The one thing that will change a teacher’s hardened heart


Sometimes, as educators, we try to help others see how great things can be if we do them differently. I’ve found that one thing works better than anything else. (Creative Commons photo via Jisc)

At the two schools where I’ve taught in my career, I’ve been branded as the techie teacher. That’s been a good thing and a difficult thing.

It’s been great because students get excited to try some of the experiences they get through technology. It has also opened some great conversations with colleagues about how they can improve instruction.

In my own school and at the many schools I travel to when I present at conferences and workshops, being a techie teacher can be a stigma that’s hard to overcome.

Some teachers’ hearts seem to be hardened to the idea of using technology in their classes. Some are just hardened to trying anything new in their classes.

I have found that there’s one way to reach those teachers with the hardened hearts … one way that seems to work better than anything else.

What I thought for many years that would work doesn’t work as well as this one way. Here are some approaches that I’ve seen (and used myself) that don’t cut it quite as well as this one way

  • Showing the research behind tech integration and certain techniques
  • Demonstrating the awesome features of certain game-changing tools
  • Talking about how an expert has used it somewhere else in the country or world
  • Discussing students’ opinions on using technology and certain sites and apps

All of these have their place (and it’s usually further convincing those that are already bought in to the power of tech in the classroom!).

But they’re not as good as this …

Success stories from your own classroom.

Many times, I’ve found that teachers who are disinterested in change and new ideas don’t care much about the experts. They’ll think it doesn’t apply to their own situation.

They don’t care much about the research. They’ll say there are flaws in the research or that it doesn’t connect to the real world.

They don’t care much about the tech that students want to see. They’ll say that students don’t know what’s best for them anyway and their experience in education overrides.

But if you’re having success — or one of your colleagues in your building or district is having success — that can be powerful to convince even the most cynical. Results prove that something’s working, and seeing those results right at home shows that they’re real and someone isn’t just trying to tell a good story that’s slightly untrue.

On this blog and in my book, I try to do two things — give you practical ways you can teach with less reliance on the textbook AND talk about ways we can ditch the old “textbook” views of education that might not work.

If you’re interested in ditching what doesn’t work — and helping others to ditch it, too — don’t be afraid to share your story. Sometimes we see it as bragging too much or being too self-promoting. Somewhere along the way, educators have decided that they’re best served keeping their good news to themselves.

Spreading our success stories could be our best chance at changing education, though. It’s like what Margaret Mead said (a quote I’ve been coming back to a lot recently): “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If we want to change education — and, in turn, change the world — we have to tell our stories, show our success, talk about our positive results.

[reminder]What do you think is our best chance to help cynical, unmotivated teachers change their ways? [/reminder]

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