Not to reinvent the wheel, or anything…

photo credit: Crispin Semmens - Used under Creative Commons

photo credit: Crispin Semmens – Used under Creative Commons

Now that I’ve taken a few steps forward into this world of instructional technology, I’ve been able to step back and reflect a bit.

I find myself often getting opportunities to explore new apps, devices, technologies, etc. (Most recently was this ball called “Sphero” which connected to a device via bluetooth and turns the device into a remote to move the ball around on the floor… pretty solid design and challenging to use. Anyway…)

All these devices/apps/tools seem to fit into two very broad categories: stuff that helps us do stuff we already do better and stuff that allows us to do stuff we previously couldn’t do (or at least couldn’t realistically do).

and while I feel like those are important distinctions, they tend to both get brushed aside as “reinventing the wheel”.

And it makes sense. Teachers are resourceful people. They are pretty good at recognizing what they need and finding solutions to make it happen. Teachers generally don’t spent time reusing tools/processes that don’t work or don’t provide value (based on the values that teacher has).

So, it seems like anytime we introduce a new technology piece to a teacher, we are comparing that teacher’s existing processes and practices to either…

A. something that gives them a different (hopefully better) way to do something they already do or

B. something that give the teacher the ability to do something they don’t currently do.

Either way, we are asking that teacher to update their practice. And if they don’t already have a need (or a desire) to do that, then they are likely to perceive this as “reinventing the wheel.”

And they aren’t really wrong.

This is where those of us to are inclined to consistently seek innovation need to recognize the value of creating “intellectual need.” This idea was first introduced to me by Dan Meyer being applied introducing new processes and tools to math students, but I think there are pretty solid parallels to sharing new technologies or processes to teachers. The idea is that as long as the learners have tools or processes that work fairly well for them, they won’t value learning new tools or processes.

To get around this with students, teachers can introduce a new problem-type or content to create a need for a new tool or process. You can administrate the need.

With teachers, it’s not quite as simple as that. Teachers have the ability to shield themselves in a lot of different ways from the changing conditions. Teachers are flexible. In this case, the task of creating need for a new tool isn’t administrative.

The task is inspirational.

Teachers need to see the potential for the new tools. They need have the new processes modeled. They need to see the vision of where this could take them and their students.

We need to be out of the business of process-sharing and into the business of idea-building. What would you like to do that you can’t do now? What do you do now that you wish worked better? Let me show you some cool classroom action that got me excited.

It’s can’t be about the tools. It needs to be about the vision for the classroom.

“Folks, this isn’t a session on Google Drive. It’s a session on collaboration and accessibility.”

“This isn’t a training on Desmos. It’s a training on helping make higher-order math thinking easier for your students to engage.”

“This isn’t a PD on the TI-Nspire. This is a PD on how to make statistical and graphical analysis a community activity.”

If they already have a wheel, they don’t need a new one. But perhaps with this or that new tool or process (whatever it is), that wheel that’s already been invented can take the students farther than they’ve ever gone before.


One thought on “Not to reinvent the wheel, or anything…

  1. Well, marketing folk in the outside world figured this out quite a while ago. “It washes clothes better” isn’t good enough, the machine has to enhance the buyer’s lifestyle or status or …..
    Apple sort of cracked this one some years ago, putting their new machine in a transparent, coloured case. generally computer people are not good at this, just rabbiting on about features, and more features.

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