Should teachers be web-savvy or web-aware?

A fascinating discussion is taking place at Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant blog. Titled We can’t let educators off the hook, it actually starts with a quotation from Steve Dembo that I really, really understand:

In fact, the majority of the voices in the EdTech Community are so far ahead of the curve that it doesn’t even seem like their on the same road anymore. Most educators have never listened to a podcast, much less created one. They’ve never edited a wiki, much less started one of their own. So how on earth could they be expected to have a rational conversation about the impact new technologies are having on the skill sets our students need? Simply put, they can’t.

Arguments range from “force it down their throat” to “don’t worry about it”.

I’m not actually concerned on a larger scale, except in a sociological sense. I don’t believe that elementary and junior high teachers need to be web-savvy, just web-aware. High school teachers need to be even more web-aware, because some students won’t go to college. The web should be studied for its effects on economy, society, communications, technology. Yet many high schools don’t require the social sciences that would examine this, such as sociology or anthropology.

College is a bit different. For college instructors in any discipline to not be able to use the web for their own research is appalling. For them not to use Facebook is not. If they’re teaching in a discipline where the web is part of the subject matter, they should know enough to teach that. But while much of that may benefit from immersion in the web environment, I don’t believe they need to be immersed if they understand the immersion. I don’t have to live in the Middle Ages to teach it.

Now for professional development of teachers and professors, however, especially any who want to work in the online environment for or with their classes, web-savviness is crucial. I am very concerned about the professors who say “I want to (or worse, I’m going to) teach online” and “I’m not much of a tech person” at the same time. That disconnect has to be worked on. You can’t work online without being web-savvy, and please please don’t do it with real live students. I think it’s criminal to upload Word documents into Blackboard, post a few factual questions on the discussion board, and say you’re “teaching online”.

To me, it’s more significant that we’ve got teachers who are teaching online but don’t understand the web, than that we have pre-college teachers not “getting it”. Let’s start with the people who are modeling the skills that we want the future educators to know.

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