Teachers and New Tools

In a recent podcast for Educause, George Siemens suggested the best way to get faculty to use new tools was to have them experience the tools. He contends that it’s not the competence with the tools that distinguishes teachers from students, it’s the willingness to try the tools. For the teacher it is a perceived risk, for the student the risk lies in not trying.

I found a corollary in Work Naked by Cynthia Froggatt. She identifies these eight principles – initiative, trust, joy, individuality, equality, dialogue, connectivity and workplace options – in examining how by improving an employee’s workplace productivity improves. Her thesis is that by stripping away the layers that work against these principles a more productive company emerges. The premise of “work naked” is to support employees in working in ways that best suit them. What does this have to do with teachers? There are several lessons. Froggatt proposes that how and where people work is dependent as much on the culture of the organization as it is on what works best for staff. If we want our teachers to think differently about their role, we need to think differently about the organization. What are the barriers within the district to the changing nature of the learning environment? Do we reward collaborative efforts? Or do we make it inherently difficult for teachers to work together?

Froggatt also reminds us that “the biggest hurdle to connectivity is our inability to creatively rethink the links in our networks.”1 and to “leverage good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction in combination with appropriate technology to create advantages for all the players in the system.”2 Siemens work on connectivism reminds us that the power of the network lies in its ability to connect us to learning. Just as in the corporate world, teachers need to be supported in thinking differently about the learning environment, rethinking how students engage with and connect to learning.

The final lesson is about training our teachers to participate in the new learning environments. Beyond the removal of risk, we must make the tools available to them and support them in their use. Our teachers are learners too.

Froggatt, C. C. (2001). Work Naked: Eight Essential Principles for Peak Performance in the Workplace. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

1 Froggatt, p. 186
2 Froggatt, p. 200

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One Response

  1. Our division has teacher planning days, both division wide and individually selected days.
    When we mention grade alike groupings for teachers to collaborate, especially for division wide teacher planning, the response is not as enthusiastic as one might consider. If one initiative could and should be mandated, that would be it. Imagine during one of those meetings, someone sat down with a few teachers and searched some blogs or explored teacher tube, etc.
    Literally and metaphorically, many classrooms still after all these years have thick walls and closed doors.

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