An interesting thread of late has been the reaction to the Technology and Learning mag column by Jim Holland titled “When Teachers Don’t Get It: Myths, Misconceptions and other Taradiddle.” You can get the gist from the title. Let’s just say it’s not very understanding of teacher laments about being asked to implement technology. And Doug Johnson has a great response as to why Holland is all wrong.
My goals as a teacher are to make sure my students master the curriculum and pass state tests. My job depends on me meeting these goals. Until technology skills are either a part of our standards or are tested, they will remain a means to an end, not the end itself, as much as this may disappoint you. And until technology proves more efficient or effective than traditional methods in helping me meet these goals, it will be a method I may in good conscience choose not to employ.
Obviously, this is more complex than just teachers should or teachers shouldn’t, but I think in general, the whole conversation kind of misses the boat. This issue is systemic. And now that the technologies create as much transparency as they do, it’s even more about vision and leadership (or lack thereof.)
I make a point in my presentations to say to teachers that they probably are not going to get much support from their school leaders if they decide to implement these technologies, that if they feel the tools can potentially help their kids learn more, they may have to be subversive about bringing them into the classroom. It’s not a comfortable pitch to make, but in a lot of cases it’s easier to start the conversation after you have something to show rather than before. There have only been a handful of instances that I know of where these types of technologies have flowed from (not dictated) from above rather than below.
Obviously, I think that needs to change. We need to create ecologies at our schools that support the use of these tools by everyone, not just a few “radical” teachers. And support means that just like teachers should invest in and model effective learning using technology for their kids, school leaders should invest in and model effective learning using technology for their teachers. I’m not saying that every teacher in the profession is motivated to create or even capable of creating positive outcomes with technology. Nor is every administrator. But until we begin create transparent, collaborative, connective workplaces, until we support the practice of teaching with technology from top to bottom, we’re never going to get anywhere.
And, if past history is any indication, it’s going to be hard slogging. For 100 years, there have been huge pressures NOT to change, both on the part of teachers and administrators. The mountains that anyone has to scale to effect change, even incremental, are enormous. Right now, it feels like this community is trying to model effective learning using technology for whatever audience will listen. Sure, we’re just flailing away. We don’t have any answers. And we need more voices in this discussion about what schools should be becoming. We need more disparate voices too, or at least I do. (New Year’s resolution #34: get out of the echo chamber more often.) But we’re putting our ideas and experiences out there which is risky for some. And maybe because we can and we do, we can build the momentum. I hope so, because to me at least, the alternative isn’t very appealing.
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