Recipe for a connected educator

Give your teacher a computer, preferably a cheap one, install  software and other learning technologies and then when they complete your introductory course (with gold embossed certificate), reward their efforts with a voucher for a months free Internet connection. Simple – we’ve got a connected educator.

Or maybe not. I’ve set up a straw man proposal, and I’m kicking Aunt Sally around to make my point. Digitally effective teaching and learning is often hampered by access and resources. Computers break, software can be expensive, internet access (here in South Africa) is expensive and, most importantly, training for teachers that share the same interests, have the same skill levels or are interested in the same outcomes is seen as a “once off event”, not an ongoing process.

Don’t frame these problems as a Digital divide – the hassles we’ve mentioned are not a permanent. They are perceptual, temporary  or environmental. I call these problems digital dongas.  A technological ditch, caused by erosion of opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge. With attention, time and conversations with affected educational communities, this scarring can be stopped or maybe even repaired.

So if you are interested in getting teachers connected, stop the reductionalism. Solving issues of technological access will not create a connected teacher. The conversation needs to move forward to focus on the participation skills required for teachers to benefit from the technology. Find opportunities for teachers to contribute and to develop the their competencies and social skills needed for involvement. Recognise that each institution has a set of dongas and then begin working in collaboration with with schools and the teachers to bridge or start repairing the gaps. Remember though, bridging digital dongas is a process, not an event. A one-time teacher training workshop does not count as  effective professional development. Start thinking more about the teachers on-going, relevant professional development, and how you can support that process.

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