Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Buck Stops Here

Harry Truman famously kept his "buck stops here" sign in plain view on the Oval Office's Resolute Desk. I think he wished to convey not only the weight of responsibility that rested on his shoulders, but also the authority he had in making important decisions.

In much the same way, we teachers ultimately have a responsible to foster learning in the classroom; but on the other side of the coin, it's important to remember the authority we have in making key choices.

I bring up this point because I noticed in class that we talked at length about our responsibility as teachers to cater to students learning needs -- and that various technological tools can help us do that. Again, we have the authority to act on our best judgment.

But I think our best judgment must include more than simply the students: it must include us. I believe for teachers to effectively use any learning tool, they must first be comfortable with it themselves.

Let me give you an example. I once taught a course on public relations writing, of which blogging assignments were a critical component. Like our EDHI course, I chose Blogger as the platform -- and for many of the same reasons we discussed in class (access through Google, ease of use, benefits of a universal platform, etc.).

However, before I made this decision I reviewed other options and sought the input of students. By far, Blogger and WordPress were the preferred options, so I played around with both. In my opinion, WordPress is far more powerful, customizable, and ultimately useful.

In the end, however, I was simply more comfortable with Blogger, which is the main reason I went with it. Sure, I was worried that the complexities of WordPress would lead to confusion on the students' part, but I was more afraid they would lead to incompetence on my part. I wasn't comfortable integrating a technology into a classroom with which I was not personally confident using.

Important as the student perspective is in learning, I think it's critical to remember that we, as teachers, are a big part of that equation as well. Ultimately, the buck stops with us.


  1. Confidence is extremely important, and you made the right choice to work with the technology that you were comfortable using, particularly given the choice between tools that provide similar products. If you had not, then the assignment may have become more about the technology than the subject matter. On the other hand, the best way to learn a new technology is to use it in an authentic setting.

  2. Sometimes I think that you can learn a technology alongside your students, but it is definitely not a comfortable thing to do.