Taking My Own Advice

Over the last few weeks I have taught four different groups of teachers about various technology topics. The emphasis in three of them has been on Web 2.0 – the read/write web. Every time I do one of these workshops I get the same types of responses about technology:

  • This is very cool
  • This is a priority
  • I don’t know how to use it
  • I’m overwhelmed

In response, I try to emphasize that this technology is not the answer to everything. While I have a web page that ideally drives my classes and serves as the backbone, most activities, on a day-to-day basis are actually not where the students directly use computers. They have to take small steps. Do one or two things. Get comfortable with those things first. Otherwise it is overwhelming.

In a moment of exhaustion last night I finally decided to take my own advice. The first six weeks of my AP World History curriculum need some major revisions, but I also decided that my college prep curriculum needed some retooling. So I have spent an inordinate amount of time reinventing and fine tuning lessons I’ve been doing for years. Part of my plan from the start was to changing my Industrial Revolution major project to a branching simulation (like my Holocaust Wiki Project). However, seeing that I still had hours work to do, I realized I have done a lot already and my students will survive if I do another non-technology lesson in its place that I have implemented successfully in previous years. I will work on it over the summer and have it ready to go next year.

This hits at the core of the problem that most teachers face when trying to do new things. Time. There is simply not enough time. For all the cool ideas that Will Richardson, David Warlick, and others have, those of us actually in the trenches have to find the time and resources to actually put these great ideas into practice. There are some schools and districts that are making these ideas happen (how I wish I could be a part of Chris Lehmann’s new school), but for most it is difficult. How can we tell the new story or have new conversations when we barely have time to do the same old thing.

I love the ideas that will be central to the k12 Online Conference (I knew I would be over extended so I didn’t submit a proposal) – but schools have a lot of changing to do in order make them mainstream. Individual teachers, even with the Internet and the blogosphere, can only generate so much progress.

We are still a minority in the teaching world.

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3 thoughts on “Taking My Own Advice”

  1. This was really refreshing to read, Dan. I was just put into the role of encouraging other teachers to integrate technology into their pedagogy at my school, and am working out a strategy to do so. It was really nice to read your thoughts (especially since, like myself, you are a social studies teacher first and not a full time tech guy) and talk about some of the concerns I anticipate running into. I really appreciate your advice to take small steps. I agree with you that we’ll never be able to fully integrate technology in the way we might hope. I’d be curious to hear what you have to say about helping teachers who aren’t using it at all (and may not know how to do it) begin to feel comforatable enough to do so.

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  2. I’m depressed. I’ve been struggling as a “long-term substitute” without technology, hoping to get a surplus computer or something to start using some technology. I see your direction, and it seems to me we’re swimming the opposite way.

    Last week we got the word that the district will not only not provide even a surplused computer for the room, but that we should plan on no technology for the rest of the year. No internet, no PowerPoint, no DVD, VCR when I can reserve the player days in advance . . .

    “Able to fully integrate technology in the way we might hope?” HA!

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  3. Time…there’s not enough. I agree. It’s so frustrating. However, while you are attempting to integrate something new and innovative I find myself faced with higher ups who want to keep running on that treadmill of old, tired ideas that waste time. Improving the wheel is great…..reinventing the wheel is not.

    …and if I haven’t already said it many, many congrats on the column.

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