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.