Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant has me thinking about digital professional development again.  His basic argument:  That schools are facilitating an almost crippling digital “codependence” in educators by offering countless training sessions on simple tools to our teachers.

For Scott, the conversation began while thinking through the consequences of a staff training titled ‘Learn about Facebook’ being offered to the faculty members of his university.

He writes:

As someone who does a lot of training and professional development for school administrators, I wonder how much I’m facilitating codependence. In many job sectors, employees are expected to keep up with relevant technologies or risk job loss.

When do we require that of K-12 and postsecondary educators? At what point do we say to them “No, we’re not training you how to use this. It’s easy enough for you to learn on your own. And if you don’t, we’ll find someone else who can.”

Great questions, huh? 

Sadly, Scott’s thoughts are reflective of reality in most schools and districts, where technology leaders often become enablers, patiently waiting for digital holdouts at almost any cost.

Need an example?

Try this one on for size:  In order to keep my teaching license a few years back, I had to take a course called ‘Getting to Know the Internet.’  While I was completely bored from day one (and yes, it was a TWO-DAY course), the class was FULL of people completely blown away by simple tips about searching the web with fewer headaches and simple warnings about the risk of stumbling across inappropriate content online.

Now, I won’t pretend to understand the rational behind the decision to offer extensive support for tools that I think teachers should be able to master independently—professional development providers have far more experience in determining what actions are appropriate for the adult learners that they serve—but I will argue that there are real consequences to their actions.

Perhaps most obviously, introductory courses like ‘Learn about Facebook’ and ‘Getting to Know the Internet’ are a waste of resources, aren’t they.

In tight economic times, do we REALLY want our already-stretched-too-thin professional development departments to spend their energies supporting such simple studies?  What kinds of opportunities could we offer if we focused district-wide PD dollars on more meaningful opportunities to explore the role that digital tools can play in supporting student learning?

What’s more, do we REALLY want to spend our already-stretched-too-thin professional development contact hours on such simple learning experiences?  How many teachers sit through ‘Getting to Know the Internet’ courses each year, dreaming up new digital projects that they’ll never have the time to bring to reality because they’re stuck in a four-hour session on a topic that they could learn on their own in about ten minutes?

But most importantly, do we REALLY want to send the message to teachers that they bear no personal responsibility at all for exploring new teaching tools, strategies and techniques?  Whatever happened to our professed commitment to “lifelong learning?”  Can we expect our students to embrace self-directed study when teachers refuse to demonstrate the same independence?

Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but I’m tired of our tolerance and ready to see basic digital literacy and a willingness to experiment be a fundamental expectation for every educator.


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