Monday, June 25, 2012

Climbing with Technology

I never really imagined how reflective my blog would become. I originally foresaw this space as more of a place to list my favorite tools (and don't you worry, I think there is still a place for this, too). But, I've found myself desperate to have a place to think about what it means to teach teachers

Over the weekend I finally had the opportunity to climb the Flatirons in Boulder, CO. For some of you reading this, that feat is amazing (you're probably from sea-level, and a 1,000 foot incline would be terrifying). For others, this feat is far short of amazing (you've climbed Everest or at least a couple Colorado-fourteeners). During my hike, my thought process moved back and forth between these two ideas--the response by my audience to my experience completely differs because of the various levels of expertise and experience by those who hear it.

And it struck me---this is the same way I see people responding to teachers using technology in the classroom. I see teachers that are at the entry-level of technology use, who are excited to just use a projector or a document camera, and are only beginning to find the stamina and courage it takes to continue the climb, sometimes criticized by the expert teachers--who have already been to the top of the mountain and back and who have forgotten what it's like to begin. I've also met teachers who have tried technology once, had a horrible experience, and never tried it again--their fear of failure and of what others may think cripples them from continuing to move forward. They feel like they don't even know how to use the gear properly, let alone get on the trail. And of course, I've met teachers who were forced to climb Pikes Peak before they had even tried on their hiking shoes. 

And then, there are our mountain climbers. Their raised visibility makes them seem invincible to the struggle it takes to climb this technology mountain. Because of their distance from the bottom of the mountain (and their distance from those teachers still struggling to begin), not many people see the constant effort, the exhaustion and the determined focus these teachers must maintain to keep going. When you climb one mountain (and in record time or with record results), people expect you to get back up and climb another, and often times wonder why you can't lead a whole climbing party with you. We see these "high-flying" teachers as something to be glorified (which, often times is very much deserved), yet, we must also understand that the climb of the new technology teacher is just as powerful. 

I could extend this metaphor for quite some time--the point is, we must have patience. I hiked with some experienced people--and never once did they look at me like I wasn't good enough to be with them, and they never criticized me when I didn't have the right gear (or couldn't figure out how to use my camelback). They were patient and supportive, and because of their response, I will hike again. Let's take this same response to our teachers (our students) who need to feel our support in moving forward on this journey of technology integration. If we respond to them with patience and genuine excitement at their willingness to start the hike, I have a feeling they'll be mountain climbers sooner than we ever thought possible. 

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