Instead of helping my friend Knikole today at Edcamp TABSE, I'm sitting here waiting for a nice man named Daniel to come fix my washing machine. As my wife ran out the door at 11 o'clock last night to pick up some urgent pharmacy supplies for our kids (another story), she stepped into an inch-deep puddle covering the floor of our laundry room. As I took a half-awake excursion behind our washer and dryer, I watched my Saturday Edcamp attendance plans slowly sink into a swamp of brackish water and lonely socks. Sigh. Life happens.
I don't know anything about washing machines, which is on par with my knowledge of pretty much anything household related. The last time someone convinced me a repair was an "easy fix," I tried to self-service my shower. Overtightening a pipe led to an unstoppable Niagara, which then led a plumber named Keith to hack a hole in my living room wall and charge me $850 for the privilege. I am not a handyman.
This washing machine situation makes me reflect, oddly enough, on the teachers I coach, particularly the ones who aren't interested in adopting technology in their classroom. "What's wrong with these people?" is my typical gripe, as I smugly exchange glances with the district's early adopters, confident that our techie clique knows the future and that we've gotten there before everyone else.
But technology is these reluctant teachers' broken washing machine. Made up of mysterious inner workings and mystical combinations of things to push, turn, and pull, teaching with a device overwhelms them like my flooded laundry room does me.
It leads me to think: how would I feel if Daniel told me that, no matter how much I love, provide, and care for my wife and kids, I must learn home appliance repair to be a "21st Century Husband?" Knowing myself and my dire lack of mechanical ability, I'd probably just call it in right there. But don't I send a similar message to teachers that no matter how many years of experience they've had loving, teaching, cajoling, leading, and inspiring students, if they're not technologically proficient, they're incomplete? And since they have little confidence in their technology capacity, they do what I would do in the washer situation: give up.
From Washing Machine to Coaching Takeaways
What's the answer to help the reluctant teacher? In my experience, it seems to consist of small wins, smooth implementation, and instructional validation.
With small wins, I have to realize that it's okay for a teacher to start with substitution with the goal of moving up the ladder. I can get better at being a handyman, but I probably shouldn't start with adding on a playroom. Tech integration should be scaffolded for teachers like we would for students. Starting small builds confidence for tackling future pursuits.
Smooth implementation is about removing every obstacle from a teacher so they have a seamless shift to using technology with their students. Whether it's creating student log-ins, recording tutorial videos, co-writing lesson plans, or working on better integration of the technology and curriculum, any roadblock has to be removed. In the washing machine analogy, Daniel could smooth the road by providing the correct manuals opened to the right page, pointing me to some YouTube videos, and giving me his cell number for when something goes terribly wrong.
Finally, instructional validation is making sure I'm careful to explain that what teachers have been doing all these years isn't wrong. It's worked for some of the kids we've had in the past. We're just facing an entirely different future where deliberate, well-thought-out technology use now has to be a core part of our pedagogy. Daniel could do this by reminding me that the time I built the birdhouse in 6th grade is an excellent starting place, we're just going to build on those skills as we move up to appliance repair. The birdhouse was good then, but now I have a family to provide for. My skills and capacity have to increase to match the level of responsibility.
So as I sit and wait for Daniel the Repairman (tick-tock, buddy...oh, there's the doorbell. That was weird...), I should take this time to work on my empathy for reluctant teachers. Because if Daniel walked into my classroom, handed me a washing machine, and told me it was they key to my students' future, I'm not exactly sure how I'd respond either.