Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can We Really Trust Teachers With Their Content?

The first question I get is this:

"Are you sure you want teachers to share their stuff without ANYONE approving it first?"

What? From a fellow teacher? Aren't we supposed to advocate for each other?

Since there's been teachers, there's also been content they've been creating and collecting. I know when I left the classroom, after 20 years, I had over 50 boxes of STUFF. Now, thankfully, we're moving away from the boxes of stuff and towards collecting those resources on digital devices. The storage solution has been solved
for now, but what hasn’t really been solved, until recently, is the sharing part.

In our district, if a teacher wanted to share their resources with another teacher he/she:
  1. needed to know another teacher wanted the resource
  2. needed a way to hand the resource to the teacher or
  3. teachers could set up a shared network folder in their schools, and other teachers could browse that folder, but they would still need to know that the asset was there
Likewise, if I was planning a lesson and needed a resource, but didn't know where to find one, I would not know who to ask, so the 3 steps above would not be helpful to me.

For a few years now, I’ve been largely immersed in a project that encourages and gives our teachers a platform to share digital content. One solution we rolled out this last year has been a collaborative project between our district and Discovery Education called, OnePlace. It allowed teachers to search by keyword or standard and find resources from content from DE Streaming, other service providers and our local (teacher shared) content. OnePlace was very popular because it allowed a single sign-on into our DE Streaming service (multiple usernames and passwords is never popular) and because teachers loved the idea of being able to access other teachers' shared content.
Big problem though: teachers who submitted content needed to wait for approval. They also could not upload the content themselves. They needed to seek out the one person at their school who was trained to do this. Ok, we dealt with it, but clearly not perfect. Because of this hurdle, the amount of local content is minimal.

As we evaluated what our priorities are on these types of services, we realize we want most of all for our teachers to be able to share without
burden, delay or BigBrother watching. We want our teachers to be treated like the professionals that they are! We listened to the feedback from our teachers, and so we are moving to the next generation of OnePlace which is Discovery's newest media sharing product called MediaShare. Personally, I'm so excited about MediaShare because I know it's exactly what our teachers have been clamoring for in an interface that will finally work for them. It will finally allow our teachers to have that YouTube-like experience with their digital content, share locally or nationally, create RSS feeds, and so much more! Best of all, ALL teachers will be able to control their own content with no approval process, just like on YouTube.

MediaShare hasn't yet been released, but I have shown it to a few test groups in my district. In my discussions with some teachers about what's coming with MediaShare, mostly the open sharing part, that's when the question pops out!

"Are you sure you want teachers to share their stuff without ANYONE approving it first?"

Here's where I don't get it!! Are these teachers who don't trust each other? The conversation continues and the bottom line always comes down to the feeling that inappropriate or inaccurate content may be posted and what then??? My response?

I am not the Content Police.

In my mind, this is no different than working students on blogs or wikis. Teachers, like students, must be educated on what it means to be good digital citizens.

Bill Ferriter blogged about this recently when he had a teacher email him to ask about the risk of inappropriate content being posted by students. He had just done some professional development with teachers on the use of wikis in the classroom and as you can see, the "Fear Factor" seems to run deep in all teachers. His comments and his post are directed towards using similar tools with students. If you substitute the word
teachers for students in most of what he says, his points are still well-taken.

As far as your concerns about wikis go, you're right that there is the risk that inappropriate content may be posted before you get to it. That is an unavoidable fact of any efforts to get kids to create and communicate using Web 2.0 tools---and it is a fact that I had to wrestle with long and hard before engaging my kids in work with wikis.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that taking the risk was worth it because the rewards were pretty meaningful and real.

"Are you sure you want teachers to share their stuff without ANYONE approving it first?"

How do you deal with teachers who feel that way about each other? And, do you have a progressive sharing resource like this that allows sharing without moderation? What are your solutions? I would love to hear from you.


Wm Chamberlain said...

Do you think the problem could be that teachers have had their lessons scripted for too long? We trust our texts (perhaps too much) and I suppose that could make us suspicious of anything that isn't run through textbook chains.

diane said...

What teacher would submit inappropriate content? It would be professional suicide!

I would worry about the opposite problem, that teachers might be hesitant to share LPs or units of instruction that they consider less than exemplary for fear of appearing incompetent.

As with Wikipedia, I would imagine that the odd "mistake" would be quickly caught and rectified.


Anonymous said...

I think you are absolutely right when you say that teachers need to be taught to be "good digital citizens". Whenever a teacher searches for resources, they have to make a judgement on whether the content is accurate and appropriate for their class. A clearinghouse such as you describe simply makes it easier to find what you want.

While it is probably true that there are teachers who are teaching subjects they are not trained to teach, your site sounds as if it would be self-policing. If people want to post their ideas for others, it means they are competant, trust themselves and their content, and really feel that they have something to share.

I try to share ideas and resources with my colleagues informally through e-mail and conversation, but I also have a teacher resources site on my web page, organized by subject, where people can look for new lesson ideas.

I think your site sounds like a great idea!

Patti Harju said...

There will of course be the odd teacher who does submit something inappropriate, but that will be the exception, not the rule. Teachers are very capable of policing themselves.

Teachers have too many decisions made for them by people other than educators, or by people who are not in the classroom. After 20+ years, I am still required to turn lesson plans in weekly, and test scores are scrutinized. They look at the trees, not the forest. I even find myself doubting my teaching because the workbook pages are not all completed at the end of the year. I need to remember all of the non workbook stuff we did, the ungradable and remind myself of the big picture.

I try to share as much with my colleagues as I can, however I don't always find them very receptive. Many teachers are hesitant to try anything new, because something new implies that there may have been something wrong with the way they do it now. It is hard to teach teachers! They also don't see how integrating technology will change the way they teach. They want to teach the same old way. Example: We were at a SMART board demonstration, and one teacher's concern is how she will have two children working on math problems at the board at the same time. She doesn't get it.

I may have just rambled here and given more comments than were asked for, but I was encouraged to comment by Geekymomma aka Teachakidd on Twitter, and when you wake the lion......

In case my comment doesn't share my name, it is Patti Harju and I am scout7 on twitter. How's that for one of my first comments?

Anonymous said...

Hey Hey TeachaKidd---

Thanks for a great blog post describing the Discovery Network services. My district has been talking about this stuff for awhile now and I wasn't exactly sure what was included in the package and whether it was worth pursuing.

I'd be interested in knowing more. Does MediaShare or OnePlace offer anything other than content sharing options? Is instant messaging or video conferencing included? What about blogs and wikis?

I'm waiting for the service that bundles all of my Web 2.0 creation, communication and collaboration services into one. That'll be the motherload.

I also wrote a post recently about a plan my learning team has up and running to use Delicious and Pageflakes to share electronic resources with one another. Here's the link:

It's been a great solution for us and I've been completely jazzed at how easy it has been for some of the non-techie teachers that I work with to embrace.

While I did a lot of the leg work to get the tags organized and Pageflakes set up, they've had no troubles understanding what we're doing and making it work on their ends.

I love the comment left by PSH about not being confident in his/her own teaching after 20 years because he/she always feels questioned about what they're doing.

It resonated with me because I feel the same way! Systems that make teachers get approval for everything that we do puts us in a position where we doubt our own abilities.

What I wonder is how did we ever get to the place where we weren't seen as the instructional experts in our profession. After all, we are the instructors, right?

Better yet, how do we get out of this hole that we've dug for ourselves?

Glad I found your blog....

Rock right on,

Lee Kolbert said...

You make a good point in that we've been programmed to follow the "script" provided to us by the textbook publishers. Suddenly let loose with our own creativity is out of our comfort zone for many. Good point.

Teachers are definitely hesitant to share as well. When I talk to teachers about sharing, I've found two schools of thought: one where teachers feel their stuff is not worthy and one where they worry that someone will take ownership of their work. Both frustrate me but the latter frustrates me the most.

I'm so excited when anyone creates access for others. The self policing part is just part of being an adult and people need to just get over it, no? I really believe we are the role models for ourselves and if we don't make a plan, someone will make it for us. Thanks for visiting my blog!

I couldn't agree with you more how it is the minutia that seems to be valued the most; the weekly lesson plans, the objective number, the time-task-calendar, etc. Is it because our administrators don't know how to subjectively look at what is happening in their schools? Thank goodness for teachers like you who know that your students will remember the experiment on how big they could blow the bubble with their gum, or shoot the bottle rocket rather than reading chapter 11 in the science textbook. Thanks for commenting!

Good question; how did we get to that point when we were no longer the experts? When did that happen?
As for MediaShare, it's not all of Web 2.0 wrapped up in a nice and tidy package, but when you find that product, please call me! It does not include conversation via chat or comments or conferencing. It is about sharing/searching video, documents, PPT, etc. Keeping your resources in one place and having a place, finally, to store all these digital files we've all been creating. Teachers can then logon and search and find teacher made resources to supplement their lessons. It does include RSS and some Web 2.0 features. It will be released very soon. You should contact someone at Discovery. Perhaps @teach42 on Twitter can point you in the right direction :)