"The biggest barrier to tech integration is professional development. Simply giving teachers iPads won't change anything," I overhear someone saying in the Blogger's Cafe.
"I agree. But it has to be rooted in educational theory," a woman responds.
Another woman adds, "I think a lot of them are still not motivated. We need to sell the idea. It can't feel like another thing they're being forced to do."
I stay quiet, while I try to organize a workflow for students using multiple devices in my classroom next year. But the question of why tech integration hasn't taken off completely continues to distract me. We need better professional development. We need better stories of technology integration. We need coaches that work with teachers in small groups. We need differentiated training. We need teachers developing their own PLN's.
But we also need permission.
We need permission to take risks and fail. We need permission to fall on our faces with technology before we see the benefits. We need spaces of shared autonomy where we try things out and we need spaces of vulnerability where we are allowed to admit that it didn't work.
I remember a few years back when I developed differentiated professional development. I assumed the teachers had low skills. I was wrong. Many of them picked up on the skills quickly. I assumed they had bad educational theory. Wrong again. Many of them knew what good practice looked like. I assumed they were simply unmotivated. Again, they were excited about it.
However, in my second round of training, only the social studies teachers volunteered to work on job-embedded, tech-integrated, project-based learning. I looked back at the survey questions and I began interviewing the teachers one-on-one.
The social studies teachers weren't afraid, because they had no quarterly benchmark tests. However, the math, science, reading and writing teachers were worried that a constructivist, differentiated approach wouldn't transfer to high scores on the standardized, multiple-choice tests.
I found the same trend to be true in coaching teachers last year. Teachers tended to pull back on project-based, authentic and tech-integrated learning as the test approached. It felt like jumping off a plane with no idea if the parachute had been packed correctly.
So, as I leave ISTE, I am struck by the reality of the context of my own district. We cannot value innovation without giving permission to fail. We cannot claim to support project-based learning if we define achievement and learning only in terms of multiple choice tests. If we want professional development to work, we have to tackle the four-letter f-word that's working so violently against innovation.
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