Global Education Conference, We're Only Just Beginning #globaled10

Today I had the opportunity to moderate a session during the Global Education Conference. Given completely in Spanish, Diana Rojas Caballero spoke to us about her experiences regarding education reform and the improved teaching practices her organization (Comunidad Escuela Nueva) is attempting.

I think the possibilities for learning that technology brings us really are still in infantile stages, as we're only just beginning to open up increased collaboration between cultures and learning customs world-wide. This conference, nevertheless, demonstrates some of the potential (370 sessions from 62 countries, wow!).

When Participating Isn't Appropriate (Thank You, @kwhobbes!)

Kelly Christopherson has done an excellent job in articulating exactly what I've been trying to say for months now about social media participation.

From my experience, if you can sum up your contributions to the school and learning in quaint little anecdotes, little stories about touching tales and quips about snippets of days, then you really don’t get it. See, for the most part, I can’t share what happens in my days because it’s confidential, too difficult to describe and, really, there’s no quaint way to tell the story. It’s about the lives, spirits and souls of the people in the two buildings as we begin to forge a new direction and the interconnectedness here.

I guess I find that many of the things that others write about to be, well, common sense and something that is within my realm of experience for too long to be thought of as actually unusual. Whether it’s talking with parents about a student with learning needs, helping parents with students with special needs, creating learning spaces for students, finding supplies and supports for teachers who need them or questioning people in positions of responsibility about programming and support, it’s what an administrator does because it’s what’s best for children. And I believe that is what defines my job – doing what’s best for children.
As I wrote (and for which I've since been scolded):
The fact of the matter is that there exist a very large number of effective educators that are simply not able to contribute in any significantly recurrent amount to online discussion. All told, it's not that they're incapable of participating and it's not that they're unwilling. Rather, this group maintains perceived silence online because their professional priorities prohibit them from spending the time or energy required to provide plausible contribution.
Now, I realize it would be nice if we had genuine, original online input from every educator. In fact, I'm still surprised by how exciting things get when technology facilitates a global conversation. (Just look, for example, at the quality and range of keynotes that will be presented next week at Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray's Global Education Conference!)

Nevertheless, like Kelly, I've learned that as an administrator that are definitely times when participating really isn't appropriate - and when an educator's greatness might just be measured in how well they refrain from participating, rather than by how witty they're able to be while distributing dirty laundry before strangers. Along those lines, I've also found that there are even appropriate times when a mere retweet is all you're gonna get. You can tell a lot about a person by the articles they pass along (we are what we share), and some online interaction can be a lot better than none.

For what it's worth.

"The Institution Made Me Do It." Really?

Further response to Stephen Downes and the idea that we might accomplish "school" without "institutions":

So Stephen,

Offended probably isn't really the right word for how I'm feeling. As I've been discussing here, I wonder if we aren't bumping into a clash of cultures regarding the actual purposes of schooling.

If you believe that the chief purpose of schooling is to simply acquire academic-related knowledge, then I suppose that an institution wouldn't be required to facilitate such an education. Nevertheless, I think there's far more to a well-rounded education than mere knowledge acquisition. Moreover, I think our schools do far more (good) for kids than provide them with academic instruction.

I'm interested in learning more about your ideas regarding changes to the system that might improve the educational process for our students, but am afraid it's going to take more - a lot more - to convince me that we'd ever be able to provide our students with a well-rounded education without also relying on the structure that institutions can provide.

Furthermore, the difficulty is compounded upon realizing that "well-rounded" is locally defined and credentialing is expected to transcend borders.

The Real Key to School Reform

Via San Pedro de Alcantara (1499-1562):

The trouble is that no one wants to correct himself and everyone meddles at correcting others. Thus, everything stays as it is.
Quit blaming others, roll up your sleeves, and dig in.

Three Questions for @leighblackall


To begin with, I really appreciate the zeal and effort you've already demonstrated in identifying the process you hope to follow in order to earn a Ph.D. Clearly you've done a little homework already and put forth significant thought toward the related issues.

Nevertheless, I have some questions:

  1. How do you plan on replicating the bureaucracy and tenacious hoop-jumping that it normally requires to complete a graduate degree?
  2. Will any face-to-face rigor be included in your pursuit?
  3. How long do you anticipate taking and how will you really know when you're finished?
Right now, I'm in the data-gathering stage of my dissertation. I began the Utah State University Distance Doctoral Program (Ed.D) back in 2006. I've since taken all of the courses, passed my comps, and have had my dissertation proposal accepted. For me:
  • The most difficult part of the degree has been registering for classes, jumping through hoops to pay tuition, arranging times to meet with professors, getting parking passes, driving to campus, sitting through boring (but required) courses, sweating bullets in front of my dissertation committee, 20+ hours of homework every week to accompany 6 hours of class-time (for three consecutive years), writing more than anyone would ever care to read, arranging for summer housing, and living "the dream" as I was required to stay on-campus for three Summer stints.
  • The most rewarding part of the degree has been taking what I have learned from the entire process and sharing/critiquing it with folks online. I'll never forget posting, commenting, and tweeting about my professors, their good and bad teaching behaviors, the curriculum, my fellow cohort members and their ideas, my homework, and more.
Now, I think I get that you believe in open education, that you probably want to stick it to the Man, and that you'd probably love to de-institutionalize planet earth. Edupunk lives.  However, I also think that your proposed plan for "earning" a Ph.D. will deny you of the best and the worst aspects of the traditional process.

To me, it looks like you really only want to partake of the goods, while bypassing completely the hell required to finish a terminal (or any legitimate) degree. In my opinion, you'll have "earned" nothing without having also busted your butt through the same kinds of experiences that have made my experience difficult. At that point, I'll be willing to welcome you to the club (of which, I'm not yet even a member).

For what it's worth,


Equity and Three Things That Matter Most

I'm half-way through Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. First, I agree with Darling-Hammond whole-heartedly:

As the fate of individuals and nations is increasingly interdependent, the quest for access to an equitable, empowering education for all people has become a critical issue for the American nation as a whole. As a country, we can and must enter a new era. No society can thrive in a technological, knowledge-based economy by depriving large segments of its population of learning. The path to our mutual well-being is built on educational opportunity. Central to our collective future is the recognition that our capacity to survive and thrive ultimately depends on ensuring to all of our people what should be an unquestioned entitlement - a rich and inalienable right to learn. (p. 328)
I'm offended by Stephen Downes' blanket accusations of justified institutional mistrust because I personally know far too many good, well-intentioned, hard working people leading public districts across the country. Furthermore, I remain convinced that all people have the right to a rich education, regardless of the economic and technological resources at their personal disposal. For me, blaming isn't solving, and the only viable solution we have is to work through the issues that arise in our public systems of education. Why else would I, of all people, willfully list the wide range of barriers that arguably hold my field back?

The experience of [high-performing] school systems suggests that three things matter most: 1) getting the right people to become teachers; 2) developing them into effective instructors and; 3) ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child. (p. 5)
While I can't do much to bring the right people into the profession, I'm working my guts out to help good teachers become great and ensure that my corner of the system enables the best possible instruction for every child.

Barriers That Hold Some Back

"Know thy enemy."

I think that if we're really going to progress in transforming traditional institutions of public education into systems capable of enabling technology-facilitated student-centered learning, then we need to gain a better understanding of exactly what's been holding us back all along. I mean, it's not like we haven't been trying to push the pedagogical use of technology during the last 3 decades. In examining the obstacles that seem to be holding us back, nevertheless, it's become clear to me that the barriers that keep us from succeeding will require far more than persistant nudging on the part of even the most skillful of motivational speakers.

Nope. David Jakes simply can't solve this problem alone.

In this post, I hope to illustrate some of the barriers that likely most school communities will need to overcome before all teachers are able to actively use technology to improve student learning. To begin with, the list of things that must be in place for an existing school to make the transition to an environment "that provides a more relavant learning experience for kids in the context of the social online technologies that are disrupting the current model" is huge. And while ISTE's list of essential conditions is fairly extensive, the list that Will Richardson began on the topic is exhausting (but not exhaustive):
1. Technology
  1. Personal technology (computer, mobile phone, iPad, etc.) in the hand of every student, teacher, administrator, support staff
  2. Ubiquitous access to the Internet for every student at school and at home
  3. A robust network infrastructure at school that permits real-time access for all students simultaneously
  4. Excellent real-time support
  5. Responsible Use Policies that encourage technology use
2. Curriculum and Instruction
  1. A deep understanding on the part of every staff member of how to use technology, and specifically the Web, to learn
  2. Sustained, continuous professional development
  3. Performance-based assessments
  4. Teachers fluent in how to translate their personal understanding of technology into the classroom
  5. Personalized learning opportunities for students
  6. Student centered pedagogy
  7. Inquiry-based curriculum
  8. A balance between meeting the requirements of state testing and reshaping learning to teach students the skills they need
  9. Instruction for teachers and students about web-safety
3. Change Management
  1. A shared vision for modern learning in the school
  2. A shared vocabulary to facilitate conversations around change
  3. Support for trying (and failing) when implementing changes in the classroom
  4. Teachers working with each other across disciplines
  5. Common planning and discussion time for staff
  6. Community education around the new vision and how change will take place
  7. Measurement of progress and adjustment along the way
4. Leadership
  1. Making a strong case for change with every constituency including students, parents, teachers, staff, administration, board of education and community
  2. Leadership that encourages modern learning among teachers and students
  3. Teacher leaders that embrace and extend the vision
  4. A innovative budgetary approach

Reading this list alone, is it any wonder we've had such a struggle?!? Truthfully, isn't it actually more of a miracle that we've experienced the kind of success that we have?  Sometimes I think so.

To continue, nevertheless, other scholars have identified a wide array of specific obstacles to making appropriate technology integration* a far more widespread reality than current practice. In 2006, for example, Hew and Brush researched this topic heavily, identifying 123 different barriers in a review of past empirical studies. Their classification consisted of six main categories: resources, knowledge and skills, institution, attitudes and beliefs, assessment, and subject culture. Similarly, Ertmer (1999) presents these barriers in two distinct categories: external (first-order) and internal (second-order). I think that delineating the list of obstacles following Ertmer's approach should make pinpointing potential solutions a little easier.

External Obstacles to Technology Integration. First order (external) obstacles are generally described in terms of the types of resources (i.e., equipment, time, training, support) that are either missing or inadequately provided in teachers' implementation environments. Ofttimes, first order barriers are resolved by simply throwing more money into the equation. Nevertheless, when these barriers are present, it can be nearly impossible to even talk about technology integration. Interestingly, the absence of many of the items in Will's list - in traditional educational environments - constitute external (rather than internal) obstacles to technology integration for teachers in those environments.

Potential External Barriers From Will's List (Why Some Teacher's Can't/Won't Use Technology To Teach):
  • Not every student, teacher, administrator, support staff has personal technology.
  • There is not ubiquitous access to the Internet for every student at school and at home.
  • There is not a robust network infrastructure at school that permits simultaneous, real-time access for all students.
  • Excellent real-time support is nonexistent.
  • "Responsible Use Policies" are nonexistent, overly restrictive, or fail to encourage technology use.
  • The quantity of professional development is inadequate.
  • Instruction for teachers and students about web-safety is nonexistent or inadequate.
  • Support for trying (and failing) when implementing changes in the classroom is lacking.
  • Teachers do not work with each other across disciplines.
  • There is no common planning and discussion time for staff.
  • Community members are not educated around the new vision and how change will take place.
  • Progress is not measured or data about progress is not shared and does not influence direction.
  • A strong case for change is not made with every constituency (including students, parents, staff, administration, board of education and community).
  • Leadership doesn't encourage modern learning among teachers and students.
  • There is no innovate budgetary approach; therefore, funds remain tight.
Adding to Will's list of potential external reasons that teachers may not be able to use technology to teach:
  • Teachers lack effective technology-related professional development.
  • The design of PD programs doesn't identify teachers' beliefs about effective teaching and strategies for using technology within the context of those beliefs (Windschitl and Sahl, 2002).
  • The proper amount and right types of technology are not found in locations where teachers and students can use them (Fabry and Higgs, 1997).
  • Teachers lack technology-supported pedagogy knowledge and the related skills base (Hughes, 2005).
  • Teachers lack technology-related classroom management skills (Lim et al., 2003; Newhouse, 2001).
  • School policy does not promote technology as a viable tool for learning (Tondeur et al., 2008).
  • Teacher needs in anticipation of the instructional use of technology, aren't always met.
  • Formal training isn't provided at an early stage of new classroom experiences with technology (Levin and Wadmany, 2008).
  • Educational opportunities that facilitate collaboration with colleagues on authentic routine classroom issues are inadequate in subsequent stages of professional growth. Moreover, collaborative opportunities devoted to personally-directed inquiry aren't available (Levin and Wadmany, 2008).
  • Feedback on instructional technology use isn't customized for individual circumstances (Levin and Wadmany, 2008).
  • Mentorship isn't adequately or appropriately provided, particularly in later stages of professional growth (Sahin and Thompson, 2007; Di Benedetto, 2005; Sherry, Billig, Tavalin, and Gibson, 2000).
  • Teachers lack adequate time to acquire and transfer to practice the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and completely infuse technology into their curricular areas (Brand, 1998).
  • Teachers lack time to prepare technology-facilitated resources for lessons, experiment with technology as a learning tool, and create technology-related assessments (Preston, Cox, and Cox, 2000; Butzin, 2001; Karagiorgi, 2005).
  • The focus of technology use in K-12 education has been on computer-based testing instead of teaching and learning (Bichelmeyer and Molenda, 2006; Education Week, 2003).
  • Feasible examples of effective technology integration aren't readily available to teachers (Bitner and Bitner, 2002).
Internal Obstacles to Technology Integration. Typically rooted in teachers' underlying beliefs about teaching and learning, second-order (internal) barriers can be far more difficult to overcome. Ertmer (1999) and others have illustrated that even when first-order (external) barriers are addressed, teachers do not automatically use technology to achieve advocated meaningful outcomes. Using Will Richardson's list again as a starting point, there is a wide range of internal barriers that keep teachers from integrating technology throughout their curriculum.

Potential Internal Barriers From Will's List (Why Some Teacher's Can't/Won't Use Technology To Teach):
  • A deep understanding has not yet been acquired by every staff member regarding how to use technology, and specifically the Web, to learn.
  • Teachers are not fluent in how to translate their personal understanding of technology into the classroom.
  • A shared vision does not exist for modern learning in the school.
  • A shared vocabulary does not exist to facilitate conversations around change.
  • Teacher leaders do not embrace and extend the vision.
  • [Teacher beliefs regarding curriculum and instruction do not allow for technology integration.]
  • Teachers do not feel the need to create personalized learning opportunities for students.
  • Student centered pedagogy has yet to be adopted.
  • Inquiry-based curriculum is not the norm.
  • Assessments stress fact memorization, rather than performance.
  • There is no balance between meeting the requirements of state testing and reshaping learning to teach students other skills they might need.
Again, adding to Will's list of potential internal reasons that teachers might not be able to use technology to teach:
  • Teachers lack “an attitude that is fearless in the use of technology, encourages them to take risks, and inspires them to become lifelong learners” (Task Force on Technology and Teacher Education, 1997, p. 11).
  • Help for teachers is inadequate in overcoming feelings of anxiety on the part of teachers and a genuine fear of technology (Li, 2007).
  • Teachers lack confidence in the use of technology and in incorporating new innovation (Hardy, 1998; Dawson and Rakes, 2003).
  • There is no adequate mechanism for overcoming feelings of intimidation, in light of the possibility that students might know more than them (Fryer, 2003).
  • The pressures of high-stakes testing inhibits technology integration (CEO Forum on Education and Technology, 2001; Fox and Henri, 2005).
  • Some teachers have little ability in dealing with the changing nature of technology itself (Zhao and Frank, 2003).
  • Teachers are hesitant to adopt technologies that seem incompatible with the norms of a subject culture (Hennessy, Ruthven, and Brindley, 2005).
  • Teachers lack an adequate understanding of the advantages that technology integration can provide (Hermans et al., 2008; Scrimshaw, 2004).
  • Some teachers believe that technology integration will not lead to better understanding or faster learning (Newhouse, 2001; Karagiorgi, 2005).
  • Teachers lack a deep understanding of the purpose of technology before being required to make more substantial changes in their practices (Park and Ertmer, 2008).
Finally, I often think that teachers simply need a better reason to change:
Simply imposing reform-based ideas on schools and teachers will not result in substantial change in instruction. Educational reform may encourage teachers to integrate technology to engage students in activities of problem solving, critical thinking, and collaborative learning, but a culture emphasizing competition and a high-stakes assessment system can strongly discourage teachers from undertaking such innovative initiatives. (Chen, 2008, p. 73)
Upon obtaining an overall view of the obstacles we're dealing with, I'm hopeful that solutions will further present themselves (see, for example, the list compiled by Hew and Brush, 2006) as we continue to mull these things over. To that end:
  • What solutions can you recommend?
  • What obstacles are there that I may have missed?
  • Is all of this really worth the effort?
As I consider solutions to our problems here, I am cognizant of one fact: The David Jakes of the world are extremely important. It seems to me that they can play an integral role in helping us overcome those difficult second order barriers.

For what it's worth, I'd love your feedback on this.


* For the purpose of this post, I have defined technology integration as the process of "enabling the kinds of learning experiences that even Will Richardson would be proud of." No ponytails were injured in the creation of this post.

What do you think?

What do you think?

1. I think that great teaching can occur without the use of technology. I've written:

In light of the fact that I don't think language is a technology, I can confidently argue that teaching can effectively take place without technology. Furthermore, I don't believe the statement that "technology is what allows us to socialize learning," is entirely true. Technology *can* aid in socializing learning, but learning can be social without any technology at all (haven't you ever sat in a face-to-face idea exchange?).
I guess what I'm really learning through all of this discussion is that even though I love technology and firmly believe in its transformational power in educational practice, I'm also increasingly learning to love - and even to crave - those moments of brilliance when a teacher is able to motivate, captivate, and mold the minds of their students without the use of electricity. I know that some of the most powerful and memorable lessons I've ever experienced took place without any technology - and to ignore this fact (and the power of pure teaching) would be the real travesty.
2. I think we need to be careful.  With Jennifer Jones, I wonder about blogging, social media, and all that it entails for educators.
I question power and influence, as well as quality. I question if we’re developing systems that provide emotional rewards for blogging, and no rewards for people who do other important work, like making a difference locally. 
I also wonder if we're creating a new elite.

3. Still, and probably more importantly, I think that great teachers share. Dean Shareski, for example, is spot on here. If you haven't taken 20 minutes to watch this, you should. Seriously.

To be clear, I think that the majority of educators reading this post (and those with whom we locally work) have a moral obligation to lift those unable to lift themselves. With David Wiley, I assert that:
we [educators], who live rather privileged lives relative to the vast majority of the planet’s population, have a moral obligation to make our teaching efforts as broadly impactful as possible, reaching out to bless the lives of as many people as we can[.] Especially when participatory technologies make it so inexpensive (almost free) for us to do so[!]
Therefore, although our motives might differ, I'd like to reaffirm my agreement with Scott McLeod when he stated:
Sure, lots of good teaching and learning occurring without technology. That doesn't mean the technology isn't still extremely important. Just because good stuff can and does happen without tech doesn't remove our responsibility to also do tech in large quantities (and at high quality).
4. In fact, I think that if we don't continue to fervently push forward in advocating a technology-rich curriculum, our beloved public school system will likely suffer the same fate as... Blockbuster Video. Take a minute to read this recent Time magazine article. Replace "Blockbuster" with "The Public School System" and see if you get the same chills that were sent down my spine.
"It didn't have to be this way," [David Cook, Blockbuster founder] says. "They let technology eat them up..."

There are few aneurysms in American business. Few companies drop dead. Instead, most endure a long slide into the grave. Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, who has studied technological change and its effect on large companies, says many of the decisions that led Blockbuster to bankruptcy might have appeared rational at the time. "But when faced with a threat by disruptive competitors like Netflix, the circumstances were different," says Christensen. "Decisions that in other circumstances would have made sense, instead drove the company into the ground." Into the ground Blockbuster went. In 2002 it had 8,000 stores and a market value of $3 billion. Today, movie-by-mail Netflix is worth nearly three times that much. And Blockbuster is broke.
5. Does this mean we need need "a complete redesign of the system, from the ground up, using new technologies and new ideas"? I don't think so, although I do think open education philosophies - like those described by Stephen Downes - have a lot to offer and should must be more widely embraced by inhabitants of all education systems, if those systems are to survive.

What do you think? I mean really?

Is public education in the same Blockbuster boat?  Are there better options out there for education's customers? If ignored in traditional education environments, will technology provide students and their paying parents with a better way to obtain the kinds of learning opportunities they crave? Are the bureaucratic wheels that turn current systems of public education flexible yet sturdy enough to enable change? Might that change come quickly enough? Or more importantly, do public schools today provide sufficient educational benefit that can't be obtained through ethernet? Do they succeed at grooming a citizenry, preparing children for college and careers, and building social capital?

What do you think?

ISTE 2011 - Here We Come

I've officially thrown my hat back into the presentation ring by submitting several proposals to present at ISTE 2011:

  • An Educator's Guide to the Creative Commons. I'll explore reasons why every educator should be using the Creative Commons and how, exactly, to get that done.
  • Best Practices in Globally Attended Professional Development. With Robin Ellis and Sue Waters, we'll describe the strategies and procedures that have been working well for us over the last several years.
  • EduBlogger Etiquette - How and Why Educators Set the Example. I'll review the blogging conventions we once discussed and help new bloggers understand a few of the unspoken rules of the game.
  • The Reality of Enabling School Change: Risk, Hurdles, and Hope. With Dave Doty and Scot McCombs, we'll analyze the creation of the Canyons School District; what it took, the problems and rewards encountered, along with the trials that still lie ahead.
In building a new school district, I haven't had much time in the last year and a half to devote to giving presentations to external organizations, but I'm excited to fire up the motors once again!

Hope to see you in Philly!

Effective Technology-Related Professional Development

A number of different thoughts have come clashing together recently, leaving me with questions about professional development and how to really make it happen.

First, Lawless and Pellegrino (2007, emphasis mine):

The existing body of literature on professional development draws an important connection between student achievement and effective professional development (Darling-Hammond, 1999; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996; National Education Goals Panel, 2000; Wenglinski, 2000). A number of organizations and researchers have conducted elaborate reviews of the literature and evaluations in this area (e.g., Corcoran, Shields, & Zucker, 1998; Loucks- Horsley, Stiles, & Hewson, 1996; National Foundation for the Improvement of Education [NFIE], 1996; National Staff Development Council, 2001; Porter, Garet, Desimone, Yoon, & Birman, 2000). This knowledge base has consistently indicated that high-quality professional development activities are longer in duration (contact hours plus follow-up), provide access to new technologies for teaching and learning, actively engage teachers in meaningful and relevant activities for their individual contexts, promote peer collaboration and community building, and have a clearly articulated and a common vision for student achievement (Adelman et al., 2002; NFIE, 1996; Porter et al., 2000; Sparks, 2002).
Next, I think Kopcha's (2010, emphasis mine) systems-based approach to technology integration using mentoring and communities of practice has tremendous potential. Kopcha also describes the very premise upon which the model we've implemented in the Canyons District was built:
The model moves teachers through four specific stages of technology adoption toward using technology to support learning in more student-centered ways. The model describes how a mentor can negotiate the interplay of multiple barriers (time, beliefs, access, professional development, culture) on teachers who are learning to integrate technology and suggests a number of strategies for integrating technology, such as establishing a culture of technology integration, modeling technology use, and creating teacher leaders. Unlike previous mentoring approaches to integrating technology into the classroom, this model culminates with the establishment of a teacher-led community of practice that uses the resources currently available at a school to support and sustain the implementation of the system.
Finally, Larry Cuban states earlier this week:
What’s the point of citing these examples of seat-of-the-pants professional development and spontaneously generated PLCs, past and present when, clearly, the evidence is weak that these are replicable and can “go to scale?”

I have two reasons. First, they show the critical importance of prior “strong ties” among teachers that propelled their activism. Not “weak ties” that characterize many PLCs organized by non-teachers. (See Jones-Chris-2006)

Second, amid current unrestrained teacher-bashing, anti-teacher union rhetoric, and policy elites’ romance with pay-for-performance schemes these instances of collective teacher action begin to counter the dominant social belief that individual teacher heroes can save schools. We live in a culture where societal rewards (and media attention) go to individuals, a society that worships heroes and yawns at group solidarity. These instances, then, demonstrate the power of teacher-led groups with “strong ties” to design their own professional development, create their own PLCs, and succeed in helping themselves and their students.
Now we're talking. It feels to me like a combination of all three of these descriptions might just take us far.

Effective technology-related professional development:
  • Is generally longer in duration (contact hours plus follow-up, not just drive-by)
  • Provides access to new technologies for teaching and learning
  • Actively engages teachers in meaningful and relevant activities for their individual contexts
  • Promotes peer collaboration and community building
  • Has a clearly articulated and a common vision for student achievement
  • Helps in establishing a culture of technology integration
  • Provides for the modeling of technology use
  • Creates teacher leaders
  • Culminates with the establishment of a teacher-led community of practice
  • Is initiated by teacher-led groups with “strong ties” to design their own professional development and create their own PLCs
With this in mind, there remain a number of essential questions:
  1. What happens (with teacher-led groups designing their own PD) when teachers aren't motivated to learn? In every school, will there always emerge teacher-leaders willing to guide communities of practice?
  2. How do schools continually provide access to new technologies for teaching and learning - and how new is new?
  3. What is the definition of a "clearly articulated and common vision for student achievement"? Does it include quantitative measures?
  4. What role do administrators play in establishing a culture of technology integration - and how might we succeed when building administrators aren't really on board?
  5. Is it possible for District-level Specialists to build "strong ties" with those involved in teacher-led PLCs? What mechanisms might be put in place in order to facilitate ties that extend beyond an individual school?
I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate your take on the answers to my questions.

    Off the Hook (My Response to @mcleod)


    Like Steve, I appreciate your passion and greatly value your ability and willingness to share pieces of this puzzle with so many, on these tremendously important issues (always have, always will!). However, I also think you may have missed my point.

    Like you and Steve (and most folks participating in these online conversations), I feel strongly about technology and its positive pedagogical potential. (Say that three times). Several years ago, I created Pay Attention and still feel strongly about its message. Teachers and administrators alike are often missing the boat when they fail to use technology for collaboration, instruction, and learning. Sheesh, along these lines, I even still think that every teacher should blog. (Think of how incredibly eye-opening it would be for all involved if every educator would only participate in these very important conversations!)

    Nevertheless, just because a person should do something doesn't mean they can - and there are many reasons why teachers and administrators still. just. can’t. Or yes: maybe "won't" is the right word there. Do they need a push? Absolutely. But the point of my previous post was that they need to be pushed with love, with patience, and with understanding.

    To be clear, I think the polarity of this conversation is very telling. Even the comments in your post's thread reflect both extremes. Rattling off just a few from your thread:

    Yes, yes, yes! I get so frustrated when a teacher tells me s/he can’t use technology (of any kind) because “I’m not a techie”.
    Whoa. That sounds very Rhee-esque. Surely you aren’t implying that it is tech-savvyness that makes a teacher a “learner” and “effective”...
    Scott, all I am saying is that it is far too simplistic to draw the conclusion that the “geekier” teachers are better. And, if you agree with this premise, then one could make the argument that less technologically proficient teachers “could” be more effective in some instances.
    I guess I am just reacting the the tone out there/here that technology makes everything better… and the more technology, the better things get. In our impatience with technologizing and web2.0ing everything, many sometimes lose their focus on some things that really matter. Rather than sit and have a meaningful face to face discussion, they have to reserve time in the computer lab so that they can backchannel the discussion because backchanneling is hip. (Yes, I still believe students should be able to speak coherently to one another while maintaining eye contact.)
    I’m torn between both sentiments and need more time to ruminate on this. While how “distorted the view is as seen through the eyes of a typical EduBlogger” is so true, so too is the idea that we simply can’t accept teachers who aren’t willing to try and succeed.
    Hugh McNally:
    Steve Dembo’s right that ed tech people are way ahead of the curve, but maybe that’s not because they’re driving a race car: a lot of educators may, in fact, have a flat tire.
    Colin Matheson:
    I agree that we can’t let teachers off the hook with any kind of professional growth (whether its tech integration or instructional strategies like differentiation). However, the main skill of teaching, ie working with kids day-in-day-out, is so specialized and crucial, that we let teachers slide on a lot of other skills (not just tech). I am willing to concede that many excellent teachers will not have mastery over a wide range of secondary skills (e.g. organization, communication, technology).
    And this tennis match represents only the first few comments!

    To conclude, here's my question of the day:
    • If such polarity exists in online conversations, what kinds of thought might the silent majority bring forward, if only their voices were heard in these spheres?
    The majority online is still very much in the minority; and I'm confident that the majority of those still silent remain silent for reasons more complex than simple laziness, incompetence, and fear. The real issues lie deeper than that. I'm at the point where I think our real job isn't to teach educators how to use all of these shiny new tools. Rather, it's to figure out what's been keeping good teachers from using them all along. Indeed, those second-order barriers are the toughest eggs to crack.

    Keep moving forward, brother. We're all in this together. :-)

    The Reality of the Matter #edchat

    I'm so grateful for Steve Dembo's post entitled The majority is in the minority. In it, he describes his experiences and understanding of today's population of teachers - and how the majority of educators that participate in the blogosphere today are still very much in the minority of educators who even realize that such opportunities exist.

    I had a conversation with a colleague the other day who was lamenting the fact that so many teachers are so far behind (aka ignorant). That they aren’t aware of PLN’s, have never participated in a global project, or make use of wiki‘s and sites like Edmodo. S/he seemed almost pissed off that so many educators don’t make the extra effort to learn all the tools they need to make sure students can be set up to succeed in today’s world.

    I beg to differ. I don’t see it as teachers spurning technology, or choosing not to take advantage of those new ideas and tools. I think most teachers don’t even realize that there’s a decision to be made. It’s not a matter of choosing the red pill or the blue pill… if you don’t know that there are even two pills available as options.
    It's been my experience that Steve's description is spot-on correct. Most teachers don't know what they're missing and they'd often rather not know because they already feel piled upon, used, under-appreciated, under-paid, and frazzled. For that matter, few public school teachers have adequate time to prepare for the curriculum they're asked to address - and most teachers view professional development that isn't job-embedded as additional, unwanted weight to their already busy lives. Testing, testing, testing (including common formative and standardized summative assessments) have become a mandated priority for most in our schools and last year's worksheet is so much easier to distribute than the time consuming efforts it will take to transform pedagogy.

    Honestly, nevertheless, the large majority of teachers that I know are very caring individuals that believe firmly in life-long learning. Most love teaching because making a difference in the lives of our youth can be the most rewarding profession on the planet. Most love kids, love community, and want to share. It's not that they don't want to try new things, it's not that they're lazy, and it's not that they're incapable. Rather, it's that their priorities don't always line up with those of other progressive educators in and out of the blogosphere. I'm not saying it's right, but I am trying to describe the reality that so many in the blogosphere seem to misunderstand.

    As a result, I've taken it upon myself and my team to help teachers in our District overcome the hurdles that might impede them from progressing in their use of technology to teach and to learn. We understand the needs teachers and administrators have (or are trying to understand) and have constructed a support model that allows for ed-tech professional development that is continual, job-embedded, and community-driven. We're constantly learning, teaching our teachers about both blue and red pills, and even passing them out in faculty meetings. Nonetheless, this whole business is extremely complex, significant change comes slowly, and patience is required as we steadfastly trudge forward together.

    Forward. Together. One pill at a time.


    Image source: Flickr user RaGardner4.

    Math Is Not Linear

    I love this. If you're a math geek - or even a geek in love with good presentation - I think you will too. Click the play button at the bottom of the player, give it a spin.

    Teacher Needs in Anticipation of the Instructional Use of Technology

    [I've appreciated recent attempts made to define various needs that teachers have of their school administrators. By way of contribution to the discussion, I thought a few paragraphs from a literature review I recently conducted might be beneficial. As a side note, I think it's unfortunate that there still remains such a disconnect between traditional academic literature and the thinking distributed so easily throughout the blogosphere. Not sure why this disconnect exists - other than TTWWADI, pride, and my brain can beat up your brain - but here's my stab at building a bridge. Too bad my references don't link as well as other online papers do. :) ]

    In preparing to understand the needs teachers might have with regard to realizing the instructional use of technology, it’s important to understand what needs have already been dentified by teachers in other locations, as documented in the academic literature base.

    To begin with, as teachers begin to introduce technology into their pedagogy, they are naturally forced to change instructional behaviors, and as a result, associated attitudes. Fabry and Higgs (1997) have articulated this concept well.

    To integrate technology into classroom practice in the manner envisioned by ardent proponents, teachers must make two radical changes - not only must they learn how to use technology, but they must also fundamentally change how they teach. (p. 386)
    As result, teachers not only need to understand how to use the technology, they must also understand how to use it to enhance the curriculum. The grandeur of this need, and the tasks associated with its support, cannot be overemphasized.

    Levin and Wadmany (2008) shed additional light on teacher needs through their exploratory, longitudinal study that examined six teachers’ views on the factors that affect technology use in the classroom. The needs exhibited by those in their study included:
    • Formal training at an early stage of new classroom experiences with technology.
    • Educational opportunities at subsequent stages of professional growth that facilitate collaboration with colleagues on authentic routine classroom issues.
    • Collaborative opportunities devoted to personally-directed inquiry.
    • Feedback customized for individual circumstances.
    • Mentorship often in the place of authoritative training, particularly in later stages of professional growth.
    The results of the Levin and Wadmany study also support arguments by researchers that follow-up mentoring systems, programs for enhancing professional growth, and informal collegial collaboration are necessary after formal technology integration training. Such follow-up sessions have been shown to foster collaboration and support, address daily challenges, and increase the overall effectiveness of instructional technology use (Sahin and Thompson, 2007; Di Benedetto, 2005).

    To continue, other researchers have identified a wide range of teacher needs, specific to the instructional use of technology. While I've found no extensive reviews of academic findings related specifically to the needs of teachers, many of these needs can be gleaned from the reports that other scholars have provided. Culling from the research on barriers inhibiting teachers from the pedagogical utilization of technology, these needs include:
    • Adequate time to acquire and transfer to practice the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and completely infuse technology into their curricular areas (Hawkins & MacMillan, 1993; Kinnaman, 1990).
    • More time to prepare technology-facilitated resources for lessons, experiment with technology as a learning tool, and create technology-related assessments (Preston, Cox, and Cox, 2000; Lam, 2000).
    • An increase in positive experiences using technology as a productivity tool (Hope, 1998; Snoeyink & Ertmer, 2001).
    • Help in overcoming feelings of anxiety on the part of teachers and a genuine fear of technology (Li, 2007; Stone, 1998) • More confidence in the use of technology and in incorporating new innovation (Hardy, 1998; Dawson & Rakes, 2003).
    • A mechanism for overcoming feelings of intimidation, in light of the possibility that students might know more than them (Fryer, 2003).
    • More ongoing support from specialist mentors and online resources (Sherry, Billig, Tavalin, and Gibson, 2000; Hardy, 1998).
    • An increased ability in dealing with the changing nature of technology itself (Zhao and Frank, 2003).
    • More convenient access to computers and better planning for the use of technology (Smerdon and Cronen, 2000).
    • A better understanding of the advantages that technology integration can provide (Scrimshaw, 2004).
    In summary, teachers “need an attitude that is fearless in the use of technology, encourages them to take risks, and inspires them to become lifelong learners” (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997, p. 11). Fulfilling these needs through whatever means possible might work toward technology integration taking place in schools on a more widespread basis.

    No discussion of teacher needs would be complete without considering also the things teachers need to know in order to appropriately incorporate technology into their teaching. This question of what teachers need to know has received a great deal of attention lately by scholars, government agencies, and educational organizations alike (Smerdon and Cronen, 2000; International Society for Technology in Education, 2008; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997; Zhao, 2003; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1995).

    The National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008) has become a widely accepted set of benchmarks for the kinds of things teachers need to be able to know and do in order to effectively integrate technology. According the these standards, teachers need to:
    • Facilitate student learning and creativity
    • Design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments
    • Model digital-age work and learning
    • Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility
    • Engage in professional growth and leadership
    While on the surface many of these standards appear to reside independent of technology, subtasks developed in ISTE’s list of standards clarify the need for teachers to possess a strong technical background in a wide variety of technology tools.

    Having made it this far:
    1. How are you still awake?
    2. Can you think of any needs teachers might have that aren't included in the list?
    BTW, a list of references - if you're interested - can be found here.

    Focus: What You See Is What You Get

    I wonder if we really understand how much our actions outside of school drastically affect our performance inside of school; but not just our actions - or even those of our children. I'm talking about the actions and attitudes of greater society. Think big.

    Consider for a moment, what might happen if Katy was really the name of an eleventh-grade student, sitting at the 25-yard line in the photo below, intently preparing to take her AP math exam.

    With this level of support, might her academic performance improve? Might she be motivated to put in the time it takes to gain AP-caliber skills? Might those at home also push her toward success, even paying some of the price it takes for nations to be the best?

    While many look to technology as a savior in times of educational distress, until we - as a society - learn to focus on what's truly important... we'll continue to get what we've desired all along. I just wish these desires would have reached loftier heights than the leagues of overinflated egos we continue to pay to entertain us in our weekend stupors.

    Does your school really want to make adequate yearly progress? How about your nation? Might I suggest a change in focus.

    Focus: What you see is what you get.


    Image sources: Flickr users PhilipsPhotos and dsevilla.

    Pay Attention, People

    This is why more teachers today should be using technology to increase student engagement than ever before. Unless you're Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber, or Spiderman, I honestly know of no easier way to effectively increase student motivation.

    You've heard me say it before, but I can't help saying it again: Pay attention, people.

    Good-bye Printed Dictionaries, Hello Increased Sales?

    LONDON (AP) - It weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing. Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it's uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary's next edition will be printed on paper at all.

    The digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary now gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers, who pay $295 a year for the service in the U.S. In contrast, the current printed edition _ a 20-volume, 750-pound ($1,165) set published in 1989 _ has sold about 30,000 sets in total.

    This is the first time I remember seeing a major player like this admit that online resources are bringing in more revenue than traditional media.

    Cross-posted on Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.

    Leadership Day 2010

    Wondering what leaders in the field of education are currently thinking? This year's list is larger than ever and full of a wide range of excellent posts, written by leaders in the field that have learned that one of the simplest ways to extend one's sphere of influence is to simply link to others while posting to a blog.

    If you're a "leader" in education, then what are you waiting for?

    (And it sure beats watching TV!)

    Cross-posted on Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.

    Recent Inspiration

    I thought I'd take a few of the more meaningful statements I've heard and read lately and share with you the images that have been brought to my mind.

    Original image source: Flickr user It'sGreg
    Quotation source: Erica Goldson
    • Question: What are you doing to ensure that next year's Valedictorian doesn't one-up Ms. Goldson?

    Original image source: Flickr user
    Quotation source: Scott McLeod
    • Answer: Um, good question.
    • More serious answer: This year in our District, we will be developing a series of after-school classes that parents can attend with their students. These classes will focus on social networking and other technology-related behaviors that today's kids engage in.
    • Question: Are the issues surrounding teaching kids about online social networking similar to those also surrounding sex-ed?

    Original image source: Flickr user natalielucier
    Quotation source: Elliot Soloway
    • Question: What is your school doing with data? Is it helping kids learn?

    Original image source: Flickr user horizontal.integration
    Quotation source: Chris Lehmann
    • Question: What is your school doing to build citizens? I mean, other than helping them pass the test...
    Finally, one that I found while searching for pics. I just couldn't pass this up.

    Original image source: Flickr user superkimbo in BKK.
    Quotation source: Kim Cofino

    Strong. Very strong.

    Innovators or Cheapskates?

    Does this graphic illustrate that North America is lacking in innovation or spending more on research and development?

    Cross-posted on Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.

    The Most Important Post of the Year, Valedictorians, and Getting Out As Soon As Possible

    This isn't the most important post of the year.

    But this is; the text of a speech given by the Valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School a few weeks back, I'm struck by how bold she was at a time she could have behaved so typical. Instead:

    School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.
    Click through, give it a read, come back and let's talk.

    My initial take? Donna Bryan, the "avant-garde tenth grade English teacher" referenced in the talk, deserves a healthy dose of merit pay.

    Introducing @Alltop_Edu. Plays well with #Flipboard.

    Why I love social media:

    For those not living on the technology planet, consider this carefully:
    1. Guy Kawasaki (Wikipedia entry) is one of the most influential people in all of Internet-dom.
    2. Before yesterday, his path had never crossed mine.
    Now several important questions, which may or may not apply to you:
    1. If you're a teacher, why aren't you empowering your students to access the potential of networked learning?
    2. If you're an administrator, why would you ever want to prevent teachers and students from accessing this kind of tool? Are you afraid of the power? While you might be afraid of its potential for evil, consider first its potential for good.
    Regardless of how you answered the above questions:

    Quit acting so surprised when kids complain of boredom and irrelevancy because they're forced to sit in the technologically-barren, disconnected environments some call "school". School to me should be empowering. School to me should be engaging. School to me should be real.

    There's tremendous potential for good in networked learning environments. To ignore this fact - as a teacher and as a learner - is wrong.

    For the record, I was @Alltop_Edu's first follower.

    Enhancing Teachers’ Take-up of Digital Content - Further Evidence of Intrinsic Barriers to Technology Integration

    The Enhancing_Teacher_Takeup_of_Digital_Content_Report commissioned by Education Services Australia (a merger between Curriculum Corporation and and written by Professor Michael Gaffney has recently been published.

    The Executive Summary explains:

    • Although digital uptake in schools is increasing, many teachers do not use technology in their classroom.

    While at ISTE this year, I met an IT Director from Australia that was in a school that had been using laptops with their students for the last 14 years. He mentioned that in spite of his students having such open access to computers, his number one problem was getting his school's teachers to use the technology.

    This document alone illustrates that there are multiple factors at play - multiple barriers to technology integration - and sometimes bridging the digital divide requires more than just money and equipment. At times, the largest barriers are those caused by deep philosophical convictions maintained by teachers and school administrators alike.

    I'm interested to see how well the recommendations made in the "Enhancing Teacher Takeup" document serve to improve the pedagogical use of technology in Australian schools.

    Cross-posted on Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.

    On Administrators' Choice to Do Nothing

    In this year's Leadership Day post, Scott McLeod has raised a number of important issues.

    There’s a concept in the law known as willful blindness. The idea is that one deliberately takes steps to avoid seeing what’s right in one’s face. To how many of our school principals and superintendents does this concept apply? What can we do to help (make) them SEE?

    “Hi. I know the world has changed. There is compelling evidence staring me in the face as an administrator that business as usual just isn’t going to suffice in this new digital, global society. Not if we are to prepare students for the next half century rather than the last. But you know what? No thanks. I choose to do nothing.

    Nope. I’ll probably never understand that one…
    I can definitely see where Scott is coming from and empathize with his frustration with many educator's rate of change. However, I'm not convinced the situation hinges solely on administrator choice. Education is complex and requires answers far more intricate that a mere change of administrator will. In explaining my point of view, I think the comments of Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach are important and deserve repeating. I agree with both, and feel that each lies near the heart of the matter.

    From Will (emphasis mine):
    ...The other reality is that many of them don’t want to hear this conversation because, if we’re doing our jobs well, we’re asking them to radically change their views of schooling and learning. And finally, while they might “see” these changes in their students and in society, most of them are not willing to risk under achieving on the traditional measures for the sake of adding networked learning into their curricula.
    From Sheryl (emphasis mine):
    ...while they understand the need for change, [many administrators] are clueless as to what to do. None of them were given reculturing 101 in their leadership courses.

    ...I agree, most do get why. It is the “how” they need–we all need.

    ...We all start at ground zero when learning something new. Leaders have to go through Piaget’s stages of assimilation and accommodation just like students do.
    In the end, I think that behind the "I choose to do nothing" facade lies a complex combination of a number of contributing factors. Key players include the fact that:
    • Most school administrators are not willing to risk under achieving on the traditional measures for the sake of adding networked learning into their curricula.
    • Few school administrators were given Reculturing 101 in their leadership courses or in their formal professional development since.
    • Education is riddled by powerful (and often invisible) political forces at work that neither we nor the greatest school administrators will ever be able to break. With so many hands in the pot, significant change often comes at great costs.
    • As horrible as this might sound, because schools have become traditional public centers of cultural activity, it's easy (for administrators and others) to forget the purpose of schooling. Is it athletics? Is it public performance? Is it to fashion identity? Is it to mold a citizenry? Is it to learn? Yes.
    My two cents, for what it's worth.


    Image source: Scott McLeod. If you're a school administrator and interested it taking steps toward better addressing the learning needs of your students, I highly recommend a careful perusal of the resources Dr. McLeod has recently shared with other leaders like you at this year's Leadership Boot Camp. Well worth your time.

    A Dropout Epidemic

    If I'm reading this right, then it looks like you get what you pay for.

    Cross-posted on Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.

    EduBloggerWorld, Helping Others, and the Business of Education

    EduBloggerWorld (EBW) is dying.

    With Ning's announcement several weeks ago that they would be moving toward a pricing structure that doesn't provide free services to networks with more than 150 members, we're not sure how we won't be forced to close the doors and gently nudge EBW's members to another network. What's worse, it feels like it's the network that's really tying all of EBW's 1,600+ members together, given such a wide distribution of varying national representation. I would estimate that less than 5% of EBW's members have ever met face to face.

    As a result, I'm doubtful that large pockets of members will shift spaces together and sadly suspect that closing the doors to EBW will mean the end of many meaningful relationships forged on the site. Sure, there's Twitter, Facebook, Classroom 2.0, and the blogosphere itself, but the membership of EBW seems to occupy a niche of international flavor not openly expressed, emphasized, nor embraced in other spaces.

    Honestly, I'm torn by many things related to this turn of events. First, I'm frustrated by Ning, Pearson, and the commercialization of education. One walk through the vendor floor at any major conference and you can tell that education now means big bucks. If we truly believe that education is for the benefit of greater society, then why don't more companies give more for our future? I think Wikispaces, for example, has set a very good example along these lines - as Ning once did. But Ning's sell-out to Pearson frustrates and saddens me, all at the same time.

    The big business of education, clearly evident at ISTE.

    A second area of trouble for me in this regard is that of focus. While my job now consumes much of my time and requires me to focus sharply on the needs of teachers and students in my District (and rightly so), I still feel strongly that the key to our future success depends greatly on how much we're willing and how well we're able to help and work with others outside our immediate sphere. Honestly, I think the answer to the question I posed during Richard's ISTE keynote (shared below) is a resounding "YES!"

    If those of us living in favorable circumstances don't take the time to make the effort to help those less fortunate, then how can we say, at the end of the day, that the sum of our efforts has been a success?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we might save EBW or your predictions on what will happen to the communities formed in the network after its demise.

    On Empathy, Culture, and Barriers to Making Technology Integral to Teaching

    When Alan November taught his ISTE audience about empathy, making a strong case for its placement at the top of the list of critical 21st Century skills, he helped me understand why it's still still difficult to persuade so many in education that the global, technologically-driven approach to learning really can be the better way. At this moment in time, I'm no longer convinced that it’s the technology alone that so many fear. Sure, technology can be intimidating in and of itself; but quite often, I think that it's what people might find on the other side of that technology that likely seems so scary. When technology means communication and collaboration with others outside of our comfortable sphere, then barriers of security quite naturally arise.

    Nevertheless, these aren't new fears, far from it. In fact, these are the same feelings of fright and apprehension we've been fighting as a planet for millennia.

    With the push in recent decades toward an increased use of technology in education, scholars have been busy researching and documenting its successes and failures, as well as the factors inhibiting technology’s use as a pedagogical tool. Peggy A. Ertmer, for example, has done substantial work in this area. Following Brickner’s (1995) lead, Ertmer has described barriers to technology integration in schools as being either first- or second-order. This is important.

    Thus, first-order barriers to technology integration are described as being extrinsic to teachers and include lack of access to computers and software, insufficient time to plan instruction, and inadequate technical and administrative support. In contrast, second-order barriers are intrinsic to teachers and include beliefs about teaching, beliefs about computers, established classroom practices, and unwillingness to change. While many first-order barriers may be eliminated by securing additional resources and providing computer-skills training, confronting second-order barriers requires challenging one's belief systems and the institutionalized routines of one's practice. Thus, in terms of technology integration, this may require reformulating basic school culture notions regarding what constitutes content and content coverage, what comprises learning and engaged time, and even, what behaviors define “teaching”. (Ertmer, 1999, p. 48; see also Ertmer, 2005)

    At this point in the evolution of our field, I think there are many teachers for which technology has become integral to nearly every aspect of their job. However, for those still striving to integrate – or worse, for those still hesitant resistant to integrate – I think that an additional second-order barrier lies in the cultural differences that exist between teachers on opposite ends of any collaboration that might take place.

    "What will I find on the other side? What if they're different? Can they be trusted? I think I'm scared. Why should I care?"

    Furthermore, until collaboration is a behavior naturally included in every educator’s definition of teaching, then many of the contemporary promotions of technology in education will continue to be little more than spit in the wind.

    To illustrate, take Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay as perfect examples. I remember reading about their first Flat Classroom Project together back in 2006. In that and subsequent Flat Classroom Projects, students from different countries and backgrounds work together to research, discuss, and envision the education and society of the future, basing hypotheses on trends outlined in each year’s Horizon Report (click here to see K12 edition of the report for this year). Because the students and teachers that participate in these projects come from different countries – Bangladesh, Australia, Austria, China, and the United States in 2006 – strong cultural differences become evident as they learn to collaborate and work together to create successful products. As a result, these projects can be exhilarating, to be sure; nevertheless, they can also be challenging as the meshing of cultures is rarely easily accomplished.

    In surveying the sessions that were offered at this year’s ISTE conference, it becomes clear that collaboration and global participation has been a common theme. Every ISTE keynote focused on the importance of global collaboration and working together as equal partners to solve the problems that plague our world. As teachers from the East collaborate with students from the West, each brings to the table the sum of their life experiences – culminating in an exciting cornucopia of religious, ethnic, and lifestyle differences.

    My experiences at ISTE this year taught me that technology now serves as a critical thread that ties many of us together in learning. That, to me, is exciting, fascinating, and scary: all at the same time. I’m happy to see so many embrace the diversity that can and will exist in our field – and hopeful that others more apprehensive will learn to overcome their fears in realization that the global, technologically-driven approach to learning really can be the better way.


    Original image source: Flickr user bench_30.

    • Brickner, D. (1995). The effects of first and second order barriers to change on the degree and nature of computer usage of secondary mathematics teachers: A case study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
    • Ertmer, P. (1999). Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(4), 47-61.
    • Ertmer, P. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: the final frontier in our quest for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25-39.

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