Saturday, March 9, 2013

Yo Yo

The last two weeks have felt like the perpetual motion of a YoYo. After presenting at the state conference - a high note, we came back to earth with our students midterm reviews. Laurie and I co-teach a reading/language arts methods courses. This semester following our passion for technology integration and its rising importance in schools we decided to be playful and layer in a variety of technologies and ideas. Our students were somewhat unhappy, and a few were so disconcerted that they wrote a quite lengthy review that was frankly a bit hard to read.

So Laurie and I sat down to process why the reaction to our efforts was so negative. We came up with four main reasons that overlap to a degree.

1. We assumed that students who grew up in the 21st century would have an innate understanding of why technology integration is important. It turned out they don't- quite possibly because while they grew up with the internet and a multitude of devices they were never an integral part of their school experience. Laurie and I were so immersed in this topic we forgot other aren't.

2. Our students are making their first steps as pre-service teachers. When we integrated a large number of technologies they became overwhelmed and lost the single most important aspect which is the link to teaching. Practicing teachers we work with see the relevance almost immediately in our Tech EDGE Conference.  Our students are simply not quite there developmentally.

3. This generation of students is used to the chaos of internet resources and the vast number of media available. In college classes, however, they want us to help them organize the information and sort out what is important. That said I think it is a set of skills we need to help them develop- something that should probably start long before junior year of college. 

4. Beginning professionals want straight answers and procedures. We attempt to give complex responses in an effort to teach them to think in an organized way- while dealing with ambiguity. This tension is at the heart of teacher preparation and Laurie and I may have crossed the boundary for this group of students.

Laurie and I have regrouped and refocused the work we do. Since we have just under half a semester to go we hope to be able and present a more balanced picture that will allow them to learn and use technology integration skills that are appropriate developmentally. The same can probably be applied to anyone scaling up technology integration with teachers. We must recognize where teachers are developmentally and support them in the steps that they need to make next.

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