Is networking the answer?

How do you get other teachers started and dedicated building and participating in a network. How do we encourage teachers to be life long learners, to invest time in these technologies as they relate to the classroom. How do we show them what they are missing out on?

These were questions that Kyle left on my last post. Kyle is an intern and, I’m assuming, soon to be a teacher entering the profession with all the enthusiasm of someone new. Kyle’s full comment was very insightful as he wondered about the state of teaching and learning as it is buffeted by the changing winds of technology and 21st century learners.

As an administrator, these questions really made me sit back and ponder what it is that is needed to help teachers venture out and into some of the different networks that I and others are participating in regularly. So, like all good administrators, I asked a few teachers.

Their first response across the board was that the equipment had to work when they went to try it and there had to be someone close who could lend a hand it needed. Without this, they would get frustrated and stop. As one pointed out “I don’t have the time to wait for something that might or might not work. With all the demands I have, it is either working or I’m on to something else.” With all that is going on at the school things need to be working. As I stated earlier, some days teachers don’t have time to go to the washroom.

The other side of the coin is that there needs to be someone who can help them along WITHOUT making them feel like they’re unintelligent. In my younger years, my wife often accused me of this. Instead of patiently working through things with her, I’d get frustrated and finally just do it, usually right after a huge sigh. Not cool. Teachers often are made to feel inadequate because they don’t know how to do some of the simple things, like understand what URL stands for. As another reader commented

Increasingly, education has become more compartmentalized, the work load is more than ever before, and the support is not there.

Each area has its own set of acronyms for different things. It’s got to the point where, as an administrator, I’m not sure if my PGP needs an IEP or a PPP or if I should  just CRY because I forgotten where my CAR is parked today. Really. Some days, with the different meetings that take place, it’s a wonder that teachers don’t start an acronym wall in the staffroom so that they can learn the new vocabulary that is being tossed at them. Now, we toss in a bunch of other things like URL and IP address and UN and wonder why people are backing off going “NO WAY”. Especially when they hear me talk about the twits with whom I tweet to get insights and information. Now that sounds like a place to go for good information!

As for dedicated and participating in the networks I think that they need to be shown that it’s not an add on or something else to do besides what they are already doing. That it is an extension of their lives in a new context. I’ve introduced some teachers to some of the less intimidating networks but they still don’t see them as being really relevant to the day to day things that go on. So, I guess I’d have to say, to question 1, we have to make them less intimidating and more welcoming. Using Twitter might not be the best thing to start with because of the limiting 140 characters. That would be very hard for someone to handle right out of the gate. Something like Pownce, on the other hand, might just be the ticket. A slow introduction to a network where teachers can ease into discussions.

The next question is something that those of us using the tools really have to watch because these teachers are lifelong learners. I watch them as they try new things, read books and articles, discuss new strategies with people in the building and seek out conferences and workshops. They are trying new things and extending themselves. They’re learning, just not like we are. I have teachers who subscribe to Educational Leadership and read the magazine and books when they get them. Others are presenters at conferences while others work within the division on different committees. The teachers with whom I work have been willing to be pilot teachers for a whole host of things, from math to ELA and have taken part in benchmarking and test creating.

So, How do we encourage teachers to be life long learners, to invest time in these technologies as they relate to the classroom? We validate what they are doing and then we take the time to show them how they might be able to replace one thing they are doing with something else. Instead of ordering a magazine, they can read online. It saves them money and they can search out articles they want. But to make this replace the other, we need to show them how to search for articles, bookmark online using delicious or Magnolia. We have to take the time to demonstrate that we think it’s important enough that we’ll give our time to help them and then check in on them. Suggest an article and then discuss it with them. Get them to show someone else a great article or website. But give them the time. Heck, show them a site that will make them flashcards so they don’t have to do it themselves.

How do we show them what they are missing out on? I don’t think we can. See, it’s like the poor man that was happy with his life because he had all he needed and was content with it. When asked by a rich neighbour why he didn’t work harder or do more to get more money, the poor man replied that he didn’t need anymore. The rich neighbour, wanting to show the man what he was missing, asked the poor man to come with him the next day to see what he was missing. The poor man agreed.

The next day, the poor man was picked up by a servant who drove him to the mansion. Another servant answered the door and showed him into a very luxurious drawing room where the man waited and listened as his neighbour conducted business with all different kinds of people, arguing about prices and costs, threatening people who owed him money and making deals for lending out more money. At noon, the two had a quick lunch together as the rich man had to rush off to another business meeting. He told his neighbour to make himself at home and enjoy the day. That afternoon, while the poor man walked around, he noted that there was a huge library with beautiful padded chairs and a fireplace but not a book was open. He walked out into a garden in which two servants worked and when he tried to help they would have nothing of it as they didn’t want him to make a mistake with what was being done. All day long he wandered about, seeing people working and hurrying off to tasks but no one smiled or stopped to talk. Of course, there was no family, the man didn’t have time for one. So when the owner arrived home, the poor neighbour thanked him for the day and started off toward home. The rich man was puzzled. Didn’t he want to stay longer? What had happened? The poor man answered that he had seen enough and was sure he liked his life just the way it was. He may not have had servants in his home but when guests came, they would always find a comfortable chair and great conversation. He might not have a beautiful garden but he was allowed to touch and work with his. He could plant and grow and bring forth life without worrying if he displeased someone. He might not have a great library but his one book, the Bible, was worn from being read each day. When people passed by, they would stop and talk, exchange news and gossip with him, not rushing away from him. And truly, he didn’t have the money but what he did have was earned without arguing and meetings and he enjoyed the few things it afforded him. No, he figured that he’d seen enough and was content with what he had. And with a smile, he turned and headed home.

Take a look at how people see you? What do they see? Is trading what they have for what you’re offering going to bring them what they want? Are we offering something that looks inviting? If not, what needs to happen to make it inviting? How can we entice people when we looked tired or stressed or …. ? We can be excited about what we are doing but if we don’t take them along and infect them with the excitement, what will they see?

Now, I just have to practice what I blog;)


  1. Reply

    Thanks for the rich man/poor man story – During this time of year with reflections and resolutions, I’ve been contemplating my own plans for not only personal networking, but helping others do the same. Though, teachers (rich or poor) generally have more than themselves at heart, it is critical to provide personal value to them before they will try and/or adopt lifelong learning and new pedagogical approaches – after all, their time is valuable and the incredible pressures continue to increase. Your post is making me think of new ways to approach teachers – thanks again!

  2. Reply

    Teaching can be a lonely affair if people do not expand beyond their four walls. Sometimes we have to invite them but we must be willing to meet with them on their terms, not ours. As we see many trying to expand the use of technology, we need to be aware of what they are seeing. I have really become aware of this as I try to get teachers to adopt new technologies. You can’t expect them to adopt something if you are showing them something that isn’t desirable. Teachers are looking for ways to work smarter, not ways that require them working longer. I believe that, if those of us who are using technologies can demonstrate that technologies do indeed help us to do our jobs more efficiently while not becoming distant from the students that we teach, teachers will become interested in adding those skills and learning things that are new.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *