22 Jun 2009

How can I podcast, when I can't powerpoint?

Seriously. As I was doing some training this week at another local school, having just spent about an hour on looking at podcasting for linguists, one of the teachers there uttered that kind of soul-crushing phrase that tech-savvy teachers like me just hate to hear.

"What you've said is really interesting, but in all honesty, how can you expect me to be able to make a podcast, when I can't even use powerpoint properly?"


Frustrated humour aside, this teacher raised a real issue, which I think many of us tend to ignore as we look for the latest Web2.0 feature, or as we find out what other teachers are doing to tech up their teaching. I'm quite keen to try and find an answer for this, and have come up with some sensible (and some not so sensible) solutions.

Firstly, you can categorise many teachers into a number of categories.

The Technophobe
The teacher who still insists on writing all their reports everything. They don't send emails, and certainly won't reply when you send them one (or even read it). They won't use interactive whiteboards, and still have a years' worth of lessons on overhead transparencies. Nicola Woolcock of The Times wrote an article highlighting the fact that despite UK schools investing millions of pounds in new IT systems, infrastructures and software, much of it goes unused by technophobic teachers. How much of a percentage of staff in your school would you place into this category? In reality, what is there that we can do for this genre of teacher other than let the technology continue to evolve around them?

The Forward-Looking-But-Fearful
These are the teachers who are keen to make the effort to use the tools of new techologies, but are truely fearful of either getting stuck at the first hurdle, or of just breaking their laptop into small pieces when the computer won't read their mind in terms of what they want it to do. ("Why won't the text just appear where I want it to?") . We can work with these people, we can be patient, and get them working efficiently with a few Web2.0 bits and pieces. However, it is the teachers who fall into this category that we can really use to shape how our schools approach effective ICT use that benefits the students. I have often listened to fantastic teachers who are truly at the cutting edge of how to use technology in their teaching, teachers who create phenomenal resources, and teachers who are just bloody good teachers, and who don't need a computer to inspire and motivate students.

So as schools rightly look to the future, setting up VLEs and creating the necessary e-portfolios, many of these same establishments are lacking in knowledgable staff to use them effectively. It would sometimes seem that the technology learning curve has almost skipped a generation. My experience with training PGCE students and NQTs reveals a greater, more indepth knowledge of new technologies, but this is not in evidence in the here and now. Will those at the front of the high speed educational IT train stop at any point to look behind them and see who is actually on board. I don't think so. It's a case of 'you snooze, you lose'.

So what happens next? Staffroom dinosaurs remain in the dark, with traditional approaches becoming increasingly frowned upon by colleagues? ("What? You mean he made them write it down?)

I don't know who is in charge of all this, but I wouldn't mind a bit of a comfort break.


Graham Davies said...

Oh, how true this is, Alex! I've been training language teachers to use ICT since the late 1970s, and the same types that I identified all that time ago are still here.

Only a very small proportion of language teachers are completely at ease with technology, and I guess that this will always be so. The NOF training initiative a few years back aimed to bring all teachers of all subjects up to speed in ICT, but NOF was a bit of a mess, and only a handful of the NOF training agencies (e.g. CILT) could be considered successful. The problem is that training is not a one-off; it has to be ongoing - see my article (first published 1997 by the Counicl of Europe): "Lessons from the past, lessons for the future", especially Lesson 1.


Graham Davies

resources training said...

I liked reading The Technophobe part. I hate the teachers that are like that. I think it makes it difficult for the students. Thank you for the article.

José Picardo said...

Hola Blaggers,

I have been feeling like this for a while. In fact, a year ago, I wrote a similar article to this one.

My conclusion was that the you cannot evangelise to the technophobes, they will always find a way to convince themselves that you are just a well-meaning, wishful thinker.

Instead you must lead by example. Simply show what can be achieved with only a little effort.


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