I have been working slowly with members of my school staff to integrate some technology into a few units here and there. It is by no means a major transformation but a slow trickle to introduce the students and the teachers to some of the tools we can use online. I have the great fortune to be working within a supportive environment.
The latest attempt at trying something out is in the planning stages. I have a colleague who is working on a Heroes or Celebrities unit with her grade four five classroom. My suggestion was to have the final product be a Glogster poster. I love these posters they are simple and can look great. It is tricky however to figure out how to navigate the social side within the public school. Glogster is a social site, or it can be. I use it as a publishing tool and not as a place to hang out. Students could use it as a place to hang out. How do we handle it? My colleague is not hugely comfy with technology and had an immediate retreat response. If we can’t guarantee safety then we need to retreat to powerpoint. I was reluctant to do that and have found a bit of a compromise position. We will not have the students have their own accounts but use a single account which I will manage. I still want to have the conversation about online safety and making good choices in the online community.It is the time of teaching both students and parents about the tools and their positive and negative possibilities which my colleague could see starting to take up more of her program than she wants to lose.
A second incident with another colleague trying out blogging as a connector between her class and a class in another part of Canada is having similar questions. She’s not ready to change all of her practice, she said something like, “I don’t want it too take too much away from the rest of what is happening in the classroom”. I know what she is running into, it’s a clash between doing the curriculum content and using a technolgical tool with it’s associated new learning and teaching.
It is hard to change things in small ways. Online tools require teaching about community, not just teaching about tools. Teachers, if my colleagues are indicative, are overwhelmed by the consequences of using the tools. The natural response to being overwhelmed is to step away after all the tools are optional.
The trouble is the misalignment of what we are asked to do ‘officially’ with curriculum documents and through the current structures and what the new tools demand in teaching and time. Until the official documents and current structures match a new way of doing ‘classroom’. It will be the odd classroom with an unusual teacher which is able to do ‘teaching how to learn’ rather than ‘teaching what to learn’.
We will continue to struggle on in small ways and feel the push-pull of the old and the new. My colleagues are willing and I keep telling them, it’s not hard. Of course, the tools aren’t hard, the change of mind set is the tricky part. It’s not hard, really.