Working Conditions and Progressive, Tech-embracing educators

What types of support/working conditions are a must if progressive, technology-embracing educators are to be productive, creative, innovative and committed to their profession for the long haul? Yes, it's a big question, but I find myself thinking more and more about it. What would our working conditions look like, feel like, sound like? To what degree would teachers themselves be responsible and to what degree administators?

Tags: creativity, development, environment., innovation, morale, positive, professional, work

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Great question! I've been thinking about this a bit, too. A few thoughts that come to mind:

..some sort of sustained professional development/learning - no more "this year's initiative is..." This might be accomplished via professional learning communities, individual personal learning networks, and/or a "knowledge base" of previous PD articles, slides, etc.

...administrators who join in and "do it," too. I went a conference break out a few months ago where the presenters mentioned that their administrators vowed to learn along side everyone else as they rolled out Moodle at the building and eventually district level. The faculty were using it with their students and the administrators used it to get feedback after each PD day as well as to get input from other stakeholders in the district in what would have otherwise been done killing a few trees.

...an emphasis on assessment reform. I personally believe assessment has the potential to spur future change. Once we re-think the "way" and the "why" we "assess" then it's much easier to view how other things such as classroom management might improve, too. It may also help better define technology's role in the big picture.

Looking forward to this discussion. Thanks for starting it up!
Matt -
Wow - great responses! Along with you, I really believe that the development of personal learning networks is key; I've told this to many people over the past year, but I have grown more professionally over the last couple of years because of my PLN, than all my years combined together in education (started in '88). But your second point - the willingness of adminstrators to learn alongside is perhaps even more important. If this doesn't happen, I feel like the first can be negated and forward progress hindered. I loved your example of the Moodle use. How to get educators to create/start PLNs is one question -- but getting administrators to learn along side is another. How do we do this? It seems to be so key.... I'm not ignoring your third idea, just thinking more about it.
Have you read much by Michael Fullan? He writes quite a bit about education reform and is often quoted as saying that change is a "process" and not an "event." In light of that idea and your PLN/administrator thoughts, I think that we (you, me, others that seem to "get" it) must lead by example. It can be little things like sharing the resources we gather via our PLNs. It can be mentoring a person or two each year in setting up a PLN. It can be talking to our administrators about the importance of PLCs at the building level and/or proposing that PLNs be a part of the district professional development plan. Here's an article from Educational Leadership that might resonate with administrators - I may give it a try. I don't really have any new and wonderful ideas about how to get administrators on board. Perhaps others here on C2.0 can help!
Hello J,

I need for my administration to trust my judgment as a tech using teacher. We use Websense at our school for an Internet filter, and I understand the need for it for students, but it blocks a major portion of the sites that I want to use for teaching. It specifically blocks "social networking." Many teachers are using classroom blogs, and my class has been invited to participate with a school in the U.S., and, of course, the site is blocked. I can request each site to be unblocked for me, one at a time, but this takes paperwork and several days to happen, killing spontaneity. It also blocks "organizations," although many educational sites are based in .org. And games, good grief, if the very best educational games use the word 'game' in their title, blocked again. I need access.

Also, I need administrative privileges to download. Again, I am blocked and cannot even update something so simple as Adobe or Java without paperwork and waiting for a tech to come do it for me.

We have some very nice technology equipment in our school that teachers are not using because there are too many hoops for jumping through.

Thanks for the thought-provoking question. Any suggestions?

Deborah Kerwood
Thank you Indigo,

I read the articles, and it does help to know the reasons why. Now I know what to ask for when we have that conversation with the tech department folks. I will not ask for admin privileges, (it stands to reason I should not be asking for something that even the Feds can't have!) I will ask kindly to set up an efficient response time. Yes, if the turnaround time for my requests was a definite time, whether 1 day or 2 or 3 days, I could plan accordingly. Mainly, I just need to know. Really thank you. It helps so much just to know what's up.

Deborah Kerwood
Hi Deborah, I give my teachers override passwords but I get an email every time they use them and I can see what they have unblocked and for how long...makes it easier for them rather than having to keep asking me (easy to do in SA education dept) If I trust my staff with live children, why wouldnt I trust them to not unblock inappropriate sites???
Louisa,
Adelaide
Seems like we've identified another major theme!
...ongoing communication between IT and teaching staff with a dynamic user policy
THis is the most sensible response to this ongoing issue that I have ever seen, but I bet if it was suggested to the tech at my school he would say it can't be done or it is illegal or just plain 'not allowed'.
we use smartfilter thru the SA ed dept (DECS) Teachers can ask me to permanently unblock a site (as administrator) that has been blocked by the dept in their infinite wisdom which takes abut 30 seconds to do or they can use their own override password to unblock it for just a few minutes - obviously you could never afford to have a site like you tube unblocked permanently in a school setting. I "tick the box" when I give them a password that tells the smartfilter to send me an email every time an override is used - jut in case a kid does get hold of a password, helps keep accountability and as admin I should know what teachers are accessing that the dept has deemed unacceptable :)
I have really enjoyed the discussion so far. Indigo196, I really like a keyword you're using in your suggestions ..."sustained". To what extent are we really able to "sustain" our efforts these days? Additionally, the articles you linked to were good and it's always important to see the other side. And, Matt T., you've done well at zeroing in on another theme, "ongoing communication between IT and teaching staff with a dynamic user policy". And Deborah, I so well know what you are talking about. I, too, have grown weary from the time and energy it takes to request that valid sites be unblocked. I've come to think of this strategy is largely fruitless. When you ask to use Skype and the person who oversees the whole shebang says "What's Skype?", you know that a different strategy might be in your best interest. Love the comment left by Adelaide, "If I trust my staff with live children, why wouldn't I trust them to not unblock inappropriate sites???" Which brings me to this. How much is my original question about management style?

"What types of support/working conditions are a must if progressive, technology-embracing educators are to be productive, creative, innovative and committed to their profession for the long haul?"

Last night, I had the opportunity to watch a thought-provoking video from MIT World called "The Future of Work" by Thomas W. Malone (2004). I actually watched it after posting this discussion question, but boy did it resonate with me and this question I am wrestling with. Many of you may be familiar with the popular post Wake Up and Smell the New Epistemology by T. Clydedale. He shares two statements that have really sent me thinking about my own knowledge acquisition as a professional and my view of authority/management because of it. The first quote is from a student's perspective (which could very well be from the perspective of a technology-embracing educator), and the second is Clydesdale's suggestion as to how we should respond to this new shift in authority and knowledge.


"It is imperative that someone studying this generation realize that we have the world at our fingertips — and the world has been at our fingertips for our entire lives. I think this access to information seriously undermines this generation's view of authority, especially traditional scholastic authority."



"The onus is on us to better convey the value that a robust intellectual life adds to the public good. And we need to begin by respecting our students (and the wider public) not just as persons but as the arbiters of knowledge that they have become."


Now widen this idea, and replace the word "students" in the last quote with "technology-embracing educators". This new access to information has made me see authority and management differently within my own profession, teaching. Because of this new access to information I question, research, and examine issues and answers much, much more. With his powerful access to information, I can see that not all districts have the proclivity to "block 'em all" when it comes to Internet filtering (which by the way, Wes Fryer has just started a very intriguing effort at Unmasking the Digital Truth in hopes of sorting some of this all out). Not all districts out there shudder at the thought of students using blogs, or wikis or social networks. With this powerful access to information via my digital PLN, I've come to realize that there are some pretty remarkable, progressive Web 2.0 projects being successfully developed and that they are actually embraced and desired by the admin, parents and educators of that district.

Let me see if I can tie this all together now. Malone shares that the decreasing cost of communication via new Internet/technologies makes the idea of democracy more tangible and more sought after for the masses - and not just in their society, but also in their workplace. Are we seeing this to be true in our own profession, as well? It turns traditional management styles of top-down authority on end. Clydesdale echoes this in regards to how students view the authority of teachers as information wielders. Cannot the same be said for teachers and their authority figures now that the world has been "flattened"? To what extent will this necessitate a reshaping of management styles within our profession, education, I wonder?
I have a class of 10 year olds 2 dys a week - this is our class blog

www.guestclg.edublogs.org

- the children love to post their work - are totally anonymous to outsiders and one of my "behav prob" kids is always first to get his homework done if it is online. Most nights there are 4 or 5 homework entries posted before i even get home form work myself!!

Am trying to have the discussion with my teachers that using interactive whiteboards per se does not mean you are allowing chn to interct with the learning concepts in a meaningful way - I asked them "what is interactive learning?" and I got a lot of blank looks ......only the principal and deputy "got it" - any ideas forum listeners?

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