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EdTech Update




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How can we help shape teacher attitudes toward technology?

In a recent blog post I wrote that I always find it amazing (and even a little frustrating) that some teachers can't get enough technology in their classrooms and give their kids enough experiences using it, while other teachers still grumble at even having to use anything more complicated than an overhead projector. And that I don't think it breaks down neatly along generational lines.

It has to do with attitude. As Henry Ford once observed, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right." So I've been thinking again about how can we help shape teacher attitudes toward technology.

This has been a hot enough topic in the blogosphere lately, I thought it might be time to dust off my "If You Can Do a Thing" presentation and submit it as a session proposal for NECC. It's early enough that if it is accepted, I can revise and re-give this survey in my district. How might this tool be improved?

The last time it was given, we developed these stategies from helping shape teacher tech attitudes:

  • Stress the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) reasons for computer use. Any inservice or new project should have at its heart the clear goal of making a teacher’s job easier or providing the kind of exciting learning opportunities that make teaching more enjoyable. (Examined at length in a column, too.)
  • Give the end user (teacher) a voice in deciding equipment platforms, software adopted, and timelines for implementation. Everybody hates top-down edicts. Make them as seldom as possible.
  • Take a hard look at your inservice times to make sure they are as convenient as possible for teachers. Consider a range of training options that suit individual teacher learning styles. While many people learn well in hands-on, face-to-face training sessions, others may prefer online or video instruction, well-written tutorials, or simply the time and peace needed to learn through experimentation.
  • Adjust the attitude of the technology support staff. As all of us help teachers with computer hardware and use problems, are we doing our best in making sure they are respected for the intelligent, loveable people they really are?

Sound reasonable?


LoveNYC.jpgOff to Long Island to give a day of presentations for a BOCES and then a long weekend on Manhattan with the LWW. The Skunk will be silent for a few days.


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Reader Comments (15)

I think that the best teachers don't just look at WIFM (what's in it for me) but at WIFS (what's in it for students.) Teachers with a passion to do the right thing by a generation that cannot thank them until they are gone are the ones who are willing to change.

Otherwise, teachers are biding their time waiting until retirement. So many teachers are so frustrated and micromanaged it is difficult to add new things. Teaching is stressful. Many parents blame the teacher and one has to keep on their toes all of the time. It has become a place where kids can make mistakes but teachers can't. (And sometimes even the kids aren't allowed to screw up either.) If everyone made 100's we wouldn't need teachers. This is about teaching what they don't know and also learning what we do not know either.

Attitude is everything! This is an insightful post, Doug, and what I like about it is that it isn't hopelessly throwing up your hands, but rather, a proactive -- "What can we do?" attitude. That is the attitude that gets things done. Great post!

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Davis


Your four bullet points sum up my job (as a technology curriculum specialist) perfectly. Thank you for stating so much so well in so few words.


September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Draper

Here something the students will ove - making their own 2D Barcodes for Treasure and Scavenger Hunts/posters to put up around town linking to Wikipedia/making their own business cards with their unique barcodes - Hope that gets them going! Let me know how it went. à bientôt, Lambe, Paris.

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm Lambe


One realization I have come to recently, is that the teachers who are willing to jump in and get their feet wet with anything new are not always the youngest or any other superlative you might choose for them. What they are, (and I include myself here) is incredible learners. They are people who love to learn. Many teachers claim to be lifetime learners, but in fact, many are not; they do not seek new learning opportunities or extend those that they are presented. However, when an educator can find a reason for the learning -one that means something to them and their students they are unstoppable! Those are the people you will see at NECC and all of the other conferences that they can attend.

When I started in ed-tech five years ago, I was terrified and frustrated for a good year and a half; but then something clicked -the proverbial light bulb went on. After that, I took off and have been going great guns, at an ever increasing rate, ever since. So, I guess both WIFM and WIFK need to play a part in whatever we ask teachers to do. Then all of the time and effort are made worthwhile, with the added benefit of the teacher loving the process, and taking the learning back to their students.

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Linn

Teachers are so under estimated... I'd like to see salaries come way up.. showing the great importance these people play in the future of our young children..

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGarden Statues

Hi Lisa,

I'd agree. You also made me think about the time it takes to learn. If your job is your avocation, you tend to learn 24/7. If your job is just your job, there are other things to do outside of school, I guess. I do appreciate the time people spend with families - especially with kids at home and in school. I like cutting those folks a break as well.

Great comment and thanks for taking the time to respond!


September 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Garden Statues,

I would agree since it was rare I did not need a second job in order to afford being a teacher! Unfortunately too many people see teaching as a "part-time" job and only want to pay the part time salary. Lots of issues here.


September 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


In our district, all teachers have to complete and submit a yearly PD "project". If teachers were offered the option of attending a workshop (could be in-house) about a new technology, say "tagging", then documenting and analyzing how it worked in the classroom, we might get some staff members to try new tools. Think I'll float this by my Superintendent!


September 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdiane

This is a timely post for me to read, as we're giving an in-house "Learning 2.0" conference at my high school in Korea to present what four of us department heads learned at the Shanghai Learning 2.0 Conference.

Since I'm 1/4 teacher, 3/4 tech coordinator for the HS, all teachers have to attend my session. I'm leaning towards the WIIFM approach, but with this twist: I want to test the hypothesis that, if teachers discovered their own creativity, based on the strengths of their "multiple intelligences" profiles, by learning to express that creativity through some "digital art" they don't know about with iLife or the read/write web, then my hope/hunch is this: their excitement at unlocking their own creativity will gradually trickle down into their instruction.

This is partly influenced by my own discovery of how easy it is, after 20 years of fantasizing about it, to actually do music composition using GarageBand (we just went 1:1 as an Apple Laptop School, so all teachers have MacBooks).

There is talk from other quarters at my school of "assigning" all teachers to blog on Ning or 21classes, but I'm ambivalent about that. It treats teachers as "students" (or as mere "teachers" instead of humans with unlocked potential), it treats web 2.0 as "homework" (or simply "work"), and worse still, it treats forced blogging on a walled garden as the real thing (those of us who blog know that it goes beyond writing posts on Ning). All of that is a recipe for aversion, it seems to me.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, though I know you're enjoying Manhattan right now. :)

I made a staff development wiki that sorts "digital arts" (activities) into separate "menus" based on the different multiple intelligences that is open to all for editing and using. I'd be curious, again, to hear any feedback on any of the above ramble :)

Enjoyed the post.

September 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterClay Burell


I think this would be an excellent presentation idea.

Having just completed training all staff last week in a workshop, it was astounding to me(even though I've worked there 16 years) the variety of needs/attitudes/learning styles, etc. of the teachers present.

One aspect I ran across continuously was the high school teachers hoping for staff development/training that was content specific.
I'm sure they are much more focused on the content area than elementary teachers, for example, but do workshops take that into account?

What we did in the workshop was I interviewed some teachers beforehand about staff development--qualities they liked/didn't like. We watched that, and then the group brainstormed about what they liked/didn't like, and how they themselves learn as teachers.

The results were varied and I hope to share them in a blog post soon, along with the video. But what came across loud and clear is that 99% of the teachers wanted to learn by doing--hands-on trainings. And a majority of them wanted follow-up later (which is an area I think trainings fall down on badly).

Anyway, it was fascinating and I'm still digesting all of it. We're going to use their comments to help guide us during a year long new staff dev. initiative at our campus.

Hope you are enjoying your time away!

September 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Foote

You are absolutely right that this disconnect between luddite and early adopter (adapter?) does not break down along generational lines - and its becoming more and more apparent. I've been directing ed tech for 13 years and never before have I seen it so clearly that there is no difference between veteran teachers and rookies in terms of utilizing technoloogy in the classroom.

October 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig


I've posted this, but wanted to send it to your posting since you are discussing teachers and technology adoption.

Let's just suppose we didn't have to use every new thing...

Today I cataloged and inventoried one of those interactive response units being sold to work with smartboards, whiteboards, and so on. The teachers using it are all excited, the kids think it's cool and I'm pretty sure the school tech people are cheering it on as well.

Well, not so fast, let's think about this. I've used these things at Dept of Ed meetings and as with most types of new technology, if one isn't careful, the lowest possible use is most popular. At the DOE mtg, we were given prefab multiple choice responses to the issues we'd met to discuss for two days. Now, rather than the give and take between thoughtful professionals sparking new ideas and conversation, we clicked on 1 if we wholeheartedly agreed, 2 if we sort of agreed, 3 if we didn't really disagree, and 4 if we just didn't care. OK, so those weren't the real choices but you get the idea. Worse, the instant gratification of this exercise was met with wows and gee whiz from all quarters. Sure we knew in seconds that 52% chose 1, but would they have chosen 1 if a passionate number 3 had spoken?

Now as professionals at a conference we should know how to correctly interpret and discard such nonsense when it occurs. What has me concerned is the underlying message we are giving kids by using this in classrooms. If we are just tallying up strictly objective, numerical, no doubter type answers, it's probably not terrible. But you know, you just know, that someone will want to be "on the cutting edge" and use it to gather responses to all sorts of questions. I'm afraid that the kids will come to expect, demand, immediate answers, immediate feedback as a matter of course. Life's not like that, at least not a considered, thoughtful life.

Sometimes, often, one needs to hear opposing views and think about them for a day or two. One might change their mind, it happens. I think I'm right when I take a position, but people and experiences have changed my mind many times. The idea that we will always arrive at the conclusion in one sitting is terrible training for our children.

I guess you can use these devices with my blessing if answer 4 is "Let me sleep on it."

October 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHerb Wilburn

Hi Herb,

I love these comments. It's exactly the same way I feel about Twitter, Ning, and about a dozen other "new, new things."

What if actually took the time to master the tools we have before pushing on to something new.

Would you mind if I re-posted your comment as a main blog entry?

Thanks again!


October 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Carolyn,

Your comment about teachers wanting "content specific" workshops is interesting. We've tended to focus on information literacy applications of tech in our district and kept things fairly generic.

If you are looking at REAL content specific training, I'd suggest that we need to look hard at who is doing the training. Shouldn't content area teachers do the training instead of technology experts?

And yes, the follow-up is why more districts are moving to a Professional Learning Community model. We'll see how tech works into this.

All the best and thanks as always for the good comment!


October 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Diane,

I believe the PD project approach (or Professional Growth Plan, as we call it) is the only way to fly.

if you'd like more ideas on how we set this up.

All the very best,


October 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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