Monday, November 16, 2009

An intriguing, frustrating conundrum

This morning I was repeatedly reminded of a dilemma professionals in many fields encounter. On one hand, an employee is expected to keep up with the latest technological tools available to them and relevant to their job. On the other, they may already feel overwhelmed with what's on their to-do lists.

Take teachers, for example. There's a transformation occurring in schools around the world right now. It's being driven by technology--or rather the use of it by kids. Children come to class natively fluent in social media, entertainment, and information channels. They don't know a world without it. And the teachers are being asked to catch up, and then get a step ahead of them.

But they're also asked to be all things to all students... professors, behavioral counselors, resource managers, specialists for the challenged and the gifted, even substitutes for absent parents. You name it, it's on a teacher's plate. And now we expect them to learn to use tools that didn't exist two or five years ago, and that change almost every year. To some, that request crosses a line and they simply refuse. To others it means days stretched even longer and paces quickened even more.

"I only want people who already know how to do their jobs."

As Scott McLeod asks on his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, "When will we, as educational systems, redefine the job descriptions and expectations of educators to include their regular and effective incorporation of relevant digital technologies?"

There are only so many hours in a day, and teachers will always be responsible for the fundamentals--grading papers, creating lesson plans, and making contact with the people they're dealing with. How do we change the way teaching and technology come together?

"And if I were the only teacher slodging through a miserable November, I’d chalk this whole strand of digital misery up to sleep deprivation."

Bill Ferriter expresses his frustration with the slow pace of change in education, while his commenters share exasperation over the mounting expectation of self-taught technical prowess. With the weight of a tenuous economy and an uncertain global marketplace, what and how we teach today's students is paramount.

There are tools available, and the know-how is there. It's a matter of finding the right combination and sticking with it. Atomic Learning provides how-to videos on a plethora of software and hardware. But we also provide a phenomenal professional development solution that integrates extremely well with many established systems. It's fast and easy and unobtrusive. And it can ease the burden on teachers and administrators.

Start with the teacher assessment. It's a fantastic way to set a benchmark, and to find out quickly where progress could be made. Teachers can then define their own curricula. At the end of the quarter or year, reassessment easily gauges progress. Good teachers become great ones by embracing those gap areas.

21st century skills concept training brings home the meaning of the buzzwords and collaboration tools that we hear about so often. Find yourself in the know on themes and frameworks from ISTE, UNESCO and more. Fully understand what's expected of a 21st century teacher, and figure out how to achieve that end.

Workshops develop essential communications skills, enabling collaboration on a global scale. Suddenly, the thought of doing a class project with students from Bangladesh doesn't sound so intimidating. Setting up blogs, wikis, and collaborative environments for class becomes fun and tremendously beneficial.

Technology integration projects help create out-of-the-box lesson plans and curriculum supplements. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Just take these fantastic lessons and customize them to your needs. There are hundreds to choose from.

When the pressure of modern expectations in legacy institutions becomes a hindrance to quality education, it's time to act. Call Atomic Learning now to request a custom quote, or to hear more about how we can help. If you have a technology problem, we may well have a solution.
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