Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Problem with Teachers' Self-Reporting on their own Innovativeness

Larry Cuban really nails a real annoyance-slash-structural-problem with teacher blogging about practice, particularly their own, particularly about technology:

Over the years, I have interviewed many teachers across the country who have described their district’s buying computers, deploying them in classrooms while providing professional development. These teachers have told me that using computers, Smart Boards, and other high-tech devices have altered their teaching significantly. They listed changes they have made such as their Powerpoint presentations and students doing Internet searches in class. They told me about using email with students.Teachers using Smart Boards said they can check immediately if students understand a math or science problem through their voting on the correct answer.

I then watched many of these teachers teach. Most teachers used the high-tech devices as they described in their interviews. Yet I was puzzled by their claim that using these devices had substantially altered how they taught. Policymaker decisions to buy and deploy high-tech devices was supposed to shift dominant ways of traditional teaching to student-centered, or progressive approaches. That is not what I encountered in classrooms.

I'd add that there seems to be a corollary to this theorem, that I've always thought progressive-leaning but essentially hybrid-model teachers *cough Glogowski *cough* Richardson *cough* unconsciously overstate how traditional they were prior to the introduction of the-new-technology-that-changed-their-practice. It isn't a huge problem but it does skew the discourse.


andrewbwatt said...

I would agree.

I find that my own teaching is a hybridized version of what I did before, rather than an overthrow. I'd LIKE to think of it as a completely new style, but it's not.

Before, I did a lot of diagramming on the blackboard, a lot of visual maps, and a lot of words and definitions. Now I use a lot more prepared stuff, in the form of slide shows and video, because I have a digital projector in my classroom.

On the other hand, I tended to do a lot of chalk-and-talk beforehand. I would get up in front of the class, talk for 25-35 minutes, with 10-15 minutes of guided practice of some sort.

Now I have a timer. I'll talk for 10 minutes, or show a 4-5 minute video, and then do a 15-minute guided practice, followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion, followed by 5 minutes of undirected/unguided practice before the bell rings. Homework is posted to the wiki; I make extra-help videos for the wiki, and extra-help podcasts for the wiki. All of my 'lecturing' is now done outside of class, to a recording device, and made available to students that want it.

So yes, there are elements of how I used to teach present in how I teach now. But the students are doing more in class than they used to, and I'm trying to stay out of their practice and process as much as I can.

Alice Mercer said...

I would say my teaching did change significantly, but it wasn't the technology alone that did it. I did more project and, writing based work with students, and more small group, and independent work time. You could do all of those without technology, they just happened to be what I used. I think *many* teachers who do "transform" their teaching probably fall into the camp you describe which is, they were already progressive educators, and they just started using technology as a tool for that type of teaching that was already taking place. I was and am in a very different place than a lot of teachers integrating technology because I've been teaching in low-income, PI (Program Improvement) schools, where the dominant paradigm has been to focus on improvements in direct instruction, and the means has been largely centered on scripted or highly directive curriculum. Just going to having kids writing on blogs is pretty revolutionary in that environment, and working on a wiki...