Our current mindset has to change. The extent to which students are engaged and challenged and–dare I presume–learn is correlated with many things, only one of which is “seat time.” If the education profession so grossly misunderstands the crowning glory of many 21st century technologies–their ability to affect a student outside the 45 minutes in which his/her posterior is planted in row 4 seat 5, to expand learning beyond the physical walls of the classroom–then yes, it might be a waste of valuable “seat time” to train teachers who do not have the schema to make use of professional development in any meaningful way. Technology-focused professional development would then only be static information gathering, filed away with the other innovations teachers intend to implement when they find the time, over the summer, after the vacations, before the posters go back up next September.
If the foundation of our mindset [courtesy of legislation which will remain unnamed] requires that all (currently enrolled on September 30th) students are engaged in challenging, collaborative, student-driven, differentiated, etc. etc. and so forth…activities every minute, then we have to reconsider the impact that training teachers has on the sum total of student “seat time”. 45 minutes per class multiplied by 188 school days seems like an abundance of time with a teacher, yet I know that right around this time of the year teachers bemoan 8,460 minutes—not long enough to inspire students to explore and engage with curricular content as we’d hoped when we mapped things out last August. How many professional development days are required to facilitate the purposeful implementation of technology into existing curricular content? Two? Three? It is valid to note that subtracting 135 minutes from 8,460 does students a disservice. Think of all the things teachers could do with those 135 minutes, now completely lost.
If school systems approach professional development as an investment rather than a deficit, the educational profession might arrive at a more enlightened mindset. Teachers are adult learners after all–professional development that is worth anything (and I’m assuming that the professional development described is of the highest quality) should include implementation, reflection and extension components. The effects of a highly qualified professional, motivated and excited about not only the curricular content but also the tech-y methodology cannot be underrated, especially since for 45 minutes, 188 days, teachers share space with a roomful of student learners motivated and excited about tech-y methodology but not curricular content. Too often professional development occurs on its own island–a theoretical vacuum of flashy terminology and/or idealized anecdotes. Too often professional development does not include accountability for deliberate implementation, objective reflection, and proposed avenues for extension/evolution. Too often professional development sucks. And not just from the 8,640 minutes each teacher is allotted to impact each student. Technology as method, as resource, as supplement to curriculum should augment the best practices of highly qualified educators. Technology should inspire teachers to approach content from diverse perspectives, taking into consideration alternative viewpoints with which students might not have previously been able to engage. Technology should facilitate student-driven classrooms, collaborative learning, and thereby differentiate, engage, and motivate. Technology should expand the curriculum beyond the classroom, providing opportunities for students to equitably encounter content at minute 46, 47, and far beyond 8,641.
Educators should not be satisfied when mediocre professional development opportunities give “digital immigrant” teachers enough of a taste of technology that they can discredit Wikis as research material, passing their 21st century citizenship exams with just enough points to earn a “Satisfactory” stamp of approval. The education profession needs to invest time into its adult learners (and the money into its available resources) so that K-12 education is a relevant and competitive arena for our students’ attention. 21st century technologies work both ways. If teachers do not familiarize themselves with technologies and use them intentionally in the 45 minutes students are required to be physically present in the classroom, competing arenas in our students’ lives will nibble away at those minutes. One minute: cell phones should be “off” and “away”. One minute: headphones should not rise above the collarbone. One minute: updating Facebook may not qualify as publication. One minute: wikis may not be included as research resources. 4 minutes, 188 days…what a waste.
Originally posted to ISTE Community Ning: http://www.iste-community.org/group/landl/forum/topics/pointcounterpoint-should