Go to the source

It has been a very busy week and it will only intensify from now until the end of June. I’ve been working on several projects and just haven’t had the time to get involved in conversations via twitter or read too many blogs. However, as I was working tonight, I’ve been reading a few as they cross my screen. The following tweet by byjudeonline caught my eye:

the thing about twitter. regular teachers can’t sit and tweet all day. we’re missing the most important conversations of all

This response followed:

dmcordell @heyjudeonline I agree, and there’s also the extreme time differences to contend with. Wish we could go back more than 10 pages in updates.

Followed by:

MetaWeb20 @heyjudeonline many of my teachers don’t even use email, let alone tweet!

heyjudeonline @MetaWeb20  my thinking too. It’s to easy to create ‘parochial tweet camp’

kolson29 @heyjudeonline but aren’t the resources you find here valuable enough as is? Just b/c all tchrs not here, doesn’t diminish value IMO

heyjudeonline @kolson29  oh yeah, love what I learn via twitter. just worry too many tweeters are not representative of teaching possibilities. Silly me!

 The idea brought up by heyjudeonline  is a core part of the whole web2.0/21st century learning discussion . As I work frantically to meet deadlines, get ready for meetings, meet with parents, visit classrooms and all the rest, there isn’t time for me to be on twitter or keep up with the conversations and discussions and I just don’t have the desire to go back too far in the discussions to see if I’m missing anything. My edge has about 2 frayed nerves left and someone keeps tapping one or the other.  There just isn’t the time to partake in the discussions that are going on. As someone who has a bit of understanding about technology in schools, I’d like to be part of the discussions. Thing is, there isn’t time and any time I do scratch out of the day, I am becoming more and more stingy about because time demands due to my job have been increasing over time regardless of the technology I or others are using.

Missing a crucial voice?

We are missing a crucial voice in all the discussions that are taking place. I’ve heard many people who are using technology who just don’t get why others cannot see how great it is or they don’t want to keep showing people only to have them not use it or they are “told off” by frustrated teachers or become defensive about what they are doing or…. Sometimes, when someone makes a negative remark about what we do or the time we take up doing what we do, the tendency is to become defensive and react. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that remarks like that have a grain of truth in them even if we don’t agree with the entire remark or with the accusation being made or we don’t want there to be. As a principal, I’ve had more than a few people say things about me that I could just brush off as being of no use. However, to learn and grow, I’ve really looked at what has been said and learned to see the grain of truth that is hidden there. I then take it and let what could be an irritant become something that I use to grow and turn into a pearl.

I believe we miss out on some great insights because we’re offended or dismissed or whathaveyou. There is a tone of superiority that does come across when discussing those who use tech in teaching and “the others.” For many teachers, technology integration and use is the last thing they are thinking about as they prepare to meet the demands of the students in their classroom. Heck, I’m beginning to question this whole twitter craze and really wondering if there isn’t a better way to spend my time than trying to reduce all my discussion into 140 characters (including spaces)! I don’t have the time to surf looking at url’s for this or that or to try out this or that. It just isn’t happening because of the pace. I’ve even tried giving away paperwork but no one would take it! When part of your job isn’t related to technology use, it is very hard to find time to do these above mentioned things even if, like me, you are really interested in them.

The comment by kolson29  but aren’t the resources you find here valuable enough as is? Just b/c all tchrs not here, doesn’t diminish value  makes me fret. I worry that the gap between the “users” and “non-users” will widen because teachers who are full-time classroom teachers don’t have the time to work with these resources. Even tech-savvy educators find it difficult to keep up with the conversations and the tool-sharing because they don’t have time to take in all that is happening or become part of the constant conversation that takes place. Being a follower, the exchange of information is wonderful but it is very fast, always constant, without form and too large to backtrack. Those who have the time are building the networks, others who are being introduced are trying but, I’ve noticed, many fall away because they don’t have the time to keep up with the conversations. I follow about 250 people but, realistically, there are about 25 people who dominate the conversations and who are discussing issues, looking at various tools, building their teaching repetoire and so on. As heyjudeonline says “we’re missing the most important conversations of all” – the other 225 or so who aren’t part of the conversations.

Go to the Source

I know that many people who use technology and want to share it with the masses have been turned down when bringing it to other teachers. Maybe we need to change the tactic a bit. Instead of bringing the knowledge, ask teachers what they want to do. Go to these people who are busy with full days, families, extra-curricular and have some other life outside school and ask them “What would you like to be able to do a bit differently?” “What is it about your teaching you’d like to tweak?” “What part of the actual teaching do you find overwhelming?” Ask questions. Find out what would make their lives easier, better, funner(?), ….. and see if it can be delivered. If they start out a bit negative, find that grain of sand and grow that pearl. I know that I’ve been amazed at what happens when I’ve taken something that came to me in a very negative manner and found that one piece I could use to help myself grow and created a pearl in some way. Sometimes being direct and acknowledging how they feel

I sense that you aren’t happy with certain technology uses that have been tried before and you’re a bit frustrated by___________________ and you feel you don’t have time with all the other demands on your desk and …… I just want to let you know that there are things that will help you if, like you ask your kids, give it your best effort and try. There is something everyone can do.

We are missing a piece of the conversation – in fact I would suggest we’re missing out on the conversation as we’ve moved to another room apart from what most other educators are discussing. I guess the challenge is to decide whether we wait for some of them to ask us if they can join or if we go to them and join in their conversation, bringing with us the ideas we have for improvement.

Note – while doing this post, there were approximately 75 tweets that passed back and forth between people. Interestingly enough, the number of people involved isn’t that large. What are other teachers doing?

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12 responses

  1. Kelly, I’m so glad you picked up on the ideas that flew around briefly today. I (heyjudeonline) made ‘that’ comment just because I do see and hear the same people on twitter, and I’m questioning how I can justify spending time tweeting, or even just reading tweets, in the middle of a busy school day. I at least have the luxury of being able to get to my desk reasonably regularly. This is not the case for a lot of good teachers – they may well be innovative – they just don’t have time to worry about twitter. What you’ve done in this post it write up my thoughts that I simply didn’t have time to pull together. I am actually not much interested in the tweets of some people now – and when I think of it, so great leaders in the library and teaching scene just don’t bother to tweet much at all. It will be interesting to see where all this goes. So my solution right now is to read twitter less, and get on with the actual business of working with students and teachers to nurture good integration of technology. Certainly don’t need twitter for that!

  2. I’m not so worried about teachers not tweeting. However, having said that. I am VERY concerned about their ability and desire to maintain currency in their professional networks. I have always said as a teacher trainer that your best resource is not me (the trainer), it is another teacher out “there” teaching just as you are.

    So tweet if you can because twitter offers “just-in-time” professional development and finger-tip resources, but if you can’t then somehow a teacher MUST find those vehicles to keep current and sharing, yes every week… not at just the quarterly or monthly scheduled teacher training program or annual pedagogical roundup. So, how about popping into http://classroom20.ning.com, or http://metamexico.ning.com, or getting your google reader set to capture all the RSS “goodies” or setting up a del.cio.us network, and so on and so on. With a little setting up, all the information is waiting for you at the touch of a button, with or without twitter.

    At least once a week, please…
    Frank

  3. You’ve spoken some of my thoughts too, certainly I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get other teachers interested in using Twitter as I am using it. Twitter filled a gap for me, enriching my connectivity with eds and techies outside my own classroom.

    Twitter connects me as if I’m at a conference, following discussions, occasionally adding comments and asking questions, and sometimes speaking directly with just a few colleagues.

    I recently entered a program called TROPIC to observe teachers while they are teaching, so I can learn to mentor and coach them. I am thankful that I have my Twitter network to ask for advice about both basic teaching practices and hi-tech ed tools.

  4. I’m really bummed that my tweet (kolson29) made you fret, I really thought I was being helpful to Judy. My point was simply that it isn’t realistic that all teachers will tweet (or use any one form of networking, it’s all individual – some like f2f, some are partial to online interaction), and if we’re using twitter and find it valuable, we kind of have to accept it for what it is. If a teacher doesn’t find value in a tool, they don’t need to use it and life will go on. As you said above, you don’t have time, and you’re doing fine without twitter. That’s the way many teachers think, and everyone has their own priorities. You have to understand my unique position to understand where I’m coming from – that’s why twitter is interesting, everyone has different circumstances and priorities, which aren’t all apparent, unfortunately.

    So, here it is: I’m in no way a ‘normal’ teacher. I only work half-time (as I’ve said MANY times on my blog) at a school where I have VERY minimal planning to do because of the nature of my position. I plan for 10 day and 25 day rotations that simply repeat throughout the year. You’ll notice on my blog as well that I’m constantly trying new things, but my time constraints really limit me, as does curriculum – my job is to “teach keyboarding” which has been made very clear. This was the position that was available, so this is the position I was hired for. I’m a new teacher with a thirst for learning, so I have decided to invest my free time in building my online learning community and finding new tools. That’s a personal choice. I’m also working freelance for an e-learning organization and use twitter as a networking tool. That’s my right as a professional and I in no way think all teachers need to be doing this. I’m also trying to build my name up as I try to find more freelance opportunities. A lot of the people I follow and who follow me aren’t in the education field, so maybe I have a different perspective than some who are only using twitter for finding classroom resources?

    I have NEVER written anything to imply that I believe that any teacher who isn’t embracing technology is in the wrong – every teacher has his or her own way of learning and networking, much of which is dictated by content area, personal interests, time, family, etc. I guarantee that if I were working as a full-time high school business ed teacher I would have a really hard finding the time to twitter or probably even blog. This is part of the gap that you write about, and I honestly don’t have a solution. I am using the tools available to me to open up new doors and opportunities. You’ve made me think a bit about blindly sharing my enthusiasm…………..always a little rain for every parade, I guess. I have done a lot of work with colleagues (on my own time) to integrate technology into their lessons and have spent countless hours developing material for a parent workshop on online safety and education. I use twitter as a tool and honestly, as a distraction for when I get bored while spending TONS of time researching.

    So, that’s where I’m coming from, I hope it helps put a little background behind my tweet……………

  5. Hi Everybody,

    I thought I might jump in the conversation here because I come from an entirely different perspective that may be of some use. I work at the uni level in a non-academic unit that provides support and consultation to academics wanting to get started with eLearning (or “that whole Web 2.0 thing” as it’s frequently referred), but don’t know how.

    I don’t have any experience at the High School or Primary School level, but I would suspect no such support exists there; I think this absence is the source that Kelly is referring to. From my discussions with educators and my personal experience, the learning curve in this area is astounding. And when you add to that the speed with which innovation continues to occur, the growing divide we see here becomes clearly identifiable.

    To amplify the problem, those of us who are fluent in the technology often times take the learning curve for granted and forget how much effort is actually required to develop our skills and comfort levels to the point where we can make the leap from “How DO I use this tool” to “How CAN I use it effectively.” The questions are worlds apart really.

    I think what’s really crucial, as Kelly suggests, is the implementation of a framework that caters to educators interested in exploring the technology, but with assistance and consultation. There is simply too much information for many to sift through, let alone digest – in many ways I think this needs to be left to a specialised role, which can then ask the important question

    “What do you want to be able to do”

    Then based upon that boil down the available resources and tools to what is relevant; but not only that, actually show people how to use it, and how to use it effectively.

    By this I don’t mean telling teachers how to teach. They know how to do that already. You are the experts in your field, not me. But what eLearning people like me can do is help translate offline activities to an online framework that considers the myriad of other factors you see in web use that don’t exist offline.

    From my perspective, both arguments are quite valid; they just come from two different sides of the fence. What my job is as an eLearning person to assess the pre-existing knowledge and comfort levels, and then having done that, to help develop a plan of attack for the next stage.

    The fact this role doesn’t exist in other levels of education is a huge problem that needs to be remedied. I’ll be writing a post today outlining what framework I think is necessary to implement so the gap can be bridged and more people who want to explore use of emerging technology have the empowering support required to do so.

    In the meantime anyone who has any questions or comments in this area are free to email me at m.bogle@unsw.edu.au.

    Cheers,

    MIke

  6. Mike says “I don’t mean telling teachers how to teach. They know how to do that already.”

    I agree. But some teachers need to remember how to learn. Twitter is one of the tools I use; my Google Reader and personal/professional blog are others. These are indispensable PD information sources for me.

    And don’t dismiss the value of the human contact element. One of our friends, Clay Burell, is getting married today (his time) in Korea. He has posted a statement about what Twitter means to him.
    http://tinyurl.com/2984r5

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  7. Excellent blog posting. It appears to me that you are working every day to be the lead manager, not the boss manager. I would like to link your posting to similar ones of my own, n2teaching: Relevance and Rigor: An Ongoing Struggle in Education
    andn2teaching: What is Technology? Why Do We Care?

    If you are looking for insights or models, Dr. Glasser provides them in “The Quality School: Managing Schools without Coercion” and its companion book, “The Quality School Teacher”.

    Time, resources and opportunity are some of the ongoing issues within the educational world that must be optimum for the teacher in the classroom and the principal teacher before they can think of technology that affects change in their day-to-day practice in any meaningful way.

    It seems to me that your concerns about Twitter maybe considered a metaphor that describes the frustration on all sides of the use of technology in education movement.

  8. Kelly
    I agree- there is a disconnect between the FT classroom teacher and twitter. I have been on since November. Has it changed my life in unimaginable ways? No. Have I found some cool tools-yes .Blogging can introduce them to me as well as long as I am tuned into people who are making the discoveries and sharing.
    I had a PLN before twitter. I was a member of Discovery Educator Network-where the catch phrase is “Connecting teachers to their most important resource-each other”. I BELIEVE THAT. I used technology before their was any such thing as a ‘technology integrator’ . I encourage people to check out the DEN. There are many of the ‘names’ you know there-but perhaps the pace is a bit more teacher friendly. It has been the best professional development resource for me!

  9. Kelly, it’s funny that I come to your blog today and read this post. I do have a Twitter account, and, I do Tweet from time to time, but not nearly as much as I need to in order to benefit from the network to the extent that I might if I had the time and the inclination. I gain much more valuable information and build much more worthy connections with those in the blogosphere via blogging-writing on my own blog, reading what others post on theirs, and, of course, what I am doing now – commenting on others’ blogs. Twitter is a technological tool I have not yet figured out. I am still trying to wrap my mind around what it can do for me personally and professionally. In as far as what it can do for my students? I’m not sure that it can offer much to my students.

    Kelly, the statement that resonated with me the most is the following: “I follow about 250 people but, realistically, there are about 25 people who dominate the conversations and who are discussing issues, looking at various tools, building their teaching repetoire and so on. ” Additionally, I tweeted re: Voice Thread. Specifically, has anyone in my Twitter network used it or know of anyone who has, and, what was their experience like. You know how many tweets I received in response to my question? One. But, then again, perhaps Voice Thread is “old news” to those in my network. Just the same, I was surprised that nobody else had the inclination to respond. So, thus far, I haven’t found Twitter to be very useful. There seems to be what I call a “Twitter Clique”; the same people talking with each other, and not seemingly interested to allow others to join in. Unless of course, one is “down” with the conversation.

  10. Judy – I was intrigued by your tweet and that’s why I followed the discussion. We do have to figure out what the proper balance is for each of us which is tough especially when the demands on time seem to grow each day.

    Frank – I worry about that also. I worry because they are being pulled in so many directions and have a variety of demands that require their attention. Teachers are being asked to do so much just to keep up. I agree that teachers need to use the tools that are out there. But adding one more requirement is just that – one more thing.

    Simon – I like how you describe it like a conference. Maybe we need to do more promoting of using these tools like that. Teachers are very open, mostly, to conferences.

    Kate – I know that your work allows you to do things that others cannot do and that you are working to broaden your prospects. I’m sorry if I came off sounding upset or something but it was more a case that I am concerned about the widening gap that is taking place between teachers who are using technology and those who are not. I am very impressed with your work and what you are doing. It was more a case of me wondering out loud the gap that is there and the problem of trying to bridge that gap. I understand the power of these tools but I also see the immense pressures from other sides. In some way, it would be great if teachers could have a bit more time to do more with the tools.

    Mike – I agree with what you are proposing but we’d still need to find time for teachers to get through the learning curve. They don’t have the time to get through the various stages of learning that the tools will require. The argument I hear often is that teachers just need to prioritize their time more as they have the time. I don’t believe this. Just as we have children in the classroom who learn in different ways and at different rates, teachers are no different and they don’t have the energy of youth.

    Diane – I agree that teachers need to keep learning and just as all of us know of people outside of education who have quit learning, there are teachers who, for whatever reason, just keep doing what they are doing. We all know how powerful the tools can be for all of us. Sometimes it’s not a case of stopping learning but of putting energy into other areas of learning, focusing on other things.

    sammcoy – thanks for links and connections. You can link all you want. Educators are being squeezed on all sides and I just wish there was a way to alleviate some of the pressure in order to give teachers time to explore.

    Linda – like many teachers with whom I have discussed technology, they find the pace to be so fast that they cannot keep up and just give up. Other networks may give teachers a place to explore and look at a less frantic pace.

    missprofe – I love reading your posts and the way you connect what you do with how you teach. I agree that people don’t have to tweet to be connected and using other tools to connect is just as powerful. The big thing is figuring out how to get teachers who aren’t using the tools to see this.

  11. […] a discussion going on at Educational Discource about Twitter. Some of the focus is on whether teachers actually have time to Twitter throughout […]

  12. […] – I scored an alpha invite“, Reflection 2.0, 6 March 2008) and Kelly Christopherson (”Go to the source“, Educational Discourse, 7 March 2008) inspired me to sit down and write out a support […]

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