Monday, January 6, 2014

It's The Relationships

I recently went to a job interview and one of the questions I was asked went along the lines of "How would you use technology to communicate with and encourage teachers to integrate technology more in their classrooms." Taking the question at face value, it sounded like the questioner wanted to hear about some innovative way of using email, Twitter, or podcasting to get teachers really psyched about the latest trend in educational technology. In my mind I kept picturing every teacher with a pager on at their waist that I could buzz every time an opportunity for technology use came up in their daily lessons.

I don't remember what my answer was, but that question has been bothering me ever since that interview. I decided that the question is flat out wrong. It's not about the technology. I'm not going to get teachers excited about blogging, Edmodo, iPads, the latest app or website by telling them about it through an email, Twitter, or a snazzy podcast. It's about the personal relationships I have with the teachers - knowing what their students are already doing in the classroom, what projects and standards they are currently working on, and what their comfort level with technology is. It's about the relationships I develop with the teachers.

I can develop those relationships by working with teachers one-on-one. I can help them with whatever problems they bring to me - because that's what's important to them at the moment. I can help them feel comfortable with their skill level. I can see what they are currently doing and suggest ways of enhancing it through technology. I need to listen to what they have to say and support them in what they are trying to do. It's about the relationships I can develop with the teachers.

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I think the same thing holds true with our students. Too often I see schools pushing the latest reading/writing/math intervention program in an effort to boost student test scores. As a digital cheerleader I cringe when I hear about the latest website where students can play games or watch videos and improve their reading skills or math skills! Too often we're taking the teacher out of the equation. Instead, it should be about the personal touch the teacher can use to encourage learning in the students.

If I know what a student likes to do for fun,  I can recommend books along those interests and get them reading more (and talking about their reading). If I know what they like to do with their families I can encourage them to write about it. If I listen to them explain how to find the area of a rectangle, I can find out what foundational skills they might be missing. It's the one-on-one time, the personal time. It's all about getting to know the student. And then I can know what they want and need to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, I really like your thinking about knowing our students is the best way to help them learn and grow. I am a special education teacher and therefore, I usually work with my students over several years. My students are always amazed when I can relate something they wrote with something that happened in their lives last year, or relate a struggle they are having in math with the way they struggled to learn regrouping or multiplication. I love that my job allows me the ability to know my students over several different school years and watch them grow and change.

    It sounds like your job allows that as well, working with different teachers over many different years. How do you encourage a teacher that may be "an old-school person" that doesn't want to get into all the tech stuff teachers are using nowadays? I need a way to motivate my teachers to try new programs either because the district says we will use them, or because I feel the teacher, and their students, would benefit from the program. Any suggestions?