Riding for "true unity" requires the technical & goes on into "feel."
In recent years, when showing my enthusiasm about bringing digital media and technology into the K-16 curriculum, I’ve been surprised at the grim countenances and the resistance from certain cutting-edge, thoughtful professional educators. I anticipated foot-dragging from the techno-phobes along with incendiaries from the buck-chasing and/or ego-needy experts with their hands in other pies; but from my film activist and professional audio-mixing enthusiasts? With a bit of probing and respectful listening, their concerns articulated; my synthesis posits the issue this way: Can teachers with limited technical experience infuse potentially glitzy devices into relatively dull disciplinary material so that deep learning isn’t sacrificed to superficialities?
My response: Yes, but not without sufficient attention to a few demands. Here’s my current top of the chart:
1. Insure that teachers first experience the technology, connect it with their disciplinary knowledge, and articulate the deep learning that is engaged. This articulation includes considering how the infusion of technology needs to be managed in order for their learners to get past the superficial techy to substantive learning. In guiding the articulation (or “theorizing the practice”), our process also needs to protect knowing that is only semi-articulate and often referenced as “feel.” Being able to recognize the “feel” that goes with effective engagement allows a coach to guide learners without forcing a prescribed program. I’ve recently discussed “feel” in Disfluencies: the Gold Standard. I plan to elaborate an example of #1 in my next post.
2. Support teachers to work from their passion and personal gift in teaching; not from a focus on “the problem.” The magnetic attraction associated with digital media and technology presents a powerful dimension with both positive and negative potentiality. In particular, the vibrant images, dynamic movement, music, and other media aspects push learners’ motivation, but it’s mostly extrinsic and often serving something extraneous. This magnetic power of media needs to be counterbalanced with authentic intrinsic motivation; in particular, the teacher’s passion that flows from genuine joy connected with the discipline (for example, loving to write). When teachers know and show their fire for discovery, for expression, for understanding, the learners can be less captured by the sugar-high of tech glitz.
3. Develop and nurture a “community of practice.” This infusion is simply too tough to go it alone. Extra effort has to be dedicated to a contemporary version of good old fellowship. Jean Lave (e.g., Teaching, as Learning, in Practice) and Etienne Wenger provide over twenty years of scholarship on situated learning and the associated community of practice. The infusion of technology looks to me more like Lave’s discussion of the “apprentice” model. With tech integration we have continuous innovation that engages all participants in a workplace. This doesn’t fit in with the existing dominant model of schooling characterized by top-down order, pre-determined objectives and assessments, segregation of teacher from learner, etc. If we’re going to approach optimal value in the tech infusion, we’ll need to get serious about the significance of the paradigm shift that’s often discussed in the movement from consuming to participating and from the individual-focus to a community collaboration (See Will Our Technology Oppress or Liberate?)
Big stuff. What a deal!