Saturday, July 17, 2010

Should we require school employees to have RSS readers?

Dr. Scott McLeod has written two interesting blog posts on whether teachers should be required to establish and regularly follow RSS feeds.  In his first post, McLeod sets the premise for his position that feeds should be a part of our daily professional responsibilities. In the second post he responds to his readers comments, mine included, and asks for more reader feedback.  It is definitely a conversation worth having.

Personally, I have learned a lot using RSS feeds. I sincerely believe that the professional development I have gained through following RSS feeds just this year have been far more valuable than the cumulative value of all face-to-face experiences I have had in the past twenty years.  Why?  Well, likely because I get to choose the content that is most interesting to me, rather than topics imposed on me by others.  I am looking forward to sharing RSS feeds with my colleagues this year.  My hope is that five of my colleagues (at least) will be regular feed readers and will share what you learn with the rest of us, as I do through Brookhaven Technology Center.

In his second post McLeod asserts that my goal of having five of 40 teachers use RSS feeds regularly is short of what our aim should be.  McLeod states, "I don’t think it’s naive to believe that we can do better than that with our professional development."  I'm giving his feedback serious thought, giving special attention to factors I analyzed  to arrive at this specific goal.  

First, through my study of change-agents, I have learned that only eight percent of any group, according to the Concerns Based Adoption Model, is likely to be an early adopter of an initiative.  Following this model, only three members of our faculty would be likely to frequently use RSS readers when it is initially introduced.   Five, then, would be an optimistic goal.  In the second round of exposure to this topic, following the model, we could expect 17 percent of the faculty, or seven teacher leaders, to become users.  As we develop through all phases of the adoption model, we will likely find 17 percent, or seven teachers, who never do adopt the RSS feeds.

Second, I have seen the results of required professional development efforts.  When our school was involved in the Reading First program, all K-3 teachers were required to complete 100 hours of professional development.  Many of these hours were met by reading selected articles and writing reflections on these articles.  My observations:  Very few teachers did this willingly.  There was no follow-up or interactions about the reflections.  All that mattered is that something was written; quality of thought was not an issue.   Teachers resented that this reading/reflection requirement was added to the list of other requirements they needed to meet as a Reading First School.  The required staff development's greatest contribution, in my opinion, was the creation of ill will.

Most of the teachers in my school are in their late 40s to early 60s.  I do not for a minute believe that older teachers cannot successfully adopt 21st Century technologies, but I do need to stress that reading blogs, wikis and feeds are not generally the preferred modalities of this age group.  I am 50 years old, and these are my preferred modalities, but I believe I am the exception to the norm.  Therefore, for the majority of teachers in my faculty to adopt and use RSS feeds on a regular basis, they will have to develop positive dispositions to both the professional development activities  and the technology itself.  This would be double the expectations placed on the young, digital native faculty member.

On a related note, I think that teaching is a field that requires constant reflection.  I believe my teachers constantly reflect on their teaching and learning. (They are wonderful teachers!)  I don't think, however, that they are accustomed to sharing their thoughts with the faceless world in a digital format.  Most teachers of my age are not accustomed to having their thoughts exposed to the world.  (Of all the teachers you know, how many volunteer to lead professional development initiatives?  Not many!)  The idea of blogging their reflections and sharing will require personal as well as professional growth, if not the acquisition of what some might consider an inflated ego.  Blowing their own horns is just not a cultural norm for my colleagues.

I think the goal of any professional development initiative is for steady, sustained growth and adoption of dispositions to improve our practice.  I believe that requiring teachers to develop RSS feeds will cause more exposure than a steady, scaffolded approach, but that for the habits to be sustained and for dispositions to use the feeds to develop, more individualized nurturing of faculty members must occur.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I find that a big part of my role as a technology leader in my school is to nurture teachers to become more confident in their use of technology. And age doesn't really matter. It is a willingness to try new things and share your successes and difficulties. Forcing new technology on all will create panic and ill will among many. We need the teachers to have positive experiences with technology. Baby steps and guidance are needed for some. Throwing into the deep end works for others. (Regina Hartley)