Monday, November 26, 2007

Making time for R and D in Education - Response to blog post

I'm still a newbie to blogging so please humor me, but I think it's so amazing how reading a blog post can really make you take a close look at your own professional practices. Take this post from Jeff Utecht's blog The Thinking Stick. The title of his post is "Where is the R and D in Education?", which in fact came about due to a few comments from another of his posts. After reading it and some of the responses he received, it really got me thinking.

One of the first points that stood out was that teachers these days are taking fewer and fewer risks in their classrooms when it comes to trying new instructional ideas. These days our teachers have had to narrow their focus due to NCLB and all of the accountability that comes with that. I believe it has stifled creativity. They don't feel comfortable taking chances because of how it might impact them in the long run on the standardized test.

Having taught French for eight years before becoming an Educational Technologist, I didn't realize how good I actually had it. I was the only French teacher at both high schools where I taught, which allowed me a great deal of freedom. I didn't have to concern myself with keeping up with another teacher or wrestling with whether or not I should add in that extra culture lesson because the "other" class wouldn't receive the same material. I was also free to try just about any kind of instructional approach that I felt like. Yes, I fell on my face many times, but I was also learning right along side my students about which approaches best engaged them and had the greatest impact on their learning.

I think everyone in the field of educational technology would agree that we have to make time to take risks and for R&D. Technology evolves so quickly that if we don't stay on top of it, we'll be the ones left behind and thus leaving our teachers behind as well.

Reading Jeff's post had me reflecting on my coursework for my M.Ed in Educational Technology. At the time, I was incredibly impressed with the content of the courses and I learned so much, which I was immediately able to apply on the job. But now if those same courses were offered (and I finished four years ago this December) they would be seriously outdated.

I'm still amazed by what I'm learning is out there just through reading blogs. Out of touch doesn't begin to describe how I've felt from time to time. It's not that I've had my blinders on, but the time to stay abreast of everything is elusive. I spend the majority of my time supporting server-based software, answering technical related emails, and more for our sixteen schools instead of working more closely with teachers.

However, I've vowed that I need to set aside time in the future to ensure that I stay current with what's going on. Maybe that will be my New Year's Resolution? One specific block of time each week just to "play". That's how I got into using technology in the first place - playing. I suppose I need to take a lesson from my own kids and just sit and enjoy to remind myself why and how I became so engrossed in using technology in my teaching in the first place. Sounds like a plan to me!