June 2007 Archives
I spent yesterday at the One to One Computing Conference here at PSU. It is a great event organized to get administrators, IT people, teachers and teacher educators together to talk about the impact of ubiquitous technology in K-12 classrooms.
So, what has that got to do with a line from Dr. Seuss, you may be asking yourself? Well, here is the story. I was in a session with Cole Camplese, who had just given a stellar keynote about Web 2.0 and was answering questions in a smaller forum. A person attending the session asked what Cole did to help get faculty to adopt innovation. After the obligatory comment about herding cats (no offense taken), Cole gave a thoughtful response talking about building relationships and it being hard work. I chimed in with my two cents at this point, but what struck me was how often this question is asked in different forms by one group of people that wants another group of people to do something (in many cases learn something). It is asked by administrators about faculty or teachers, by IT people about teachers, by teachers about students, etc. What I suggested during Cole's session not very clearly, I would like to clarify now. Learning is about meeting people where they are and helping them achieve what they want to achieve. When anyone presumes to know what is best for someone else in a learning context, there is naturally going to be some resistance. If you want to get faculty to adopt innovative technology (taking this as one example), you need to first talk to them and find out what their needs are and how you can help them achieve their goals using the knowledge you have. It must be a partnership, a collaboration. The idea that the IT person has the right tool for the job is only true if the IT person knows what the job really is. The only way to know that is to ask the person doing the job. You can take these sentences and replace faculty and IT person with teacher and administrator or students and teacher. The irony is that when someone is on the receiving end of this relationship they don't like it much, and yet they often impose it when they are on the "herding" end.
Educators, even some that were in the room yesterday, talk about the guide on the side vs. the sage on the stage. That metaphor carries across into all relationships where one person is teaching / supporting the learning of another. Let's take the metaphor seriously and remember that guides take people where they want to go and then help them get there. They make suggestions, but the recognize who is really "in charge" of the learning. Ultimately, what I am saying is you should treat people with respect and as professionals if you want them to learn and develop. After all, a person's a person no matter how small. Dr. Seuss may just be a true sage.