Are we edubloggers too harsh on our kids’ teachers?

Will Richardson and Alec Couros are frustrated with their kids’ teachers. Lee Kolbert pushed back. Gary Stager chimed in too, as did many others in the various comment areas.

Normalcurve01I greatly empathize with Will’s and Alec’s concerns. After all, I see what Kathy Cassidy does with her 6–year-olds and I want that experience for my 6–year-old. I see the work that Brian Crosby does with his 5th-graders and I want that experience for my 5th-grader. I see the cool stuff that Dan Meyer and Jason Dyer are doing in their math classes and I want that experience for my kids. I’d rather my children have a Conspiracy Code-like Social Studies experience than a Thutmose III multiple-choice worksheet Social Studies experience. And so on…

Many of us edubloggers read, watch, and/or listen to cutting-edge educational practice EVERY SINGLE DAY. We see and interact with teachers who live in the nose-bleeding margin of the stratosphere when it comes to technology integration and instruction for higher-order thinking. We know of administrators who are trying hard to create whole new paradigms of schooling. Over time, we begin to normalize these actions and internalize them as ‘best’ or ‘desired’ practice.

Given that there is an innovation adoption curve, is it fair to expect our local educators to measure up? Can they ever do so? Are we edubloggers (myself included) too harsh on our kids’ teachers?

49 Responses to “Are we edubloggers too harsh on our kids’ teachers?”

  1. Thanks for blogging about this issue. I completely agree. Being an early adopter of technology does not on its own make one a good teacher. I’d much rather work with a teacher who is not tech-savvy but has a really good grasp of assessment and evaluation, lesson design, and cooperative learning, than their opposite counterparts. Obviously it would be great if a teacher could be knowledgeable in all those areas but we have to recognize that our colleagues are all at different stages of ability and readiness just as our students are and that doesn’t make them bad teachers.

  2. Too harsh? Perhaps the tone is too harsh.
    Wrong? No.

    I’m not a parent, but I walk a similar line working with my colleagues. At the beginning of the school year students come to my classroom and ask permission to use their school-issued netbooks. My response is, “you never have to ask that question in here.” The same scenario applies with Wikipedia and any number of other websites. Students come to me from teachers who are not immersed in learning about the web and learning about best practices for teaching with technology. So when student X goes to Mr. or Ms. X’s x class and shares what they did with me that day I do wonder if I’ve unintentionally made my colleague look bad in front of students. Which is not something I want to do. After all I do have to work with these people.

    On a related note, I had a student’s parent request a transfer out of my class this week because according to the parent, “Mr. Byrne uses too much technology.”

    • I do agree with Richard. Although, I am a parent, but my kids are grown. Recently I changed positions and moved to teaching at a different university. I hate to admit that I have found myself saying that I sure am glad my kids are not of school age because the schools are so far behind in technology and using next to no technology and the network nazi’s are alive and well.

      And I do agree with Scott, it is not the teachers fault! I do think we are too hard on them (us). Schools buy technology, but provide little or no staff development.

      I also have a similar experience with the technology in my classroom. But it is just a little different, the fact that students can use their technology so little in other classes just freaks them out in my class when we use technology so much. And these are college kids, education majors, all will be classroom teachers very shortly.

      How scary is that, NOT ALL, but a large percentage of future educators are scared of technology, very closed minded about technology and most have had little exposure to technology. It is amazing how much they change during the semester I have them in my Technology for Teaching and Learning class. Just the exposure during this one little makes a huge difference.

    • After reading all of the comments that came after mine, I feel like I need to clarify that my example of using technology was not intended to make the equation that using technology equals good teaching. I used that as an example of how those of us in the classroom have to walk a line of not unintentionally making a colleague look lesser in the minds of our students. As Chris Lehmann and others have pointed out in the comments, it’s not about the technology it’s about making our students’ learning experiences better.

      • Totally agree, it should not be about the technology, but about the learning, unfortunately, when you are scared of the technology, it is about the technology. Hopefully, we are all making progress and moving forward and making it more about the learning.

  3. Too harsh? Absolutely.

    Too quick to jump to conclusions? Yup.

    Going to accomplish less than they could because of their instant criticism instead of building rapport? You bet.

  4. I agree that it is harsh. On one hand I think it is good to expect everyone from students to teachers to administrators to college professors to continually reflect and improve their practice. One the other hand, I am always looking for proof and data that the technology helps kids understand more. I know it engages them more than a worksheet, to be sure and anecdotally and marginally quantitatively I know that when used with good pedagogy, it seems to make a difference, but I’d rather see a teacher focus first on the good pedagogy than the technology. Digital tools are that; a tool. The goal is learning, not using tech.

  5. The good news is that (if the innovation adoption curve is correct) our great-grandchildren should all be well educated.

  6. @ Dareen- What defines “well educated”?

    I am a product of what many edubloggers (and others) say is a broken system, yet I am well -educated. My children are currently going through this system as we speak, and I think they are becoming “well educated” even though my wife and I need to supplement in areas we think are important. In our minds, good pedagogy is more important than innovation.

  7. Another topic to consider is how much of your own personal opinion and bias do you pass on to your own child, knowingly and unknowingly. Being in education makes us quick to judge against what we would do, and too often, I do it out loud. FYI – I also defend teachers to my sons. (Like the one SS teacher who taught my son how to take notes from a text- Splendid!)

    My kids groan when they are assigned “arts & craps” as I call many busywork poster assignments. Public school math textbooks? It’s hard to keep my mouth shut. My son’s Geometry text was so poor (and the teacher unable to challenge him) that he skipped Geometry altogether. Kudos to the teacher for recognizing this. At Back to School night, she explained that she chose the text not for its content, but because it came with IWB materials. I kept my mouth shut.

  8. @Barry

    I think an important distinction needs to be made between what it means to be well educated and well schooled.

  9. Too harsh? Absolutely not. My daughter’s school is quite fond of saying they hold students to “high expectations” and students will experience “consequences” if they fail to meet those expectations. This policy applies to both behavior and academics.

    My daughter and I have equally high expectations for the quality of teaching she experiences each day, yet we are continually dismayed and disappointed in teachers who hand out loads of worksheets, assign chapter reading and complete the questions at the end work, and use overhead projectors to “teach” by insisting kids copy down everything on the overhead for 45 minutes each day.

    When teachers fail to meet high expectations and do a lousy job of teaching, students and parents have no recourse. We can attempt to educate the teacher, complain to the principal, join school committees and volunteer until we drop. Even if we do those things, we are at risk of being labeled over involved, meddling or helicopter parents.

    If students are held to high expectations, teachers should be accountable for equally high expectations and ignoring best practices, current research and technology should not be allowed. My daughter, and all kids, deserve better.

  10. In theory, yes. In practice, me personally, no, or perhaps, rarely. I try to not second guess the teacher in the classroom. They don’t have just my child, they have a lot of things to juggle. If my child is learning, we may complain about the arts and craps (love that phrase Cassy!), but we do it, and I try to encourage patience with teachers who aren’t the best for my child. If its really not working, then it’s after schooling or homeschooling (yep, did that for a year–though not because of the teachers–middle school is tough on some kids). Learning how to learn in a sub-optimal environment is a good thing to learn too.

  11. Good questions, Scott, to which I would add one more – given that many educators who spend so much time online have high expectations of what happens in the classroom, what can we do to help move other teachers along the adoption curve? And keeping Barry’s comments above in mind, we need to focus our discussions with them focused on pedagogy, not technology.

  12. I agree with Danika that being an early adopter doesn’t necessarily make you a great teacher. Though after five years of post-secondary industry level teaching and over 10 years of production experience, I can also say I know a great number of educators who do both very well.

    The best measure of this is what our students have to say – not the perceptions of colleagues, who may often have their own insecurities, hangups or biases (especially those who view other teachers as competition rather than community). And I’ve met enough teachers who aren’t particularly self actualised enough to even reflect on their own practice with any depth or sophistication …

    I’m also not sure anybody’s in a position to judge our teaching unless they have actually been present in our classes to observe what we do (or don’t), first hand (though how a teacher defines their philosophies or approaches might offer some clues …).

    What’s really missing in all of this is the perspective of those we teach. For me as a post secondary teacher, I had access to my students as adult emerging professionals – many of whom were middle aged. I have had the good fortune to stay in contact with a great number of my students and observe their progress beyond the classroom. And they’ve kept in touch to share their feedback about my teaching and their learning.

    Finally, I’ve had the first hand experience (recently) of hiring practices that might exclude really good teachers from ever entering the classroom. I, myself, do not have the privilege to wait around for a school board to notice me while more compelling teaching and learning projects beckon. And this is why so many of my friends in media and creative production have no interest in teaching – either they didn’t have the grades or else they don’t fit the conventional idea of what a teacher should be. So that’s why they become game designers. The good news is, many of the most interesting people around ARE engaging our kids in learning – but they aren’t doing so in the classroom.

    If we’re going to ask questions about who should be teaching our kids we should also ask questions about where our kids actually learn and who they want to learn from.

  13. The early adopters are way beyond the sort of thing Couros and Stager are talking abouts.

    Those things are well entrenched in the mainstream, so much so that six-year-olds are doing them.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call out teachers and name them for their actual placement on the innovation curve: laggards.

  14. As a teacher, I remember throughout my career parents who barged in and griped at me about something or the other. It’s part of the job and I believe this will continue to happen. Just the other day a great educator that uses technology tweeted a parent withdrew his son from his class because he used technology. How many of us get the 3rd degree for using technology in our curriculum? I bet many of us, because not all parents are on board and they have their presumptions. Dealing with parents is part of our job. The way I take it is that I rather have parents who care so much to be involved in their child’s education rather than not at all.

    I think we should hold educators and administrators accountable. They don’t necessarily have to use web 2.0 tools but the majority of the curriculum shouldn’t be completing worksheets, burying the student in a textbook, or filling out or preparing them for bubble tests. I’ve seen teachers use video projects, scavenger hunts, software creatively, and more and I’ve praised them for that. What is important is if the child is engaged, problem-solving, and learning how to collaborate with their peers.

    The people mentioned above not only use technology but additionally they have their students use these higher-order skills. I’ve seen teachers who just have students play drilling games most of the time on the computer and that’s all and I would speak up about that, too. I don’t know why we should stay silent. Educators are preparing children to be future CEOs, engineers, educators, and more. Being an educator is a serious calling and if we treat it like less and fear holding each other accountable than we don’t give it that respect. So we shouldn’t just tell the teacher their instructional practices aren’t crap and we should definitely share with the teachers resources to help them with their professional development and have them become part of the conversation, but definitely I don’t think we are being too harsh. That’s a caring parent’s role. Someone has to make sure the majority of our students aren’t being prepared to be experts at low level-skills. I applaud these educators for speaking up.

  15. @ Cassyt
    I’ve learned this the hard way. I loved Alfie Khon’s book “the Homework Myth”. I made the mistake one evening of asking my twin sons how their busy work was coming along. Apparently they repeated this hook line and sinker the next day and asked their teacher for more authentic homework. It was entertaining to say the least.

  16. I certainly think working with the principal and administration is another good place parents can start.

    Joining committees relating to curriculum or instruction, getting to know the principal and sharing resources with them is a good way to help them help their teachers.

    I do think it’s harsh if we don’t understand that it takes time for change to happen, that every school is different and has different leadership, or if we are condescending.

    I think it’s excellent to have high expectations but I also think it does take time — and I think that early adopters have to understand that the rest of the world may be four or five years behind them, which is a tough thing to swallow sometimes.

    I think the more all of us work with/write to/speak with administrators, the more difference we can make. Innovative teachers often find themselves rather alone, and building supportive environments in schools for innovation makes a great deal of difference.

    And our leaders are also the ones who can take the focus purely off of “testing” and on to teaching–knowing that if you teach well, the learning will follow.

  17. My kids are just starting organized schooling (pre-K) i could care less what he’s taught. As long as their nice to him. Given the usefulness of the majority of what we teach kids in our school system, I imagine i will continue to feel this way.

  18. Jamie (AKA @fiteach) Reply September 13, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I have read a lot of the discussion surrounding this issue on Twitter and in blogs. As a teacher who is relatively new to Twitter, tech integration, following educational research, blogging, etc., I do not think that a teacher should be immediately judged by how much technology they use, how many textbooks they use, or any other actions that they currently use. However, I do believe that I should be held accountable for listening to concerns, for being open to change, and be willing to try new things when they present themselves. I know many teachers who would like to learn and try new things in their classrooms, but are faced with blocked websites, denied access to applications, and forced use of the materials (ie textbooks and tests) provided by the school division. So yes, express your concerns, talk to me, see where I’m at and where I would like to go on my journey. And if I am unwilling to change, then express your concerns to my administrator. But please, don’t charge into my classroom like a bull in a china shop (not saying that any of you have, but I’ve experienced it) or go straight to my admin without talking to me, because I am likely to fight back to protect myself before I can really hear what you have to say.

  19. No. We’re not. Will, for example, is working with his school to help them change their pedagogy. Jakob’s principal is one of my very close colleagues, and several of his teachers have come to SLA to see what they can learn from our inquiry-based model. Gary Stager has given his time freely to his school, often to find that his offers of help fell on deaf ears. If people are just criticizing, yes, that’s not good, but I don’t think that’s what we’ve seen.

    In the end, I’m not concerned about whether or not Jakob’s teacher use technology… I want to know that my son’s education will be dictated by more than NCLB.

  20. It seems to me that this is sort of an offshoot of the ivory-white-tower argument: the people who are critical are saying, “Here’s a great, different idea. You can actually do this if you decide that you want to.” The people who are on the receiving end of the criticism are saying, “you have no idea what it’s like to live in my world, shove your Utopian ideas.”

    To me, the question isn’t “are you too harsh,” rather, “is what you’re proposing truly practical in given situations?” Off of that, is everything old, bad? Is a teacher-centered class room that we derisively call the sage on a stage always bad? Not too terribly long ago (like, yesterday), people paid money for the right to sit in the presence of these sages and be filled with their knowledge. Some people call it college. Heck, wasn’t Socrates a sage on a stage? Isn’t TED?

    You’re asking people who still believe that cursive has a place other than in signatures, and pen is the only acceptable medium for writing to . . . what? Get with the times? They still wear holiday sweaters for God’s sake!

    These aren’t bad teachers (all of them), and they aren’t mal-intentioned people (most of them). We would do well to remember that when constructing our rhetoric, outrage, and frustration. We would also do well to remember that sometimes the teachers who put desks in rows, maintain an orderly classroom through seemingly Draconian measures, and assign the occasional worksheet, can also be good teachers and worthy sages.

    It’s never too critical and harsh if you’re right, and I think you(we) are. However, the tone could be less holier-than-thou and have some more humility. If you’re turning off the people you’re trying to convince (see comment about tone) . . . well, what’s the sense in doing all of that?

  21. What an interesting topic. I know I am to blame of second guessing what my child’s teacher have done, but I do hold my thoughts and opinions back.

    Like many others who have commented, it is extremely important that the technology be linked hand in hand with the pedagogy. Having an IWB does nothing, if the students are not engaged throughout the lesson. Too many times have I seen teachers beg and cry for “the latest technology gadget” only to get frustrated with it in a matter of months.

    I do agree that the best way to get things moving in the right direction is to request a meeting with the teacher and start discussing some ideas. It’s never a good idea to go above the teacher, nor around as well. Working side by side well accomplishes more and builds a great foundation for communication as well.

  22. Scott, I tried commenting on Lee’s blog, but I think I was too over the top in response, so it did not appear. I hope this is ok…

    This whole thing has got me, an early edtech adopter, shaking my head – once again. I shook my head over 4 years ago in 2 blog posts, the first a ranting reaction to being told how to use technology in my classroom by non teachers:

    The second was a reflection on that outburst and resulting comments from others. It was a very, very divisive situation, and it turns my stomach to read it all now:

    So Will’s and Chris’s thoughts as parents lamenting their teachers’ lack of use of new technologies (or get off the bus!), struck a nerve.

    To be clear, I have been on the leading edge of edtech internet technology use, in some areas at least, for over 16 years. Although I don’t have the resources to attend edtech conferences in person, I follow them virtually. Occasionally, I get to see somebody in person. Scott, I first “met” you on a skype call in a Wes Fryer preso in Seattle (I think you were were in Mumbai?). I’ve learned lots from edubloggers. Will and Chris are the best, I love them. But…

    I’m beginning my sixth year with a group of third grade bloggers. I have 17 high end desktop/laptops and 10 XO laptops in my classroom. Nobody in my school has the tech resources I have in my classroom – nor does anybody else in Seattle. I got all this stuff on my own – and yes, I do my own tech support.

    But what about everybody else? What about the teacher who has 3-5 computers (8+ years old) in their classroom next door to me? With a computer lab closed for 3 months of the school year for high stakes testing?

    I would never IN A MILLION YEARS question a teachers’ lack of daily use of those dinosaurs to integrate technology into their curriculum.

    People who would, need to take a minute and look at the reality facing teachers every day: lack of resources, support, training, 8-10 year old equipment… I could go on. Let us not forget that bad teachers are the problem with education in the US…

    I do not give all knowing edtech advice to my colleagues, because I know what they have to work with, and I realize what the demands of the narrowed curriculum are producing.

    Every day it breaks my heart to be forced to teach scripted curricula like EveryDay Math, Writers’ Workshop, and others… that have absolutely no use for new technologies. For the vast majority of my school day, my computers sit silent, gathering dust – all 27 of them. I DO know how to use them to teach and empower learners, folks. Trouble is, the powers that be do not think that is the way to go.

    So Scott, to answer your question – yes, it IS too much to ask local educators to “measure up” to those high standards in terms of tech use/integration, at least given the reality and dysfunctional priorities of most US schools in 2010. Even if you have the resources and the knowhow, like me – you don’t get to use them.

    I’ll repeat part of what I said over 4 years ago that got me into so much trouble, because I believe even more strongly that it is true: “If anyone wants to speak with authority and credibility on technology use in the classroom – and wants to be listened to by teachers, they must be involved in the classroom – now.”

    The sad development lately is that nobody cares whether teachers “listen” to them or not. Teachers are the problem, and they get told what to do. Period.

    Four years ago. It’s like a new century or something.

    There will be a few teachers who measure up to the edubloggers, because they have the resources, the vision, and the backbone – to defy regulations and suffocating curricula. I intend to be in that group, not just because Will and Chris want it, but because it is right. Hoping to keep my job for a couple more years – Mark

  23. Mark –

    Funny thing is… using technology is absolutely secondary to what I want to see in the classroom. I want to see progressive teaching. I want to see inquiry. I want to see an acknowledgement that there is more than just reading and math in the curriculum. I want to see kids empowered, not worksheet-ed to death. I want to know that the homework Kindergarteners and First Graders are getting is meaningful, not just homework because you think it’s “rigorous.” I want to know that my child is more important than his test score.

    And if you use a computer every now and then, awesome. I’ve seen technology used in so many retrograde ways that I truly believe the pedagogy MUST come first. I’d much rather see a progressive teacher who doesn’t use tech than a technocrat teacher who uses the tech to make learning less fun, less meaningful, more rote.

    And yeah, I’m hoping to keep my job for a few more years too.. but I worry about that, too.

    • Unfortunately, schools have given the public exactly what they demanded – “proficient” students. We have raised a generation of excellent test-takers – because schools were forced to “teach to the test.” Now that we largely succeeded -we are seeing the unintended consequences. Students are good at taking tests, but not very good at actual thinking, or collaborating, or creating meaning on thier own and surprise! now the public is unhappy. What did we think was going to happen? Now we are trying to swing the pendulum back, but we are stuck in a system that won’t allow it. And this is NOT the fault of the teachers. We are just the soldiers on the front line. If you want to change the war strategy…start at the top!

  24. While I want my own kids to have teachers like this, I know change is slow to come. The best I can hope for is to make changes in my own teaching and share my passion for PLNs, technology, and student-centered learning with my colleagues. I must advocate for all of these things and BE the change if I want others to do the same.

  25. We all want the best for our kids, but by its very nature most teachers are ‘average. I can recall very few teachers in my career who ere ‘special’. Whilst that is a fact of life what I cannot accept are teachers who do not try to ‘get it’ – that pedagogy has to move on and they cannot simply opt out of the developments – sadly there are an awful lot of them

  26. Criticizing your kids’ teachers feels good, but does little to help them succeed. If anything, it gives our kids an excuse not to be successful. If my kids follow their dad’s academic example, they won’t need his help in finding reasons not to work hard & succeed in school.

    I’d rather be a partner in my kids’ education, supplementing it as much as I am able. I still believe a parent’s role is of primary importance.

  27. Chris point taken. Tech using teacher does not automatically equal good teacher. But I am so weary of the ever ever more popular strategy of blaming classroom teachers for the problems in US education.

    When this conversation started, it felt as if some edubloggers were joining in the pig pile, and that felt really, really bad. Touchy these days, sorry.

  28. It appears that good teaching was linked directly with technology by some of you who read what Scott wrote. However, if you read carefully he stated, “cutting-edge educational practice”, and that does no imply new technology.

    In fact, you should probably read “Why school’s can’t improve” referenced below by Branson (1987). You will see that schools reached their peak a few decades ago, and in fact have not improved since that time. The metaphor he uses in the article is that of the airplane engine. You could only drive so much effectiveness and efficiency from a prop driven airplane so a NEW way of doing things was needed (jet engine in this case).

    This is EXACTLY what educators and school systems are failing to do, REINVENT a new way of doing things. This isn’t about technology as a savior, it is about using the latest techniques in teaching (possibly but not necessarily using technology).

    Step out of “your experience” and “your mindset” to help shape the world, because right now our children are in desperate need of a NEW way of educating, the old way is failing miserably and quickly leading the US to lag behind other nations.

    Also, keep in mind that Branson wrote that article in 1987, over 23 years ago!


  29. parents who are harsh on teachers should stop being part of the problem and try being proactive as part of the solution. do your teachers have access to the physical resources they need – on a regular basis? do the resources actually work as expected (codecs installed, versions up to date, browser current, flash installed), and are the programs available to the students (not blocked)? have your teachers been given time to attend PD sessions and then time to work out how to apply what they’ve learned so they can use it in the classroom as a valuable teaching tool and not a shiny bell & whistle? do your teachers receive support towards becoming innovative? do your teachers feel they can speak out about their needs, including time?

    if not, then instead of complaining about your child’s classroom teacher, try being positive: ask your teachers what they need, specifically. approach senior management and tell them, the people who can do something about it, what you want your school to have for resources; find out if the online tools you want your children to use in class are blocked as part of a school policy due to parental “closed garden” concerns, and encourage conversations with other parents about their concerns so that everyone is in agreement and all children have the same, fair access; attend board meetings and put forth a paper on the agenda to address these issues, and follow through on whether they are discussed and acted upon; visit with your ICT leaders and see what systems they have in place to upskill the teaching staff, and what support is provided after initial exposure, or, possibly, simply what processes need to be put into place.

    thank you, thank you, thank you, chris, for your rather large comment above. the hours and hours i spend, outside of my curriculum, on my own, trying to provide my students with the best engagement i can find, all on my own dime and with rarely a thank you…thank YOU. (can i just mention that i don’t even have 1 computer in my secondary classroom?)

    btw – i greatly enjoyed last week’s series on what makes a good administrator and what teachers need from them. thank you.

  30. I agree with Dave Cormier and Chris Lehmann. As the parent of three elementary-age kids, I think there’s a lot of things wrong with our schools, but the teachers aren’t the problem. I have found them uniformly well-intentioned and trying their best to treat the kids well. When I don’t like what’s happening in the classroom, it’s almost always because of what the teachers are forced to do because of decisions made at higher levels, usually in response to NCLB.

    I think most teachers are humane, thoughtful people who value inquiry and intellectual curiosity. The problem is that the system they work for doesn’t value those qualities. If we just gave teachers enough autonomy in the classroom to act on their best qualities, enjoy the job, and stay in it long enough to acquire some skill and some wisdom, the kids would all be better off. The technology issue pales in comparison.

  31. The edublogger community is certainly too harsh on teachers that aren’t on the cutting edge. In fact, I’d be suspicious of teachers that really are on the cutting edge. The reason is that a lot of what’s on the cutting edge just doesn’t make it past the gate for one reason or other. A lot of what these guys are pushing could very well end up being the HD-DVD of the education world: very expensive toys, but utterly useless and unsupportable.

    Personally, I’m finding this whole debate really frustrating. I’m a relatively new teacher. I’m also a technology facilitator for my district. I’ve barely been keeping my head above water over the last couple of years getting ready for classes I never expected to teach. I’d love to craft clever, technology laced lessons, but I don’t really have the time, the knowledge of the material, the resources or the energy. I’m doing good if I can challenge my students with higher level thinking. Most teachers work very hard and many want to try new technologies, but this is public education and it’s certainly not a perfect world where SMART Boards are growing on trees and iPads freely rain down us from on high.

    People like Couros, Richardson, Downes, etc., can cast their judgments on teachers who favour traditional methods and talk glowingly about “open” education, but to me, being truly open means understanding that there are a lot of different methodologies, some new, some old, and they can all be effective in their ways. Seriously, Couros was disrespecting that teacher and her professional judgment with that tweet. Why, because the desks were in rows? Give me a break. I need an orderly classroom or I can’t function, let alone many of the more highly distractable students. Teachers who stick to their ways are not bad teachers. I do think they could be open to new things, but don’t deserve to be put down by academics who don’t even teach in the public system.

    In addition, the newer pedagogical ideologies and technology tools are not going to catch on with the older guard because they’ve seen these things come and go before. They’ve learned with time that not everything new is better. The good stuff will stick, the rest will be forgotten until another guy wanting a topic for his doctoral dissertation digs it up, attaches new jargon to it, and publishes a bunch of new books to promote it. I imagine that ten years from now, SMART Boards will be collecting dust along with the film strip projectors and VCRs. The academics and the early adopter set will be on to new things, criticizing the teachers who still dust that SMARTBoard off once in a while.
    Oh, and in five years, Twitter will have gone the way of Myspace(Good riddance).

    And to those who think that you need technology to engage students, don’t mistake a student staring at a screen for real engagement. Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. did just fine engaging people without SMARTBoards. Technology, when used well, can enhance good teaching, but it’s only a tool.

    Sorry. Got irritated. Had to let it out. Now I can go to bed. Back to my regularly scheduled lurking.

    • Hi Joe,

      I am going to strongly disagree with some of your assumptions and will provide my reasoning for such disagreements. It is at the same time disheartening to see this come from a relatively new teacher who is supposed to be a part of educating our students.

      You stated, “very expensive toys, but utterly useless and unsupportable”. I would strongly encourage you to look at how much is spent on students. The iPad (as just one example) is around $500 USD. This is a pittance to what schools receive from the state governments for students, and I would argue the $500 is VERY well spent money because of the time savings and effectiveness it would have if used correctly in the classroom. Have you used an iPad? My two and three year old son use my constantly for learning, such as reading, name recognition, letter recognition etc. All of the apps that I have are FREE!

      “I need an orderly classroom or I can’t function, let alone many of the more highly distractable students”. When did “I” come into the equation and when will teachers realize it isn’t about “I” but about the learners. “I” want a lot of things as well for “me” but it doesn’t matter; school is about students, not making your life easier.

      “Teachers who stick to their ways are not bad teachers. I do think they could be open to new things, but don’t deserve to be put down by academics who don’t even teach in the public system”. Yes, they don’t deserve to be put down BUT they do deserve to be POINTED out that what they aren’t doing isn’t working today.

      “I imagine that ten years from now, SMART Boards will be collecting dust along with the film strip projectors and VCRs.” I surely hope so too! However, my reason is that I want to see NEW technologies that emerge being used, not the old!
      “Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. did just fine engaging people without SMARTBoards.” You are right they did but they DID live in a different world. Try spouting off facts that your students can easily Google!

      I do have two things which should be of interest to you in supporting my arguments, and perhaps, just perhaps may soften your obvious dislike to new technologies and new pedagogy.

      The first is a video made by a student.

      The second is an article on why education is failing, and has failed us over the last couple of decades.
      Notice it was written in 1987.

      • Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against technology in the classroom. Far from it. I’m a technology teacher and facilitator. I do PD to help teachers learn how to use it more effectively in their classes. What bugs me is the attitude I’m finding on many of the so-called edublogs I’ve been following.

        So many edubloggers have a vision of the world and regard those that may not share that vision as backwards relics of a time gone by. I’m just saying that newer is not always better and much of what is new in education is the old redressed for the 21st century. It really isn’t fair that edubloggers make this kind of comments about teachers that aren’t into technology and newer pedagogy behind their backs. Teachers work hard and have to deal with a lot. There is a need for understanding and balance.

        Should people be open to new things? Of course. Should we model life-long learning? Of course. Do we need to understand that the world is different than it was in the past? Of course. Do we need to disrespect the professional judgment of teachers that don’t share our interest in technology and who don’t read these blogs (essentially disrespecting them behind their backs)? No.

        We need to afford our colleagues some of the same consideration we give our students. People learn at different rates. Also, people have different areas of expertise. I am (trying to be) an expert at technology, but I realize that most of my colleagues will not be. I support them, even they support me in things they know. Even so, many are willing to learn and try new things if someone is willing to come alongside them.

        Let me address some of your comments:

        “I am going to strongly disagree with some of your assumptions and will provide my reasoning for such disagreements. It is at the same time disheartening to see this come from a relatively new teacher who is supposed to be a part of educating our students.”

        Now, that’s kind of backhanded. I am part of educating our students. I hope that doesn’t dishearten you too much that I’m actually teaching. We probably aren’t that different really. We just have slightly different opinions on teachers who favour their traditional methods for whatever reason, many of whom are quite open to new tech and methods, but don’t really know where to start.

        “You stated, “very expensive toys, but utterly useless and unsupportable”. I would strongly encourage you to look at how much is spent on students. The iPad (as just one example) is around $500 USD. This is a pittance to what schools receive from the state governments for students, and I would argue the $500 is VERY well spent money because of the time savings and effectiveness it would have if used correctly in the classroom. Have you used an iPad? My two and three year old son use my constantly for learning, such as reading, name recognition, letter recognition etc. All of the apps that I have are FREE!”

        I’m I have used an iPad (in the store) and have an iPod touch I use all the time (and rarely for music). While I’m not an Apple fan when it comes to education (it’s a very closed and restrictive environment tied too closely to a single commercial provider), I can respect my colleagues that disagree. I think ubiquitous access is a great thing. My point is that its not always a good thing to be an early adopter. Just ask my friend who paid a thousand bucks for his HD-DVD player and probably twice that on discs before the plug got pulled. I suppose I was kind of off topic/confused. I attribute it to being up too late.

        “I need an orderly classroom or I can’t function, let alone many of the more highly distractable students”. When did “I” come into the equation and when will teachers realize it isn’t about “I” but about the learners. “I” want a lot of things as well for “me” but it doesn’t matter; school is about students, not making your life easier.”

        Okay, I’ve got a problem here and I think you’re proving my point. Read it again. If I’m having trouble concentrating, I think its reasonable to assume that my students are having worse trouble. I’m not so selfish to think that everything has to be my way. I’m just afflicted with concentration problems, like many of my students. In my experience, having desks in rows leads to marginally less distraction. There are lots of reasons to put desks in rows. My wife moved her desks into pairs for a while and the caretaker got angry so she moved them back. Feel free to disagree, but a disorderly classroom with unnecessary distractions isn’t so effective in my professional opinion.

        ““Teachers who stick to their ways are not bad teachers. I do think they could be open to new things, but don’t deserve to be put down by academics who don’t even teach in the public system”. Yes, they don’t deserve to be put down BUT they do deserve to be POINTED out that what they aren’t doing isn’t working today.””

        I agree. But before making those judgments, observe their classrooms, not just their arrangement of desks. It’s not enough to cite research that was done on small samples in different contexts.

        ““I imagine that ten years from now, SMART Boards will be collecting dust along with the film strip projectors and VCRs.” I surely hope so too! However, my reason is that I want to see NEW technologies that emerge being used, not the old!”

        I hope people will find better and new technologies as well. I love technology, but technology won’t make us better people or better teachers.

        My point here was that those who dare to use SMARTBoards and such in ten years will undoubtedly be verbally put down by the academics and their followers. I just suppose I don’t expect the discourse over this to change much.

        ““Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. did just fine engaging people without SMARTBoards.” You are right they did but they DID live in a different world. Try spouting off facts that your students can easily Google!”

        It’s not the tools. It’s the teaching. All the technology in the world won’t save students from bad teaching. And just because they can Google facts doesn’t mean that they will.

        “I do have two things which should be of interest to you in supporting my arguments, and perhaps, just perhaps may soften your obvious dislike to new technologies and new pedagogy.”

        Again, I have a problem here. Read my post. I’m a technology facilitator. I love technology. I dislike the attitude I’m finding as I read these blogs toward people who are either disinterested in technology or new pedagogy or don’t understand it. I’ll admit I’m skeptical about new pedagogy. I’ve heard the stories about “whole language” and other things in the past that have really been damaging to children’s education because they were implemented without the appropriate research and consideration. I don’t really understand how the newer theories are supposed to look in a practical sense. I’m trying to figure them out, but it takes time and I’m pretty sure that the theories will be out of vogue by the time I do figure them out. In the mean time, I’ll just do the best I can.

        I hope I don’t come across too harshly, but I really have a problem with some of the attitudes I’ve encountered. People talk about being open-minded, then you get stuff like this. It started with Couros’ tweet, but the comments I’ve read have really got to me. I reacted emotionally and for that I apologize, but I think I had some good points for people with open minds to at least consider.

        • Hi Joe,

          Great, this type of conversation is what will make us all stronger and for that I am very encouraged. The fact we disagree or do not see somethings on the same level is irrelevant, but the fact we are discussing them is exactly the point. It is exciting to have these types of discussions and as colleagues even better when we agree to disagree about them.

          This type of discussion is what should be occuring on a daily basis with our collegues.

          Thank you for clarifying your position and for adding details to it. I respect the fact that you work extremely hard in education and for your students, that is not something I question for 99% of teachers. It is my hope that my statements didn’t add to stress, but rather helped elicit insight, even if you disagree with it.

          Again, I am glad we agree to disagree and hopefully we both learned a little bit more about each other and ourselves more importantly. Afterall, your are following Dangerously Irrelevant and that strongly suggests you are open to learning, but not necessarily agreeing. At the end of the day that is more learning than what most teachers are doing.

          • This is what I mean. We can respect our colleagues despite different interests and methodologies. The initial question of this post was regarding whether or not it fair to expect other educators to measure up. The fact is that there are many standards. Technology is important. New methodologies are important. But what standard do teachers need to measure up to? Who defines that standard?

            Now, I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what it’s like to take issue with my kids’ teacher, but I’d like to think I’d be respectful of them in a professional way and give them the benefit of the doubt. I’d try not to be judgmental so long as they were doing their job, were respectful of my kids, and of me as their parents. If I felt they were not learning, I’d do something about it. I’d do the same if they used traditional methods or newer methods.

            I suppose that what is most frustrating to me is that most of those who are entrenched in their ways do really care about their students. I often have some of the most old school teachers, the ones the teachers recently out of university complain about, come to me asking how they could do something online or on the computer because they sense that they are having trouble getting through to them. These are small steps, but significant. We are all on the same side. We need to work together and respect each other not make unfair assumptions.

    • Joe – I am wondering if you have had children of your own who went through a school system and were disengaged or less successful than you believed they could have been? I am wondering if you have ever gone to a doctor with whom you were not satisfied or been frustrated by the lack of attention given to you by your financial institution? Do you get equally as frustrated and angry if someone criticizes or questions a governmental agency? Did you think the response to Katrina was less than adequate and deserving of criticism and questioning? I have not agreed with EVERY ‘expert’ who has offered suggestions, strategies, tools, or approaches to improve our educational system. However, I hope I will always remain open to listening and contemplating the merits of their suggestions and criticisms. One of my greatest frustrations – as a teacher, an educator, and a parent – is the unwillingness of many teachers to accept any feedback or any suggestions for improving their practice for a group of children or an individual child. I have two children who grew up in a family of avid readers and learners. They still love to learn, they read widely, and are actively involved as citizens now as young adults – and for the most part – they hated school from 6th – 12th grade. To be honest – that broke my heart as an educator and as a parent. Now – don’t get me wrong – they both had some wonderful teachers. But they also had some dreadful ones who did much damage; and they were in school systems that were entrenched in the factory-model structure meant to maintain the status quo – and they attended schools with technology – that did not make any difference whatsoever. It was all about the approach to learning and the belief system that governed the school; a belief system in this case that did not support EVERY child as a learner. My hope is that every person in the education system would be willing to examine their practice and their belief system that often drives that practice; and regardless of the challenges we face in our individual circumstances, we be willing to make changes.

      • I suppose I did come across quite one-sided in my initial comment. I’m not really criticizing the new tech and new methods. I’m criticizing the attitude I’m finding among the edublogger community toward teachers to don’t fit a certain profile. Not everything new is better and not everyone will adapt to changing times at the same rate.

        I read Will Richardson’s response to Couros’ tweet and then I read Lee Kolbert’s response. Then I delved into the comments section. Never should have done that. It’s very discouraging.

        I work hard and I’m certain I’m not living up to the standards most of you have for teachers. I use technology all the time and try new things as much as I can.

        I also hope that teachers would be flexible enough to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. This may look different depending on the teacher and the context. Too many of the comments I’ve read here are “It’s my way or the highway.” That’s not openness to me. Openness is about respecting what has worked in the past and adding to it with what works from the new.

        I just don’t like the attitude I’m finding. That’s all.

  32. Joe–

    I’m not sure whee to start.

    I see that you are equating this push for education reform with a push for expensive toys and I, for one, don’t think any of the people you mention (or a lot of others of us) are advocating any sort of toy as the solution.

    (In fact, I would warrant most of the people you just mention agree with your points about Smartboards, but that’s beside the point).

    What I want from teachers is open-mindedness, continued growth, and a recognition that our world is changing and our teaching needs to reflect that(and no, I don’t think the changes the internet has brought to all of our lives is going to be just a fad or put back in a box).

    Ou society as a whole has become more collaborative. We can post comments on a political candidates webpage and be heard, twitter out that there is an earthquake the minute it happens (which allows the USGS to track them better), connect our students with a classroom on the other side of the globe for free, share our own classrooms with other teachers across the world with our blogs, or ask students to create a collaborative written document (for free) on Google Docs.

    We can’t stuff this different world back in a box and put it in the closet. I’ve been in education for a long time but this change is different in terms of our society and culture, because it’s not just a piece of equipment.

    I agree there are many methodologies that can be effective in the classroom but I think none of them can ignore the rest of the world, either.

    I also want to say, in Alex Couros’ defense, that he commented here and elsewhere that it wasn’t the desks alone or he never would have said anything–it was many things the teacher said during their visit to the classroom. And he’s also written that he’s planning to work WITH that teacher as a parent.

    I also hear that you are struggling to keep up, as many of us are, even those who are pushing for changes. No one has the secret formula here to staying on top of all the demands that teaching brings, but I still hope for my child a teaching willing to listen, change, and always grow, and also one who is open minded; your attitude comes across as quite cynical. Even if it’s coming out of frustration, I think it’s unfortunate that you are drawing this line between (us) and them(academics).

    Where I will agree with you (in theory) is that it would serve everyone well to be sure that we avoid a condescending attitude. Both those teachers who express the viewpoints you do–and the teachers who push for change.

    We could have the mutual respect that we are all trying to do positive things for our students and then we could listen.

    Because what we learn from each other can make all of our jobs more effective.

    WE can’t ever stop being willing to learn.

    • Thank you for your response. Please don’t think I’m anti-technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just don’t believe that everything newer is always better, which is something many people who call for change don’t understand. The new stuff needs to be tested thoroughly. Adapting to change takes time and it takes proof.

      I did lump new pedagogy with new technology because I do think there is a link there, but I know what you mean. Ubiquitous access to information is part of a lot of what’s new in education.

      I suppose I am cynical when it comes to academia. I was never particularly impressed with my university instructors, many of whom I feel used their positions as a pedestal for their politics and prejudices rather than give me knowledge I could use. Even now, I’d rather hear the practical experience of a teacher than an academic talk about research. I feel that teachers are often being told how to do their jobs by academics and follow without questioning it, which doesn’t really seem right to me. People do need to question the new trends as much as they need to question the status quo.

      As far as the condescending attitude, I would disagree with you. The post by Couros was pretty disrespectful to the teacher in question by posting that photo with that comment, even if he did go on to clarify himself later. Steven Downes comment from above doesn’t exactly come across as very respectful to me either. In general, I’ve found the comments to be very polarized. The problem is that the teachers that aren’t tech savvy are not in on the debate because they are not here.

      • Joe,

        Carolyn already came to by defense with the facts, but do you even know what I tweeted with that photo? Because, it wasn’t in Will’s post. Were you on Twitter that night? Did you follow the conversation? The second tweet “there’s so much wrong here” had nothing to do with the desks but I did not expand on what exactly that was (in respect to the teacher). Out of this came many assumptions – yes, triggered by a tweet, but by this time, not even closely resembling the jist of the conversations that have occurred.

        It seems that you may now be doing exactly what you are accusing me of based on (and because of) a very loose understanding of what actually happened.

  33. I apologize for the typos! Sticky laptop keys….

  34. So last night I went to my sons open house. He is in 1st grade at the largest city in our state. The 1 computer in the room is too old and slow to even go on the internet. The teacher stated she would like to use it but can only use old educational games and they are not that good. There is a room in the school with computers but it is not used much because there is no help for the teachers in that room and 1 teacher with 25 kids all in different places ends up being a nightmare. What can I do? Where do I start? How do I start? I need ideas!!!

    • Even two computers are better than one. I would check on the district’s policy about teachers using donated computers in the classroom. If they say that they cannot support w/maintenance, then the teacher would have to find support, (may be easy in a big city), or learn how to self-support maintenance, (which was my option). Speaking frankly, I put the computers in service and then answered admins questions when they asked about them. A good sized mini-lab for a classroom is 4 to 6 computers.

      Even a computer not on a network can be used to teach students how to use technology as a tool for learning. A small group of computers in a classroom can be connected to an Intranet server that can run blog software, Moodle, web pages, etc. Setting up a stand alone server is easy and doesn’t take much of a computer.

      Using a computer lab is a nightmare for most teachers because they aren’t ready to let students construct their learning – its a completely different approach to learning that takes some time and energy to develop.

      If you want more help, I would be glad to be a reference for you and/or the teacher.

  35. So when do we start getting harsh if we are being too harsh now? Do we need to allow another 25 years for teacher colleges and teachers to “get it”?

    Twenty-five years ago I had six computers in my 5th grade room and I was using Seymour Papert’s “Mindstorms, Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas” as a teaching manual guiding me in a completely different approach to student learning, (yes, I am still learning, no, you may not have my copy).

    I propose that we agree with the new editor of T.H.E. Magazine and adopt August 14, 2012 as the day that instruction becomes more digital than paper.

  36. Well, August 14, 2012 came and went, nothing changed except I retired – so the district replaced me with an aide. All he knows how to run is the keyboarding program.

    No new technology has come in the school, the copiers are still running at full speed, there is no one to encourage tech adoption in the classroom, no training, use of the district’s Blackboard account is discouraged, etc.

    Depressing, when others mentioned the same things on your webinar tonight, my jaw dropped.

Leave a Reply