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« Monitoring one's web rep | Main | First year goals for a library program »
Thursday
Oct022008

The continuum's ends

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?

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Reader Comments (6)

I ask this daily. Is this why I feel like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? My issue is for a lot of things I'm way ahead on the continuum which intimidates some. I had a teacher tell me today your scales are heavy on the technology and light on the literature side. Sigh. I won't apologize for that. Of course this discussion reminds me that I know FABULOUS teachers who merely lecture, but have their students in the palm of their hand, and these students moaning in dismay when the class is done, and then teachers who can dance circles around the technology, but yet cannot follow through or successfully implement a single good project. So to this I say we all bring our gifts to the table. A good mix of progressives and reactionary educators can make for great learning. So it is up to the administrator to ensure there is a balanced representation of each at the table.

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

I don't know if the picture accurately depicts what I think about the subject. I am wondering if the distance has always been the same, but all of the items Doug mentioned (technology, more voices, explosion of theories and practices), make the distance easier to see.

Doug's post, as well as, what Cathy points out about fabulous teachers merely lecturing and very technologically literate teachers are the conversations that make me think we are missing the target on something.

Has the institution of education as a whole, really come to grips to identify and understand what good instruction looks like? If you randomly selected 10 educators, administrators, parents, ... and asked them to watch 20-30 minutes in a classroom - will they all respond similarly when asked about the quality of instruction? (this is really telling if you have not done this).

So, if we are unable to agree upon and collectively own the challenge of sound instructional practices, should we be surprised that the methods one works with to carry out the act of teaching is varied and at times arbitrary?

To what extent does technology amplify good practice and bad?

October 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

I work with educators to roll out new technologies in a system where there is such high security that we need to ask permission from a helpdesk in order to access an educational video posted on you-tube - these bureaucratic measures definitely widen gaps even for those willing to adopt the latest and greatest... these days, I mostly feel. like someone else said, like I am trying to fit a 'square peg into a round hole' and, I do think the gap is widening

October 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter'raya

@ Hi Cathy,

I think it is interesting that a teacher comments on the balance between tech and literature. We have this conversation a lot in our district.

And I agree that there great teachers who don't use technology. I only wonder if some tech would make them even better? Or not.

Thanks,

Doug

@Hi Joel,

Great comments. I agree that teaching has a long way to go before it can be considered a science with good research behind it. We tend to see and treat it more as an art.

I especially liked your last comment about technology being an amplifier of practice. Its a theory that goes back to the ancient Greeks, as I remember.

Thanks,

Doug

@ Tanya,

I can see restrictiveness widening the gap between teachers in separate districts, for sure.

Thanks for the comment,

Doug

October 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I have been in education (from the adult side) since the 70’s also. I remember someone saying that it takes 35 years for a significant major change to occur in education. I also remember hearing that we should be concentrating on student centered learning as opposed teacher centered teaching. I think I have heard that concept now for about 31 years. It seems that technology and web 2.0 can facilitate student centered learning easier than a text book. So, I predict that in 4 years the technology and the philosophy will combine to accomplish educational change.

October 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Bishop

Hi Barry,

I hope you're right. The need for better educated citizens seems more critical now than ever, so that may also help force the changes needed.

Thanks for commenting!

Doug

October 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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