Scott Weidig asked some important questions on his VanishingPoint blog post, “Internalization vs. Utilization,” regarding teacher professional development and technology integration. He asked:
- Where do we go from here?
- How do we create (or re-find) that childhood love of investigation for all educators?
- How do we break down the fear barrier?
- How do we become comfortable moving away from [canned] curriculum?
- How do we meet the needs of 21st Century learners?
- What is it really going to take to make technology integral to learning?
I don’t have answers to all these questions, but I did offer the following as a comment:
The difference in learning styles between many young people and many older people is summarized well in what I’ve heard others term a “navigational” versus a “procedural” approach to technology use. Young folks tend to take a more navigational approach, in which they experiment via trial and error to discover how something works. Many older folks, including lots of teachers, tend to be more fearful about technology use and take a more procedural approach. With procedural learners, they want to have everything spelled out in advance on a detailed handout they can follow. One of the greatest challenges in professional development for teachers, I think, is helping people who are naturally more “procedural” in their learning approach with technology to become more navigational. I don’t have any silver bullets on how to do this, but I agree with you and David Jakes that personally using the technology is key. If I was launching a PD initiative in a school district, I might even make personal uses of technology the centerpiece of the program. Too often (and I am guilty of this too) we rush to get teachers to the creative integration phase of technology use, when they have barely started to use the tools themselves. I think this is a response to several of the questions you’ve posed here, including “where do we go from here” and “how do we get beyond the fear factor?” Let’s focus on digital photography, sharing images safely with sites like Flickr, and videoconferencing with family and friends using tools like Skype and iChat. I think that is where we need to focus much more attention when it comes to technology tool use inside and outside of schools. To make technology integral to learning, teachers must be able to seamlessly use technology tools throughout the day as they access, use and share information. It must become part of the way teachers process and work in their world. Personal uses of technology are pivotal here, in fact I am sure they are a prerequisite to higher level uses of technology throughout the curriculum. I think too many leaders want teachers to skip developmental steps in their own technology use, and taking that approach is as developmentally inappropriate as giving a kindergartner an encyclopedia to read instead of a picture book.
I’m not sure who to cite or credit with these terms “procedural” and “navigational” learner. Is anyone aware of who started using these terms first? If I can identify that person I’d like to give them credit!
The idea of being “developmentally appropriate” resonates with reading and language arts teachers. Perhaps we should use this vocabulary when discussing professional development for teachers involving the use of varying types of technologies?
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