research and guidelines on social – and educational – networking from the National School Boards Association provides a section with recommendations for school boards, including, “Safety policies remain important, as does teaching students about online safety and responsible online expression — but students may learn these lessons better while they’re actually using social networking tools.”
- Teens and Social Networking in School and Public Libraries by the Young Adult Library Services Association includes a section on how social networking can improve learning. Here’s a quote: “By integrating social networking technologies into educational environments, teens have the opportunity to learn from adults how to be safe and smart when participating in online social networks. They also learn a valuable life skill, as these social networking technologies are tools for communication that are widely used in colleges and in the workplace.”
21st Century Skills
- The International Society for Technology in Education has created technology standards broadly accepted by specialists in the field. You can find information, as well as the standards, on the society’s website.
- The 21st Century Fluency Project offers resources and curriculum designed to encourage higher-level thinking skills in collaboration with technology integration.
- A Partnership for 21st Century Skills provides learning outcomes, frameworks, standards, and resources based on the changing global dynamic.