Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Driving Forwards, Looking Backwards

We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror - Marshall McLuhan

Recently I was reading a blog post about the things that get in the way of technology being used to transform learning.  Now I'm using this to reflect on why I feel we are not often moving forward in the most appropriate way for our students' futures.
  • Lack of vision:  Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway cite this as the number 1 barrier to tech transformation.  This past weekend it was such a delight to meet up with tech teachers, coordinators, facilitators and coaches from schools that do have a vision - and not just a vision but who are putting that vision into practice.  I'm heartened to see the number of schools that now have iPads in every classroom.  It was wonderful to attend workshops by educators who are putting iPads and other mobile devices into the hands of their students, who realise that this is not the future, this is the here and now for our students.  I am still struggling  to understand why 20th century tools with a 20th century pedagogy have a place in our 21st century classrooms when there are better and cheaper options available that would place more technology into the hands of the students.  To me it feels like some schools are trying to drive forwards, but are looking in the rear view mirror the whole way.
  • Lack of leadership: this was the number 2 barrier to tech transformation but in my experience it is tied with the first barrier.  If there is no vision, there can be no leadership.  In the past few months I've talked with schools that are creating new positions as they see the need for a different role for their tech teachers. I've talked with teachers, tech directors, principals and directors.  Any school that is still teaching set IT lessons every week doesn't even make it onto my shortlist of a place I want to be.  Any school leader who cannot articulate how they want technology to be used for learning doesn't get onto the shortlist either.  Right now I'm questioning whether I can seriously consider working at a school that I've not seen with my own eyes, or a school leader that I've not met and spoken with at length.  What I'm looking for in a school leader is someone who is walking the talk and modeling the best practices they want to see in others.
  • Lack of money:  Most of the time it's not really a lack of money.  What I've found is that the real problem is how the money that is available is spent and who makes the decisions about how it is spent.  Is the decision made by people who are not in the classrooms and who are not using the technology, or is this a joint decision in which many people have a voice:  students, parents, teachers and administrators?
  • Lack of PD:  The "old" ways of "doing" PD need to change.  Workshops on specific tools that might at some point be used need to go.  Effective PD needs to be ongoing, and often one-to-one.  It doesn't neatly fit into an hour after school or an in-service day.
  • Lack of time:  Most teachers would cite this as being the number 1 reason why they don't embrace new technology or change the way they do things.  They need more time to play with technology alongside their students.  
Photo Credit:  July 7, 2011 by Mike Demers AttributionNoncommercial 

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