Sunday, July 11, 2010

Forcing Teachers to Read: Useful or just a Time-Suck?

Scott Macleod, over at Dangerously Irrelevant, wonders if we should require teachers to read the RSS newspaper: Should we require school employees to have RSS readers? He and his reader community created lists of rss feeds:grade-level and subject-specific blogs.

I'm great up to this point. Most of these blogs (I haven't read them all so can't say about all) are good people with good experience writing well and intelligently. But then Dr. Macleod goes a little off the end when he thinks about the next step ...
  1. Should we require school employees to have loaded RSS readers (with a concurrent expectation that they spend time checking them and reading in them)?
  2. How would the lives of the educators in your school organization be different if they regularly spent time with their loaded RSS readers?
  3. How would the lives of preservice educators (i.e., student teachers) be different if they regularly spent time with their loaded RSS readers?
  4. Can we figure out how to give educators professional development / licensure renewal credit for time spent with RSS readers, interacting with other educators in social media channels, etc.? We seem to be able to do so for face-to-face training, discussion groups, school book clubs, and so on ...
Thoughts on any of this? Got your own questions you’d like to add to my list?
Not by much,
To brainwash them some more - haven't they already read these blogs as part of their classes?
and YAY! Another meaningless credit for meaningless professional development!
 Then there's time and viewpoint.

Time? I get to school at about 7:15. I start the computer, which takes maybe 15 minutes to complete, and then load a firefox folder of bookmarks - the things I do everyday like check my and the school's calendar for games or meetings, read email (I only do it once at the beginning and once at the end of the day) update the SAT problem of the day, open the gradebook. I am checking that all my first classes are ready - emergency copying, bookmarking the text. I check my school mail box on another floor. I get my caffeine. Classes start. During my prep period, I prep. During my classes I teach. After school I help students, go to a game or go home. When do you suppose I should spend an hour on my school computer reading an RSS feed? How pissed off would the taxpayers of my community be if they knew that I spent that time surfing the internet every day?

Viewpoint? All the blogs listed are definitely opinionated. The viewpoints are not ones that I agree with all the time. I don't care to have my principal, who knows little about teaching and basically nothing about math and less about educational technology, decide what things I must read daily. I would hate to see what he would require I read -  he already photocopies pointless articles (FYI) and forwards joke emails. The upshot is that so much of his correspondence is junk that it lessens the importance of the rest of it.
 Suppose I read Right on the Left Coast, which is not on the list, but not Dy/dan, which is?  What if my blog were required reading instead of this Macleod's?  Or Theo, or Moonbattery, or Breitbart or Malkin?

Overload.  The list for math has 31 blogs on it.  If you overload people with this much new educational thought and trivia during a time when they can't process it, you will lose much more than you possibly gain. "Even though it could yield great results" - but it won't.

I see it far more likely that any time allocated will be spent with BostonHerald's Red Sox feed than on head-in-the-sky education dreamers who can save the world instantly if you only do .... this.  Does anyone really think that updating a facebook profile is a good use of a teacher's time?

Macleod seems to have plenty of time during the day to read, relax and tend to his presence on the web (he lists a Blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Twine, Delicious, Digg, Gmail, Skype, coComment, Technorati, Wikipedia), but I have other interests, i.e., teaching. I have precious little time to browse during the day and I don't care to waste it reading Macleod's recount of some conference he went to.

In the evening, which is when I do my reading, I can read and consider, answer and comment -- but certainly not under my principal's eye. Of course, that's also when I tend to my own life, virtual and otherwise. I volunteer my programming time and server space for a bunch of websites, maintain this blog and my own, keep track of my own facebook account (which the students do NOT have access to) -- have a life, such as it is.

I might even grade papers or (GASP!) watch a game.

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