One of the things that is most troubling for administrators and teachers who are working to implement new technology programs is a feeling of overwhelming inadequacy. There is always a nagging suspicion that there is a single right way to rollout equipment, or train users, or teach students, and (at least for me) this is coupled with absolute conviction that we're not doing it. Perhaps this is an offshoot of the core insecurity of educators, or it might be specific to a field so different from what we experienced or were trained.
I credit a lot of this insecurity to three messages that I see in ed-tech blogs and the general media. The first, which has been around for a long time, is the message that the success of a tech program relies completely on the amount and quality of training received by teachers. While I would be the last to disagree with helping users, as I have said in many other places, this “training-trap” has produced 15 years of professional development, remarkably few results, and a culture where any advancement can be thwarted by a hand in the back asking for more training.
The second message also has a history, but it has made a resurgence in the last year, primarily in response to the growth of 1:1 iPad implementations across the country. We a told the you can't just “throw” (remarkable how often this specific term is used with its connotation of randomness) iPads at students and expect the devices to have an impact on learning. This is an easy criticism to make, and a quick way to the upper hand of any argument, but like the first, it is based on false premises. First, there are few, if any, schools that roll out 1:1 without any planning or goals. Could they be more specific, comprehensive, or data driven? Perhaps. However, I find it incredibly insulting to people working hard in this area to simply dismiss their work. Second, and I admit this is controversial, I believe that implementation of 1:1 technology IS transformative in itself, as students begin to learn in an environment closer to that in which they will live and work. Are some uses better, more effective, perhaps, but perfection doesn't dull the shine if good.
Finally, the hyper-confidence of education bloggers can actually be a hindrance to progress. I know that we are excited about possibilities and sometimes we talk loudly and boldly to overcome the many voices of opposition or our own doubts. However, I think sometimes we suggest that we work in a world where all programs work, all students take to everything, and nothing bad happens. Perhaps if we shared more doubts and downfalls, the average user might take heart in sharing similar experiences and hear instead our conviction that we must carry on despite these challenges.
In there early 80’s there was a book by Sheldon Kopp called If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. I think this is a good attitude for this entire field. If anyone claims to have all the answers, that is the last person to whom we should listen. If someone claims that there is only one right way, that is the last person whom we should follow. If someone says (as I hope I do) that they are stumbling along with you…you have found a walking companion.
I wish you all the blessings of a new school year, and as always, I welcome you comments.
Image: 'Puzzled' http://www.flickr.com/photos/54027476@N07/4999919941 Found on flickrcc.net