I spent some time today talking with other central program people and senior administration about how to best support the integration of technology into our instruction in an efficient, effective fashion. As you might imagine, this was not a short, conclusive conversation.
I work for a lot of people
As a system level teacher, I’m responsible to all of the teachers and students in our board; I have to provide leadership in a variety of areas of technology (thankfully not all areas, and thankfully I’m not completely alone). But there are ten thousand students in our board, and about 600 permanent teachers. Who can I reach, with what, and how?
e-Learning and Blended Learning
A large part of what I offer teachers is an online space for sharing and working with their students. It’s the same platform that’s used for e-Learning in our board and across Ontario (Desire2Learn). And it has a lot going for it: user management and visibility, class environments, news, discussions, electronic submissions,…. But in the end, I have to help answer two questions for teachers: “How do I use this?” [technical training] and “How do I use this well?” [pedagogical learning]. But even though we’re at the smaller end of the population scale, I can’t realistically provide that kind of support to everyone. So the big, system-level question in my mind is “Who gets what support?”
Some of it is easy
Everyone gets tech support from D2L; that’s at no cost to us in money or time. e-Learning teachers need rapid pedagogical support, since they’re teaching in a mode which has built-in latency (students are not necessarily online at he same time as their teachers) and which depends completely on the virtual Learning Environment. Since face-face teachers have backup plans (e.g. offline), I tend to prioritize e-Learning teachers.
Some of it is hard
But what about the Blended Learning teacher who is interested in having online discussions with their class? Or who wants to develop electronic portfolios with their students? Or who wants to share class news and suggested home activities with parents?
We’ve grown enough that I am becoming the bottleneck – people end up having to wait for me to finish stuff, to prepare stuff, to respond. It’s an awful feeling for me that’s generated by a “good problem” – people are interested, having recognized the need for the digital to be integrated with the analog in learning. But there are too many of them, and I don’t feel comfortable giving access without ensuring understanding about quality uses.
Better than nothing? Or worse?
Someone once told me that with technology it’s better to have none than to have some that doesn’t work. I’ve seen that quite a bit – some people have that first, difficult (or even awful) experience trying something new, and then they’re forever decided: old is better than new. So I hesitate to open the floodgates to any but the most motivated, self-sufficient teachers – those who will do the research to improve their teaching without my help, and who will persist even if there are bumps in the road early on.
There are a bazillion resources out there to help those teachers who are interested in being independent learners. I saw three sets of tutorials for D2L go by on Twitter today (here, here, and here). You can Google “how to make a quiz in d2l” or “designing an online discussion” and get tons of stuff to work with. And once you’ve done that, try talking to the other teachers you know (or don’t know!) who use this stuff. YouTube is great. Twitter is a gold mine.
So I think I’m going to end up doing larger, group things (blanketing a group with professional learning opportunities, facilitating online collaboration, supporting special projects) and big picture things (developing procedures, networking and connecting educators, and working provincially). I won’t be in this space forever, and when I return to the classroom I want to leave behind a legacy of an elegant, effective, nimble system that we’ll be able to use to enhance instruction for the benefit of students everywhere.
Okay, that sounds pretty lofty. Perhaps I’ll settle for surviving the month. :)