We can’t let educators off the hook

Steve Dembo said:

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.

… A teacher that has never heard of Blabberize or Glogster or Prezi, has never been introduced to the new world of online applications that are available to them. They likely don’t follow blogs or listen to podcasts. They have probably never been to an EdTech conference or seen a TED talk. In short, they’re just ordinary, average educators who aren’t aware that there’s a whole other world that they have easy access to… if they just ‘take the blue pill’.

… I’m all for conversations about ‘big’ change. And yes, I agree, it’s not the technology, it’s the pedagogy. However, I also think that you need at least a minimal base to build from before you can have those conversations. And the vast majority of the educators in this country do NOT have that base yet.

Every day that I present for educators, I have a greater appreciate for how distorted the view is as seen through the eyes of a typical EduBlogger. In fact, the majority of the voices in the EdTech Community are so far ahead of the curve that it doesn’t even seem like their on the same road anymore. Most educators have never listened to a podcast, much less created one. They’ve never edited a wiki, much less started one of their own. So how on earth could they be expected to have a rational conversation about the impact new technologies are having on the skill sets our students need? Simply put, they can’t. The majority of the voices many of us listen to on a regular basis… actually represent just a tiny fraction of the educators out there. We’re the minority, the outsiders, the ones who talk using strange terms involving words with far too many missing vowels.

Darren Draper said:

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.

Darren also said:

Those content to lurk but still hesitant (or unable, for whatever reason) to contribute.

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.

To which I say, NO, WE CAN’T LET EDUCATORS OFF THE HOOK. Whether they’re teachers or administrators or librarians or education professors, they have a voluntarily-assumed, paid responsibility to be relevant to the needs of children and education TODAY and to prepare graduates as best they are able for TOMORROW. ‘Professional priorities’ must be aimed at preparing students for the world as it is and will be. Otherwise, what are educators there for?

You can’t ‘firmly believe in life-long learning’ and simultaneously not be clued in to the largest transformation in learning that ever has occurred in human history. Those two don’t co-exist. Being a ‘life-long learner’ is not ignoring what’s going on around you; you don’t get to claim the title of ‘effective educator’ if you do this.

FishhookLook, it’s not like those of us who now ‘get it’ were born with this knowledge. We weren’t like this at the beginning. At some point in our personal histories we were the same as these educators that for some reason now get to be labeled as ‘unable’ to do this. Unable to do this? Poppycock. At no time in the personal computer / Internet era has this technology and social media stuff been easier to initiate. It’s not like back when you needed to know computer coding. Want to use a wiki? Click Edit; type; click Save. Want to leave a comment on a blog? Click on Comments; type in your name, e-mail, school web site, and comment; click on Save. There isn’t an educator alive who ‘can’t do that.’ They engage in similarly-easy activity every time they search or order something online.

The reason many of us now ‘get it’ is because we realized that the world is changing, we recognized our responsibility to our students and schools, and we dived in and learned as we went along. Changing inertia into momentum, not waiting for someone to hand us the answer, taking responsibility ourselves rather than blaming others for our own inactivity – that’s what life-long learners do. That’s what effective educators do. That’s what we owe our children.

If you’re a teacher / administrator / librarian / education professor that somehow ‘doesn’t even realize [yet] that there’s a decision to be made,’ should you even be working in a school or university? Don’t our children and our school systems need and deserve someone who’s in a different place than you are? It’s one thing to still be a learner; heck, we’re all learners with this technology stuff. It’s another to opt out or not even recognize the choice. If we look at what our kids need, shouldn’t we replace you with someone else? 

It’s not about us. It’s not about our personal or professional priorities and preferences, our discomfort levels, or any of that other stuff that has to do with us. It’s about our students: our children and our youth who deserve at the end of their schooling experience to be prepared for the world in which they’re going to live and work and think and play and be. That’s the obligation of each and every one of us. No educator gets to disown this.

We can’t let educators off the hook. Not a single one. So keep that fishhook firmly wedged in their mouths. Keep tugging them along on the line. Keep scooping them up in our nets. Feed them tasty tidbits if need be. Do whatever it takes to make this happen. But insist on them doing the same.

shouldteacherschoose

Image credits: My fish hook; Slide – Should teachers get to choose?

151 Responses to “We can’t let educators off the hook”

  1. “I got out of the k-12 classroom because I was sick of watching my students go on to teachers such as yourself – teachers who undone the liberation I had helped my students achieve.”

    TRANSLATION: I couldn’t cut it in K-12, so I retreated to something easier, like teaching college.

    “Perhaps, if we get enough teachers doing good things and teaching kids to think rather than fall in line,”

    TRANSLATION: I want new teachers to think like me and fall in line with Web 2.0 because Sir Ken Robinson and Daniel Pink and Seth Godin tells us we have to.

    “You’ll likely respond and further make it clear that you are not interested in actual dialogue”

    TRANSLATION: You don’t want to dignify my youthfully inexperienced and lemming-like point of view so I’m taking my ball and going home!

    • In some ways teaching college is easier, in some ways it is more difficult. Unlike your use of speculation, let me offer some evidence. Here is an unsolicited post (written well after leaving my class for ninth grade) by one of my former students. This ought give you some indication as to what kind of teacher I was. I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of things wrong with it, but at least i’m putting my money where my mouth is. You are simply exhibiting diarrhea of the mouth (or keyboard).

      http://lesrahn.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/pursue-your-passion/

      I am familiar with the people you mention (Robinson, etc), but actually find their presence in the education debate to be problematic – they didn’t teach. However, we can learn from their ideas – new ideas ought never be dismissed a priori. At no point in our discussions have I said you need to use technology. If you were paying attention, you would see I raise many issues about technology use in schools rather than promote blind adoption. For evidence, please read any of my posts found here:

      http://educatech.wordpress.com/category/reflection/critical-examination-of-technology/

      Or for a specific example try this:

      http://educatech.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/why-technology-scares-me/

      or this:

      http://educatech.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/teachers-vs-computers/

      I would argue that many of the people I interact with on a daily basis – online and off – view me as kind of a pain in the ass because I constantly question what we are doing with this thing called education – especially our use of technology.

      If you would like to actually discuss these ideas, please email me at jerridkruse@gmail.com I’d be happy to share my phone number and talk more in person.

      So, you see, I don’t want to simply “take my ball and go home”. I want to engage in meaningful thought and dialogue about how to improve education. I honestly don’t believe this same goal motivates you, so we are likely never going to be able to have a productive discussion.

      If, at some later date, you actually engage (not necessarily agree) with my points rather than troll for arguments, I’ll be happy to respond.

      Best wishes. I truly do hope you become a reflective practitioner who considers differing points of view. Only when we have questioned our own beliefs can we actually have any confidence that our conclusions are on the right track.

  2. OK, since you’ve offered a non-contentious response, I will respond in kind. I am very much an eye-for-eye operator in life. It’s the culture I come from.

    Reading your links, we do have lots in common, but perhaps my skepticism runs to a greater extreme. I am highly skeptical of most EVERYTHING in life that most people take for granted or embrace, plus I have a misanthropic streak.

    For example when I teach Life/Career Skills to my students, I teach them basically how to avoid getting screwed by those in power, especially those in government.

    I love my family, my students, my school, and a few of those I’ve taught with before. That’s about it. As for the rest of the world, I find it difficult to be bothered. I don’t need to collect friends on social media like some kids collect baseball cards. I really don’t care about how some teacher in Australia runs their class or being a member of a PLN. I can get all the info I need to do my job on my own. I am focused on what’s right in front of me and the task at hand. We agree that multitasking is a myth. In fact, I once wrote a blog entry on it, but my blog is now in a moribund state. I have just two entries remaining that explain my point of view on Web 2.0 and those who embrace it.

    http://marksrightbrain.wordpress.com/

    That you are reaching out as a professional seeking a dialogue means that you’ve likely looked up my professional credentials and have determined that I am not some simplistic troll.

    How to improve education is simple. Hire teachers that turn their teaching into a performance for six hours a day. I can’t tell you how many teachers I know of who are just plain boring to listen to. if you aren’t as entertaining (as a teacher) as a TV show or video game, or if you can’t “work a room,” then you should resign and become an accountant who sits in a cubicle all day long. Remember Robin Williams in The Dead Poets Society? Patch Adams? Groucho Marx? Something like that. That’s what I do and that’s a big part of what makes me an effective teacher.

    • The fact that you two are discussing this topic is proof of the benefits of technology in education. If not for this blog, you two would never have met eachother and I would never have been able to listen to your interesting debate.

  3. I agree to the points that are being raised here.Teachers should be well equipped to teach the students and prepare them well to face the future or the tomorrow. Professional priorities should definitely be the main aim of teaching.Its high time authorities should take notice of using various technologies to enhance teaching in educational institutions

  4. For those interested, Scott and I discussed this issue over at my place:

    http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/2010/09/off-hook-my-response-to-mcleod.html

    Also, I’ve since made good on my promise to list some of the reasons teachers *can’t* (and sometimes won’t) use technology in their teaching.

    http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/2010/10/that-which-holds-some-back.html

    I’m tired of blaming teachers for perceptions of apathy and hard-headedness and prefer to admit that this problem is far more complex than a battle of wills. Sustainable solutions will take work and time to realize, but I remain firm in believing that the end result will be well worth the effort. We really have entered a new era of learning – to ignore that would be negligent and irresponsible.

    Let’s put our heads together and figure out how to overcome these obstacles. I know I can’t figure it out alone.

  5. Who’s world? Yours? Dan Pinks? Thomas Friedman’s? Henry Jenkins? James Kunstler’s? Fullan’s? Marzano’s? Carl’s? Who’s world are we preparing them? Their’s? Because, it seems that each adult generation has tried to prepare it’s youth for the future and, because of the change, been mostly unsuccessful. History wise, that is. I don’t have a crystal ball and I cannot predict what life in the future will hold but, I can predict with some degree of certainty, what will happen tomorrow. With less certainty, what will happen next week. With no certainty, what will happen after that. To believe that we are in any way go to adequately provide our children with what they will need to successfully navigate the future is egotistically pretentious on our part. It gives us the false sense of control over something for which we have no control. And, to put that burden on “education and teachers” is just a way to absolve so many people of their part in this dance of life. Life is so much more complex that 5 hours a day for 13 years. “We’re not preparing them for college in kindergarten.” Sir Ken Hold teachers accountable for teaching – but make sure that we’re all talking about the same teaching – as we seem to have a serious divide between what many people believe is important in education of which we are but one piece of a much larger puzzle.

    Many great teachers use technology in their classes and they are names we have become familiar. I also know many great teachers who use a minimal amount of technology but who are anonymous because they don’t fit the “mold” of those we celebrate – they are not the blogging teachers. So, please hold teachers accountable but, let’s make sure that we are holding them accountable to one standard not a multitude of standards, some of which they are not even aware of because they are meeting the standards and demands of their employers who, from a quick glance, don’t always have the same ones as I read in the blogosphere. Let’s hold teachers accountable but let them know who is going to do it, how it will be done and how they will be assessed. Let them know what are the priorities, the clear priorities and not something we pull out of the air. Let’s treat them at least with the dignity you are demanding for the students. Right now, many are being demonized, demoralized and driven away, not because they lack ability or capability or drive or heart or caring but because they’re being hammered for things they don’t have time to do because all the non-educators who are outside looking in can’t figure out what the priorities are for education.

    I’ve been challenged on this by the analogy of what if medicine and doctors continued to function as eduction functions. One of my responses, The doctor’s know what it is they are suppose to do because they have a directive and it’s clear – save and assist. What is the directive in education? Educate – according to which paradigm? Or this, in medicine, we have the constant, the human body so, applying new techniques and technologies means seeing how that constant, the human body, reacts. Can you imagine how something that has become routine – open heart surgery – might be different if each time you opened a person up, the heart was different and, to add to it, was in a different location in the body for each person? I have had it suggested that the one constant in education is knowledge – I don’t agree. We have no constant. Yet, from many different sides, we have the cures that will fix what is ailing education. It’s not as easy as open-heart surgery yet we reduce the complexities of learning to less. Hold teachers accountable but, really, figure out for what.

    • Well-stated, Kelly. Here’s what I think we need to prepare them to be:

      1. Learners, in the truest sense of the word, using the dominant tools and environments of their time.
      2. See #1.

      The world is changing VERY fast right now; as you note, we have no idea what it’s going to look like 10, 20, …, 50 years from now. So we need them to learn how to be extremely adaptive.

      The information landscape is in complete upheaval, so we need them to have an ongoing, flexible mastery of that landscape.

      The economy is increasingly complex and global, so we need them to have the higher-order cognitive, emotional, and social skills (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, creativity/innovation, global awareness) that are rewarded in a hypercompetitive globalized economy and thus justify the salary and standard-of-living premiums in industrialized nations like the US or Canada.

      Everything is digital, so we need them to have an ongoing, flexible mastery of a variety of tools – a mastery that’s so deep that they internalize the underlying logics of various systems, understand the inherent pros/cons of different technologies, and utilize the power of these tools for productive, not just personal/social, work.

      How’s this? I’m probably forgetting something but these are the main areas that come to mind. I don’t think it’s ‘arrogant’ for us to try and design educational systems that reflect the dominant characteristics and primary themes of the next century rather than the last one. That’s hard to do, as you note, which is why we adults (and our systems) need to be just as adaptive as our children. But we know the world is now both digital and global and that most schools are neither. Shouldn’t we at least try to design for our new landscapes?

      None of what I describe above pigeon holes our children into specific skills, tools, or knowledge bases that become obsolete. Also, unfortunately, none of what I describe above is very common in most schools across this continent.

      For what do I want to hold educators (teachers and administrators and professors)? Movement in the right directions rather than tweaking the status quo.

    • I agree with Kelly. There are many conflicting beliefs about the priorities in education today. And, yes, education priorities, according to whom? Teachers, administrators, parents, students, government, the community? Each has their pet theories and priorities about the how and why of educating children, and many times they are diametrically opposed to one another.

      Teachers find themselves walking a fine line between the expectations of the parent, student, district, community and the entities which govern and mete out funding. Unless we find common ground upon which to base our educational priorities for the future, there will continue to be this tug of war between factions, to the future detriment of our children, and ourselves.

      To address the question, should we let educators off the hook? No. Each educator should apprise themselves of the technology which will best enhance and support the learning experiences in their classroom. This is the digital age, and at least most of us have at least a cell phone and a computer. If you can run one or the other, or both, you can learn to set up a wiki, or blog, or access the internet for supplemental information, or to collaborate with peers. Those who do not do so, are cheating themselves and their students of vital learning experiences.

    • Dear Kelly Christopherson, your contribution is mind blowing. You have enlightened without offence. Moving forward to create forum for all educational service providers to merge competence and experience , required at all spheres of acheiving a lifelong learning. Through which we and our students can nuture an educated life now, as a leverage to sustaining its growth into the future…, Your Doctor/Teacher analogy gave expression that blessed my soul. Thank you.

  6. Somehow I figure that the teacher dreamed of here…one that performs six hours a day (ask a stage actor what they think of that…every day, five days a week)…who is up-to-the-minute in terms of technology and pegdagogy and at the same time, a well balanced individual….is one that society is not prepared to pay for…maybe that is why so few of them exist. I do all the stuff mentioned here…I do the blogs, the flicker thing, the presentations..I keep up with my subject, changing pedagogy and changing technology…I start at 7.30am and finish at 6pm…if I’m lucky…some 6 hour day!….No wonder teachers have one of shortest life expectancies after retirement (assuming they haven;t burned out before then.)

  7. Let’s stop talking about it and just do. Resources need to be obtained and updates are needed so that it can really work for teachers and students effectively and efficiently. Teachers, it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help or suggestions. The first action needed to win a race is taking the first step!

  8. I’m pretty fluent in the arguments supporting the need for technology integration in education. But supporting the financing of it (many schools have SOME technology but not enough to make things work smoothly) may be a separate discussion.

    I was just wondering whether anyone had data on, for example, the reduction in costs of photocopying after technology genuinely replaces the paper-and-book model. If online textbooks are available, are they less expensive than printed copies? Are there ebook subscriptions that include frequent updates?

  9. It’s not an issue of technology. I’ve seen awful teachers who know a ton about technology, but never think critically about the medium. I’ve seen teachers who never learn new strategies regarding assessment, instruction, metacognition, etc. There are many teachers who use no technology who are not “average” but far above it. They simply haven’t made that shift.

    The bigger issue is teacher quality and innovation.

  10. I agree with you almost entirely, John. Those are extremely important issues. However I agree with Scott that we can’t let educators who haven’t adopted technology (in appropriate ways for what they’re teaching) off the hook.

    We can’t afford for the best, most innovative teachers not to adopt technology. Beyond leading the way for others to understand how to adopt it, I’d like to see them create (on their own or working with software developers) innovative ways to take advantage of the interaction, fun, and individualized instruction that the various media offer that books and paper don’t.

  11. I agree with Scott. It is incredibly frustrating to find educators incapable of having a cogent conversation on technology integration. Many teachers are still saying things like “I don’t go on the Internet because it’s a time waster” or “Well, you like that stuff” and “Social media is inappropriate for teachers”. I think the attitude is caused by fear and lack of sophistication. Nevertheless, In 2012 there is no worthy excuse.

    • However, Trish, what about the teachers, schools, and students that do not have access to technology? Maybe most of the “classroom” teachers do but not the specialty teachers. The schools do not invest in “special” staff but expect them to keep up and also teach the students. If technology is important to education then it is important for teachers and students to have access to technology that means all students.

  12. I don’t get it, what technology? Every time I see a plea to get these resistant teachers to use technology, I laugh. What pushes teachers away is the tech in the schools is non-existent, outdated and slow. Most integrate tech as much as possible but have been burned many times, spending hours wasted on trying to get old, slow hardware to “log on” or a simple you tube video to “buffer.” Tech based Lessons routinely need a plan B since the tech piece often does not work as planned.
    It is finally to the point where you can assign something online from home and MOST students have internet access, so that is the route I take more and more. There simply isn’t the infrastructure in the schools to support the use of current educational technologies. Stop beating up the teachers.

  13. I am one of the naïve teachers who thought technology was having the students present their ideas in a product such as an iMovie, Keynote, or Comic Life. It was not until I took a masters level class this summer until this new world of blogging, Wikis, and podcasts opened itself up to me. Our school is still in transition where the 21st century teacher and an entire grade level has ipads to work with on a daily basis. The rest of us are still using the promethean board as a projector and battling over the computer labs for word processing assignments.

    We as teachers can take a stronger leadership position by sharing the resources with fellow teachers and blog about our best practices, successes, and failures. We need to spread the word as fast as possible because we do have a moral and legal obligation to our students to not only prepare them for the 21st century but model and utilize the tools that will allow them to be successful.

  14. It’s amazing that it’s 2013 and this article is still highly relevant. I sat in a room and heard a tech specialists\ say, “teachers are just not capable”, “Teachers cannot understand technology on their own” and then I heard teachers say “we don’t have time” “Do you expect us to learn EVERYTHING?” “Do you expect me to work at home?”

    I’ve only been away from the classroom for a year and this is my first year being a tech specialist. I didn’t come from a school district with a full tech team to do these things for me. I was my own island. With that said, I understand that not every teacher is “as forward thinking” as they should be. But, why aren’t we/they? Why is it okay to ignore something that is just as normal as breathing to our students?

    I wrote a post. I may write a followup after reading yours. At three years old, this conversation must still take place!

    http://www.rndesigns.com/blog/dear-teachers-when-it-comes-to-tech-be-empowered/

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site