Monday, February 4, 2013

Forget About the Technology

As a K-12 technology facilitator I work with all grade levels and all subject areas.  One of the challenges of this arrangement is suggesting ideas for technology integration that teachers will buy into.  

In my experience, teachers have many different motivations for wanting to use technology in the classroom.  Their motivation to use technology can come from administrator directive, interest in keeping pace with their peers, increasing student engagement, curiosity, and at times (although less often that I would hope) from questioning what instructional practice will best support student learning.   

This disparate set of motivations can lead to many different types of interactions with teachers.  Sometimes teachers already have an idea of a technology tool that they want to try, others say What should I do? or Tell me what you want me to do? More often than not teachers have a vague idea about some technologies but aren’t sure of the details.  

I have tried various approaches in all of these scenarios, some with more effect than others as might be expected given the range of teacher personalities.  Lately however, I have hit on a new approach that I think has some promise.  Here is how it works:  I begin the conversation by saying:

Forget about the technology.

I follow this up with:

What do you want to bring to the classroom experience for your students?  Assume anything is possible.

I am finding this approach to be effective for several reasons.  One, it really allows me to identify what is important to the teacher.  If I just give the teacher a list of technology tools or just throw out ideas, it is a shotgun approach, somewhat akin to the sit and gets that they have to sit through at the beginning of the year where they get links to hundreds of websites with thousands of resources. Asking what they want to bring to the classroom experience allows me to see what the teachers’ priorities are before suggesting any solutions.  Secondly, it frees the conversation from the constraints of the teacher’s knowledge of technology tools (and mine for that matter) and allow it to go freely in the direction of students and learning.  That is after all the intent of technology integration into the classroom.  

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