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I left this as a comment over at Duff's blog but I have really been struggling with similar thoughts. I have used the “pool metaphor” many times in the past but the more I thought about the post and the comments, the more I felt like I needed to expand my ideas about our responsibility for getting folks to "test the waters" to support our “reluctant swimmers” to start seamlessly integrating technology into their teaching process.
In her post Durff asks
How far are we to go with other educators? If we instruct on the technological skills, isn't our responsibility done? Isn't it the responsibility of individual educators to swim?...in the comments she says “I jumped in on my own,”I have to wonder how many folks would jump in at all if they were afraid of the water. As David Truss points out, "too many people fear drowning and never get into the pool” and that in most Teacher Ed programs the amount of technology skill they leave the program with seems to be optional... to me that's like throwing a non-swimmer into the deep end.
I have to be honest, the more summer professional development I do, and the more in-service workshops I do, the more I worry about this. I spend a day or two, sometimes a week “teaching folks to swim.” I give them the skills and we go SLOW. We work on voice threads, and wikis…easy entry points. I model (swim along with them) give them support (sometimes putting on water-wings) but at the end of our time together I feel like I am still throwing “non-swimmers” into the deep end. My greatest fear, is that without a guide swimming beside them, they may find themselves close to drowning and perhaps no longer want to go to the pool :(
Candace Hackett Shively explained this beautifully in her post The Swimmer’s Obligation
I do not recall figuring out that I could not swim. I do not remember discovering the power of water. I try to imagine how it felt. I could not get my feet to touch the bottom at the same time as I opened my mouth to gasp above the surface, and I had no idea what to do about it. But some kind parent or bigger person reached under my armpits and supported me, laughing and congratulating me for a great jump. He or she likely placed my hands on the pitted concrete of the pool’s edge and told me to “kick big kicks and blow big bubbles.” Trusting, I must have done so, because eventually I learned to swim.What happens when the support is not there? Unlike Candace, I DO remember the minute I figured out I couldn’t swim. I was 5 years old. I had just gotten my cast taken off that prevented me from having swim lessons all spring.. I was standing at the edge of the deep end and one of the older neighbor boys, thinking I could swim, pushed me in. I am 40 years old, but I remember to this DAY the fear I felt, struggling to get to the surface. I recall my fear and remember being pulled from the water barely breathing. Although I did go on to become a competent swimmer that experience had an impact on me that summer. I became, for a long time, very tentative around water.
There has been talk in the edtech community for a long time that we need to stop talking about the tools, but I disagree. You are always going to have those non-swimmers who finally find their way to the edge of the pool. Teach them what the water feels like and support them as they develop confidence in using the tool. When I share a tool like voicethread with a teacher, they can see so many ways it can be used in the classroom. They get excited about the potentials but they don’t understand the many concepts that go into it, embedding, and sharing, and privacy, and moderating comments, are so new to them…They are excited about being at the pool's edge, but it is like being thrown into that deep end for the first time.
Sure I can teach them the skills to use it, but I know from experience with my own children that I would not trust the swim lessons alone, nor the life vest for them to develop confidence in the water. I know just how far away from the wall I can move before my 7 year old gets frustrated. I knew that if I could just tread in the water beside him...on the other side of the lane…that my 9 year old could pass the test that earned him a green band allowing him the independence he was so desperately seeking. They need me as a coach and a guide continuing to support them, pushing them to take risks, and being to there to support them and pull them up when they go under or feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately teachers more often than not don’t have this. Sure, we give them the skills, but then too often we send them back to schools that don’t have the equipment or the support and ask them to “jump in.” The biggest piece of feedback I get in every professional development workshop I offer is…”I wish there was someone at my school that could work with me as I learn to do this with my kids” They are not lazy, or traditional, they don’t fear change, they are just reluctant to jump in the water- they are afraid of drowning…they don’t understand what that water feels like and want a guide to support them when they are struggling
There was also some talk in the comments on Durff’s post that administrators must make technology a priority if we are to get teachers to "take the time" to explore new things- it is one of the things that is driving me to complete my administrative certification. Provide opportunities for teachers to see what is possible (take them to the pool), Give them the skills they need (the swim lessons). Provide support for them and swim along side the teachers. Only then will you have competent swimmers.
My friend Marcie Hull from SLA talks about how technology at their school is like air. It is just always present and you don't even recognize it exists. This is because at SLA they are competent swimmers, surrounded with support when they are ready to try a new skill & test new waters. Until we can give teachers confidence in the water, I am afraid we may continue to see them simply sitting at the edge of the pool. I'd love to hear your thoughts...are we supporting reluctant swimmers or just pushing them in to let them drown?