An NWP colleague, Natalie Bernasconi from the Central California Writing Project, recently sent an email with some questions:
I’m interested in how infusing technology into the classroom as exemplified by Youth Voices and other initiatives changes the way teachers see their own role and their own identity.
I’m also interested in examining the relationship between teachers’ sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy (and how technology can cause that to shift). There are the cliched metaphors: sage on the stage, guide on the side. If you were to select a metaphor for how you see your own role as a teacher, what would you pick?
And, here is my response…
Looking at the idea of transformative technology integration and how teachers see their own role and identity, I think that the biggest shift for me comes when teachers stop looking at it as “integration” of technology and just see it as a part of their teaching.
At risk of being glib, I will characterize the shift that I see as this… most teachers that I encounter, when beginning a class or a professional development initiative claim to be “not very techie,” even if, in fact, they are. I think that this stems from two causes. One, they simply don’t feel confident in the technology that they do know, even though they may know a great deal about it; they don’t want to risk looking like they don’t know something in front of students. Second, they see barriers to technology use (filters, software, hardware), and, for a variety of reasons, choose not to advocate on their own behalf for getting access to that technology for them and their students. Again, I don’t mean to generalize and criticize, it’s just this is the pattern that I generally see.
To that end, when teachers finally gain some confidence, then also take the risk and invite students to work with technology (even if they do now know it well themselves). Once they experience some successes, they begin to just think about what they are teaching and the technology becomes a part of that conversation, not just as an after-thought or as an add-on. At that point, it is not so much about the technology, but about the literacy practices that the technologies enable.
Looking at the idea of a teacher’s sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy, I suppose that I would talk most about the work that I did with seven Red Cedar Writing Project teachers for my dissertation project. In that project, they created digital portfolios that represented their teacher research through digital portfolios. Once they took that intentional focus to represent their own identity through a website, it became clear that they had to think not only about design, colors, and fonts, they also had to ask pedagogical and ethical questions that then showed up in their work. We wrote two articles about this process, on for English Journal and one for the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Also, you will want to look at some of the work on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).
My metaphor. Oh boy… I suppose that those models of guide on the side and other ones like that are overused. So, the one that I keep coming back to when I work with teachers is that we are all on a ladder, learning more and more about technology and literacy each day. Typically, what happens is that I find myself on one rung of the ladder, usually just a few steps (or less) ahead of the teachers with whom I am working. Then, they begin climbing as we go through a PD experience and, eventually, they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer too, a rung or two above where I am at. So, I reach, and I learn, and I come back and teach them more. Then they climb. Then they ask. Then I climb, and so on. So, we keep climbing the ladder, sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing, but most of the time simply climbing in tandem. I hope that makes sense.
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