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.