I’ve just had the pleasure of presenting at the EdTechTeam’s Google For Education Summit and it was an excellent event. NZ Educators came away inspired and full to bursting with new Google tricks and tips that will change the way students across New Zealand learn. I had a great time meeting EdTechTeam and must give a big thanks to Mark Wagner & Kim Randall for their generosity in letting me present (especially given my Twitter name & blog :-)
I picked up many great new tips and tricks which I will implement in my classroom immediately. I pointed out to many people I spoke to that although the device I use and help people with is the iPad, the main eco-system I use is Google. It is only Google apps and services that will effortlessly deal with all media types and integrate and publish them as single products.
The presenters were excellent and covered the wide range of Google apps and services at all skill levels. I particularly enjoyed Ken Shelton’s Google Sites workshop as he got really arty about colour schemes and layout and personalising the sites as e-portfolios. I also thought Jim Sill was entertaining, no matter what he presented. Even his 3 minute ‘Slam’ on undoing email sends got the most laughs.
Why Google carefully?
The benefit Google has over Apple is its more open-source style setup. Developers around the world are free to design and launch add-ons and improvements to Google products which makes the eco-system as a whole much more flexible and talented at solving people’s problems quickly. It was these 1000s of features, tools and add-ons that we were wowed with over the 2 day summit.
Knowing that the Google environment can inspire the geeky EdTech’er that much more than the closed, walled-garden approach of Apple is evident at an event like this but this is why I decided to present a word of caution amongst this show of tech brilliance & enthusiasm. The question every edTech fan should be asking themselves is “How many of my colleagues would choose to attend a Google for Education summit, especially during school holidays?” During my 12 years experience, the answer would always be a small number and edTech teachers around the world need to consider why this is the case when trying to affect change in their school.
The special minority
Here is my recreation of a fantastic and popular metaphor that has done the rounds on Twitter for a few years. It explains the types of teachers you all know when discussing tech in schools. I think it also applies to discussion of pedagogies and new learning techniques too. Unfortunately, I am not able to track down the original creator, so if you know please let me know. I’ve tidied up the presentation a bit but stuck to the original teacher types.
The main point this diagram illustrates for me is not so much the types of teachers in a school but the percentages of those types in existence. The sharp end of the pencil represents the teachers who choose to regularly update their knowledge and practice in teaching approach and use of technology and yes, it’s only 10-15%. Educations biggest influencers are the majority of teachers who either expect & wait for professional development to be delivered to them (wood), feel they require no PD at all (Ferrules) or try to reverse any example of progression from that which worked 20 years ago (Erasers). My own school has been BYOD for 4 years and can still claim the same percentages displayed in the pencil above (I’ve only been there a year). The first question that every teacher/leader at the summit should have been asking themselves is “How do I affect genuine change in the majority of those I work with?” This was the heart of my presentation.
Moving the “un-moveable” teacher
My main points were as follows:
- Just because 15% of teachers have a self-drive to improve their own practice including technical skills & knowledge doesn’t mean the rest do.
- The history of western education has not produced a world body of teachers that view themselves as part of a world-wide connected and well-researched profession. Teachers around the world have always had an opt-out option and are rarely held genuinely accountable for the success of their students, as doctors and lawyers generally are.
- EdTech leaders in schools will not impress and inspire with tech alone. Most people don’t have the intrinsic interest in tech to find the abilities of technology engaging.
- Incentives to use technology must be non-technical and focus on the personal gain achieved from making the switch if real change is to be achieved – teachers are only human after all.
- Although not advised by Google, I used a single account for 16 teachers. The benefit of this was that all new material appeared in one place meaning they often stumbled across each others practice and inspired progress and new uses.
- Focusing first on the time-saving and workload reducing benefits, I was able to make technology and particularly the use of Google apps the saviour for my teachers and have achieved almost 100% uptake in regular use.
It’s easy for conference goers & Twitter teachers (like me) to look around them and imagine an exciting industry-wide progressive movement into 21st century learning. I literally saw teachers at the Google Summit patting each other on the back, which, figuratively speaking, I see daily on Twitter and Google plus too. This isn’t a bad thing but does lead many of the back-patters to assume that when they return to school the ‘others’ will naturally be excited about the new tricks, tools and devices and then get angry that “they just don’t do anything about it.”
I love technology (have you noticed?) but I appreciate that most people don’t and we have to approach moving to 21st century learning from the point of why it makes sense as humans and not tech-enthusiasts. This is the only way schools will see true change in what the majority of teachers ask for in their classrooms. After all, we’ve had decades of PD and the pencil still says it all !