I attended a wonderful conference this week in the Greater Clark County School District in Indiana, which is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Louisville Kentucky. They have committed to a huge undertaking of providing a Chromebook to every teacher and every student. Needless to say, many of these teachers came to this conference with Chromebooks in hand to get whatever they could before school begins for them in a few short weeks.
In addition to me, Shelly Terrell, @ShellTerrell; Kyle Pace, @Kylepace; Nick Provenzano, @TheNerdyTeacher; and Tim Gwynn, @Tgwynn were all invited as guest speakers. The entire conference was conceived and executed by Brett Clark, @Mr_Brett_Clark and his staff.
This was the first time I attended a conference where the goal was to equip and train an entire staff with technology tools for learning. I know I have read about it, tweeted about it, and have even written about it, but I have never seen it happen for real until this conference. It was a great opportunity to examine the responses of the teachers in both their excitement and their fears concerning this systemic change in their district, as well as each teacher’s personal career.
As to be expected there were different reactions from the staff depending on their familiarity and comfort level with technology. Some teachers were eager to go, others not so much. I was told that a number of teachers had yet to even remove their Chromebook from the box that it came in, and they obviously were not in attendance at the conference. That does not make them bad teachers. It does however point to a greater problem where an education system has failed to prepare, and maintain its educators in terms of relevant methods and tools for learning in a technology driven culture.
Most of our educators are experts in education, as well as content, and as such, many have been conditioned through school and culture to believe that the teacher cannot make mistakes in front of students. That mindset strikes fear in the heart of every teacher who believes kids are digital natives and know more about technology than any adult, especially if they will be required to use technology to teach. The convergence of these two myths is the biggest obstacle to integration of technology in education. Many teachers are further discomforted in their belief that they must know everything about the technology and all its applications before they consider taking it into their classroom. In reality, that will NEVER happen with the frequency of change in technology and all applications.
Another very big consideration when we talk about integrating technology into education is the change in the learning dynamic for teachers, as well as students. It requires a commitment to life long learning which goes beyond just the words. It also requires a commitment to personalized education, which, if not enabled by technology, its ability and impact are certainly enhanced by it.
Technology drives change. Change requires that we are flexible, and adapt as we go, which promotes more change. This will continue whether or not some individuals participate in that change or not. Individuals who do not adapt and change should never be our educators. The constant in education should be the learning and not the status quo. If society is moving to change at a rapid pace, then we need to develop in our children the skills and abilities to change as well, and that requires the same abilities in the educators who are charged with teaching our children.
Before we can get educators to accept technology as a tool for learning, we may need to change the culture of education. We need to address the fears of the educators that restrict their abilities to teach with relevance. In assessing the effects of technology we need to first assess if it is being used properly. Equipping an entire district with Chromebooks, or Ipads does not insure proper use. Training, support, collaboration, and encouragement will take a district beyond the limits of just purchasing and handing out the tools. It does not bode well for technology to assess its impact on learning if it is not being properly used with students.
I commend Dr. Andrew Melin, @amelin_gcs, Superintendent of The Greater Clark County Schools, and my friend Brett Clark for embracing the learning tools of our century in order to prepare their students for their century yet to come. They are both bold and courageous in this effort, which requires great resolve. I would encourage them to remember that we can better educate our students if we better educate their educators. We should never hold up our past as our children’s model for their future.