Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tools of the Trade

What started as a comment to Andy Torris' blog turned into a post of its own. Because I know this educational leader values the opinions of others, I left it there, in the comments, but wanted to share the context with you.

“The U.S. Department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors by their level of IT intensiveness. Education ranked was ranked 55- the lowest. Behind coal-mining.”
Before we completely fault educators, I'd like to make a comparison between three industries in which I worked:

Higher Education:
Resident Director at a major research institution - provided with a desktop computer and access to the "BBS" (OK, so I'm a dinosaur!)

Given the option of a low-interest loan in a payroll deduction to purchase my own personal computer. The loan amount had limits.

Consulting Firm:
Provided with a laptop computer and international mobile phone upon arrival (latest bells and whistles).

The expectations of my expected use of technology both during and outside of work hours were clear by the resources provided. Most schools wouldn't expect a teacher to walk into a room without text books (hopefully this is changing) and a teacher's manual to accompany them. We won't even name those schools whose provision of technological resources are so scarce that teachers use their own money to purchase digital projectors. If educators are truly expected to embed technology into instruction and learning, give them the tools - not just available in the classroom - that they need to do so.

There have been few changes to the expectation that educators do more with less, particularly in US public education. School calendars, expected outcomes, scheduling, even teacher training and professional development are still shaped by the industrial model of education. The changes to adapt to 21st Century learners will be implemented by educators but the really metamorphosis is at an institutional level, most critical at institutions of teacher preparation and certification.

Main point: provide educational professionals with the tools of their dynamic trade. Outside of photosynthesis and those things created to imitate the process, very little happens by osmosis.


Andrew Torris said...

Osmosis.... interesting idea!

Just my point- Without taking the steps of investment in tools, investment in training, investment in some faith that the folks on the ground can do the work and will do the work, the first step will not happen. True digital leaders also need to insist on the change. INSIST and those who have the tools and are not using them?????

Well... I will let you comment on that issue?

TeachMoore said...

Thank you for your post. My colleagues and I over at Teacher Leader Network have been discussing this issue from various perspectives for a while now. In some cases, teachers are timid or just unprepared to expand their use of technology; in other cases, the teachers are ready but, as you point out, we are restricted by the inequities in resources provided to schools and teachers. Also, when systems are ready to invest (usually in the form of grants) in hardware, they usually neglect to provide sufficient training or time for teachers and staff to gain a real comfort level with the technology.