Monday, May 18, 2009

Where to begin - Integrating Technology

While we have come a long way from no technology to networked computers accessing the Internet, we have a long way to go before technology is integrated into our curriculum. I have been listening to podcasts that describe the possibilities and the barriers for integration. Wes Fryer posted a presentation by Bob Martin - a technical trainer with the University of Missouri. This podcast is the result of roundtable conversations with teachers, tech directors and higher education folks.

I could related to each and every one of the challenges listed by the participants. Our teachers and administrators have mentioned most of these as well. As I look to improve our adoption - a true integration of technology - I wonder if the order in which we address these challenges would affect the speed at which we can move past them.

The Barriers; K-12 teachers said they have (my comments in italics):

  • lack of knowledge about web 2.0. Most don't know what it is exactly.
  • no time to research. Teachers too busy with the day-day work of teaching. Tech directors too busy with maintaining what they have.
  • security concerns. Tech directors want people to use tools that are proven to be safe. Teachers want to keep students safe from cyber-stalkers.
  • filtering concerns. All want to make sure that students aren't exposed to inappropriate content.
  • perceptions was from parents that these were not tools, they were toys (Facebook).
  • kids know more than we do. Teachers are intimidated by what kids know despite the fact that kids only know a specific slice of tech.
  • lack of supporting research. Administrators don't want teachers wasting time on activities with little payoff. They wonder why we should spend time with technology.
Some of the remedies that were presented were:
  • Bridge the disconnect between what the teachers need and what the tech directors provide. We need to have more conversations to bring theory to reality.
  • Agree on some standardized tools for Web 2.0 so that everyone can be supported and trained. Like:
    • blogs: edublogs
    • wikis: wikispaces for educators
    • social bookmarking: diigo for educators
    • social networking: Ning
    • RSS: Google Reader
    • Microblogging: Edmodo
  • Start small. Use the tools in small ways at first. Grow into your use of the tools.
  • Teach students how to keep themselves safe. Keep their identity private.
  • Teach teachers to set up controls for privacy and safety. Teachers should be the moderator of web activity. This is a far cry from what students are used to on "Facebook".
While these remedies were presented in rather random fashion, I think that order matters. This is not to say that we should wait until all our ducks are in a row before we begin to use these tools. Quite the contrary. I'd say that (in our district) the horses have left the barn. It's just that some of them are in more danger and more confused than others. In our district, we lack coordination of these efforts so we have an uneven adoption of technology.

In an effort to coordinate our efforts I think we should approach our conversations with some principles in mind. I'd like us to adopt the phrase:

Conversations for collaboration in technology
Safety for students through education and supervision.
Simplicity for teachers through standardization and starting small.
Training for all!

I think these ideas, while fairly modest and keeps the horse in front of the cart. We can make our conversations productive. We can keep students safe and build support for teachers and students. We can help lower teachers anxiety in the use of these tools.