It’s about the other person

Recently I’ve been involved in some discussions about how teachers might become better users of technology. It began with a post over at Dangerously Irrelevant where Scott McLeod posted

In many industries, knowledge of relevant technologies is a necessary prerequisite for either getting or keeping one’s job. Sometimes the organization provides training; sometimes the employee is expected to get it on her own. Either way, the expectation is that use of the relevant technologies is a core condition of employment.
Why aren’t our school organizations expecting more of their employees? Are we that desperate for workers?

The discussion that follows is worth reading just to see the complexity of the issue. Now, I don’t think that we are desperate for workers or anything like that but it made me wonder why it is that there are many teachers who are not taking advantage of these tools in their teaching.

Now Scott pointed me in the direction of Greg Farr, an administrator in Texas, who has some great posts about technology and its use in the classroom. I suggest that you take a look at what he has to say about technology use in education plus a whole lot of other things.

One of Greg’s posts deals with the use of technology and it being a tool that should be used just like all the other tools a teacher has at their disposal. He describes, very well, the whole idea that teaching is not about the tools but

True teaching and learning MUST allow for subtleties and nuance, for opinions expressed in tone of voice, for emphasis via a small hand gesture, or doubt cast with the slightest raising of an eyebrow.

He goes on to say

I maintain that TO THIS DAY the best way to assess a teachers ability is to take them outside, give them a group of 20 students, no pencils, no paper, no electricity, nothing but a pleasant day and a tree to sit under. And tell them to teach. A true TEACHER would take this opportunity and run with it.

I have to concur 100% with this. Teaching concerns human relationships. It is anchored in assisting students to add to their knowledge, seeking ways to scaffold learning to push them into places where they will need to stretch and question, examine, accept or reject and search for more. It is sometimes uncomfortable and challenging, frustrating and rewarding the whole while being centered around relationships.

A similar thing was happening over at Teaching Generation Z where Graham Wegner’s Parable2.0 provided for a great discussion about how teachers who are wanting to share their passion for the use of web2.0 tools often find it frustrating. The parable looks at how, in their desire to bring other teachers on board, often end up in a frustrating situation. The discussion that followed explored how many teachers identify with the parable and how it unfolded. One such contributor was Clay Burell from Beyond School, his blog looking at teaching, technology and a few other things. Clay’s comment

As a classroom teacher who does drive his own geeky projects, I know how overwhelming it can get – and I have the skills to survive and troubleshoot and tolerate frustrations and “Crosbian Messiness.” To expect others to be able to handle the strain of things too ambitious, or too time-consuming relative to the rest of the teaching load on the teacher’s plate, is dangerous.

is right on the mark. Those of us who are using the tools and doing various projects are able to do so because we have advantages that others don’t. Now, some of these advantages include what Clay points out:

skills to survive and troubleshoot and tolerate frustrations and “Crosbian Messiness.”

However, the one thing that isn’t stated is that many of us have created networks of other users and “techno geeks” with whom we can discuss, question, collaborate and bounce ideas off of. Many of us twitter, pounce, Facebook, Ning, …. sharing our discussions, thoughts and, now that we have developed relationships, parts of our lives. We have adopted the interconnectedness of the networks and built relationships which are now leading to people planning meetings at conferences (like NECC where I WON’T be going!) and personal rendezvous for such things as golf.

Relationships – this is what brings, and binds us, together. Whether it is Sharon Peters looking for feedback on a post, Alec Corous looking for assistance with web conferencing, Vickie Davis and Julie Lindsay discussing their Horizon Project, Will Richardson and his discussions of learning or Dan Meyers, who questions and challenges, helping to stretch the discussion, helping us to reflect on our ideas and thoughts while providing some great tools and insights into using web2.0 tools in teaching, these relationships help us connect and develop, grow and learn, keep our perspective and motivate us These relationships have become a large part of how we are growing and developing our teaching and understanding. These are the relationships that those teachers not engaged DO NOT have.

Showing other teachers all the tools isn’t what is needed. Helping them develop relationships and make connections is. We can show and demonstrate, rave and mandate; it will not bring others to question, grow and adopt. We have many examples of educators who are beginning to delve into using these tools. Overwhelming them with the possibilities just pushes them away. Helping them to build their own networks, seeking out teachers who, like themselves, are testing the water and encouraging them to continue in their own lifelong learning will empower them to develop even more. Not all of them will see the benefits of all the tools they encounter but the relationships they develop during this process will go further, I believe, to bringing about powerful change than any tech person can hope to do by themselves. Maybe that’s the lesson we need to take with us as we continue to approach those around us, showing them the power of our networks and the learning that these networks encourage. As was posted tonight on twitter

kolson29 finished watching really bad movie, off to bed. Twitterverse very different from even a week ago…….more “conversations”, less telling.

Let’s invite others to start their own conversations, starting where they are and moving forward instead of where we want them to be.


  1. Reply

    Hi Kelly,
    Graham’s comment thread is stimulating stuff, isn’t it?

    I think you thrust is well-aimed and, at the risk of over-simplifying, think simply welcoming people into the Twitterverse may be the most high-leverage, low-labor “evangelizing” we can do to help transform schools – because, as you say, we all seem to be tiring of the bloody foreheads from full-court presses against brick walls.

    I’m not sure how much sense Twitter would make to people who live in school 1.0, but it’s some jiujitsu worth trying. I also wonder how they’d handle the opposite result of addiction (or whatever you want to call it) to their social networks 😉

    One thing is for sure: twitter, more than anything in the last year, has revolutionized what learning looks like for me personally. I think many others would agree.

    ’08 is going to be an interesting year.

    Enjoyed the post, as usual.

  2. Reply

    Forgot to add: I’m so glad to see Twitter moving from “Frying eggs” (“What I’m doing” – to which I react, “What I don’t care to read”) to all the conversation about ideas lately.

    That concluding tweet on your post nails it.

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  4. Reply

    Great post, Kelly! We cannot, must not, lose sight of the “being human” side of using technology in our teaching practices. Perhaps that is what even turns many people off – the fear that using technology fosters a detachment from our humanness. Our students who use social networks every day as an extension of themselves know otherwise. While the level of engagement between people can be quite shallow on places like Facebook, they are fun and geared toward furthering social relationships. We learn through relationship – I know that to be true based on my own experiences with my students and from my own children and their learning experiences. Let’s use these online social spaces and tools in ways that promote relationships between people – and yes, it is the best way to enable teachers to be independent learners who are establishing and fostering their own personal learning network.
    I came here innocently redirected from Alec’s recent blog post to see my own name mentioned! Fun! And when I do ask for feedback for a blog post, I am honestly inviting people into a conversation or some kind of discourse where the ideas there can be challenged or augmented or extended. Very often, my ideas are tentative beginnings – there are those out there who can articulate it much better than me, but I need the opportunity to use my voice. That way, it becomes my own learning experience.

  5. Reply

    Clay, I’d have to concur with you about twitter and it’s power to help me in my learning and connecting. For those of us who have built up a network, the conversations are beginning to flow more naturally and touching on a wide array of things. I don’t think it will be long before we see people moving from a conversation started in Twitter to a place where conversations can be for those interested and then, from these, projects or whatever taking off. Kind of like you have done a few times with Skype discussions.

    Sharon – direct hit! You’ve become your own directed learner with a voice in the conversation. And now, with that network, you are able to expand what you are doing and build with the help of other people – people whom will push you, prod you, validate you and, yes, even disagree with you. What powerful learning. And it’s there for anyone who wants to join.

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  7. Reply

    whack! That is the sound of you hitting the nail on the head Kelly. Great post. It is so much more than the tools, it is the people, the connections that help us evolve and push our thinking. I love that you are spending so much time thinking about networks and communication with teachers because I am presenting this concept of Online Networks at WestCast in Regina. Please continue to push my learning and thinking in this area.

    It would be fantastic if you could join us in person or through skype for a minute or two to share if the timing of the session allows.

  8. Reply

    Kyle, I will join you in some fashion during that time. We can work out where I might be of some use for you and your presentation. Thanks for the encouragement and input.

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  10. Reply

    It’s been my experience that the admin. at the school where I currently teach and at my previous places of employ aren’t tech savvy, which may explain the crux of the matter. That is no excuse for faculty to not be tech-savvy on their own accord,but, as I said, it explains a lot.

  11. Reply

    Yes it does. I know that there are many administrators who are not tech savvy but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be aware of what is going on around them. It is important to be as informed as one can be regardless if that is the area of instruction, differentiation, reading, assessment or technology. I don’t pretend to know everything but I do spend time learning about things that are happening in education and trying to keep myself informed. Not always easy!

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