Teaching Veteran Teachers New Tricks

I came across this very informative article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. It talks about pitfalls that occur when teachers cling to their old teaching habits and whether or not teachers should try and incorporate the latest technologies in their classrooms.  Highlights below:

“If you were going to see a doctor and the doctor said, ‘I’ve been really busy since I got out of medical school, and so I’m going to treat you with the techniques I learned back then,’ you’d be rightly incensed,” he told me recently. “Yet there are a lot of faculty who say with a straight face, ‘I don’t need to change my teaching,’ as if nothing has been learned about teaching since they had been prepared to do it—if they’ve ever been prepared to.”

Mr. Dede’s arguments (in more bureaucratic language) form the basis of a new National Educational Technology Plan, issued in draft form in March by the U.S. Department of Education. “The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures,” says the plan, which he helped write. The title of the report, “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology,” suggests that the country’s teaching methods need a reboot.

Summer is prime time for professors to go back to school themselves, to attend short workshops on how to teach with the latest technology tools.

Typically, colleges give seminars with titles like “5 Ways to Use a Wiki in Your Class” or “Getting Started With Blackboard.”

Too often those stress the technology more than its goals, though, says Mr. Dede, of Harvard.

“Those technology sessions are useful, but often they’re marketed the wrong way,” he told me. “What you want to do is deal with issues that keep faculty up at night. The titles should be, How do you keep students coming to your class rather than just copying the notes off the Web? or, How to get students to respond really deeply rather than from CliffsNotes.”

Donald Williams, senior vice president for academic administration at Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences, says his institution goes out of its way to hire tech-support staff who speak teaching rather than technology. “None of them are salesmen for technology—they’re all educators,” he says. “They’re not the geeky type of tech person who can’t really get down to the level of the everyday user.”