Bridging the Gap
When trying to bridge the "knowing-doing" gap, it's important to look at the world a little differently. For example, you probably share curriculum ideas within your school. However, what's your definition of "sharing." Is it "show and tell" or "interact with peers"?
Sharing Tacit Knowledge
Tacit knowledge involves all those elements of understanding that relate to sharing an "experience." It goes beyond "show-and-tell" by detailing, not just telling what happened, but providing an interpretation of why and how you think the project was effective or ineffective. You're sharing expertise. For example, many lesson plans provide a list of materials such as books, videos, graphics, websites and real objects. However how was the list created, what was not included and why? Which were the most valuable resources and why?
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Snake Unit. Let's take the example of a snake unit. You might list the book called Verdi by Jannell Cannon. However when sharing the book with others you might talk about using it as a read-aloud book, the value of the illustrations, or the moral of the story. These ideas don't come out in a simple list on a lesson plan. In the same way, a list of websites isn't as useful as an annotated list with a description of why the page was selected. Was it the easy-to-read text, the organization, the use of graphics, or the content itself you found the most useful? In the snake example, the Indianapolis Museum's snake page contained simple information to go with the snake in the book, Verdi. The Snake webquest gets students involved in the content, the Quia quiz lets students practice simple vocabulary, and the Snakeman story is a great resource to practice screen reading skills.
Find Intangibles. Look for the intangible elements of a lesson. The best way to draw out tacit knowledge is through questioning. Was the project fun, easy, hard, boring, or difficult? What were the strengths and weaknesses? What worked well and poorly? What resources were helpful in terms of people and materials? What could undermine this type of project? How did the students react? Like any reflection, questions are helpful.
Observe Discussions. If you try this type of discussion in your building, consider practicing the role of facilitator. Watch how the group interacts. Are they sharing "facts" or "insights"? Are they doing more "telling" or "interacting"? Do they provide examples beyond the basic lesson or other applications of the idea? Do they focus on problems or solutions? Get your group to begin moving from simple "show-and-tell" to a more complex level of interaction and sharing.
Using Talk to Inspire Action
In many cases, we substitute talk for action. For example, we may make decisions, show presentations, prepare documents, create plans, and write mission statements rather than taking action and implementing a project. This often happens at conferences where you attend sessions, but go back to your school and do the "same old thing." The key is to use those conference contacts as soon as you get home. For example, a group of teachers from around the world met at a conference and then created a web-based project called Earth Calendar.
Focus on Curriculum. Rather than placing the emphasis on the technology, focus on curriculum. Look at good teaching practice for ideas. Choose a content area or skill such as reading for the emphasis. For example, you might decide that you need a series of texts on the same topic, at different reading levels. You might be able to find them on the Internet, or get someone to create them for you. For example, we created easy and more difficult texts for each of our animals in our NatureScapes project.
Think Simply. Many people talk instead of taking action because implementation involves time, money, and effort. Value and reward simplicity. Not all your projects need to be huge. Go to your "regular" teachers, not just your "techie" teachers for ideas. It might be an "ask-an-expert" activity using email, a "write about a photo" activity using web software, or a sentence combining activity using a word processor. How about a very simple use of Inspiration for a Venn diagram that compares a book to the movie?
Focus on Problems and Solutions. Use problems as the focus of staff development activities. Rather than avoiding or simply talking about problems, use these problems to stimulate discussion and action. Use a problem-based learning format in your workshop. For example, you might design activities for the 3-computer classroom. You might come up with a student project using Powerpoint on the topic of the solar system.
Require Evidence. It's easy not to "do" when there's no accountability. Require evidence of technology innovation in your classrooms. Encourage technology as an element in student portfolios and teaching materials. As you look at a product like a student poster, how was technology used and why?
Turn Talk into Action. Choose an idea or situation you want to see implemented. Ask yourself: How could you make it happen? Now, do it!
Using Memory to Reflect
We sometimes substitute memory for thinking. We say things like "we do it this way" or "we tried that already." It's easier to teach how we were taught. Why change? These barriers can cause us to rely on past experience rather than innovation. Why are these things so hard to "get over"? Part of the problem is excuses, but part is also reality. Teachers didn't grow up "digital." Technology was introduced as "extra" in the 1980s, and technology is still viewed as "alien" and "difficult." Rather than using memory as a substitute for thinking, we need to use memory to reflect and renew. Use consistency, precedent, and risk taking as the basis for your changes.
Consistency. It's easier to keep going down the same path than to change paths or directions. Sometime you need to build a new culture. Let's take the problem of "lab time". In your school, the children all go to the computer lab once per week and the teacher gets "planning time." Of course, this was not originally scheduled as planning time, but the lab teacher does such as nice job, why interfere? Without a change from the "consistency" of the situation it will be difficult to fully integrate technology into the classroom. A major change is needed such as tossing the scheduling, changing staff, and creating a new integrated curriculum. The first step might be a project-based approach to the lab that involves the classroom teacher and the computer teacher working together on a project such as poetry.
Precedent. It's difficult to break from the past. If you've been reading the same book to your class for the past twenty or thirty years, why change? It's not broken, why fix it? The challenge may be one of encouraging the evolution of a project. Ask yourself: why this book? What other book could be used? If we like this book, could we use an online discussion or an Inspiration character analysis to update the related activities? Let's take the book To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a great book, so let's evolve the classroom activities to include an online novel guide, a technology-rich lesson plan, an Inspiration character analysis, and an online discussion.
Risk taking. Building an atmosphere that values innovation may be the key to change. If the problem is teachers who have "laminated" lesson plans that haven't been updated in decades, the challenge is to provide a new activity that requires no additional time commitment. For example, if the topic is Health and Cancer, you might provide a standards-linked lesson plan with good web resources such as a USA Today article and a FindArticles paper to read. It's ready to go, let's do it!
Use Memory to Reflect. Explore 3 problem areas including consistency, precedent, and risk taking. Address your own problem.
Using Assessment to Enhance Learning
A final problem with bridging the "knowing-doing gap" relates to the use of assessment. Recently the word "assessment" has been associated with testing. Don't focus on testing. Focus on learning including the needs of both teachers and students. The goal of assessment should be to provide direction. It should start with teachers doing self-assessment, then peer assessment. By posting projects on the web, it's easy for teachers to get additional ideas from their peers. For example, a teacher in Ohio has a great physics page where his projects are posted. Creating this page gave the teacher an opportunity to review his thinking about the project as well as a way to share his learning.
Teacher Evaluation. Start with your own evaluation. There are two areas to consider when looking at the knowing-doing gap: the knowing part and the doing part. "Knowing" evaluation focuses on the questions: What do I know? What do I need to know? The "Doing" evaluation concentrates on: How do I use technology? How could I use technology? You'll find lots of online self-assessment tools in the area of technology including one from Indiana and one from California.
Project Evaluation. Another assessment is project evaluation. What are you really seeking in a technology project? Low-level technology assessments focus on the technology itself such as "how many cards" and "do the buttons work". Look at areas such as outcome, quality, originality, and style. Does the project meet the outcome challenge? Are students able to demonstrate competence through the project? Is the project of quality? Does it address a question or solve a problem? Is the project original or unique? Or, does it simply copy from a book or website? Finally, is the project presented well? Does it look and sound good? Does it have style? Explore some student projects as a tool for reflection.
Evaluation Tools. As you look at assessment tools be sure to consider both the process and the product. Also look at the content, design of the message, and the communication itself. If you'd like some checklists, use 4teacher's project-based learning checklist as a starting point.
Use Assessment to Enhance Learning. Look at how technology is being used throughout your program. Are your activities reflective of your philosophy of teaching, learning, and technology? Do you have a global-scope that is both product and process oriented? Is your program varied, informative, and evolving?
Chicken & Egg Dilemmas
The knowing-doing gap seems to contain many "chicken and eggs" dilemmas. Which comes first, curriculum or assessment? Which is more important: competition or collaboration? What are the roots of your beliefs about education and are they reflected in your practices?
Believe or Try. We need to believe in technology, but we also need to try technology. Which comes first? Why?
Curriculum or Assessment. What gets measured, gets done. How do we measure technology if it's supposed to be transparent?
Competition or Collaboration. Competition can be healthy. Collaboration is important. Which promotes learning with technology?
Learn by Doing
One of the best ways to pick a surgeon is to ask how many times they have performed the surgery. The more practice they get, the better they get.... usually. ;-)
Just Do It! You can't bridge the "knowing-doing gap" by sitting around. If a project is not working, immediately... stop, ask what you learned, and try a new path. Waste no time worrying or blaming!
Try, Stop, Try Again. The bridge to success is seldom straight. You may need to step back and step over to make something work. Let's say your students are writing new words in a journal. They try using the DK CD-ROM Dictionary to find the words. Unfortunately, the dictionary is incomplete and they get frustrated. Rather than plowing through the activity, look for options. Maybe it's another CD dictionary, an online dictionary, or a print dictionary!
Try, Experiment, Try. Spend more time in thoughtful action: trying, experimenting, and engaging. Spend less time on talking! For example, if you've got a new digital camera, experiment. Take pictures and have groups narrate sections. Then ask yourself, what other things could students take pictures of and narrate? Try it in another subject area
Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap
It's easy to get stuck in the mud. You're likely to find lots of different ideas for getting out of the mud. Focus on individual needs and finding the best solution for you whether you're a beginner, mover, or speeder.
For Beginners. Implement something you know rather than something new. It's easiest to learn in a context within your own classroom and with your own students. Start with the 42explore project that provides lots of good starting points for thematic topics such as Weather and Weather sites.
For Movers. Try a new teaching strategy. Analyze how it went. Then, talk about the next step. For example, you might try a webquest on healthy eating and the websites that go with the webquest.
For Speeders. Focus on "continuous improvement" rather than "flitting" from technology to technology. Plan some small, simple, progressive steps and projects. If you have trouble with implementation, try an established project such as ThinkQuest that provides timelines for completion.
The Keys to Success
Knowing about the gap is not enough. Get excited! Do! Two final words of advice:
For Teachers. To get out of the mud, move slowly and deliberately.
For Technology Administrators. To get out of the mud, spend more time creating learning environments, than putting out fires.

Mud Menu
Big Ideas to Small Steps
Get Moving
Bridging the Gap
Return to Eduscapes

Created by Annette Lamb, 04/01.