Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teachers as partners

If research of best practices for applying technology to learning states that teachers should be partners in innovative techniques (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999) my school district clearly does not consider such research when making decisions. As teachers, we are required to attend monthly technology sessions in which we are meant to receive training in practical application of technology to our classrooms. We have recently been asking our technology staff about firewalls prohibiting YouTube from being used on the district network. The firewalls have been up and down throughout the year, and we have been told, with finality, that both teachers and students will not be able to access YouTube for the foreseeable future.

While the pedagogical merits of YouTube may be debatable, the context in which this decision was made seems to be in stark contrast to the principle of teachers as partner s in innovation. We were told that the main concern our administrators had with YouTube was the likelihood of tying up bandwidth due to overuse. We were directed to use subscription-based video services which have been approved by the district. When asked how the bandwidth requirements of these subscription-based services differed from YouTube we were told that they did not, except that they have found use of these services to be less frequent.

The subscription services we have been directed to use contain severely outdated materials. The staff of professional educators in our district universally mock and revile these videos and simply do not use the service. When given the opportunity to use another resource our teachers have voted with their feet. By our technology department’s own admission use of YouTube is frequent throughout the district when it is available. Yet, the decision has been made restrict use of this popular site.

Administrators are challenged to make a number of decisions which they feel are best for their districts. They are restricted by finances and their overall vision of district priorities and goals. However, it seems to be the height of professional disrespect to have clear evidence that their faculty have preference for a particular resource and to then restrict its use. Increasingly, teachers are limited in their roles as partners and professionals with teaching expertise by top-down decision making which posits that teachers are either a) wrong b) uninformed or c) lacking the judgment to use such resources effectively and responsibly. If administrators are unwilling or unable to give their teachers a role in decision making their will never be a place for teachers as partners in innovative use of technology.

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Available online:

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