Clash of Ideas @dculberhouse
“Clash of Ideas @dculberhouse” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

There have been a few posts of late highlighting that technology in the classroom can make a positive difference. For example, Simon Crook states:

If teachers and students use technologies to capitalise on the unique opportunities they provide, rather than as a gimmick, it has been demonstrated that teaching and learning will improve.

Jane Hunter explained:

Common to all four of these teachers was a deep fascination with technology. They did not use it for all learning, but most of the time over the school week. Their approaches varied, but they ended up in the same place: engaged classrooms where students are empowered and given a voice to take control of their own learning. Teachers stepped out of the way.

While Jose Picardo explains that,

Using technology well to support teaching and learning is a feature of great teachers, yet there appears to exist the commonly held notion that digital technology and teaching are mutually incompatible.

The challenge seems to be about getting technology in the hands of the right teacher, those ‘great’ teachers who confidently capitalise on the potential of technology. This raises the question, should our focus be on the right teacher or in developing the right teacher?

It can be easy to argue that sometimes a certain teacher is not the right fit for a particular school. Maybe they have pedagogical beliefs that are in competition to the wider organisation or they seen to hold certain values that may not fit the particular status quo. Associated with this perspective, it is often claimed that there is no point ‘watering the rocks’. The solution for such a situation is to get another teacher. This time, the ‘right’ one.

The problem with picking the right teacher is that there is no definitive means of finding such a person. This right teacher implies that we are fixed in everything that we do and think. In addition to this, the ‘right’ teacher for today, may not be the ‘right’ teacher for tomorrow. Another alternative is to provide the conditions for the right teacher to develop and grow.

Focusing on the right conditions has its own challenges, the greatest being time and commitment. See this post from Paul Browning for some insight. The problem with implementing any technology, or pedagogical practice for that matter, is that they cannot simply be taken off the shelf and placed into a school, let alone a classroom. This is my concern about arguments around ‘best practice’. Too often they are picked up and placed in schools as panaceas, yet I have seen schools spend years forcing teachers to fall in line. When it comes to technology, the answer is often SAMR, with the question being why every teacher is not ‘redefining’ their practice, when ironically the idea of redefinition is continually changing.

The challenge seems to be to develop systems that begin with context, starting with the learners in mind. One way to do this is using something like the Modern Learning Canvas to create a picture of practice, which then starts a conversation that provides the means for teachers to take control of their on craft. This captures some of the complexity involved in the educational assemblages, where difference is celebrated and ideas are engaged with to make them better.

Claire Amos recently wondered whether schools have failed to show enough empathy in starting where the learners are. While in a post on innovation, Katie Martin suggests that schools that show the most movement are those that work around common goals and involve sharing strengths and weaknesses. Zachary Herrmann argues that if students are to flourish then it needs to start first with teachers flourishing first. Although this flourishing is often bottom-up, it is often made more possible when given the right conditions, a point made by Cameron Malcher in regards to the often unrecognised acts of leadership.


So what about you? How do you go about developing pedagogical practice? Are there teachers who just have it or are there things done that allow teachers to develop? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Dan Carlin in his investigation of Genghis Khan quotes Lord Acton who once wrote that “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”  This implies that great people often only become supposedly ‘great’ at the expense of others. That is, whether it be Napoleon or Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, they all brought about great chaos and killing that was paramount to achieve their success over time.

This idea of the consequences associated with success got me thinking about teachers, teaching and learning. There are those out there who wish to reduce impact solely down to the work of the individual. This has many flow on effects, but the most problematic one is the birth of the ‘great teacher’.

I have lost count of the times I have been asked to reflect on my past and recall a great teacher. For me, these teachers were those that often pushed against the grain, who stood out in the crowd, maybe broke the rules, seemingly going above and beyond. Maybe these are worthy attributes to have, but at what cost? The question that often goes unasked is what context allows for the creation of such teachers and is it always positive? Who suffers and what is lost in the process? Are great teachers in fact bad teachers?

For so many, the word of the moment is collaboration. Whether it be Alma Harris’ Disciplined Collaboration, Cathy Davidson’s Collaboration by Difference or David Weinberger’s Smart Rooms, they all seem to celebrate the collective power of the group over the individual. The problem though is that it can be hard to break the traditional cycle of leadership and learning for a more distributed model. A focus on the individual has the tendency to produce an environment of competition, which sacrifices collaboration, in the hunt for greatness.

To re-imagine this situation, I want you to stop and think for a moment about a teacher who for whatever reason was not the greatest? Rather than dwelling on those individual attributes which made them stand out for all the wrong reasons, think about what teams they were a part of. Was there anyone else teaching that subject? Were they visibly linked with others or left alienated? How were they supported? Maybe these are more pertinent questions and help highlight the real problem.

In the end, I am left wondering, can greatness ever be good? What would schools look like if we had great teams which focus on building capacity, with no one teacher standing out above any other? Would this focus on community allow for more of a focus on learning? To be honest, I am really not sure. More than ever, I would love to know your thoughts on this matter, for in the end, it takes a village.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.