What are you doing?

Today an email started floating around amongst various fellow employees of my school district.  It contained a link to a particular YouTube video along with the caption “This video needs to be shown to teachers!”

I thought it was worth tweeting, and apparently I think it’s worth a blog post as well because here we are.

On the surface it’s a very upbeat video.  “I can do this!”  “You can do this!”  The part that’s left out is the part that belongs to the viewer.

Each of us brings to every new experience all of our baggage.  Our previous education, experiences, likes, dislikes, and so on all flavor how we react to something new.  This can make us more or less inclined to enjoy the new things we encounter.

Having grown up with the idea of a particular type of vampire, for example, I am less inclined to enjoy the concept of vampires introduced in a certain popular series of books and movies.  (I still maintain that Vampire + Sunlight = Charcoal.  Glitter is not in the equation.)

A student introduced to a certain author or story genre in an academic setting may become soured towards those things if they dislike that classroom environment.

A teacher may avoid technology integration in their classroom if the examples they see implemented are too complex to understand, require too much additional work to pull off, or (in a worst case scenario) involve someone getting punished in some way for implementing the integration incorrectly.

And I begin to get to my point.

When I was a traveling visual arts teacher, I enjoyed the fact that I was not only demonstrating easy ways to integrate the arts but also easy ways to integrate technology. Slideshows, DE Streaming, audio, video, document cameras, and more were thrown in whenever I could do it quickly and easily.  In some cases I – the itinerant – was using equipment that the teachers based in those buildings never touched, because they didn’t know it was there or didn’t think it would be better than the old way of doing things.

Now that I am in the same computer lab for the entire day I’m actually much more isolated than I was before, but I can still get a sense of what’s going on.  Now, as before, I enter classrooms to see computers collecting dust or surrounded by enough books and boxes to make it obvious they haven’t been used in a while.  I see SMART Boards and document cameras pushed aside in the corner of a room.  I see LCD projectors that have been used more often to show movies during indoor recess than to actively engage students in learning activities.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of teachers in my building that enjoy using their SMART Boards on a daily basis and are having their students use them, too.  There are teachers that encourage their students to use online resources both in and outside of the classroom.  There are teachers that frantically contact me when their LCD projectors are not working properly, because their lessons depend on them.  There are teachers coming to me and asking for advice on how to get their students blogging, how to create online quizzes, and how to have students submit assignments digitally.  And the number of teachers who are like this is growing.

Why?  Because the teachers in my building are sharing with each other.  They attend their collaborative planning meetings every week and talk about how useful these tools are, and the other teachers decide to give it a try for themselves.

No one day professional development session that I’ve seen will make as much of a difference as one impassioned person who likes to show off what they can do with these awesome tools on a frequent basis.  They are enough to get others to try it, and from there it spreads exponentially.

This is a far cry from a former principal of mine (whom I will not name) who attended a MICCA (now MSET) conference only to say “It’s a shame we can’t do any of that here.”  (As someone who has presented at MICCA for years on what I’d been doing with my own classes I wondered what sessions she attended.)

So what are you doing?  Are you trying new things? Bragging about what works? Trying to fix what doesn’t work?  Showing others how the costs of integration are far outweighed by the benefits?  If you’re not letting others know how technology works for you, you’re not doing enough to help the next generation.

We all bring our prior experiences with us.  At your next collaborative planning, bring some good ones.