Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please contact me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Christy:
I love your site – holy buckets of information! I was looking for examples of great classroom blog sites – I do marketing for our school and we had set up “classroom” blog pages for the teachers to control and be able to put up information – i.e. links to great sites relevant to their kids, their bio, hot reference sheets (memory work schedule, etc.) –
We are updating our website and the principal wants to take the blogs down so that it is not so much work for the teachers and they don’t have to take the time to update.
This is not surprising as our teachers are not great at keeping themselves tech savvy – so it is not like they are excited to have a blog page and are mostly just using it to “post” a periotic classroom update vs. making it a rich parent resource page.
I am curious with your tech wisdom – is this a trend for strong schools that teachers have a page for parents – does it help the school or classes stand out in a parents mind? Does it help with the marketing of the school and the value it offers in and out of the classroom? (we are a private school)
Is it worth me outlining a case to keep the blog and how to take them to a higher useful level or drop it – as it doesn’t matter and is not really a trend in classrooms today anyway?
I’m sad to hear that your principal wants to remove the teacher blog pages. It may solve the problem of out-of-date and non-relevant information, but the unintended consequences will be worse. Parents expect teachers to connect to them on a tech level, to offer 24/7 access via an online site like a blog (or a wiki, website, or any number of other albeit more complicated forums). They expect to be able to find homework help, links, resources, school materials at 7 at night while organizing the next school day with their child. Removing that access because teachers have difficulty keeping it up-to-date will solve one problem while causing many more.
Let’s back up a moment: Do you know why teachers aren’t keeping blogs up-to-date? Maybe:
- they don’t know how–a training session or 1:1 help might get them over this hump
- they think it takes too long–maybe a template with simple fill-ins, add-tos, or tweaks would make it faster. Truly, all teachers really need to start with is weekly lesson plans–resources, dates, reminders, newsletters. Fancy and involved can come later.
- they don’t think they are techie enough–recurring tech training might be necessary. Kids are baptized in iPads and smartphones. We can’t meet them where they are ready to learn if we’re afraid to enter that geeky room. Kids love learning with blogs, iPads, apps, online webtools–that sort.
Technology is the future of education. It is moving slowly but inexorably away from print books and paper tests to a cloud-based environment that makes learning available from anywhere, to anyone. Common Core expects teachers to use internet-based tools in their teaching, to ask students to find resources through online sites. Here are some of the allusions to technology in Common Core:
- Expect students to demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding to type at least three pages in a single sitting
- Expect students to evaluate different media [print or digital]
- Expect students to gather relevant information from print and digital sources
- Expect students to integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats
- Expect students to interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively [such as interactive Web pages]
- Expect students to make strategic use of digital media
- Expect students to use print/digital glossaries/dictionaries …
- Expect students to use information from illustrations and words in print or digital text
- Expect students to communicate with a variety of media
- Expect students to use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information
Whether a school follows Common Core or not, these are good guidelines for everyone. And teacher blogs are a safe way for faculty to stick their toe in the water. To remove that opportunity would be to send the message that technology isn’t a relevant education tool.
So yes–it is worth pleading your case. If they are going to do this, you want to be on record that it is a mistake, that you are against it. Sometimes, it just takes one passionate person to make a difference.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.