Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Making Learning "Safe" for Teachers

In today's world of accountability, it is hard to find ways to allow for positive accountability without some kind of "evaluation" tied to it. However, I think this is what we, as educational technologists and advocates of changing pedagogy desperately need to do to support teachers!! If we do not make their professional development learning environments "safe" for exploration and free of negative evaluation, the willingness of teachers to try new things will be sorely diminished.

Safe environments invite exploration, creating avenues such as moodle sandboxes are just the type of activities that can begin to facilitate this type of professional learning. I have learned that people who are enclosed in walls for a long period of time have a very difficult time knowing what to do when the walls come down and they have opportunities for growth. I think we need to be cognizant of these feelings and make sure that we understand that while teachers may want to embrace change and new learning, they need support, hand holding and being told that it is OK not to know it all, or to have it all together as they explore these new frontiers.

We must also loosely structure their learning so that they have time to explore and but also give them small successes so that they get excited about learning more and take it upon themselves to continue to explore. These ideas may sounds simple and you may say to yourself that you are already doing these things and if so that's great. If you don't see teachers jumping on the bandwagon behind you, stop to talk to them and see how they are feeling. Safety for learning and exploration may be just what they need to get going. Try some structured facilitation and consistent support and watch them grow. Just like young plants, they need constant attention, at least in the beginning until they are strong enough and have a deep enough root and developed enough stem to survive a bit of drought and still stay strong and continue to grow!