Just before Thanksgiving I attended the NCTE Annual Convention in New York City and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was able to spend time with my friends Greg, Michael and Louann and met many other amazing people. I saw Angie and JoAnne, colleagues from my previous district and sat down for a drink with my new colleague Melissa and my new friend
Carol, I mean Deb. I also got to see a little more about the inner workings of the NCTE board. Overall it was a great trip.
A few days ago Greg VanNest posted his quarterly blog entry in which he outlined some goals for himself for the upcoming year. He did the same thing last year and, I believe, completed each of his goals. After reading his blog entry, I began to think back over my time at the convention prompting this post.
One of the most interesting things about the convention was the fact that I was looking at it and experiencing it through a different lens. The biggest difference is that, technically, I’m not an English teacher. Sure, I’ll always be an English teacher, but my focus has moved to professional development and helping teachers use technology in the classroom. I’m not saying that I didn’t take away some ideas or that I didn’t enjoy being immersed in the English teacher culture again, but it was definitely a different experience.
Now for a little rant… I’ve been attending this conference for the last 4 years and I’ve seen, essentially, the same presentations for the last 4 years. I have been leaning towards the technology sessions and trying to see what others are doing with their classes, but so many are just teachers doing a web 2.0 101 presentation in which they explain what blogs, wikis and podcasts are. I know that this has a place in conferences and that there are still a lot of people that don’t know where to find these technologies. I also understand that many teachers haven’t been exposed to this yet, but I’d like to see a little more than, “This is a blog. This is a wiki.” How about some relevance as to how it works in a classroom and how someone might use a blog or wiki in their class? I think it’s time for us to move beyond the basic “click here” training and create relevance. I don’t think that it’s enough to show what you’ve done in your classroom. Why was that technology the best tool for a particular project? What kinds of objectives does this meet?
Maybe I’m just being cranky, but I see that same problem with a lot of the professional development that goes on in k-12 schools. In my position I do a lot of “click here” training to show people how to use a program. However, I’m a little dismayed that there isn’t more reasoning behind the instruction. I try to add that in, but I also have a curriculum to follow so that all who take that class have a common experience. Therein lies my struggle, yes I want to help teachers explore the technology and I want to teach them how to use it. However, there are all kinds of online tutorials that will show them where to click. Obviously there is something about face to face instruction that appeals to many. I’d just like to see those of us who facilitate development activities (whether at a conference or in a “training” session) to give participants something more than they would get from an online, how-to video. I may be over generalizing, but I think that it’s a question that needs to be asked.