We all work with teachers(and students) who are struggling with the idea of using technology–who dismiss it as a fad, or are overwhelmed, or feel that technology keeps our students from communicating with one another and that they need less, not more.
How we approach the integral nature of technology in our lives is because of our perspective. So when we are working with those teachers or students, how do we impact that “perspective?”
Jennifer Dorman points to a fascinating article in the Australian Age by Mark Pesce, exploring the ramifications of the Australian government’s promised laptop program. While acknowledging that teachers are underpaid, overworked, and driven by pre-set curriculums, he argues that curriculum departments need to get onboard with writing curriculums that embrace technologies as integral to teaching, noting:
“The students are ready for this revolution. The teachers and education departments are not.”
So how do we begin to change perspectives? And why should we?
In his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Sir Ken Robinson writes about perspective and how it is impacted by “the ideas, values and beliefs through which we frame our understanding of it. . . Our perceptions are guided by our interests, values, attitudes and beliefs.”(p. 118)
For example, the leaf in this photograph I took in California intrigued me, because it was literally standing up on the back of a parked car. It shifted my perspective of seeing a leaf on a car because the leaf wasn’t flattened against the surface of the car, and shifted my perspective enough that it moved me to take a photograph.
As Robinson points out:
“We not only perceive the world, we conceive it. We not only have experiences; we have ideas and thoughts about them. The ideas we have at our disposal profoundly affect the sense we make of things and the meanings we create. To this extent we make the world we live in and we can remake it.”(p. 128)
He goes on to write about the importance of finding the right medium. This is what really piqued my interest. Finding the right medium is important. Some of us might like video, because we prefer visuals or telling stories that way. Some of us might like writing a blog because writing really resonates with us. Some of us may like Garageband because it helps us explore ideas musically.
When working with teachers and students, we need to recognize that everyone has “their” medium that resonates with them.
Further, and this speaks to why even bothering learning to enmesh technology into what we do–Robinson says that you need to understand the medium in order to be able to control it and use it to the best of its potential. Even artists both challenge the medium’s limits, but also work within existing frameworks(like poetry in the form of a sonnet).
In writing about drawing, for example, he points out: “Like learning to write, learning to draw is a technical and cultural achievement not a biological one. These things need to be learnt and, if they’re not, the creative possibilities of drawing are limited.”(p. 132).
This seems to me to have many applications to technology. You can create things, but you need to understand your medium(or have someone working with you who does and can point you in the right direction.) As a teacher, you also need to understand what mediums you prefer or that your students tune into. We have to attempt to understand this new medium, and just like artists and dancers and musicians, that involves training, practice, and care. But it has to be the medium that sings to you.
Maybe we need to stop teaching “technology” as some sort of catch-all, and start teaching “visual design” or “story-telling” or “musical creation” or “information gathering.”
But also, in order to change perspectives, we need to help people suspend judgment as we work with them in workshops. It’s hard to “play” if you are making mental judgments about play, for example. It’s hard to allow inklings about how to use technology filter into your mind if you are making too many judgments about it. As Robinson writes,
“Creativity involves a dynamic interplay between generating ideas and making judgements about them. Getting the balance right is critical.”(p. 133)
So–how do all of these ideas help us work with teachers or students in terms of helping to change their perspectives?
Does giving students laptops (as Pesce writes about above) and providing training for teachers suffice to push the ball forward if their perspectives haven’t changed? Do the tools change the perspectives? Does seeing students engaged with them change perspectives? (I think probably yes, as students are why most of us became educators).
So what happens if we do workshops that do invite students and teachers to learn together in the same workshop? Will that help them see differently and make new connections? Robinson notes how unusual connections often lead to new creativity and insights, which I agree with.
What else can help us change perspectives, and help teachers balance judgment versus creativity?