Monday, December 19, 2011

Bridge -v- Barrier

Last week I was asked a question about how an IT coordinator could be either a bridge or a barrier to effective technology use by teachers.  I'd never heard of it in these terms before so I did a bit of investigating and came across this article by Doug Woods.

As I've been looking at a variety of job descriptions for tech positions recently, I came across one suggestion that the words "can walk on water" should also be added to these descriptions - as it is such a hard job.   One of the requirements of such a position is to keep abreast of changes in technology and how they impact on learning.  This involves not just been an expert in technology, but also having a knowledge of all the other subject areas that need to be supported as well and all the different ages/stages of the students.  I'm in the unusual position of having taught all grades from Pre-School to Grade 12, all 3 IB programmes and a variety of different subjects (geography, English, health, homeroom in primary, IT) and yet I would still find it daunting to search out and test software or apps that could be useful for high school maths or science teachers, for example.  Many all-school tech coordinators have probably only taught in one division of a PS-12 school, and probably only taught one or two subjects.

Doug writes about how tech coordinators can be a bridge:

  • embedding new hardware/software or ways of using technology into classroom practice
  • liaising with class teachers who want to change the way they are teaching
  • promoting a change in policy, philosophy or approach to the use of technology
He also points out that the success of a bridge involves regulating the traffic that crosses it - therefore one role of a tech coordinator as a bridge could be to check that there's not too many new things being introduced that could totally overwhelm teachers.

Doug goes on to write about how tech coordinators can be a barrier:
  • blocking the adoption of new technologies because of policies or budget
  • insisting on using the current technology rather than moving on to something new - for example running training in outdated software or old methods of working
  • being uncomfortable with new ideas - perhaps hanging back or holding back teachers who want to try out new things.
When I reflect on this a little more I can see how some tech coordinators can be a bridge - they are the ones that are focused on the LEARNING.  Conversely, others can be a barrier - they are the ones who are focused on the TECHNOLOGY.  Thankfully the job descriptions of many tech coordinators are changing.  Many schools are redefining education and the focus is on using technology to transform the learning.

Photo Credit:  Tower Bridge Wide by Marc Barker AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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