Recently, I got my hand slapped, just a little, when in an online presentation chat room I noticed someone having difficulty. The person was trying to be part of the discussion, but most of that discussion was happening on Twitter, rather than in the chat. She evidently was lost. So, I gave a quick Twitter lesson—had her download TweetDeck, and in moments she was on Twitter participating in the discussion and adding followers. Oh, the lesson also included hashtags and columns. It really took moments to do, and it rejuvenated the teacher in me.
Oh, I’ve forgotten the hand slap part. Seems someone took exception to me sharing a lesson in the chat forum. I get that, but it did send some sparks through me, so I said, “In teaching we can still give attention to the one, or smaller group in need, while continuing to focus on the needs and direction of the larger group.” There is no reason, ever, to avoid bringing someone into a conversation, when it is in your power to help. There is no tech-exclusive club.
The reason my impromptu lesson worked so well, and so quickly, was because the person I was teaching wanted to be part of the discussion, made an effort to be there in the first place, and had all the tools to make it work. Watching or listening someone present tech can be like taking a golf lesson without a club in your hand. If you don’t have the resources in-hand, it’s awfully difficult to try anything out—and learn it. I find that most educators would love to work with technology, use it in their lessons and with their students, but either they don’t have the technology, or the infrastructure isn’t there in school or district. And in a lot of cases, some really good opportunities are blocked by district technology policies. The latter is an inconsistency, where there is no universal fix—what’s appropriate in one school district can be taboo in the next. Gather 5 different Superintendents in a room, and you’ll get 5 or more different answers.
I think that educators, who talk tech for teaching, also need to remember that it’s not about what you, yourself, know or can do, but really about what the audience doesn’t know. So many times I’ve listened to presentations where more ideas teachers can’t do in the reality of their classrooms are thrown out in a rapid-fire display of what the presenter can do. I then hear educators leaving, talking about some wild idea, which is OK, but I’d rather them leave talking about what they can do the next day in class with kids. I think the prerequisite for presenting to educators should be that each teacher should leave with at least 3 good ideas that they can implement in class, the next day, and in some degree—appropriate in any school or district. Start the presentation that way, “You will leave with 3 ideas you can use in class with your students tomorrow!”
That said, not every teacher gets to attend an education technology convention to hear presenters say anything. Now, while some may say, “Well, they should get there!” Most of us know that’s really not going to happen. Some go, year after year, but many don’t. As an instructional tech specialist, I made it a point, each year, to send staff that hadn’t been to an education tech conference. For many, it was their only professional development away from the building. My prerequisite was that each, upon returning, would have to present to the entire staff—what they saw, heard, and hope to do in their own classes. Only a few teachers turned down my offer, but there was a big payoff in can-do-attitude for those who attended.
I also planned lunch gatherings in my computer lab. A teacher’s 20-minute lunch is sacred ground, but they came. I was sort of Robin Williams does tech, which was always good for a laugh. And yeah, I always had a little gift for those attending, too—thumb drive or mouse pad—something small, but my main goal was to make sure teachers left with an idea, that could be done in their own classes that afternoon, with the equipment and curriculum they had. Following up was important for me, too, because I discovered that the teachers attending the lunch meets shared the ideas with staff that hadn’t.
I have some edtech friends, who complain that they say the same things over and over again and no one listens—no one seems to get it. I simply say, “Keep saying it, but say it differently.” We need to make it important enough for educators to follow and then lead others. There will be a tipping point, but getting there takes work, and a lot of creative ways of saying the same things—and as many times as it needs to be said—and more importantly—shown. Not everyone crosses the marathon finish at the same time. Sounds like teaching to me.