I first published this in 2009—TBH
Sit back, this is a long one.
Ed tech consultants are an interesting bunch. Some are lone rangers that travel the country or world doing what I like to call “Drive by trainings” where they come in, spread a little ed tech love, and then are never heard from again.
Some are hired to work with a group for a period of time, some are actually fronts for a larger organization or company, some are hired from afar and visit online. Some are kind of just there, telling us about their travels and adventures. We aren’t sure if they really do any work. But they sure let us know they think they do.
(When I first wrote this, I wanted to link to those that I thought exemplified the examples above, but I removed them..it turned out to appear to be kind of mean. So, to you consultants out there, you know if you fit into the categories above.)
And then there are the bloggers. There are a lot of bloggers like myself. Lots. Hell, if you can regularly come up with a “Top 100 Ed Tech Blog Sites” list or an annual list of the best blogs out there then you know that there are a lot of blogs out there.
So, suffice it to say, there are a lot of blogger and ed tech consultants roaming the world at any one time. (And most of the ed tech consultants are also bloggers, so they have double the ed techie goodness attached to them.)
So, you bloggers and consultants, there are a lot of people out there reading you. Every time you make a presentation, you direct a new crowd to your site. Every time someone misquotes you on their Powerpoint presentation (“70 Billion Chinese students graduate with Ph’Ds by the Year 2020. In the US: 11.”) it draws attention to your site and your message.
I know, for the most part, that you are doing this out of the goodness of your heart, like myself, and that you have no real ulterior motives other than to spread the word about ed tech.
So, the question that I have been batting around for a week or so is:
Why should anyone trust you?
Specifically, why should teachers trust you? They, for the most part, are NOT reading what you have to say. (You may have 1,000,000 hits, but that is 1,000,000 hits by the same people over and over. So, let’s just say 5000 people are actually reading you on a regular basis, all they have to do is hit your site 2000 times to get that million hits. Classroom 2.0 has about 44,000 members. How many of those 44,000 are actually DOING anything is another story. There are about 8,000,000 teachers in K-12 so if you use Classroom 2.0 as a measuring stick (because it is pretty much the largest web 2.0 watering hole for ed tech that I can think of) it still only reaches less than 6/10th of ONE PERCENT of all teachers in the US. I suspect that a lot of people sign up, and a lot less participate.
It seems to me that we have been pushing these “21st Century Skills and Web 2.0 Tools” deal for the better part of 12 years now (yes, we started pushing 21st Century Skills in the late 1990’s) and some of the famous consultants have been out there consulting for more than a decade. So why don’t teachers trust them/us enough to implement what we say? What is it that teachers need to cause the tipping point of trust to happen?
Yesterday, I questioned in my blog about teachers that do not trust, and that they need to start to trusting the messenger, and just begin to believe that what we are preaching is truth. In my mind, there are several reasons why teachers do not “trust” what we are saying, but it all boils down to a few:
Lack of time.
Lack of training.
Lack of focus.
As bloggers and consultants, we need to focus on what we are telling the masses. Let’s look at these three and see the mess we have created, and maybe some solutions:
Lack of Time:
Unless you have suddenly found a few extra hours out of a day, teachers and administrators will simply tell you “There is no time to learn skills that do not immediately affect teaching and learning in my classroom.” And although that is a very provincial way of thinking, and it fails to look at the big picture, a 3rd grade teacher in a school that has low standardized test scores has a lot more on her mind than whether her kids should start blogging. (I know, I know just work with me here..) So she will say something like “I don’t have time to learn a million different things, Just show me what works and be fast.”
Point one for Consultants and bloggers: We need to do our professional development based on the needs of the teachers and the students. We need to throw out the theory, we need to throw out the platitudes. We need to show specifically why this or that works.
Time to stop with the message of WHY we need to do it. If a teacher still does not know we are in the 21st century, then
Why does blogging work? Why should MY CLASS be blogging? The more yo show how it affects my learning, my teaching and my my scores the better.
So, as consultants, the first step towards getting teachers to trust your message is to show the value of the lesson.
We are very good at the WHY, we are not so good at the HOW.
We probably should not be speaking to anyone without making the connection to their work.
Which brings me to point 2:
Lack of training:
The common quote is “We could do this if we had the training.” Okay, so how can we change the way we present information to teachers so that it becomes more “training like” and less lecture like? Have you ever sat in a session at a conference and the person was lecturing you on how not to lecture? Arrghh! “I only have 45 minutes, so I can only lecture you about how this should never be presented as a lecture.”
So how can a lecturer actually make the lecture better for those 45 minutes?
Maybe a combination of the lecture and online learning. Use the 45 minutes to whet the appetite, but don’t stop there. Make the learning last with a prerecorded podcast, or perhaps a follow up webinar…
The training model that we have now needs to change. Not only at the school level but at the consultant level as well. So come on you brilliant folks, how can we make our blogs, our presentations, our training more meaningful to teachers and administrators?
David Warlick ALMOST had it a few years ago, he would do a presentation and then show the audience the website of how he GOT TO the presentation. He was close. He needed to follow up with the audience after, and instead of saying here is how I got to your presentation, he needed to say “I am going to travel a little ways with you after your presentation.
Lack of Focus
Okay, I am going to be the first to say it: We bloggers need to stop telling everyone about every damn new thing that is coming out. It is too confusing and unless you have nothing else to do all day, it is way too burdensome.
There simply are too many tools to try out. Blogging is good, but should I blog on Edublogs, Blogspot, iWeb…the choices cause paralysis of choice. Too much of a good thing.
Someone, somewhere, somehow needs to say:
These are THE tools that teachers need to use. That is it. If you want to go off the reservation, fine, but you are on your own when you do.
Will the Will Richardsons, Miguel Guhlins, David Warlicks, and so on have some kind of frikkin’ summit and agree on what to demonstrate? We will gladly follow. We just need to stop showing everything to everyone.
We need to focus so the teachers can focus.