“Professional development in the technological age goes beyond mere skills training and software applications to encompass both formal and informal means of learning new techniques, developing new insights and transferring new skills into practice. The professional growth of teachers, particularly when paired with technological advancements and implementation in the classroom, is often associated with fear. The greatest trepidation seems to be keeping up with change, which is both unrealistic and exhausting. We will never keep up but isn’t that the most exciting ingredient in being lifelong learners? If you can minimize, or even better eradicate this fear, the power of moving forward rather than becoming stagnant, enriches the classroom. It is an idealistic aim that the teacher is the ‘bearer of all knowledge’. The teacher needs to become the facilitator of opportunity. When a partnership is formed between the teacher and student working in collaboration as dual learners, the fear will evolve into exhilaration. Although learning on a ‘needs to know’ basis’ keeps us sane and focused, it is the brave and invigorated teacher that keeps at the forefront the elusive leeway of what may come next. The key is replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity.”
Sometimes the words of others really resonate with me. When I read these, written by Monique Corcoran – unfortunately not available online – in an article in Education Technology Solutions (Issue 42, June/July 2011 p. 24), I honestly felt that her words could have passed as mine!
I’ve written previously about my recollections of those early days when I was first exposed to computers. Re-reading my post – The sky’s the limit! – I realize how far I’ve come. But the feelings I had back then are as real to me today as they were then. ‘Fear’, which Corcoran pairs with learning and mastering technological advancements is, I feel, more common than many would believe.
There’s no doubt that risk taking is coupled with many other emotions:
- fear of failure is a most tangible feeling; the consequences of not being able to master a new concept or a new skill can be overwhelming and can act as a ‘blocker’ to being able to process ‘how to’ instructions let alone remembering them
- fear of admitting ignorance can be perceived as an embarrassment; not many of us are comfortable letting our colleagues, let alone our students, see that we have a huge gap in our knowledge
- fear of bungling it when you ‘try out’ a new skill can be disconcerting; feeling inept isn’t very encouraging; having colleagues see first-hand your inability to remember lessons just learned can be soul destroying
- fear of the unknown is not easy and can go a long way to shattering a teacher’s self image; for older or more experienced teachers the unknown can be threatening beyond belief
- fear of being thought stupid or having others see your faults, your weakness and your inability to master new skills can be intimidating ….. a real threat to one’s reputation
- fear of being vulnerable is akin to exposing weakness to others; allowing work colleagues to see weakness can mean embarrassment as well as loss of self esteem
- fear of rejection by others because you are seen to be less able, less competent or less tech savvy is a palpable fear; we are all subject to our weakness
- fear of being regarded as incompetent can lead to feeling useless and hopeless; we all strive to feel of value and to be an active, contributing member of the school’s teaching staff
- fear of not being in control stems from not knowing how to do something; not being the master of a situation can be both daunting and scary
- fear of feeling overwhelmed of not keeping up with the sheer enormity of all that’s lurking out in cyberspace just waiting to be learned, let alone the rapid pace of change, can be disheartening;
We’ve all been vicitims to the never ending cycle of striving to say ‘on top’ of the new. Accepting that we’re unable to master it all nor keep up with rapid technological change is an important first step in overcoming fear of the unknown. Simultanously recognizing that risk taking is but a stepping stone along the path of learning is to discover and allow oneself to explore that wonderous journey of lifelong learning!