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.