I used to raise goats. Had quite a few, 40+ at one point. Which in urban New Haven County Connecticut probably made me the biggest goat farmer in the county. I grew up in East Haven, CT. I am pretty sure they have laws banning the preservation of open space and farms. So basically I went from only having a fish, to the biggest goat farmer in the county overnight.
What happens to teachers who all of a sudden want to make the change from a traditional teacher driven traditional classroom to a more progressive project based technology integrated classroom?
When I first received my first set of twenty goats I can honestly say I did not have a clue. Sure I had read every book and internet article on raising goats but soon found that they did not prepare me for the real thing and all of the exceptions to the rules. As someone who was new there was great intimidation in directly contacting a more experienced farmer and admitting that I did had a problem, did not know what I was doing, and please help me out of a mess I had gotten myself into. For all of you out there brimming with confidence—well, maybe you don’t know what I am talking about. But how many people reading this have spent hours trying to figure something out with great frustration instead of contacting someone who would be able to help you with your problem and probably give you some great extra advice that you did not even know that you needed.
What helped me with the goats is I found goats911.com. It was a site that listed goat breeders, their specialty, and when they could be contacted for help. They invited people with problems to ask them questions. When I started with 2.0 stuff I found a lot of sites full of teachers looking for partners, or sites that offered places for people to ask questions, but these were usually sites set up for folks who were already a bit 2.0 savvy, or for folks who had edibility to go from 1.0 to 2.0 in 5 seconds. What exists for the people who are driving Pintos, who might need their hand held for their transition, for folks looking for or in need of a mentor…folks who are too intimidated to get into a 2.0 discussion on a race track full of Ferraris. I know that I had goats die, because I was struggling through things on my own just reading internet articles, and only dabbling in forums with the goat Ferraris. I know that for many teachers starting a PBL 2.0 classroom will result in death because of the lack of guidance. If you think otherwise, than either you are just smarter than the average teacher (which I will assume all of my readers are or you have forgotten what it was like to make a jump to something brand new.
So I wish there was a teacher911.org(teacher911.com is already taken!). A place that had a list of teachers, their fortes, their email, Skype, twitter, something along those lines, that invited teachers who had zero experience to come and ask questions of an individual and could get close to an immediate response–a place to establish a relationship where mentors could be found. A place where newbies would not be embarrassed to ask the must simple questions of a person, and then come back and ask 10 more questions to the same person. I think newbies would be more likely to make a shift to 2.0 when they could ask questions and form a relationship with an individual rather than a ning, wikispace, or other type of forum. To get more teachers to make the shift to 2.0 we need to make a shift to 1:1 support.
Traditional professional development doesn’t work. I am talking about district supported, not when a person chooses to attend a conference. District PD is based on “we have something to give to you”, when a teacher chooses a conference to attend they go to that PD to “take something.” If you didn’t ask the question, you won’t remember the answer. One PD is full of people just getting info to questions they did not ask, the other is people seeking answers to their questions.
It bugs me when teachers say during parent conferences “S/he never asks questions in class, they need to ask more questions to catch up and do better.” It’s hard to ask a question when you don’t have the words, it’s hard to ask a question in a group that exposes a lack of knowledge, especially when it is in a group of people who have all the knowledge you are seeking. But maybe they would call teacher911 in the privacy of their home when they know the person on the other end is offering a safe helping outstretched hand.