Yesterday’s post marked the start of me trying to work out, in writing, some of the questions I have about pedagogy and technology. I’ve been spending more time with my computer than any other object in my life for at least the last ten years, and there are (many) things that have developed or changed over time that I’ve often discovered by mistake, and I wonder how other teachers have handled it. Educators aren’t generally trained in new technologies unless we seek out the training on our own or it’s for some profit-driven company that will benefit when the school buys 500 of whatever’s being offered (at least that’s been my experience). And yet we are required to stay up-to-date in the name of pedagogy, a requirement that is understandable and at times, impossible. For example, how are teachers expected to use SmartBoards if they are taught a crash course in an afternoon PD session when they’re already exhausted, have about 8 million other things to do to prepare for tomorrow, there will likely be no follow up, and they don’t have regular access to the SmartBoard itself?
This is one of the things I’m talking about when I mention “the gap between policy and practice” in my work.
But I’m talking about less-technologically-advanced things than SmartBoards, too. If you haven’t ever had a Facebook account as a teacher, you’re missing a huge understanding of how young people communicate; if you do have an account, you have to be careful about what you post (and gets posted) on your wall. And what about learning less big-concept things like the fact that you don’t have to type “www” anymore when you enter a URL? Or what about fair-use and copyright laws? I admit that the first time I taught an online course (back in 2004!?), I simply scanned in and uploaded portions of texts that I wanted to use. I had a hunch that that wasn’t exactly what I was supposed to do, but as a part-time instructor at a university that had little means to train a rookie teacher who’d been hired as a teacher educator (a problem in its own right, but one that initiated my career as a teacher educator), I did what I could with the technology available to me at the time.
So what of these changes — both subtle and far-reaching — that are happening at mach speed on a daily basis now? When and how are teachers trained, if they don’t take the initiative on their own? Some people might argue that everyone, no matter the industry, has to figure out how to use new technologies, but my counterargument to that is that education is different.
On the day I received my acceptance letter to the New York City Teaching Fellows — a little more than ten years ago — one of my best friends said, “teaching is the most important job.” Granted, he’s a professor now so might be biased, but that statement really impacted me — education is a requirement in this country, and thus something we all universally experience in some form; it is also something our society values a great deal, despite the fact that a degree does not guarantee being able to find a job. Teachers need to be taught, too, and we’re starting to figure out ways to do that at the post-secondary level, but what about K-12? Where are the in-depth, across-the-board trainings for teachers that don’t 1) take time away from everything else they have to do, 2) are free of charge, and 3) address, in a zone-of-proximal-development type of way, the pednology, or maybe techagogy, needs of teachers? Pedagogy and technology are no longer disparate concepts, and K-12 educators who don’t feel completely comfortable with what’s happening need the supports to catch up, too.