Teachers & Tech, Today, Tomorrow, or When?

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I am one of those old new teachers. Or is it a new old teacher?

I keep trying to learn new tricks. In my field, the new tricks all involve using technology as a teaching tool.

This evening I participated in what seems like the 100th discussion on the topic of why teachers are not embracing technology.

The conversation took place on Twitter where messages are limited to 140 characters. I’m not really a 140-character kind of thinker, so I’m going to expand on some ideas here.

Why aren’t teachers embracing technology? There are so many reasons.

We’ve seen so many new mandated ideas that last right up until the next mandate. But technology is likely to continue to dominate the lives of our students. We have to use the tools they want to use.

Okay, I’ll use those tools. Where are they? Some districts and some schools within other districts have tons of tech: computers galore, interactive whiteboards, iPhones for every student and more. I’ve got a whiteboard and two computers in the classroom, one of them running the white board. That’s it, and we just got the first of that last year.

But even when the tools are available they’re used to deliver the same old lessons a new way. Teachers don’t learn any faster than anyone else. It is unreasonable to expect teachers to learn how to operate new tools and design new lessons incorporating them at the same time. That is like asking a carpenter to learn how to use a new type of saw and design a new type of furniture to build with it at the same time.

For teachers, tech is not just new tools; it’s a new language. Blog, Wiki, Ning, Voicethread, podcast, Wordle, glog, mash-up; tweeter, and those are just a few of the nouns. How many of them do you know? How many of them do you use? How many of them do you know how to initiate? And wait until you hear the verbs.

I’m willing to make the effort, where can I get some training? My school is making a big investment to equip all classes with interactive whiteboards and projectors. Cool. We’ve been trained how to hook the computer, whiteboard and projector together. That’s it.  Not one shred of training how to create on the whiteboard, how to use its unique capabilities, how to plan a lesson incorporating their use. With budget cuts, a lot of training planned his been pulled off the table. Its like buying someone a car, handing them the keys and saying “Figure out how to drive the thing by your self.”

But can’t you learn about tech from that great Twitter PLN you rave about? I love my PLN and I have learned so much about tech from them. I’ve learned the language. I know where all the parts of that car are and all their names. But that’s as far as it goes. I can’t learn to drive by correspondence course.

Okay, but there are teachers who won’t warm-up to new tech even with training. What about them? Some of those teachers are afraid of failing, of looking stupid in front of their students. They know how tough schools are when it comes to failure or looking stupid. There are also others who don’t care and will never change. My friend Paul Blogush says we should let them go extinct. I agree.

Another friend asked why teachers can’t use tech as easily as we use texts.

We’ve had centuries of reading and 50 years of textbooks. We’ve had five years of tech (though Ira Socol says slates and chalk are tech, just old tech, we all know what I mean, right?).

When we’ve had tech as long as we’ve had textbooks we won’t be having this discussion.

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10 Responses to Teachers & Tech, Today, Tomorrow, or When?

  1. Russ Goerend says:

    This is my second year as a teacher and my first with a textbook. I have no idea what I’m doing with it. I’m much more comfortable creating my own lessons — which usually use some sort of digital technology. Problem is that the textbook has many more ideas — and they’re much more put-together than mine — so I go back to the textbook.

    It takes time to learn new things. It also takes commitment, effort, and buy-in. What teachers need to buy-into is *not* digital technology; they need to buy-into doing what is best for their students no matter what that is.

  2. Bill Chapman says:

    The only thing I will contend is your last sentence. I began teaching in 1970 and have seen and embraced many new technologies over the years. It seems as if each one triggered the same debate we had this evening on Twitter’s Edchat. Technology development shows no signs of ceasing, and neither does the debate about whether and how to use it in the classroom.

  3. Barbara Day says:

    Well said! I’m excited about the things I’m doing with my class re: tech but, sometimes when I’m in the middle of a lesson (like earlier today) and the website won’t load or some connection isn’t connecting, I wonder why I’m doing this. I’m always struggling to understand how things work, or what the language means. The thing is, the kids are excited and engaged, and once you open the door to trying technology in the classroom, you can’t shut it out. When I look back, I’m pretty amazed by how much my instruction has changed in just a few short months.

  4. Pam Cranford says:

    I loved the entire truth that you spoke, but that final line was a knockout. Thank you for writing this post.

  5. Hadass Eviatar says:

    My favourite definition of tech is something that was invented after you turned 12 years old ;-).

    SMART does have online tutorials, I think … that might be one way to learn how to do some things.

    But you are totally right. It takes TIME. Once these things are as familiar as cars and telephones, people will use them as creatively as they do anything else.

  6. Michael J says:

    My takeaways from yesterday’s edchat are similar to yours.

    For me the crux of the issue is “Some of those teachers are afraid of failing, of looking stupid in front of their students.” and “But you are totally right. It takes TIME.”

    I think that one path is to “use what you got, to get what you need.”

    What I “need” in a classroom is to get students to ask a question. Then be able to respond almost immediately with another question that gets the student to ask another question.

    What you also “need” is to keep track of what all the students are doing, so that they will gradually come to realize that you “know who they are” on the basis of “what they do.”

    But the enemy is Time. My take is that the decision rule for implementing any new tool is “does it save teacher time or does it waste teacher time.”

    Any tool only makes sense to meet a need. Focusing on the tech is a distraction. It’s as if carpenters spent lots of energy arguing about which hammer to use, instead of taking whatever is “at hand” and driving home the nail.

  7. [...] A teacher lists the many difficulties of getting older teacher to use newer technology. [...]

  8. Jack205 says:

    Yeah a connection will be lost and a page won’t load all the time. Your just have to be prepared to teach out of the book. You cannot rely on the technology to help you so much. The book work still needs to be done. And I have to completely agree with Bill’s last sentence. There is no stopping the progression of technology. The only thing that one can do is embrace it or reject. You can go either way as long as you are getting the information and material across to the students.

  9. Hi,
    I’m also one of the old ‘new’ teachers and I totally agree with you and your friend about the ones who don’t care and won’t change. If only we had that power to make that specie go extinct.
    Eva

  10. jlewicky says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for your blog. It’s good to see that people are still passionate about teaching. I’m glad I found you through Twitter.

    Your blog has touched me for many reasons, mostly because I have a son with special needs, and his teachers are my heroes. To that end, I left you a present on my blog – I’ve nominated you for the Lemonade Stand Award. To accept, you must comply with the following conditions:
    – Put the Lemonade logo on your blog or within your post. You can lift it off my blog (http://jonsmomblog.com).
    – Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude.
    – Link the nominees within your post.
    – Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
    – Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

    Please accept the award. I can’t wait to see and follow the people you give it to.

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