Many years ago, I watched my father trim the hedges outside our home. Being too little to run the electric hedge trimmers, I was told to stand back out of the way until it was time to rake up the clippings. Feeling left out (I wanted to trim something too), I grabbed the hand clippers and went to work on the rose bushes. I might add they were in bloom. Within minutes, I had managed to trim the bushes into beautiful thorny stalks. As I, stood back to admire my work, I was so proud to view the symmetry and alignment these bushes now had. That is, I was proud until my father walked around the corner of the house. I quickly learned that I was not correct. He told me that rose bushes do need to be trimmed but I had done it wrong. I felt horrible and more so when my mom came out to view my handy work. To this day, I do not like to trim rose bushes.
So, what does this have to do with Education Technology? I recently had a chance to listen to a speaker discuss the uses of technology in education (I am being polite with the word discuss.) Over the course of 90 minutes I began to get that same sick feeling, I had with the rose bushes so many years before. The longer the speaker talked, the more the use of technology was criticized. To be clear, the person was not criticizing the technology per say but more the methodology of how we were using it in our classrooms.
Any good educator will reflect (self-criticize) on their classroom noting what worked well and what requires improvement. Any good educator will also seek council from colleagues, books, seminars, conferences, classes etc… with the end goal being to improve student learning.
Criticism when used in a constructive manner can be quite valuable and the constructive part of the criticism is most important. Just telling a person they are not doing something correctly doesn’t help them. Helping a person see there is a more effective way does. It takes a skilled person to tell a person they are wrong, help them improve and make them feel good about themselves while they are improving. Done incorrectly, a person will shut down, become withdrawn and refuse to try anything in the future.
While I am on this soapbox of criticism, I had better practice what I am preaching. So, here are the things I would recommend to anyone presenting information on education technology or anything else for that matter:
- State the topic or the message the audience will be learning about today.
- How the topic or technology was utilized in my (the speakers) environment.
- State what mistakes (the speakers) were made along the way.
- State what would be done differently next time?
- Provide some guiding questions to help the planning process for others.
- Provide some guiding questions to help others reflect and evaluate projects or processes currently in place.
Information conveyed in this manner will help people understand they may need to improve (change) things they have done without making them feel like failures. In the end, it is not what you say but how you say IT.