From Dependency to Enablement

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I’ve often wondered why competent and confident teachers are sometimes thrown off kilter by new technology. After all, a great teacher is by definition an excellent learner. Teachers learn new things all the time. So why does technology add an element of fear and trepidation for some? With time as the most precious commodity for teachers, I expect fear of lost time plays into these anxieties and hesitations. Working in the area of technology, I’ve never considered myself a technologist, but rather an expert learner. I like to try all the menu options and work out the functionality, all the while looking at new application opportunities.

As we implement new technologies in schools, teachers cry out for more technical support. I’m of mixed mind about this and question the right balance of enabling support versus what I call rescuing support. Enabling support is proactive and includes self-help, coaching and growing a community of learners who perpetuate this cycle. Rescuing help fixes the immediate problem, but keeps teachers coming back for more. Rescuing help could never be staffed fully as new problems arise and the old ones perpetuate. Teachers want their technical problems to be fixed, but to a large extent in my experience, still feel helpless to solve the problems themselves and want someone else to “just FIX it”. When systems and technology is error prone, this attitude is understandable. However, when systems are singing and the technology “just works” most of the problems are of an educational nature. Parents too are challenged by the rapid growth of take-home technology in use in schools. So.. what strategies can help people to help themselves and their children? Here are some I’ve tried over the past year for technical support, learning teams, students and parents.

Tips for the Techies

  1. Think like a teacher. Make sure it works the first time and proactively provide clear instructions
  2. Show children how to solve their technical problems and have them show you back. Teach them to teach their classmates.
  3. Provide Self-Help strategies for common problems that can be accessed again and again via an iTunes U course, eBooks or FAQs in the Help Desk
  4. Post clear instructions on all AV equipment. Keep things consistent and simple so teachers can help each other.

For Teachers 

  1. invest in lead learners and share within teams and professional learning communities
  2. provide a weekly SnipITS sharing session at staff meetings
  3. run TeachMeets at school where sharing is the norm
  4. feed great tools and resources to lead learners to share within their teams
  5. provide staff induction resources in an iTunes U course that can be revisited and used with new staff through the year

For Students

  1. Provide self-help books on their devices for common problems (adding printers, what to do if you can’t print, about content filtering…)
  2. Have self-help posters in the junior years and keep referring back to them
  3. Create student experts (App Captains, Techies, …) to help each other (and the teachers)

For Parents

  1. Create an iTunes U course for Digital Citizenship (help parents understand risks and responsibilities in a digital age)
  2. Run parent workshops at your school or refer parents to workshops at the local Apple Store or equivalent
  3. Create tasks that involve parents with student technology (eg interview your parents, record feedback, or have them take pictures of students taking action on their learning)

Some may seem rather simple, but all are geared toward building confidence and enabling others with technology.  What strategies do you use to enable learning in your context?

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