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. :-)

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