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EdTech Update




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What drives your technology initiatives?

Last Sunday, I ruminated a bit on whether blogs were a technology for teaching writing.  And I found that I’ve been out of the English classroom too long to remember many “best practices” anymore. But I did remember I have a rather useful book sitting near my desk: Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde's Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools 2nd ed. Heinemann, 1998. (There is a 3rd edition available.)

In the section on “Best Practices in Teaching Writing,” compiled from various national professional organizations such as National Council of Teachers of English, the book lists these as “best practices.”

  • Teachers must help students find real purposes to write.
  • Effective writing programs involve the complete writing process.
    • Selecting
    • Pre-writing
    • Drafting
    • Revising
    • Editing
  • Teachers can help students get started.
  • Teachers help students draft and revise
  • Grammar and mechanics are best learned in the context of actual writing.
  • Students need real audiences and a classroom context of shared learning.
  • Writing should extend throughout the curriculum.

So which practices are supported, which are hindered, and which are not impacted at all by technology use? (Thanks, Chris, for your comment about how David Warlick's Blogmeister supports the revision stage of the writing process.) Do I as a tech director know enough about teaching writing to answer this question?

Here’s the point I’d like to make. Isn't it time we start looking at best practices first and technology second? It is about dammed time that teachers do the technology implementation planning instead of us technology directors. It's an awful lot to expect from even guys and gals even as intelligent, (charming and good looking) as we techies to know the best practices of every subject and skill at every developmental level.

In other areas of the district, the impetus for technology implementation has come from outside the technology department. Building administration wants a reliable student information system. Assessment needs good data mining tools. Special education demands a better way to do IEP forms. Community education wants a simple way to keep track of building schedules. Transportation, human resources, finance, census – all these departments have pushed my department to find, implement and maintain technology solutions to make them more effective.

Where is the push from the classroom? We have our early adopters. We have some simple programs that many teachers use (too often more for entertainment value than educational value). Our library media specialists, business ed, tech ed and (strangely enough) PE folks push for technology to support their teaching goals and best practices. But compared to the administrative side, teachers just aren’t very demanding.


  • Do teachers not know about potentially useful tech applications?
  • Do teachers not know best practices?
  • Are teachers not able to link technology and best practices?

I am signing up for this year’s English teacher’s conference and asking to be put on the routing list for NCTE’s English Journal. And if I find that technology is being linked to effective writing practices in places where these English teachers hang out, boy, are they in trouble.

How much is it the technology department’s job to promote technology use? How much is the technology department’s job to support the technology initiatives of the pedagogical experts?


In his column this morning, Leonard Pitts described e-mail as "...a repository for the detritus of cluttered minds." That may well become the new subtitle of this blog.


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Reader Comments (5)

I'm still trying to catch up to your last thoughts. :O)

For me, "best practices" goes into the bin with "research" and "integration". They have become throw-away terms in our dialog. "We need to integrate technology based on the latest research and best-practices!" See, it doesn't mean anything anymore. Sounds good, doesn't mean much.

I have it in my "queue" to pull apart Robert Marzano's "Classroom Instruction that Works" and piece together a blogging/information literacy story with that information. We need to start getting good stuff (like what you have above), pull it apart, put it back together, remix it with our latest experiences, see if we can construct new meaning and ideas from it.
November 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pederson
* Do teachers not know about potentially useful tech applications (or information resources)?

I suspect we know the answer to that. One challenge for me has been to find more or better ways to share the information I read whether it's a professional journal, blog, etc.

So as I was halfway through September's SLJ last night, and it was soon headed for the recycling bin, it occured to me to go back and cut every article I read out and put a teacher's name on it, with a quick comment such as "Thought you'd be interested in this." I then put all the articles in teachers mailboxes this morning.

I also e-mail blog entries that I think teachers would benefit from. I've asked them to tell me if they'd prefer to not receive them, and *no one* has asked me to stop (although the delete button is a mighty weapon).

Teachers are now stopping me in the halls to chat about what I sent them and how they'd like to try it. Very cool.
November 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Dyer
Thanks, both John and John for your comments.

John P, I agree to a large degree. I often think we are still in the leeches and alchemy stage of education - struggling with the "science" of education the same way medieval scientists struggled with medicine and chemistry.

And John D, what you are reflecting is exactly what Mike Eisenberg suggests when he says librarians need to become the CIO - Chief Information Officers - of our schools. I do believe I need to inform - but should I prosletize?
November 9, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson
I wouldn't think we'd want to proselytize any more than we'd want to skew our library collections to a particular viewpoint. I'd suspect our job is just to offer access to the information, and support them if they want to implement.

Seems to me I read on some guy's web site the following comment: "The mission of the public school educator is not to create belief in any one system, but to give children [teachers] the tools to formulate their own beliefs." ;-)
November 12, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Dyer

I struggle with this a lot. I have strong feelings about certain teaching practices and educational goals. I suppose I am with education much like I am about politics - I read and believe those things that conform to my established values!

I'm really having a tough time now as our buildings are all installing a computerized reading program. Expensive, and little more than a basal on the screen from what I've seen. Short, dull passages followed by long sets of questions.

But I am not a reading teacher or reading expert. I just happen to like it when kids improve their reading by reading things they enjoy (which is research proven to be effective.) I have to remember, that research supports other methods of reading instruction too, and I hope the teachers pushing for Read (un)Naturally have looked at the research as well.

November 13, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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