Saturday, September 10, 2005

If you build it, they will come.

So here's the problem. You've got this really cool stuff(tm) that will help improve learning. You know the pupils get it, but you can't get teachers to implement it. Pop quiz hotshot. ...What do you do? What do you do?

I was planning to do a long overdue research blog entry but made the mistake of trying to catch up a bit on some of my Bloglines feeds. I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation between Ewan and John which seems to have been prompted by an EdTech Coast to Coast podcast. Ewan wanted to know, "Is there any other way of showing blog power to the masses, other than going round bit-by-bit and showing kids and teachers in classrooms?" John picks this up and says that even that doesn't work because the response is often, "cool, but where will I get the time."

The trouble is, just as the Coast to Coast chaps discuss, you can be utterly convinced about the value of something (wikis, podcasts and blogs or whatever) but unless the teachers you are talking to get passionate about it, you'll get the reaction that John talked about. As the great Stan Laurel said:
"You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead."
{It works better if you say it out loud.}

Beckett on the mound
Beckett on the mound,
originally uploaded by Pichichi.
The title of this post comes from the film Field of Dreams. In the film, a character builds a baseball park in the middle of nowhere confident that once it is built someone will come and play on it. The trouble is that all too often we build the virtual eLearning playground only to find that it ends up virtually empty!

However, I think that part of the answer is to keep plugging away at it "bit-by-bit". Only once a teacher is convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs will that teacher seriously consider classroom blogging. Make the teacher an enthusiastic blogger and you're pretty much there. One of the speakers in the podcast describes this process. He got teachers using the technology and describes how an enthusiastic Music teacher came to him and said, "If we can do this, can we do that?" The classroom uses took off as the teachers got enthusiastic.

It's not all bad though Ewan. I used to be a sums teacher, and I do remember a bit about exponential growth. If the three of us manage to get three teachers each to be enthusiastic blog readers and writers then that means there are now twelve of us. If that twelve now manage to convince another three each, that takes us to forty-eight. And if that forty... you get the picture. Think small, but aim big.

Finally, to pick up on some specifics from Ewan and John's posts and comments. It's very flattering of Ewan to describe me as carrying out "one man effort" to promote social networking tools but that sounds grander than I think it deserves. {Still not happy with "social networking tools" as a name, but I prefer it to Web 2.0 or read/write web. I'm still open to suggestions.} I'm particularly pleased the way a Flickr thing is going this year. It's all in a private group at the moment, but I may be able to make some of it public later. John's comments about the need for more networked computers chimes nicely with Steve's comments on Would you want a computer without the Internet?

Ewan asks about a "child-safe environment for blogging". I suspect you know about this already, but David Warlick's Blog Meister looks interesting from that point of view, although a totally teacher moderated blog would be a real pain for the teacher, but may not bring significant gain.

And finally, on Ewan's comment on John's blog. He says, "The FE and HE groups have more time to run blogs, and treat them as interesting from a research angle, which therefore makes them legit conerns in their day-to-day work." All I can say as lecturer in HE is that the other man's blogsphere is always greener!

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Mrs. Youngblood said...

I'm with you on this one! I even did a quasi professional piece on it on wikicities. Draft 2
At any rate, know there are other teachers out here, feeling your complete frustration, and the knowledge that just getting teachers to do it is not the answer, but to get them to put the kids onto them. Find some collaboration with the community at large, and you just might have something to go on.

Where I can't get a teacher to do things on their own for themselves, they end up learning it enough to put their kids onto it. A good example of this is Tapped In Teachers want to check it out when you tell them that they can take students in and it's actually a safe chatter on it.

Oh, and I like the leading a horse to water joke.

John Johnston said...

hi David,
I am quite impressed we have a 3 way conversation with all known scot ed bloggers.
I guess there will be a few more after SETT. I am crossing my fingers and toes and being very good in the hope of getting there.
I like the sound of exponential, we started the school blog in March 2004 which doesn't seem like that long ago. The idea of children having conversation with other children now seems a possibility. Thanks for the Blog Meister head's up I know someone looking for somewhere to set up a blog for their school podcast.

Ewan McIntosh said...

Got a stonker of a comment on another blog (not mine) about how I should "Wake up and smell the coffee" - this particular teacher doesn't reckon blogs are for Scottish teachers, who are apparently too busy boring their pupils to submission with worksheets and PowerPoints (good PowerPoints are a different matter, but I have my doubts on most of the ones produced in schools). Have a read on my blog and let me know if I'm being a bit cruel ;-)

David said...

Hello Mrs Youngblood

Thank you for your comments. I agree that pressure from the pupils can be effective, but only if the teacher is at least partly sold on the idea. Teachers can be particularly skilled at resisting pressure from children. :-)

I like the idea "learning it enough to put their kids on". Again this depends on the teacher being convinced in the first place that it is a good idea. Perhaps more importantly however, it depends on the teacher having the confidence to let the pupils take the lead in this way. I discussed that issue in a previous post and comments. Two experienced teachers said sometimes letting the pupils get on like this can lead to exciting and satisfying expereinces for both teacher and pupil.

Finally, thanks for the link to the draft of your article technology and teaching. Interesting!

David said...

Hello John

I was amused by your descrition that we constitute "all known scot ed bloggers". :-) I have this vision of us bumping into each other at SETT and greeting each other with, "Dr. Blogger I presume". Maybe we should get tee-shirts printed up with "I'm a Scots EduBlogger" on one side and "Stop me and ask about blogging" on the other. :-)

On a recent post Ewan says something about how when the Internet first appeared in schools it was only embraced by a few (geeky?) pioneers, but now you can't move without falling over printouts from a Google search. (I've paraphrased slightly!) I think we on the slow climb up to the tipping point just now, but come SETT 2006 I don't think you'll have any problem finding people enthusing about wikis and podcast and blogs. (Oh my!)

David said...

Hello Ewan

Come on... name names - there are only three of us Scots EduBloggers reading this after all! Who is it that got you all hot under the collar? At least tell us the blog to go to so that we can read the comments in-situ. :-)

I've already complained that you are getting too much coffee - never mind just smelling it. I stand in awe of the regularity and quality of your blog posts. Switch to tea for goodness sake and give John and I a chance to catch up. :-)