Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Helping the Technophobic Teacher

The following guest post was written by Mark Pullen, an elementary teacher in a 1:1 classroom in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

The infusion of technology into the classroom has the potential to be the greatest change agent in K-12 education for the foreseeable future. As a result, I believe that one of the most important goals for today’s principals must be helping their technophobic teachers to learn to utilize technology more effectively. Here are four ways in which principals can do just that:

Set clear technology goals: While this will be important to all of your staff members, this will especially aid the struggling teacher. Don’t be vague: “All students at Lincoln Middle School will learn to become active digital creators and safe web 2.0 citizens” may be fine language for your building’s official tech plan, but to the technophobic teacher, it means little.

Find in-house technology mentors: Mentors aren’t only for new teachers. Identify your best technology mentors and pair them up with teachers who need extra help. Students can be used to mentor other students as well; for example, in the elementary grades, schools often designate “reading buddies” – older students who pair up with younger students to read with them. For elementary principals reading this, why not encourage the creation of a “technology buddies” program where your older students pair up with younger ones to help them learn some core technology skills?

Focus on key proficiencies, not ever-changing sites and tools: Help your technophobe teachers to understand that the goal isn’t necessarily to have students learn Prezi, Glogster, VoiceThread, Animoto, and Adobe Premiere by the end of the semester; rather, it is to have students become comfortable with presenting their learning in a digital form. The specific sites and tools will change too quickly for the technophobic teacher to ever feel confident in understanding them, but the core student competencies needed will generally remain more stable from year to year.

Create differentiated professional development opportunities: Your technophobic teachers need to be met where they are and brought forward from there. Too often, I’ve seen professional development that is far too complex for some teachers and far too simple for others. I’ve seen teachers that struggle to attach a file to an email; if that’s where they’re at, professional development about starting a classroom Ning network just won’t be helpful.

Our mindset toward technophobic teachers should be similar to our mindset toward struggling students: all teachers can learn, and we need to intentionally provide those struggling teachers with instruction that meets them where they are to help them increase their tech competence and confidence.

About the Author:
Mark Pullen has been an elementary teacher for 13 years, currently teaching third grade in East Grand Rapids, MI. He’s an advocate for classroom technology integration, and writes extensively on that subject on behalf of Worth Ave Group, a leading provider of laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance for schools and universities:

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Why?" Often Leads To Change or Trouble

Every so often, I like to take a moment to share a few of my favorite tweets from the last few months and a brief explanation as to why.

Bill Ferriter, a remarkable teacher in North Carolina and part of the 2% within my PLN, brings up the importance of the always relevant question "why?" and it's ability to bring about change.    As school leaders, when a teacher asks "why," do you perceive this as a threat? As teachers, how many times do you perceive the "why guy" in class as the "wise guy?"

These pair of tweets caused me to write one of my most popular posts found here.  It also sparked this post by a colleague, Anne Beck, who addresses the importance of embracing the "why guy" in the classroom.  All of this because @plugusin, @L_Hilt, @Stumpteacher, and @johntspencer had a great conversation.  It's time we begin embracing our valuable, critical colleagues and/or students.

Unless we CHOOSE to be!  In this case, I believe we are limiting our students to what one teacher knows and is able to do.  As Mimi suggests, it is time we break down classroom walls and go beyond the expertise of one teacher.

Take a look at Paula Naugle's blog post and how her students became the "experts" who educated other classrooms around the country.  We now have experts at our fingertips.

Thanks Kelly for such a meaningful tweet.  As educators, it's time we change how we perceive failure.  I also believe it's time we change the way we look at success.  Great teachers understand that failure is a success in learning.

Failing also builds resilience.  It's important that we teach our students not to dwell on their failures, and instead, acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then adapt and move forward.  As the Japanese proverb states, "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

Thanks Becky for tweeting out your experience at NAESP12.  I had the privilege of hearing Rafe Esquith speak about 7 or 8 years ago and the way he introduced Kohlberg's stages of moral development to his students resonated with me. Level 6 thinking is when an individual acts because it is right, and not because it is instrumental, expected, legal, or previously agreed upon.  Take a look.

We have all watched the following movie clip from The Shawshank Redemption.  Rafe Esquith uses this scene to demonstrate level 6 thinking.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read earlier posts highlighting my favorite tweets here and here.