Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Time to Differentiate Support for Educators

Why don't we embrace the philosophy of differentiation in providing Internet and communications technology support to educators?

At the turn of the century (9 years ago!), I spent a lot of time learning about differentiation, specifically in attempts to develop suitable programming for the gifted students in my board. The past few years, the language of differentiation has made its way into all schools in our district. Even the ministry of education is on this tack both in professional development initiatives and in recently released policy and program documents. Maybe it's time we consider differentiating the support we provide to teachers...

Many teachers in North America are turned off of using the Internet, precisely because they find the web filters engaged by their boards to be too stringent. I know that in my board, this blog continues to be unavailable to the very educators I'd love to engage in dialogue. A differentiated approach to the filtering of the World Wide Web, where authentication of a user would grant varying permissions, is I think a logical step. Wesley Fryer sees injustice in the fact that teachers and kindergartners often have to play with the same filter rules:

"If school districts insist on blocking access to sites like YouTube, PBwiki, Wikispaces and Blogger, in my view they should NOT block that access for teachers."

With increasing numbers of forward thinking educators attempting to leverage read/write tools of the Web, school administrators face challenging times. As Will Richardson writes:

"We’re in the “Networking as a Second Language” point in teaching, this messy transition phase that is slowly gaining traction where we are beginning to understand what this means but not quite sure yet what to do about it."

A differentiated approach to teacher professional development may be part of the solution. According to a March 2007 article on, the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal allocated significant funding to train teachers in making effective use of modern teaching tools:

"Ped-tech leaders were identified at each school - teachers who were willing to work with technology - and they are being used as the basis for the project. These 180 teachers have each been given laptop computers, a projector and a smart board to really crank up their efficiency. In turn, they will be expected to bring other teachers into the fold and help them become more familiar with and more comfortable with using technology in the classroom."

Teachers have diverse needs when it comes supporting the use of technology in the classroom. My fingers are crossed that some day soon, district school boards will realize that "Differentiation is an effective way to meet the needs of all types of learners... including teachers."

Teacher 2.0 Podcast: "Differentiation: for Teachers" now online.


Mark said...

This of course applies beyond tech ed as well. I'd love to see more differentiation in all areas of teacher training. While we're at it, let's quit making training for teachers be in the form of lecture-based instruction that we have long since learned not to subject our children to! Or... have we not all learned that yet...?