Sunday, March 11, 2012

You Can't Cure Bad Teaching With Cool Gadgets: 3 Reasons Why Even Great Teachers Fumble with New Technology

     OK, my title may be harsh, but you can't deny its truth, and a great blog I just read suggested I be brutally honest- and have numbers in my blog title. (It really was it here)   After I read that great blog, I vowed MY next blog would follow Marilyn's sage advice, and that it would be about how technology - in itself - will not save, reform, or even change education, no matter how much those who make money from it (Mr. Gates, Mr. Zuckerberg, and whomever is now getting Mr. Job's share) and those who hope it's the easy way out (school administrators, education reformers, politicians, et al) think, hope and pray it will.

   One of my previous posts, The Why Question, discussed in part, the trend of districts rushing to adopt new technology because of the "cool factor", without thoughtful planning the why and how they would use the technology they were buying, with disastrous results.  This blog dives into 3 reasons even the greatest teachers often fail when we dump new technology into their classrooms, how poor teaching isn't helped at all by it, and what we should do instead.

1.  Adding technology doesn't really mean "adding" something.
The most common complaint I hear from even excellent classroom teachers is "You want me to do something else...I don't have time for all the stuff I'm suppose to do now!"  No, I don't want you to do something else...I want you to do what you're doing now...differently.  If putting a piece of technology into a classroom means you're suddenly doing something additional you're doing it wrong.  Technology is a tool, like a pencil or a piece of chalk, that should be used like one.  The iPad fad that is causing such a tizzy in classrooms across the US right now is doing so because teachers are trying to add it to their already overcrowded day rather than figuring out how to use it to enhance the things they already do.  A tool by definition should make our work take less time, or less effort, or do the job better in another way, or it's not doing its job and we shouldn't use it.  Figure out how to do the things you already want the students to do, with the new technology tool.  Start there, let everyone get comfortable, and then branch out into one new project that stretches everyone's creativity and comfort.  Learn together.  More thoughts on that here.

2.  Technology is disruptive.
"I can't have (insert technology device name here) in my room.  The kids know more about it than I do".  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What I've learned about the students in my ten-plus years in educational technology is that they know more about entertainment technology than most educators, but that those skills are generally not the ones employers want.  In fact, those are the ones employers complain about and block on employee computers.  So, while our students can sure download songs to their iPods, and get around Angry Birds and Facebook on their cellphones while they surf the 'net, those things aren't helping when they bring their cruddy, misspelled, poorly formatted resumes to the job fair.  The advantage the students do have over educators is that they are not AFRAID of the the technology.  They aren't skittish to click, try, drag, experiment, and fail and start over like the staff are, and that is their biggest strength.  They don't want a manual or tutorial or to wait for instructions or training, they want to explore and play and create and try.  The classroom teacher's challenge then, is classroom management and structuring that excitement, and if you don't have that, you're toast!

3.  Technology projects take time.
Every teacher who gets some type of new technology in their classroom does the same thing.  Plans a ginourmous (yes, that's a word) project using the new technology and announces they will present it to the Board of Ed right before either Spring Break or Graduation.  The same thing always's never finished.  Why, because it's new technology to the teacher, the students, the school.  The project's too big, and time consuming, and the software they need isn't compatible, and the technicians are on vacation, and the star of the video they're creating gets chicken pox, and the class hamster dies.  The moral of this story.  Start slow, and small, and private.  Learn how it all works and get the bugs out first.  It takes twice as much time as you think, and the first time nothing works right.  If it did, no one in IT would have a job, and IT's a big business - I know, I've been doing it for 10+ years.  Need some pointers?  Read this.

Out on a Whim,

No comments:

Post a Comment