Transform the instructors first?

Here’s a short Twitter conversation that I had with Mary Zedeck on Wednesday:




I’ve been thinking about the question that I asked Mary. I wonder how many P-12 teachers or postsecondary faculty have had transformative experiences using technology. In other words, how many of them have personally intersected with some of the world-changing and paradigm-shifting possibilities that are out there? And for those who have, how many of them really understood what happened (i.e., how many recognized the bigger implications of the event that they personally experienced)?

Can we realistically expect educators who have not personally had (and understood) transformative technology experiences to create such experiences for their students? If not (and I’m guessing not), what implications does this have for our preservice and inservice training efforts?

17 Responses to “Transform the instructors first?”

  1. Scott,
    I’ve been having a similar discussion with people. I’m working on a brief about the intersections between tech literacy and tech integration. I think we need newer, better definitions of those two concepts that includes the concept of shifting from traditional uses of technology (supporting instruction) to transformative uses… timely, makes me feel like there is some substance to my discussions. It’s not really about the tools, its the pedagogy that matters.

  2. My long-winded commentary on issues of educational technology in schools can be seriously distilled down on this one.

    You hit the nail on the head here. This is why I have tried so hard to aim in this direction before continuing to make massive purchases of equipment. Can we realistically expect transformation of the classroom while bypassing the experiences of the lead learner in the classroom? No.

    What percentage of our staff nationwide has had “transformative technology experiences?” I would assert from experience as an instructional coach that this is a very, very small number.

    This has huge implications. I believe it is likely issue #1. Our teaching force needs PD that moved rapidly from a focus on tools to a focus on challenges that require these tools. You give the transformation you get.

  3. @Brett: Would love to see your brief when it’s done!

    @Sean Nash: I really like your last sentence: “You give the transformation you get.” Nicely said.

  4. What counts as transformational? What if the teacher has had experiences over time that have transformed his/her thinking, but because it was gradual they don’t notice it as such? An example, using an iPod to listen to music put on by someone else, much later taking control of what music is on the iPod, then discovering podcasts, then using podcast content here or there in the classroom, eventually even creating their own podcast, and now considering having their students create podcasts or getting a set of iPods to use for classroom learning. This could easily have taken place over the last 7 years. Maybe the thing they are looking at now are apps. I doubt my colleagues would label that set of experiences as transformational, maybe evolutional.

  5. Education, by nature, should be a transformative experience in many ways. I think you are correct in wondering aloud about the connection between transformative technology experiences and creating the same in a classroom for other learners.

    I might suggest that a possible solution to this would be for a rethinking of how pre-service teacher are taught. I recall my own classes which were lecture based, back in an era when technology was absent in higher education (except for programming courses). Few if any of those classes did much to prepare me to be a progressive educator. I hear far too many stories about the same type of experience in today’s teacher ed programs.

    If one of our goals is to see teachers creating transformative learning experiences in their classrooms, we need to build an environment where they will potentially have these experiences themselves. Here is just one thought I have toyed with and shared with Alec Couros and Dean Shareski yesterday:

    “Class time.” Most professors require attendance and work it into the factoring of a grade. Why does a student need to be AIS (ass in seat) in order to learn from their professor? If a professor offers his class with these options:

    1. Real time in the classroom (w/ backchannel he/she is tapped into)
    2. Real time on the web video & audio (w/ backchannel he/she is tapped into)
    3. Real time on the web audio only (w/ backchannel he/she is tapped into)
    4. Archived access on the web video & audio (w/ tools for annotation and Q?A space)
    5. Archived on the web audio only (w/ tools for annotation and Q?A space)

    he/she creates a different, technology rich (it exists organically, as part of the environment) and allows students ownership of their learning experience.

    As just one little piece of a teacher ed program this might lay the groundwork where a pre-service teacher can have a transformative experience that will influence their future work in a classroom.

    – Greg

  6. A big life changing experience is hard to create in PD experience to begin with. I have found that embedding technology in a variety of ways in other PD will often get teachers to start the think about things differently, then start a conversation with me about their thoughts. That’s when planning and instructional support actually give me the opportunity for transformation. “Sit and Get” just doesn’t get us there, but embedded technology (with why it helps differentiation, or visual learners, or digital learners) will often open the door to transformation.

  7. I demonstrated how to use RSS feeds to help with research to my personal finance students this morning. A collective look of “OMG this will save so much time” came over the entire room. Anyway I hope that was a beginning of a transformative experience that will change they way they go about navigating the web.

  8. I would be most grateful if some of the folks talking about transformational uses of technology in education could provide an example of that in action. Regrettably, the bar for what is considered “transformation” seems to lower with each passing day.

    I was at FETC last week. There was hardly a single item being sold in the exhibit hall that was transformative or I would want any child I cared about to have in her classroom. The software from Tech4Learning is a noted exception.

  9. Scott,

    I think this question is at the core of the problem with moving things forward.

    But I agree that the process may be “evolutionary” over time as well.

    Beginning with teacher training is powerful, but what about teachers already in the classroom?

    How do we provide/invite teachers into experiences that are evolutionary or transformative?

    I think the key is understanding the problem. If you don’t, then you are just randomly throwing “things” or “training” out there, without any sense of your own direction.

  10. I would define learning with technology as transformational when the learner of any age comes back to the teacher/facilitator and says, “Let me show you what I discovered/accomplished.”

    This happens constantly with many technologies but the current leader is probably iPhone/iPod Touch.

  11. One of the reasons that transformation in education is meeting so much resistance is that we’re really asking all of the people in management roles to fire themselves. Even if they don’t quite understand the true power of the new ICT world, the managers of the system can feel or sense that this new thing is going to disrupt significantly the current paper passing meeting convening system and if they can’t see their safe spot in the new system, they will resist.

    Teachers and parents will also resist if they, too, can’t see their relatively safe spot in the new order. Transformation will occur when the old way is more trouble than the new way. The speed at which things change is relative; a calamitous event is possible, but less likely than gradual change, I think.

  12. I think @SeanNash hits the nail on the head with his comment. You must show teachers how these tools solve a problem they already have. I think @Carolyn Foote makes several important points as well about getting to the heart of the problem and getting teachers who are already in the classroom motivated to change. Student engagement is a huge “buzzword” in preservice training. Give and show examples of classrooms where all kids engaged! Many of the teachers I work with see anything new as a “OH, and you want me to do this, too?” instead of, here’s how you can engage those very students who are driving you nuts( of course you might want to leave out that it’s because they continue to teach the way they did 20 yrs ago). Thanks for the food for thought.

  13. Wow!

    I am not impressed when kids can share something they learned with such a simple device as a phone or iPod. Kids have always known things that adults don’t know. Sharing them is good, but transformative?

    What is the evidence of transformation?

    BTW: If you want a model where such student-empowered leadership flourishes, you should consider

  14. Seems like an expectation that teachers have transformative experiences before they use technology in the classroom simply sets up another roadblock/excuse for it not to happen.

  15. @shelly Great post on your blog very relative to this post.
    Can we realistically expect educators who have not personally had (and understood) transformative technology experiences to create such experiences for their students?
    If not (and I’m guessing not), what implications does this have for our preservice and inservice training efforts?
    Shelly has a great idea for this that starts with making the transformative experience relative to teachers, read her post.

  16. @Gary I agree that simply giving students the tools is not transformative. However, if left in the hands of many teachers, the tools become little more than electronic versions of their analog predecessors. So I guess I’m agreeing with those who think teachers need some type of transformative experience before they “get it.” I saw this happen when (unfortunately only a select few) teachers received laptops, again when people obtained digital cameras, and now when they get iPhones or iPod Touch: It’s the “What’s Your Favorite App?” phenomenon. Unfortunately we missed the first two waves, so we need to grab this one and run with it. The excitement is here, so we need to take advantage of it and help teachers learn to work with their students as communities of learners to use these tools in new and powerful ways.

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