Lately, I have had a number of opportunities to speak to education leaders: superintendents, school board members, and yesterday, to district curriculum and technology leaders, mostly from Long Island, New York. It was the 2020 Vision Now Summit, held in Melville, NY. The audience was predominantly district superintendents, assistant superintendents, and some directors of technology.
Most of these addresses afforded time at the end for questions from the audience, an experience that I’ve found to be quite educational. One surprise has been the lack of interest in Internet safety. This concerns me, as Internet safety continues to be an extremely important issue. But it also heartens me, as it seems that we are starting to get past the scare tactics of institutions and industries, in whose interest it is to generate fear.
One question that I consistently get is, “How do we train teachers to work with today’s information and communications technologies?” I don’t quite understand this. It’s probably my own very unique perspective, my outside the box mentality, my own success as a learner, and less success as a student. But this just doesn’t seem like such a big problem to me.
It’s completely understandable that educators, with the institutional culture that we work in, would attack the problem by asking, “How are we going to teach this to teachers?” But yesterday, I asked the audience, of almost 300, to raise their hands if they could say that they learned at least half of what they do with technology by teaching themselves — and almost every hand went up.
I think that it’s part of the job. It is my job, as a teacher, to be able to teach today — to be skilled at using today’s information technologies within today’s information environments and apply pedagogies that reflect today’s information environments. We suffer from the myths of old world education, that you go to school so that you will be prepared for the next 30 or 35 years. But the teacher we are at graduation from college, is not necessarily the teacher we need to be five years later. Those days are long behind us — and I think that the job has become a whole lot more exciting as a result.
Formal staff development is important. We all need new ideas, new energy, new inspiration. Districts and service agencies should continue to make available any kind of professional development opportunities that are successful. But it’s still the job of the teacher to be competent to teach in the classrooms that today’s students need.
Certainly, the situation is far more complex than this. Teachers do not have nearly enough time, nor enough compensation. They do not have the resources, and many resources are actually blocked from access. They are expected to do so much more than teach, and they are held responsible within conditions that are often entirely beyond their control. I’ve often said that the very best thing we could do to improve teaching and learning is to give teachers the time. Every teacher should have one hour of on-the-job professional time for every hour they spend in instructional supervision.
So, I think that if we can simplify the question of staff development by saying that, “It’s part of the job of the teacher to continue to grow,” then we can get on with the far more interesting question, “What does the school and classroom look like where learning is what you see happening, not teaching — where learning stops being a job, and, instead, becomes a lifestyle.”
Now, on to this weeks K12 Online Conference sessions.
Bretag, Ryan. “The Bloggers Cafe.” Ryan Bretag’s Photostream. 13 Jul 2007. 16 Oct 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/educationaltechnologist/804841708/>.