Bridging the Divide

Bridging the Divide

So.

Yesterday was a PD day in our district. We are lucky enough to have an administrative team that understands the value of “Choose Your Own PD” (most of the time 😉 ) rather than making us all sit through the same presentation, and we had a day full of 50-minute sessions that covered PE, our new ELA/ELD adoption, break-out grade level PLCs, and technology (YAY!). Ro and I were “split up” – she worked with K-2 while I worked with 3-5 – which made total sense, but it felt weird to be presenting without her!

What’s weirder is how seldom we get called upon to train teachers. They are SO hungry – all of the tech sessions were packed – but we’ve run into the “experts in your own backyard” syndrome. In our travels, we’ve learned that this is not unusual: districts hire outside consultants when they have teachers on staff who could provide the same training (or perhaps better, considering the insiders KNOW their audience!) for a LOT less money. I know that Ro and I are happy to accept some “curriculum planning” pay or an hourly stipend for our presentations, but we’d do it for free. We love to help teachers that much. But… this could be its own blog post. I’ve bird-walked from the purpose of this writing.

The real reason I’m writing is to address my own, very personal, passion: working with other teachers who have been in the classroom “forever”. They are scared to death of the expectations of technology integration into their classrooms. We had a HUGE graduating (read: retiring) class last June, and I’m sure that if I were to do an exit interview with them, more than 80% would point toward the “changes in education” as the reason that they were ready to step. And I know this really means, for many of them: students are ready for tech usage and these teachers believed they were not able to provide it for them. Little did they know that all they really needed to do was to provide ACCESS to tech and most kids could have figured it out for themselves. But I do understand many teachers of my generation feeling the need for proficiency and dominion over their classrooms. MASTER teacher. Bah. Once we master something, there is no need to grow? My challenge: how do I help those, like me, who are still hanging on, to get over it?

To all who will listen, I preach about the OTHER digital divide. Even non-educators are familiar with the “haves and have nots” when it comes to school funding (although California’s LCAP funding has kind of flipped that notion on its head – yet another post for another time). But most people have not considered the effects of the separation that occurs when Teacher A infuses technology use into her daily “lessons”, if you will, while Teacher B does not. Teacher A sees the availability of devices as simple and routine as a pencil, while Teacher B only uses the Chromebook cart for “computer time” once a week. Throw in that Teacher B is a veteran teacher who has neither the skills nor the courage to admit this struggle, and that crevice becomes the Grand Canyon.

And, to me, who has said of the Grand Canyon “Yep. It’s a big hole”, I want to fix it. I know I can’t “fix” the Grand Canyon, but I want to fix the attitude of career teachers who try to ignore what is going on around them. Contrary to my nickname of “Black Rainbow” (*Cough*Ro*Cough*), I do care deeply and have a nurturing side that DOES want to mend this divide in education and ensure equal access for all students.

Yesterday, I offered a morning session that I’ve presented a few times at EdTechTeam Summits: “Little Steps for Long-Timers”. I advertise it as a safe space for “teachers of age” who want a safe space to admit their lack of understanding and get a slowly-paced, beginner’s look at Chrome, Chromebooks, and basic Google apps like Drive, Docs, and Gmail. In the hallways before and after this session, I had colleagues – many of whom I have known for more than 25 years – tell me how much they loved the description of my session. But, did they come? Nope. I had 5 people in my session. FIVE. I know there was the equivalent of an overflowing classroom of teachers who needed to be in there. But, due to the format of the day, they chose to employ avoidance strategies and attend sessions on PE or the ELA adoption instead.

English Language Arts. The ELA pendulum has swung back and forth over the decades that I’ve been in education. We know that good teaching is good teaching, and we don’t need another curriculum to provide that for our students. What we DO need is professionals who are willing to incorporate technology into EVERY facet of their ELA instruction: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. While this position includes math, science, and history as well, we all know that students who struggle with language proficiency will struggle in every other core subject. And all of our students need to and WANT to utilize technology applications in their learning and sharing processes. We need to see our students as creators of content, and there are so many fun, FREE ways (thank you, EdTechGods and all of the companies who so graciously support teachers and students) to bring language development and real-world technology use together.

I did share another session that WAS packed. “Appy Hour” – My Top 10 Apps for Student Engagement and Voice. I shared about Flipgrid, Pear Deck, EDpuzzle, Padlet, StoryboardThat…. Yah. The 10 turned into a baker’s dozen. Imagine ME getting wordy! But I know many in that room were overwhelmed. Many SHOULD have been in my morning class. All I could do was implore the group to pick one app and run with it. Give it their students. Then pick another. Sometime.

And so, I will continue to preach and gently cajole my fellow warhorse teachers to jump on board. It is NOT scary – technology is so much easier to deploy that it was in the olden days.

They need us. If we do not provide opportunities for our students to experiment with technology, we are helping to dig another Grand Canyon. Seriously, teachers need to realize that we do not need to control everything. We do not have to be masters of every app before we put it in students’ hands. If that were true, I’d be light years BEHIND where I am now in my comfort level with edtech. Kids love to teach their peers and their teachers. Collaborate.

And, if you need me… I’m here to help. For free.

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