Friday, May 2, 2008

How far out can we plan?

This has been coming up a lot lately in my conversations with teachers. Many of them want to know what is the plan for projectors, for SmartBoards, for computers on carts, etc... It is always a very tough conversation. Often, the answer is that the plan for the coming year is to complete putting projectors in classrooms. After that, there is no script for what to do. The reason? The minute you commit to a plan, you are stuck with it. Teachers expect it. If you need to change the plan, you upset a lot of people who have been patiently (?) waiting for their turn to get a particular piece of equipment. I don't blame them. I would feel the same way.

The problem is that technology changes so quickly that to commit to doing something in two years is like playing the lottery. Every week I learn about some new technology that could potentially revolutionize the classroom. How can we commit to a piece of equipment then that might be obsolete by the time we purchase it.

Instead, we need to allow for some flexibility. But how do we do this and still send a clear message to teachers that we are working on your behalf to give you the best tools to do the job? When teachers are already stretched to the point of maximum patience waiting for equipment while neighbor classrooms are outfitted ahead of them, it is difficult to communicate this without building anxiety. One thing is for sure. You can never communicate too much, just not enough.

2 comments:

  1. I think you hit on the most important thing with your last sentence. Teachers get frustrated because they don't want to be forgotten or feel left behind. I think a full, clearly-communicated explanation of what exactly is going to happen next and what is being considered for after that would be really helpful. I think, too, if we can assure a teacher that they will be getting tools to be able to do certain things in their classroom, they can be open to the idea that it might look different than their neighbor's due to advances in technology. This doesn't mean some teachers won't be frustrated with waiting, but clear communication will help allay this frustration.

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  2. Thanks jsamec. I agree that teachers are more frustrated with not knowing what is happening than with not having equipment. I am all for improved communciations, but I am also aware that changing on the fly causes increased frustration. So many people are cautious about what they tell people so they won't look like they are going back on their word. I guess I am just trying to find the balance between having a transparent process and giving people false hope.

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