Saturday, September 10, 2011

Are Teachers Anti-Technology?

Are teachers anti-technology?  I don't think so.  One of the primary responsibilities of teaching is to relate to students in your classroom.  If you think those earbuds in your student's ear are plugged into a magic little box that creates music out of the ether, well, you might not make it as a teacher.  My four year-old demonstrated the other day that he knows enough about computers to exit the Word document that I've failed to save in order to find his favorite games website for a little "Uphill Rush" in the afternoon.

My point is that a teacher who doesn't get technology is akin to the teacher who lets ink stain his or her shirt pocket, the one who still says "that's the bomb" when they want kids to think they're "hip", the male teacher who still wears mid-thigh shorts in the summer time.  Teachers must understand the world their students live in.  This doesn't mean yielding to every fad or fashion of the day, but if we are not at least involved enough to understand what influences our youth, we're likely not concerned enough about them to teach them well.

Still, we aren't the trendsetters.  Kids aren't taking their fashion cues from us.  Several years ago, students started prefacing every statement with the phrase "not gonna lie."  It was the new "like."  I thought it would be cool to start my own trend so I started saying things like "NGL, this is going to be the hardest quiz you'll ever take" and "you've got a low B right now, but NGL, if you get a good grade on this test it might bring you up to an A-."  I think they made fun of me for that.  I tried to tell them that everyone was saying it now because "not gonna lie" just took too long to get out.  They didn't believe me.

What does this have to do with anything you say?  Well, as a teacher, I must be immersed in the culture of technology as much, nearly as much, or maybe slightly more than my students.  If I'm too far ahead of the curve, most of them aren't going to follow.  A few months ago, I laughed with a colleague over the fact that when we were in high school, shorthand was still a class.  Our last post mentioned the Apple IIe from the 1980s.  Most adults, even as young as twenty years old, can look back with a little humor at how far we've come with technology since their high school days. 

So are teachers, anti-technology?  I don't think so.  I think most teachers are very willing to engage learners in new ways, taking risks from time to time for the sake of better teaching.  I think we're a little put out when our leaders promote the myth that technology will save money and solve so many of our problems in education.  We get tired of seeing that money is always available for new technology, but scarce in other areas.  We don't jump to use technology that just does what we've always done, except maybe a little faster or fancier.

Teacher/blogger, Larry Ferlazzo wrote a piece for Education Week earlier this week suggesting a checklist of sorts for whether he would consider using a particular technology in his classroom.

1) Does it take me less than one minute to learn the basics on how to use it?

2) Will it take less than one minute -- with guidance -- for my students to learn to also learn the basics on how to use it?

3) Does it provide a value-added benefit to student learning over a similar activity using basic classroom tools?

4) Is it a tool that I believe can be used regularly in class?
5) And, lastly, though being able to answer yes to the previous four questions usually outweighs a negative response to this one -- Can it make my life a little easier?

I like it.


  1. Thank you for a wonderful blog and post.

    This teacher is certainly not anti-technology. Rather, I would consider myself to be anti-anti-technology. During my time as an art teacher I worked in a school setting where technology, not to mention basic resources such as textbooks or pencils, were scarce. Today, I find myself in a new school that is simply bursting at the seams with technologically advanced devices and programs. Sadly, I am finding it much easier to relate to students in this new environment. Generally speaking, most students enjoy art class and love technology. Perhaps this new-found ease is the result of being able to offer students the best of both worlds?

    Whatever the case, my new students are getting to work with a better me. Because of technology, I am in tune to current teen trends, better organized, easily available to parents, and able to construct more exciting projects. More importantly, my students will leave my class better prepared for a technologically rich future making them better able to be strong contributing members of our society. So, I have to think, where will this put my former students in the world? How will they compete with a group of students afforded the luxury of learning in new and engaging technologically advanced ways? And, how do we create a level playing ground so that they may graduate into the same but accepting “real world”?

  2. Thanks for the feedback Mrs. V. I would be interested in what you and others think about "teaching" technology. Should teaching new technologies to students be a significant expectation of classroom teachers? Would it benefit students? Or should teachers merely be willing to make use of common technology in order to engage and perhaps enhance classroom learning?

  3. Great questions……

    While many teachers are comfortable teaching and using new technologies, there are still many who are not. Requiring classroom teachers to teach technology might just break a less than tech savvy yet still highly effective teacher. Schools do have options that will keep that highly effective teacher from pulling her hair out while still providing students with a technology rich experience. Been to any less than valuable professional development sessions lately? I certainly have. Why not replace a few of those with some technology for teachers courses? Such courses could be designed to fit the needs of a wide range of abilities thus easing the transition for our old-school colleagues. Simultaneously, schools should consider increasing the number of technology teachers on staff. I do not mean to replace that expert teacher but simply to provide aid or act as a co-teacher when it comes to technology. It is important to remember that each year new teachers are graduating from college with more evolved technology skills meaning that eventually this will no longer be an issue.

    Providing students with a technologically rich environment, including less common technologies, can capture the attention of diverse learners, build student confidence, and better prepare them to compete in the future job market. Furthermore, students enjoy the amount of creativity that many technologies allow which transfers into successful lessons.

    I would also love to know how others feel.