Colleagues often tell me that what makes me a credible and helpful technology mentor is the sheer number of hours I spend in the classroom. Although teachers can be a cynical lot, I tend to agree that when corporate technology experts step into schools to trial something new, they often miss the mark simply because they fail to understand what it is like teaching a six-period day. Teachers can and will baulk at new technology because it means extra work. The challenge is in convincing them that the work will pay off, both for them professionally and for their students’ learning. My relative success is in making sure of this payoff for myself before I suggest something to colleagues.
Web 2.0 is a classic case-in-point. There are incredible gains to be made when incorporating some – or a full range – of web-based tools, services and applications into the curriculum. As a teacher, I cope with this well. I find it easy to set up a class list of Wikispaces accounts, manage threaded discussions, share media and facilitate collaborative reading and writing.
The problem is that what one teacher does in one classroom is all-too-often difficult to replicate and scale up across other classes, year groups or whole schools. Keeping track of user names and passwords for Blogger pages or Gliffy accounts is time-consuming – even the most able technology-minded teacher tears hair out when students lose (or can’t/won’t remember) basic details. Other teachers who struggle with the technology may simply avoid it altogether or pay lip service.
My reflection on Web 2.0 is that it needs to be taken in slow, measurable and scalable steps. Scalability is the main reason why I’ve decided to go with Google Apps Education Edition – which gives administrative control to domain owners to create email and apps accounts for an entire education institution. This gives us a starting point for all students in the school to be able to log in and access some of the best Web 2.0 collaborative tools available. Most importantly, we create and control the accounts – which provides security and a consistent experience. When teachers are ready to try online collaboration, the accounts are ready and students know how to use them.
For anyone who doesn’t know about Google Apps Education Edition, you might find the following video of interest: