Another dot in the blogosphere?

Personal notes (part 1): Teachers

Posted on: April 25, 2015

I am in a unique position to be able to critique teachers and educators in their efforts to use or integrate technology.

Before I left the mainstream school system as a teacher 17 years ago, one of my primary roles was conducting professional development on ICT for my colleagues.

While I was a teacher, I worked part time at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore, as a teacher educator. After I got my Ph.D., I returned to NIE as a full time professor and lecturer. I have been a teacher educator for a decade.

My parents were teachers. I am married to a teacher. Many of my friends are teachers or school principals. Most of my ex-students are teachers. My nature and nurture is teaching and educating.

I have seen and dealt with schooling and education issues on the ground and in the air. I have been both construction worker and architect in that respect.

What do I know from examining the schooling system from different perspectives? The barriers to change in adopting current technology and progressive pedagogy are rooted in negative mindsets.

No amount of professional development (PD) makes a dent in change efforts if the impact is not personal first. If the PD does not connect individually and emotionally with each teacher, s/he is unlikely to make that connection with teaching and learning.

For example, one educator I know became a Facebook convert after realizing how he could get fresh news in his feed the day before instead of reading old news the next day in STonline or on dead trees.

Others became mobile converts after being able to see their grandchildren over FaceTime or Skype despite being separated by oceans.

What holds teachers back? They lack one or more of these traits.

My tweet was a result of an exasperating month working with teachers from various schools.

Some of the frustration stemmed from the poor administrative and communication skills of teaching and support staff. But once I had overcome those barriers, the socially and culturally-embedded ones were hard to stomach.

If teachers are not reflective, the emotional or personal technology connection is unlikely to spill over into their classrooms. They will not think to themselves: “If this works so well for me, how might I do this for others?” and “If I am not sure how to, how do I find out?”

A great educator is one who is innately reflective or is one that learns the value of reflection. Such an educator is self-aware and seeks continuous improvement. Such a person learns the differences between schooling and education, and realizes the need to learn and change constantly. Such an educator realizes how technology enables, not merely enhances, better teaching, better learning, and effective change.

If teachers do not have empathy for their learners, they do not think and feel for them. They do not see the importance of technology in their current lives much less their future ones.

An empathic educator can see through the eyes of their learners as they game or watch YouTube videos. They feel and celebrate the highs. They can relate to the selfie or SnapChat obsession. They know why their learners might avoid Facebook or grudgingly use Blackboard. Such an educator not only relates but is also able to capitalize on these behaviours and expectations.

An empathic teacher will care for his or her students. An empathic and reflective educator will care so much that he or she will be willing to learn and change for the betterment of learners.


Quotation: ”Empathy is the key” by Ken Whytock, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  Ken Whytock 

If teachers do not have a good sense of humour, they do not learn how to laugh at themselves or deal with failure. They would rather play it safe and not integrate technology.

An educator with a good sense of humour will see how ridiculous hanging on to outdated practices are and learn to laugh at themselves. Maintain “white elephants” in school, what a sight! Force feed “elephants” to kids a spoonful at a time and under a clock, how ludicrous!

A baby learning to walk and falling on its bottom is a funny sight. Educators stumbling with technology is painfully funny. Educators who learn to laugh at themselves because they recognize this growing pain. Laughter gives them skin thick enough to take the falls and yet thin enough to get help from their students and thoughtful others.

Sometimes I fantasize about starting or sustaining my own education system. When I do, I start with educators and I imagine selecting and evaluating them on just those three traits. Their empathy for learners would give them focus; they empathy for each other would create collegiality. Their innate ability to reflect would drive them to learn and improve all the time. As they take risks and fall forward, their sense of humour would help them ride out the tough times.

Ah, fantasy.

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