My Australian friend Dr. Arthur Winzenried at Charles Stuart University in Wagga Wagga (voted 12 years running coolest name for a town in the entire world) and I have been commiserating about the diverse levels of expertise we encounter among those we teach. Arthur recently wrote:
At CSU I teach Distance Ed and with all the technology issues decided on a bold approach by setting the group of Masters students (200 odd) the task of collaborating (in teams of 4) on a joint PowerPoint using only a wiki ... as their communication tool. The results are now in and the work is quite exceptional, but in their personal reflections, it showed that a significant number had never produced a PowerPoint before, let alone communicated via virtual chat, wiki etc. The group are essentially all working teacher-librarians in various parts of the world. Despite all of the hype, we still face enormous differences in the levels of expertise and access. Curiously, no access problems reported by students in Belgium or Ghana, Iceland or China, but one serious issue with a student less than 100k from the Uni ...
My fussing was about teaching Web 2.0 tools to educators. In every group setting, there are those who could (and possibly should) be teaching the workshop, who know more tools and more features of individual tools than I ever will, and those who say, "Uh, blogs? Whaz 'at?" And it is tough to do differentiated instruction in a conference workshop... "OK, Bluebirds at this table; Buzzards over here... Please, check your pretest scores!" I don't think so.
It seems to me that that the continuum between reactionary educators who still find overhead projectors a cutting edge tool and progressive educators who seem to master each tool and philosophy du jour is stretching ever longer every year. As a classroom teacher in the 70s and 80s, we all taught pretty much the same way, with the same sets of tools.
But today, teachers and librarians are, let's charitably say, heterogeneous in their skills and outlooks.
Technology use is the most obvious culprit for stretching the continuum, but there also seem to be other factors at work - improved communications, more voices, and an explosion of theories and practices and philosophies of education.
Are our technologies bringing educators closer together? Or are they driving the teaching profession apart?