Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bombs Away Technology - Training...Not Part of the Plan

Adapted from Source at:
http://www.impactlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/bombsaway.jpg


Have you found a decrease in training on technology the new status quo in your organization?
I was conversing with a colleague today and he shared that at a recent gathering of K-12 Chief Technology Officers, the topic of training educators on new technology came up. There seemed to a prevailing tendency reported among the CTOs to roll out new technologies without setting up formalized training for the end users. My take on this new trend was that it was not out of necessity that formalized training was not part of the equation, but rather part of a new "process" for introducing new technologies to educators. (Read More)
Earlier this evening, I found myself meditating on the recent wave of cuts to Educational Technology staff across the State of Texas. As "training" and professional learning facilitation opportunities switch from one size fits all workshops (e.g. Intro to the Internet) to meeting the niche needs of high-end users (e.g. Analyzing Social Media as a Tool for Mathematical Thinking), comments like the ones above become more critical to examine.
Workshop Description: Analyzing Social Media as a Tool for Mathematical Thinking - Wondering how social media can impact your life? This hands-on workshop will provide insights and guidance in engaging students in the use of social media connections employing WolframAlpha.com and bridging differential calculus and physics concepts. Participants will construct models of particle physics that represent their social media engagement, measuring the slope of the tangent for their reputation.  Earn CPE and graduate hours. Note: This is a fake class Miguel made up for fun.
In the excerpt below, Jose Vega remarks on the blog entry from EdTechSandyK:
In my opinion, trainers not only find the related value to the job, but also find ways to facilitate the use of the technologies. It's not simply learning the mechanics of using technologies.
How to training and mechanics of using technology may be considered as almost unnecessary at a time when you can hop online, access Youtube-hosted video tutorials...oh, wait. That's right. You work in a school district that blocks YouTube.com. 

Hmm...let's try that again.

Ok, using your free Clear, your tethered Android or iPhone, or PCcard from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, hop online and access YouTube.com to learn how to do something. Or, read one of the popular blogs available that addresses the HOW TO of using a particular tool. Most cloud computing tools aren't difficult and you can pick them up with some dedication of time.

Having observed the same issue--just throw the technology out there and let's see if it works--in various places, I'm not surprised that it is a trend among CTOs. The problem is a growing one and coming to be reflected in budget considerations, such as that represented by this excerpt from a goodbye letter a technology director in Texas shared on a statewide email list:
Unfortunately the district leadership felt Educational Technology was not a priority and we fell to the budget axe. The attitude seems to be that technology integration will just happen without a dedicated team leading focused on the professional development side.  (Source: Email shared on 06/29/2011 with TCEA TEC-SIG List)
The problem in the excerpt above reflects the growing possibility that edtech is a wasted investment...after all, not all teachers are using technology effectively. If technology people can learn how to use a technology, why can't everyone else? Or, technology has gotten so easy, anyone can learn it.



Again, the value of what it means to be an educator is called into question. We all employ pencils but you might use it to work out differential calculus while I'm adding up my grocery bill.

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/
thumb/0/0f/Tangent_to_a_curve.svg/200px-Tangent_to_a_curve.svg.png


But then, it seems obvious that the most techie folks, who long ago learned how to teach themselves new technologies, would advocate this perspective. Worse, learning in isolation, a dialogue between technology and the learner can be problematic.

You see, one of the keys to learning in these times IS taking advantage of connections to learn how to collaborate using the new technology tools available to us. While some CTOs may see learning how to use productivity tools like MS Office, navigate the Windows desktop, etc. as easy to achieve, in fact, a requirement of being an employee, much less a teacher, it's not so easy for educational uses.

I wouldn't be surprised if CTOs perceived technology as it is now--a box that runs certain programs that should be common knowledge--as an appliance we should all know how to use. The problem is, that's not what technology is now or what it is rapidly changing into.

That undoubtedly throws a wrench in the works for technology directors and those who support infrastructure. What technology is now is an ever-evolving dialogue, involving collaboration and multi-modal communications. Instead of simple boxes and wires that can be easily planned for like a train on railroad track map, each person becomes an uncontrollable, sometimes untraceable resource for someone else on the network...and my network may include people beyond the scope of a CTO's planning.

The trend towards dumping technologies on teachers and expecting them to learn to use it without formalized training isn't the real problem. The real problem is coming to grips with the simple fact that the technologies CTOs are dumping on people are no longer the right technologies to share. And, if leadership is supporting CTOs in this, that they have forgotten the processes teachers go through to blend technologies--no matter how simple or complex--into teaching and learning for their students.

Some tips (not in any particular order) to avoid the "bombs away" technology approach:
  1. Meet with stakeholders--classroom teachers--before investing in interactive whiteboards or any other technology and get their support.
  2. Revise curriculum and require professional learning for C&I staff.
  3. Encourage district staff to model the use of new technologies and give them feedback on that modeling so they can grow.
  4. Build online support communities--some may prefer professional learning communities--that facilitate dialogue about the messy mayhem, not just the shining successes. 
  5. "Touch base" regularly to connect with users and address problems as early as possible during implementation.
  6. Respond to problems quickly, less than 24 hours, so that people know what that you are as committed as they are (if not more so).
  7. Take advantage of models such as the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LOTI) is based on this) to have vocabulary that helps you discuss change.
What would you add or subtract (my level of math) to the list of tips above?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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