“Educational Technology Professional Development Manifesto.”

During and since NECC, I have had conversations with many people about the weak teacher voice in the edublogesphere in general, and the lack of actual examples from the classroom being showcased in presentations period.

Whether you attended NECC in person or virtually, how many presentations did you attend that were presented by teachers? I mean full time classroom teachers … probably none. How many times during presentations did you see examples of work done by teachers and students using the tools and methods we promote? I did see examples, but usually made by the presenter to give attendees the basic idea.

Is this a conspiracy meant to cut teachers out of the loop? Is it because there are no teachers doing and modeling this kind of teaching in their classrooms? … No. But I believe the result might be one of the factors slowing the adoption of these tools and methods by teachers and administrators.

I know when I do sessions for teachers they often seem to make the connection and see the point when I show actual lessons (and even have the teachers experience the lesson themselves) along with examples of student work and discussion about the pedagogy and what is valuable about this kind of learning.

I know it isn’t always practical to do, depending on the topic, but examples of student work and learning, those examples should be showcased in presentations, blog posts, anywhere we can show them off. I suspect we will have many more AHA! moments from teachers, administrators and parents when they see more actual examples of the kind of work we are promoting. The Keynote at NECC on Tuesday by Mali Bickley and Jim Carleton was a good example. They shared example after example of work they are doing with their students making connections worldwide. They didn’t share enough of what went into each project because of the time … but there was a buzz after their keynote. I saw Allan November show Bob Sprankle’s student produced video about podcasting last year at NECC 2007 … the crowd took notice, but it was just a sidetrack of his presentation – he quickly got back to other things, but it strengthened my thinking that we need to show examples, examples, examples of what we are talking about and start making better connections between teachers actually doing this stuff and those that present about it the most.

Using the statistics from NECC’s web site I noted that less than one-fourth of NECC attendees are teachers, and most of those are there for the first time. Most are locals that wouldn’t have attended if it had been anywhere else, and don’t go to future NECCs. The point being you may only have one shot at them.

So what? Well I’m just wondering if we need to do a better job of having teachers present at NECC (problematic) and other conferences, and having non-teachers that present do a better job (whenever feasible) of connecting to teachers by showing more real examples of what we are on the soap box about constantly. There is, unfortunately, a dearth of whole school districts or whole schools to point to as examples, so we might want to start highlighting the examples that there are. By now there has to be an archive of projects on wikis and video and web pages and so on that presenters could point to. Teachers and students could even be video-conferenced into presentations to share the nuts and bolts of projects, maybe from their classrooms – this could be powerful.

I know some of this has happened, my class has Skyped into presentations a few times. Maybe it even happens a lot more than I am aware, although I doubt it, but I believe it should happen more.

I’m not completely sure why more teachers don’t present or have their presentations accepted at edtech conferences, but that is another avenue we need to travel. I know I did not even put in a proposal to present at NECC officially, although I did present in the “Unconference” and in a poster session. Why? Because when proposals had to be done I was extremely busy being a teacher. It was the first few weeks of the school year, and I know many of you that are not teachers don’t get that, but it’s an easy choice to make – proposal or lessons and all else that goes with the job? I will endeavor to get at least one proposal done this year, and I really encourage all teachers out there to do so, but the other issue is – will I even get to go? Money is very tight and I only got to go this year at the last minute because we found some money in an unexpected place. There are many other edtech conferences besides NECC too, and subject area conferences – science, language arts, math,… that we should have a greater presence in.

Look at your aggregator , go on – look. How many bloggers that you follow are full-time teachers that are not tech teachers? I’ll bet not many. How would you know what kinds of projects they are doing that are perfect examples you could show in a presentation? Yeah, I know, they probably don’t always write about things that interest you. But those examples should be a gold mine for you to share.

Teacher bloggers – how many of you blog about the projects you do with your students with links to student work that others could easily follow to get examples to share? Do you have links to work easily found on the side bar of your blog? That is an area we could perhaps improve on to make this easier for all.

As a result of conversations at and since NECC, Alice Mercer has put together a wiki page that Scott Mcleod has posted on his “Moving Forward” Wiki. She has called it the “Educational Technology Professional Development Manifesto.” Check it out, edit it, suggest changes or additions, give us feedback.

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17 thoughts on ““Educational Technology Professional Development Manifesto.”

  1. Excellent points. It makes sense that tech teachers/consultants have more time but also more motivation to present at conferences vs. classroom teachers who are doing just for the sake of doing it. I know that whenever I’ve presented at both tech and non-tech conferences, there’s a certain amount of appreciation just for the fact that I’m an actual teacher which I take for granted but the audiences appreciate for the reasons you’re saying.

  2. Brian, I’ve been thinking about this a lot since NECC. The truth is that I’m not convinced that a lot of the ideas discussed at conferences and meetings are being implemented widely in the classroom. There is a lot of “this is what should be done” and not enough “this is what we did”. More classroom teachers have to be willing to share evidence of ideas, tools, and strategies that really work if we are going to succeed in bringing true technology integration to all schools. I have been guilty of not presenting, but have been working on a presentation proposal to be submitted in the fall.

    As you’ve noted, time and money are often factors. You didn’t know for sure you could go to NECC until quite late. I had to pay out of pocket and definitely can’t do that on a regular basis. For classroom teachers to be better represented as presenters, we’ll need the support of schools and districts who are willing to pay for more than just the administration or department heads to attend events. Teachers need to hear first-hand what other teachers have accomplished.

    Thanks for promoting the cause, Brian. I’m with you.

  3. Mathew thanks … you’re right, its that kinship thing I think.

    Adina – yes, not enough of this is happening in schools, but I also suspect more is happening than we think, many teachers that do this don’t blog and/or don’t think it is important to share or are intimidated or too shy to share.
    As far as the money, sometimes I wish business would help sponsor more teachers attending conferences, but also worry about what they would want in return … it’s a slippery slope I’m afraid.

  4. Brian, I still consider myself at the grassroots level of the classroom, teaching my Year Six students four days of the working week. I understand and empathize with your point of view here and I’m wondering if an event like NECC is actually too big and overwhelming for the average classroom point of view to be heard effectively. It’s no wonder people flock to the Edubloggercon where their experiences and ideas can at least be heard (and there has been plenty of documented issues re: that event as well).
    Next week, we have our local conference here in Adelaide, CEGSA, where classroom practitioners will make up the majority of the presenters. I’m sure you have local events that are similar. It seems to be that this doesn’t scale upwards to large events – in Australia, it seems that academics hold sway and are seen as the “important” drawcards to have at your conference while the big conferences like NECC and Learning 2.0 are the domain of the edtech consultant and visionary.
    By the way, I counted 68 classroom based educators in my aggregator! Maybe a top 50 of classroom based educators would be worthwhile compiling.

  5. Excellent points, Brian.

    Here is a hint though — start writing your NECC proposal for next year NOW…and keep adding to it/ changing it / refining it — so when it comes time to submit, you will be already to send it in.

    What you said is very very true. In fact, it would be interesting to make a google form and gather information from our “network” to see who really still is in a traditional classroom……….I think we would be surprised how low that number really is.

    It is why I am wondering if I should return to the classroom — so when I present, I can be a living example instead of someone that “hopes” what I suggest would work. (smiles)

    I enjoyed your post very much.
    Thank you for taking the time to share it.

  6. For many of us, expense and having a family at home is an issue. Add to it the administrative decision that teachers here can only go to one event a year. The one I went to I presented at. Then, I used my own money and personal day to attend educon.

    I felt that is was good for me to present and people appreciated the fact that I had an honest assessment of how it all was working in the classroom. But I think many of us in the classroom are not sure if we are doing it correctly as there is inconsistent messages out there. For example, I am embracing PBL. I know I am not there yet but it is a process. A lot of the messages out there for teachers do not emphasize this. Do you think many teachers feel we should have perfected it prior to being an “expert” at a conference?

    And, it is true, not many teachers are really out there doing this. Yes, they are playing with tools, but no, they are not leveraging them as should.

  7. Don’t forget the k12online conference, that is another place where teachers are teaching teachers! It is easy for teachers to present in this venue since it is online and although the proposal is due TODAY July 11, 2008, the final presentation is done online in October. Who doesn’t have time for a virtual presentation! Look for Moodle and online virtual classes, again, by teachers for teachers. PBS online classes, these are all ways for teachers to get great ideas and find which ones fit with their teaching styles, content and purpose.

    Cheryl Oakes

  8. I spent ten years presenting (as a full time teacher) around my state and district. I also presented for 5 years at NECC and IMHO I was very good at it, bringing hundreds of examples and projects from the classroom to share with the participants. I then suffered from tech overload and frustration because, no matter how much they “oh-ed” and “ah-ed” at workshops, I saw little technology integration in the classrooms throughout my large district.

    I did not go to NECC this year but from all I have read I get an idea of what it was like. I just had a ridiculous thought, after reading your blog and comments–a big part of these national conferences seems to be the people who are “in” get to see all the other people who are “in” and discuss stuff that has already been discussed in blogs, other conferences, Twittered, etc. Many of the presenters don’t go to sessions, they just present. So who’s in the audience? What if the audience was mostly tech trainers who are not able to reach kids and teachers who may or may not use the stuff they hear about.

    Preaching to the choir? What if the choir hears but does nothing? Is the whole technology push much ado about nothing? Why don’t we give the resources, money, time and equipment to the teachers who use it and just forget about the rest. If a teacher is interested he/she will seek out the knowledge or work with kids to use the technology in the classroom.

    I use technology of all kinds all the time in my classroom and for the most part I’ve taught myself everything I know about webpages, blogs, wikis, online courses, Moodle, Blackboard, desktop publishing, robotics, graphics, copyright, digital cameras, whiteboards, and on and on. You can see some of our projects here. http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com/2007/07/where-is-all-your-stuff.html

    Luckily I retire in a year or two—don’t want to irritate too many more people. N.

  9. Brian,

    I totally agree and although I haven’t been to NECC I would really like to go. I have put together a website: http://www.awaytoteach.net that showcases a lot of my students work (Power Point, Flash, audio, etc.) as well as all of my lessons and handouts. It is a work in progress but am adding to it every day.

  10. Well put, Brian. I believe that we need to recenter the edublogosphere around teachers and teaching. Perhaps edubloggers can be the translators or facilitators, but largely they (we) have become too enamored in their own dialogue to make this happen so far. I am encouraged by the recent chatter on this topic from you, Chris Lehmann, Tom Hoffman, Will Richardson, and Chistopher Long (hopefully, there are others).

    I have the pleasure to work in a single school, in which I work with teachers daily to clearly articulate the connection between new technologies and teaching and learning. I believe that a clear explanation and common vocabulary for this connection is missing — most teachers think of “technology” as a monolithic entity rather than a tool for which there are a relatively small number of good examples of technology being used to do something qualitatively different from how we taught before.

    I succeeded in getting one of our best full-time teachers/technology leaders to submit a proposal to the K12 Online Conference. Now, it’s up to the selection committee to recognize the value that teachers bring, even if it is less polished than those of the edubloggers.



  11. Brian, you hit a nerve again, thanks I guess 🙂 Where to start?

    First, I’m a third grade teacher, and I agree with all your points. I’ve ranted about some of this before, though not so adeptly, on my blog. To the point that I removed all non-classroom teachers from by blogroll, and said that what most edtech bloggers had to say did not hold significant meaning for me, because they could not possibly walk in my shoes and understand the issues in the classroom, never mind give me advice about how to do things. Took a lot of flack from that, of course. Learned a lot from the experience and moderated my language. I don’t preach those thoughts anymore, but they are still in my heart.

    On conference attendance/presentation, the two issues are time and money. You are right, there’s simply not enough time in the classroom teacher day to prepare quality presentations. Sure, a few superstars can, but that number will always be very small. And, although some conference attendees pay their own way, I’d bet the vast majority are funded by their company/district. School districts do not fund classroom teachers to go to tech conferences, period. Sure, again there are exceptions, but they are very few in the big scheme of things. So somehow these need to change.

    Last, I agree with your point about powerful presentations being ones showing real life classroom examples. Last February I did a presentation at NCCE in Seattle (only employee of Seattle Schools presenting, paid my own way, took personal leave time to cover my sub, etc), and I took a chance on a “live” piece. In the middle of my preso, I pulled up my email on the screen, to show the classblogmeister teacher approval process. I had asked my kids to post blog articles while they had a sub and while I was at the conference. I had no idea if there’d be anything there to show folks. Well, my kids had submitted 26 blog articles for teacher approval during the morning I was gone! So I got to approve/deny a few as part of my preso. pretty powerful, if I do say so…. http://tinyurl.com/6hhhpx

    Thanks once again Brian, for bringing these issues front and center, where they should be – Mark

  12. Brian,

    And it’s for this very reason that I read YOUR blog FIRST when I open my aggregator. Yours, and Mark Ahlness, and Vicki’s and Julie’s…

    I agree completely with your points here.

  13. Brian,

    As Louise says many times a teacher can only go to one conference a year. Those tech education companies send someone to as many conferences as they can. It is simple economics, one groups is looking for stuff to use and one group is looking for stuff to sell.

    Part of the problem lies in school districts who don’t or can’t pay for the trip, and part of the problem lies in teachers not being interested in anything outside the classroom, and one part of the problem lies in tech companies not including teachers in the conversation enough.

  14. Brian,
    Thanks for addressing the need for more classroom teachers to present at conferences. At NECC a great place to learn more about what teachers are doing is by visiting the poster sessions. I, along with three other teachers from my school, was lucky enough to present our work from our HP Technology for Teaching grant. The best part of our 2 hour session was meeting so many other elementary teachers interested in connecting with our school next year as we explore environmental issues related to the waters in our community. I only wish I had more time to walk through the many poster sessions and talk to other teachers involved with some great projects with their students.

    I’m always searching for other elementary classroom teacher blogs and thanks to your post and readers’ comments there are now a few more I will check out.

    If you are interested in reading about Math, Science, and Technology at the elementary level, please check out my blog at http://www.mstportal.com. (PORTAL = Promoting Open, Reflective Teaching and Learning)

  15. I’m trying to do it, my district is having now through it , my blog, using their time scanning it and creating rules a way to “get at me.” You do know policy is coming down big time to stop about everything this suggests about a teacher….a least here in CA, they’s rather you did not. Period.
    Truthfully teachers know that they risk to do what you are suggesting. In my case really risk because the school has so many of societies issues and problems, is tragically carrying years of so much, it’s not easy to write witout writing to that.
    Just think of the NCLB scripting, mandating and “correctives” alone. Can a teacher risk speaking to the failure?
    We now see 1 in 4 don’t graduate, what if teachers blogged why they think that is here in CA, know many systems ready for that introspection? I don’t.
    So unless it’s a blog for an elementary teacher so poor system it might as well be made by a textbook company it will be unwelcome. Period. And that encourages using false name or hiding. It’s a very real issue.

    I’ve done it, tried two forms of kid blogs, my own, a poetry blog, http://sarahpuglisi.wordpress.com/, http:arandomactofpoetry.com/, http://sarahpuglisi.blogspot.com/
    they have been so resented by my IT he came after me for fear he might be questioned by his exclusive control and his lack of effort-as well as his denial of real tech development at the site to kids-because he interpreted the system and to keep his job he did what they wanted. What they wanted was absolutely nothing. It’s sad. Poverty school breeds poverty thinking, and even been saddened by how i was treated doing so…at times. It was as if I was to be shunned for “doing more.” Resented.

    I know a little as a 1st grade teacher blogging to her meanings, to the tremendous inequities in American schools, to immigrant issues, to issues imposed by NCLB, to race, to how technology is not there for my students…well it creates lots of things for me. Most hard. Like fire held in bare hands.
    My year ended with a Principal trying her best to get me in big soup trouble.
    Trying on that way harder than her real job. Petty.
    Because, my friends, most systems here in public elementary ed do not want you to do reflective work that both asks questions and requires self invention and systen re-invention from floor up, to openly exhibit critical thinking. They design for parrots. and many are hired as parrots. Parrots will attack you too deliberately misrepresent you to get another parrot in the parrot club.

    Many might like to control this sphere, to produce giant cheering squads for the idea of the day…but to create an on-line presence, with a message, to use daily teaching life, experiences exposes you to a great many things most teachers would find shocking and harsh.
    I experienced it.

    I experienced such an ugly set down at the hands of a nasty kid teacher through a blogging thing that I can tell you I know now, know absolutely, that this dynamic isn’t hard just for the fact it requires time.

    It requires insightful folks, it requires you to have a character that is really extraordinary in today’s business driven world, a character and a trained mind, an awareness of an objective. A Mandela like stance, Nelson Mandela had skills of getting through even to those who thought in a dichotomy, and will if at all enabled by you, try to get you with it and destroy you. Would you answer for me how many of you really at the end of the day know elementary teachers that you want to put their feet to this fire? Or that see this in the way you do?
    Try teaching your staff and learn a whole lot about it.
    I seem…rather mystified that’s not pretty obvious and seem already as the reasons more aren’t blogging. For so many the experience here is one of arguing a point, challenging, scoring witicism,and I’m sorry it seems male dominated, but look at who teaches-not male-, it’s often about a kind of structure of importance over support- being the most read, doing and behaving to increase audience. The “big bloggers” and their “names.” That’s s off putting I think. There are so many that worry about their positions as ways to be seen as cutting edge, yet the sage, great deals worry to shun whoever is being shunned today…the entire way the interacting works…do you find all that many elenentary teachers suited for that? No it would radically change.

    Consider that?

    I find it rather amazing…as a thing to suggest, yes more teachers are needed and no most people do not care to read about them going through their day. Period.

    Then you need literary skill or projects or strong positions or arguments to be involving others in the process of the intrigue of going there to read you. In short, most teachers are teachers to have comfort, stability, to fit in, go along, look at Lortie’s work on this, to re -state the staus quo.
    Might I ask, what would you do if that became the tone?

    What if the overwhelming majority would do something to shut down entirely your work to build the system of change for the future, would then use their presence to kill your innovation? To turn it into a standardized model? Be assured, I think this would be the results frankly unless all of teaching is undergoing some metamorphosis i do o not see here. Into a force to see technology as an agent to change so that students can do something through it that creates an entirely new way to learn and teach, better, so individual, so democratized, so new…..

    It is a place, sphere, to speak openly to important things, not many ready for that embedded in contexts wth layers of retreat and built limitatins with keeping a salary a primary issue.

    So Like you do in your next piece here on continuing to engage kids in real experience, would systems overall want to hear it, not mine for sure. I got to move my room for the temerity of making it a superior and beauiful ative one. What is wanted is nothing, a test, drill, kill rote, empty space. That’s it. With no one word to question authority in any manner.
    So sure…
    I don’t have a very big “readership.” Blogging requires learning the art of all of that, time consuming too. So I’d say how would one sell it to the classroom teacher.
    My Ode

    I wrote heartfelt to be blasted for heartfeeling.
    I wrote as I am to be blasted for how I am,
    I wrote from vulnerability the position of the student, then to be told I made mistakes,
    I wrote hoping to be seen and was judged,
    I wrote to share about kids, and can’t show them or use a name.
    I wrote about my student that was murdered Larry King.
    Four people sent responses, the invisibility of the invisible.
    The grief of silences.

    in poverty, i tried to be this.
    Heard. to seek help.
    I was derided for the way it was written.
    But I really wrote because it seemed a way, a possible way, to counter so many mis-perceptions,
    To bring forward an actual person in all their inadequacy.

    In the end what I think is the compelling reason for teachers to be here writing is to show who they are in all their variation to speak one to one another,

    Speak to the ether,
    Speak to parents and other folks about the work.
    To make comprehensible the limits, the frustrations but far more important to try to show the actual child, even if one must disguise them for “afety.”
    This especially ironic teaching in a place drive-bys and killings, molestations and phstical abuse are daily reality.

    It is through seeing the activities, lessons, the student interactions, as well as learning all the technical stuff to do a better job that I gain.

    I lokk through my work seing so much.To learn, I wrote

    To be heard.
    This is why a teacher must be heard, might consider this avenue on-line because you speak of those with out a voice.
    And your work for them to gain it.


  16. I’m a fourth grade teacher. I have my own blog (educating alice), a class blog, and each of my students has had his/her own blog for the last two years. I began in educational computers in the early 80s, was a computer specialist at my school for a while, and have always been doing stuff with it in my classroom from LOGO (I presented at LOGO 86!) to Comic Life. I’ve been active in a number of professional organizations over the last thirty years (written books, articles, done presentations, participated on committees, posted on list serves, etc.) and I think there are many reasons we classroom teachers are not more prominent in such circles.

    First of all, we at the elementary level are generalists. I teach many different subjects and have a wide range of interests. There are a hell of a lot of professional organizations and networks to be part of. No way can I do them all. Over the years I’ve been a member of many of them — focusing on one field for a while and then another; I find that some overlap, but not that much. So you guys barely know me, but those in the children’s lit world, where I’m currently most active, do.

    Secondly, every group is cliquey. No one means to be, but it is easy to want to be with others you know. I found it very intimidating and a bit lonely to be on the fringe of so many different organizations over the years. It is a relief and a joy to now be in the in-group of one and it makes me disinclined to go back to that fringe in the others, say this one. So I pop in now and then as I’m doing now, but I tend to stick more with “my” group. It is just more peasant to be responded to, to be where you are “known.” But it is amazing to me how stratified these groups are. How known I’m in one and not in another.

    Thirdly, we classroom teachers are patronized and sometimes denigrated. There are so many university people around who need to publish and present, who need to prove themselves experts, who need to tell us what to do. In my children’s literature circles classroom teachers are often maligned as gatekeepers who are interfering and keeping kids from good books, keeping them from reading enjoyment, and so forth. Some complain that we don’t know what nonfiction is, can’t write, spell, and definitely can’t teach. Other countries treat their teachers a lot better than the US does. I tend to be seen in my circle as the exception. A decent apple among the rotten ones.

    And fourth, we are not seen as experts. Everyone else is one, but us. Parents, university folks, consultants, politicians, etc. It is rare I see a classroom teacher quoted in the media or as an author of an op-ed piece. Rare.

    Since ALA (the world that has now embraced me) is at the same time as NECC I am afraid I’m not going to be there anytime soon. (Unless someone flatters me hugely and convinces me I will enjoy it as much as I do ALA. Doubtful, I’m afraid!)