I do a lot of tech training in my job, and I love it. The teacher in me is soothed greatly by any group hungry to learn. I also feel I am pretty good at it. Others seem to think so too. There is, however, something that has occurred to me often that I need to reconcile.
The thing is, despite my efforts, people don’t learn tools like Schoology or Google Apps for education in a vacuum. We offer training in these tools because there is a high demand for comprehensive training, and because they seem to be appreciated. But is it the best way? In a way, all trainings like this tend to be single-shot deals that don’t have much staying power. You know, nothing that really sticks to your ribs.
UNLESS…they can apply what they learn in their own world immediately.
Fortunately, in our setting, this is usually possible for most, although many don’t always seize on the opportunity. They get the training, and then set aside what they know for a rainy day, or some amorphous time in the warmth of summer when they can “sit down and get into it.” Despite our efforts to help them learn in context, they often see it as a receiving a package they can unwrap again later when they need it.
That isn’t really a great way to integrate technology, and it really isn’t innovative digital learning either. While we try our best to offer training with integration at its core, sometimes the skill-building sessions are in most demand. Why? Because people think they can sit for a few hours and get it, own it, and use it. But it doesn’t really work that way, does it?
Think of it like this: When a new store, say a Walmart, opens in your area and you visit it the first time, do you walk every aisle and study where every product is? Do you take notes on how to check prices? Do you draw maps to help on future visits? Do you consult online help resources or videos to help you navigate the store?
Of course not. We usually go in the first time with a mission to get one or two or ten things, and figure those areas out by exploration, and if necessary, by asking specific questions of others. We may visit the same store multiple times without ever setting foot in certain areas because our needs haven’t drawn us there. Until one day we do, and we figure that new area out and add to the knowledge we previously had. Over time, our understanding becomes broad and rich, all driven by individual need and multiple missions.
And so digital tools for educations should ultimately be learned. Sure, we can offer the occasional training to show possibilities, but the nuts and bolts part of learning technology tools should be done with purpose at its heart. Otherwise, beginners get overwhelmed. If people felt that they needed to fully understand every aspect of a large store before entering it, no one would ever bother. So it is with some tech tools. People feel if they don’t know it all, they have no business using them.
Part of our job as digital learning advocates is to remind people that tools need not be mastered to help create rich learning environments. We need to encourage mission-based exploration. Once teachers have a plan, a desire, an inspiration, they can delve into these larger tools and platforms with the confidence that they will figure it out as they go, and will know exactly what to ask help with when they get stuck. That mindset will help them stay versatile and nimble as innovative education practices evolve and grow.