I work with teachers. I work with A LOT of teachers. The work we do together encompasses many things, but mostly, I help them integrate technology into their classrooms, their lessons, and probably most importantly, I help them figure out how to help their students learn through technological tools. This morning I lost my mind for a little while due to some frustrations that I’m having around examples that are being set for teachers. Allow me to explain.
In my district we have a web-based, website authoring tool that we has been developed by our technology department for the purpose of providing teachers with a tool to make classroom websites that are hosted on district servers. It’s not perfect, it’s still a work in progress. Sure, there are lots of tools out there that do the same thing, but the district provides this as a free place to keep parents and students updated on assignments and the daily classroom events. Teachers can even embed video from another in-house video hosting service as well as include all the embeddable tools that litter the internet these days. Basically, it’s a pretty good system.
I recognize that this is not really the norm. Many districts don’t have these resources for teachers and I’m glad that I can provide instruction on the best use of these sites so they are not simply document repositories, but that they also include instructional components. What bothers me is that so many times, technology people (and this is not unique to my district), because they have more technical skills, create sites and structures using tools that are not available to the teachers that they are supporting. I’ve been guilty of this in the past and will probably do it again in the future, but I’m working on making sure that, as someone who supports teachers, the tools that I demo and the sites that I create can be used by them. It’s great that I know how to program Flash and HTML, but because I support teachers, I need to use tools to support them that they can actually use. Everything I make, demo or talk about is potentially something that a teacher in my district will want to use as a tool in their classroom and with their kids. Just because I have the technical ability, doesn’t mean that I should be free to create things that are unreachable for my teachers. By doing that I’m setting an an undoable example. Those of us who work with teachers need to be mindful of what our role is in our schools and districts.
It’s fun and easy to say “look what I can do” with a piece of software. Yes, it’s fun to make pretty pictures, but when teachers ask me to help them create the kinds of opportunities for their students and their classrooms using tools that they’ve seen me use, I need to be ready to help them make their goals into a reality. I don’t want to have to tell them that a higher end tool isn’t available to them because “they’re just a teacher” and it isn’t in the budget for you.
All of us who are involved in instructional technology and supporting teachers either at the building or district levels need to be cognizant of the tools that we use. We do set and example that is in fact doable.
There, rant over.