Lessons from Remote Teaching

In the months since “remote” teaching became a “thing,” the tension between educators and technology professionals seems to have become more obvious. I believe this arises in port form the fact that many who were successfully avoiding technology in their teaching no longer have that option.

This hassled me to revisit the “technology planning cycle” that I have been using in my practice for more than a decade. In general, it captures the iterative process of developing IT systems to support teaching and learning. According to my model, technicians build systems in the manner they believe is proper, then ensure users are trained in its use. After they use it in the intended manner, they can identify problems which the technicians must resolve as they redesign the technology.

Ackerman's technology planning cycle
Technology planning cycle

The factors affecting “successful” completion of each step is becoming clearer in the last months. Specifically, the following seem to be “hidden” within my steps:

  1. “Training” is an inaccurate way to describe what must accompany systems. We use IT systems to accomplish necessary tasks. In many cases, the methods for accomplishing those tasks are replaced with better methods. (I’m thinking for example of methods we adopt to make materials more accessible). Training included educators be understand how they become more efficient and effective by learning and adopting new methods. Indeed, this requires they learn and change.
  2. Learning to use new systems requires the active participation of the learner. Being “present” in a Zoom meeting where new systems are demonstrated, then asking for individual sessions to review the same procedures is not a responsible approach to being supported.
  3. The corollary to 2 is that sessions must be delivered in a manner that promotes and allows for teachers to learn.
  4. IT systems change. Old and unsecure and unreliable and inadequate (but comfortable for users) systems are deprecated then removed from service. User must accept that and realize the systems that are kept functioning until the new systems are completely used will have an end of life. It will come before you want, but you have a responsibility to adopt the new systems.

What is perhaps most striking to me after the last few months is the fact that participating in this work (learning to use new systems, adopting and adapting to them, and contributing to their improvement) is a baseline for continuing to work in education.

There have always been expectations we hold of educators; these are “things” we can just expect them to do and they should arrive to their position with these skills and using them is inherent in the work and they do this without specific direction of compensation. These skills may be accurately labeled “literacies” and I thinking “teaching with technology” is a literacy that cannot be ignored any longer.

The literacy is bidirectional: Technology systems must be built to support teachers and to improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of teachers, and teachers must adopt and adapt to that technology.