Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Thought on How We Think About Teachers

Why is it that teacher-directed websites usually look like they've been designed for children?

This isn't a big point -- just something I've been chewing on as I do organisational research this morning.

Take a look at any site for educators. Unless these educators are administrators, you'll probably find pictures of apples (for the teacher, presumably), ruled paper, and cartoon characters with blackboard pointers in their hands (hooves? claws?).

Here's My Experience

When I was hired to produce an interactive site for Troll Communications (at the time, Scholastic's chief competitor), the consistent image across pages was an owl with a flat, square graduation hat (what are they called? You know, the ones with the tassles?).

That owl was first on my hit list, especially because he also wore spec's. But the whole situation seemed revising from the bottom up.

Don't trolls EAT children? (Tip: don't ask this question at your first meeting with a CEO. It doesn't encourage the kind of change you're after.)

Kids Think Teachers Don't Exist Outside of School

This isn't a big point either. Anyone who's taught, and then runs into a student in a coffee shop or the supermarket, has seen the shock register.

I chalk it up to some sort of delayed object permanence problem. Kids tend to have a pretty fixed idea of how their worlds function. Even when I taught university, my students would express shock usually reserved only for a broken law of physics if I were sited anywhere outside the English Department.

How Much Thought is Given to Teachers Anyway?

We'd expect more from grown-up's.

But from the websites I've seen, non-educators seem so completely to merge teachers with their kids that they forget they're adults.

It's a strange phenomenon. I might give it to NASA to chew on.

On the other hand, how surprising is it really that teachers aren't paid very much if we forget they exist outside the classroom -- you know, paying rent, driving cars, or doing an activity with other adults?

Anyone, please find me a website designed for teachers that looks sophisticated, that treats its target audience as though they have some design sense or have ever been to the opera.

And those text-only sites don't count. They're just lazy.


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