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It's Management!

The Price of Evolution in your Teaching Practice

Once you are at it you will probably not go back. After understanding that the user-driven web of blogs and wikis is a reality, teaching the old way simply stops making sense.

So you spend hours self-training, feeding your RSS readers and social bookmarkers of valuable information provided by other savvy web users. Then it is time to prepare your tools. You open your own blog, wiki, podcast and then plan to face your students with it.

Your own enthusiasm is something you must take care of. There is a world of reality offline and outside the classroom teachers are not used to facing. Success with it requires that you go deeper into management issues. Part of the newly acquired roles.

My colleague Jennifer in Buenos Aires writes an email to me after a meeting at her school where she presented to the authorities her new wiki for a class. The meeting had not been precisely encouraging.
This is what I answered her by mail:

Jenn,
I see.
Do something for us both. It might help you get some steam off after such a meeting.
-Take a piece of paper. Sorry. I mean, an email draft.
-Start listing ALL the questions you heard. Particularly the ones about security. Do not omit questions as "what's a yahoo group"
If you can, highlight the ones you think scared them most.
Then send them to me.

Jennifer answered me in her blog. A must-read I think if you are a pioneer teacher with a blog:
http://jenverschoor.wordpress.com/2007/02/20/my-first-integrating-technology-journey/

To quote but a couple of remarks she had to address at that meeting:

  • You must correct every blog entry
  • You must support the teacher and use technology as a means of allowing the teacher to improve her students practice for the international exam
How twentieth century, don't you think?

Many miles away...

In Greece, a few weeks before Jenny's meeting, Teacher Dude was Pulling his hair out!! over somewhat similar issues. Craig says:


"The more I create my own material the less satisfied I become with the teaching resources available commercially." [...] "Yet every time I mention these facts and figures and try to introduce new ideas and approaches I'm told that they won't work, they'll negatively affect exam results or that that's not what students want from their lessons. After a while there comes a time when you just shut up, keep your opinions to yourself and tow the line."

My comments to Craig:

Dear Dude,

I had noticed the low Greek passing grades from the Cambridge site and also the work of Costas Gabrielatos mentioning the problem as well. Now your post really completes the picture to me.

Down here in Buenos Aires the situation is a little more hopeful. Few teachers embrace ICT introduction in their lessons, but at least, neither teachers nor managers are desperately against it! Management is always a key defining point between adoption or rejection. That's a start.

On the students’ perspective, FCE has become a standard way of referring to a level. There is no exams craze these days; perhaps due to our 2001 economic crisis, which made the exams rather expensive for us. People value communication more than certificates. I believe no one gets a job by just exhibiting an international certificate. They will certainly be asked to speak in English at an interview. Simple.

Technology is changing faster than most minds can cope. And most teachers still love to stand in front of a classroom and know ALL. Few step into the room to learn SOMETHING. That's what postgraduate courses were made for! (I do not know whether I should laugh or cry at this!). It is not just having or reading a blog; it is a whole new frame of mind that teachers have to change to get the point. But I do believe things are getting better.

You are a pioneer in what you do, Dude. That has a price in incomprehension. I would like to tell you not to let the environment change your happy blogging mood, which makes me like reading you. Perhaps, instead of going with the crowd, try just not dealing with them. Deal with your things and always post about your ideas and your results. Some teachers might be feeling something must be changed and will not know where to start. Your blog will be there for them.

All best,

Claudia


Symmetry
If Jenny and Craig had not met before, I think it was about time.

Borges said that history is a plot which tends to repeat itself. The protagonists, however, seldom know they are part of history's game.

If you think you are alone, check on more stories like this on Doug's blog post "I can't teach properly" and make sure you do not miss the comments.

Innovations
As much as we have come to feel more than comfortable with new technologies, we must remember we are doing something new and disruptive. It's all in the changing of the rules that gets them so uneasy. Management skills cannot be far behind if we want to integrate technology and lose only a reasonable amount of hair in the process.

The teaching of management skills to prospective teachers should be introduced earlier in their studies and not just in the masters or post-grad courses. I like to think these are interesting times to be a teacher in. Yet, we cannot sail through only equipped with enthusiasm and determination.


Follow-up links
I'll be using the tag "blogging_experience" on my del.icio.us for any relevant post I discover after publishing this.
http://del.icio.us/fceblog/blogging_experience


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Labels: ,

Dear Craig,

I just noticed the comments had been accidentally disabled when I first posted this entry. It is now solved.

I am transcribing the beautiful letter you sent me here. I think this is where it belongs.
..........................

Hi Claudia,

I saw the post and it was a wonderful bit of writing. Thank you for
mentioning me. I'm glad to say that I haven't given up trying yet. My
original post was written during a particularly trying week. I still find
that lack of equipment at school an suspicion of new technologies still make
things difficult as well as the mania the school has with exam results.

On the other hand my private student have really taken to all these new
techniques. I don't know if they are the best methodologically speaking but
I don't really care as long as my students are enthusiastic and engaged with
the language.

Yours

Craig

Dear Claudia,

I know that sometimes Integrating Technology is very difficult. There are many obstacles to overcome.
It´s all worth the effort.

Take a look at my blog post where you can see how different everything is nowadays.
http://jenverschoor.wordpress.com/2007/03/20/a-hard-nut-to-break/
Everything is rolling!!!
I am so glad that we started this journey together.

Jennifer

Jennifer,
I am so glad you and Craig decided to say something about these less brighter aspects of ICT integration in your teaching practice. Much needed posts in the blogosphere.

It is heartening to see how much things have changed for you both in less than a month!

I am absolutely certain that teachers to come will face the same situations and questions.

There are perhaps no hard and fast rules to deal with these things. Each teacher must analyse their own context. Yet, simply knowing we are not the first ones to go through the same can make a difference.

It is worth mentioning that the same technology we try to use to enhance our students' learning experience has proved a valuable vehicle in our own learning paths.

Thank you both for being my blogging companions. Hope we keep learning together.

I am grateful to José Luis Cabello for continuing this conversation in his Spanish blog
Ciberaulas.

Claudia,

Very interesting. Being up north, in Canada, it's not much different. We have access and we have the people who are trying these tools but there are few who are truly aware of the power that they have. I'm always amazed that I find so many people that are struggling with similar plights: time, resistance, ignorance. That is what is go great about the connectiveness of the web. There may be few in locations but there are many that can help one another. Keep up great writing.

Kelly,

Just went over to your blog before writing this and I read
http://kwhobbes.edublogs.org/2007/03/21/differentiated-leadership/#comments

What you say about not being limited to those you see f2f is so true. Resistance is to play a role around innovations. It is to be expected and, perhaps, we should not underestimate its role. But what would we do if we could not engage into these conversations with like-minded people!

What technology enables us to do today is so powerful. Whether I meet people f2f who understand or not, has stopped worrying me today. I know you are all out there to help.

Thank you

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