Well, it’s not quite enough said, or I wouldn’t be writing a whole blog about it. But as I read our student blogger’s last two posts on his frustration over his professors’ technological ineptitude, I couldn’t help but think “Teacher PD.”
Noah, who just happens to be my son and a professional writing major, is no card-carrying member of the Technorati like his dad. He’s just an ordinary college sophomore who knows better than to fear technology. He, like his digital native peers, knows that the worst that can happen is that something will break. And usually, when something technological breaks, there are more than enough people to sweep in and fix it. Or just replace it, because in the grand scheme of things, technology is no longer particularly expensive.
Sure, SMART boards (or any interactive whiteboards, for that matter) aren’t cheap. Laptops aren’t made to be thrown about and iPads are best not skipped like stones on a lake. But, in general, the sorts of technology that end users in education have their hands on doesn’t tend to “break” – it just needs the right keystrokes or swipes to whip it back into shape when an unwary user screws up a setting or two. 9 times out of 10, it won’t break and it certainly can’t bite.
Unfortunately, most educators who have been in the business for a while do not share these digital native sensibilities. It wasn’t so long ago that technology was remarkably expensive and very breakable and rarely fixable by a slightly savvy student. Technology was new and fit only for the tech elite. 15 years ago, Google didn’t even exist, let alone a SMART board in every classroom or online platforms like WizIQ. And while 15 years seems like FOREVER to a 19-year old, it’s the blink of an eye for educators with a bit more perspective.
The only way to address Noah’s frustrations and the reluctance of so many educators to embrace e-learning tools and the massive instructional power of great tools like SMART boards and Moodle and WizIQ and ArtRage and Schmoop is to educate. I think most of us know that teachers are some of the worst students on the planet. It’s very hard to shift gears and put on a learner hat when one wears a teaching hat all day (and probably most of the night), but professional development for educators is absolutely vital if we’re to keep our learners engaged, meet them on their terms, and advance the state of the art in teaching.
This is where professional learning communities come into play. We learn better from our peers, most often, than we do from a sage on a stage. But not only do we need to open ourselves to learning new things and becoming better teachers in new contexts with new tools, but we also need to open ourselves to sharing with each other. Sharing best practices, sharing what works, sharing what’s exciting, sharing what got our students excited, sharing what helped our learners “get it.”
We live and work in an age where resources for learning and professional development abound, as do the technologies for sharing. The key is to make sure that our teachers are as empowered as their students and as utterly unafraid of technology as the learners who take it for granted. What’s the worst that can happen? Some geek has to reinstall some software or reset a SMART board? I think it’ll be OK. Speaking as one of those geeks, I can very safely say that we’d rather teachers be adventurous than scared. That’s really the essence of constructivist learning, isn’t it?