There's a quaint Australian expression "flat out like a lizard drinking" that people like to use when they are extremely busy and struggling to meet commitments. It's a contradictory term and can just as easily be repurposed for satirical purposes when life is uncomplicated and slow. Apart from conjuring up images of a goanna sucking on a beer stubbie (Australian term for a small beer bottle), it's one I've heard teachers use at this time of the year when report writing beckons and every committee is in full swing. They buzz past each other on the way to the photocopier or to the staffroom pigeonholes, clicking on their email inbox with never enough time to engage in significant dialogue. That's what was great about such a large group of us going to Melbourne last week - we had time to step back and see the bigger picture.
The teachers I work with cite time as one of the major barriers to engaging with and using technology as part of their practice. It's not as if they don't use technology. On our Melbourne trip, every teacher used their mobile phone to stay in touch with family, organise taxis, touch base with the school and keep track of each other's movements. It's the online world where many teachers’ confidence is at its lowest. Hours can be and are “wasted surfing the web", and even though our school system has offered Learning and Teaching with the Internet courses for a few years now, many colleagues have expressed a feeling of being lost or overwhelmed in the online world. The time investment required to come to grips with the information overflow seems to be too great - and the pressures and requirements of the job easily deter teachers who feel their personal time being compromised.
It becomes a question of priorities. Those of us who are involved in blogging, online networking, collaborative student projects, podcasting, bookmarking. ninging etc. see a real need, otherwise we wouldn't be so evangelistic. We see amazing potential and a danger of irrelevance to our students if we don't engage. Maybe the majority of teachers don't see it that way - that all of this technology stuff is icing on the cake but the cake still is basic, traditional skills and knowledge focussed.
It's also a case of whether these emerging technology-enabled practices are supported from higher up in our system and by our government who funds public education. An innovative company like Google gives its employees twenty per cent of their working week towards exploring their own work related interests. Imagine that system for teachers! But of course, the government is already under pressure from an electorate who believe (thanks to the media) that teachers already get too much time off and are supposedly afraid of accountability.
Maybe it's not a case of frustration that more teachers can't find the time to get online in a Web 2.0 way but a sense of amazement that there are this many of us involved anyway despite the pressures of our profession.
Disclaimer: This blog post was composed on my Pocket PC in small grabs of time like break times or gaps after meals and between bath schedules. I wouldn't want to give the impression that I have more time than the average teacher.
It certainly is easy to get despondent Graham when you are sure that teachers would be as excited as we are if they would only get involved! But if wonder if we just need to be patient (for a bit longer). These days most teachers seem to be booking airline flights online and banking online and if they haven’t already done so, have a second computer at home instead of thinking about getting their first. So they are being won over to the IT world not by their school experiences but by just living in the wider society.
I was delighted this week to be introduced to a great Web 2.0 site http://www.librarything.com which is a great big book-club, with about 190,000 members all recording their books read, communicating in groups, examining their tags and other people’s and reading and writing reviews. I think the power of thoroughly enjoyable and useful sites like this are more powerful than a bunch of expensive professional development sessions. Once you have joined a site like this you know what web 2.0 is about: you don’t have to be lectured to. It is only a small step then to see the potential in education, and the inevitability of children joining this world. You can see my sad/noble library at johntrav on librarything!
Cheers, John. The post was partially inspired by the cross-conversation we had at our table in the afternoon at Jimmy Wales. My sentence on priorities is paraphrasing straight from your mouth. I think you’re right – there’s something for everyone online – they will probably say that they’ve just found some cool thing that is unreal – and never realise that they’ve stumbled into Web 2.0.