Where are the books?

Last week I was able to attend and present at the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs. As you might guess I went to a lot of sessions about 1:1 teaching and learning. Many of those sessions were about the amazing things teachers and students are doing with 1:1 for their students, and several were about the process of making a 1:1 program work. Professional development options were clearly in my sights, and I heard about many similar strategies: X number of days of training, coaching models, and online resources. After the third session like this though, I finally realized what was missing, what I hadn’t even realized I’d been hoping to hear about. No one ever talked about what their teachers were reading.

As an English teacher I have rarely, if ever, attended any training related to literacy that did not include some form of professional reading either in the form of an article, a chapter of a book, or an entire book study. As a teacher using technology though, I have never attended a technology training that included any form of professional reading. There have been plenty of videos to watch, step by step guides for using an app to follow, and the occasional online resource to explore. But a book about adapting pedagogy to a digital environment? Nada, none, zip.

Looking over at my own shelf of professional reading titles, I find the discrepancy repeated. I own scores of professional texts related to literacy, but fewer than ten related to technology in the classroom, and several of those are a bit long in the tooth. One of them anticipates that some day soon we will have “portable computing” as an option. Others reflect on general practices of change and transformation, without real helpful specifics for classroom teachers. The most useful are those that focus on a narrow aspect of digital pedagogy in writing or reading specifically. (I am still an English teacher.)

A teacher from my school came back from an all day training a few weeks ago frustrated. “There was no paper! They wanted everything to be digital and online, so they showed us how to get to it. But now I can’t remember where to start, and I wish they had just given us at least one piece of paper with the important points and websites.” That is the disconnect between technology savvy trainers and the less technology savvy people they train. Teachers need scaffolds too. They need to be met in their own comfort zone before we can ask them to step out of it.

I’m left with the same conclusion that Diana and I came to several years ago when we began writing Power Up, teachers need books about how digital classrooms work. Face to face training, online resources, and even individual coaching, will never provide nearly enough information for educators just easing into 1:1 learning spaces. E-books are useless to people who don’t know how to access them, don’t have a device right for reading them, or just prefer a real book they can fill with notes and ideas.

My friend Mary Lange always reminded me, “It’s the pedagogy not the tools.” The 1:1 revolution won’t happen because teachers got three days of training about how the computers work. It will happen when teachers have the pedagogical inspiration to adapt their teaching practices. It’s time to Power Up.