Technology is everywhere and what many people may not realize is how integrated it is becoming in our personal life, not just in our homes, work, and doctor’s office. People are seemingly integrating technology more and more into their daily lives-all you have to do is Google average time in front of a screen and you will receive a litany of facts, figures, and studies. The question begs to be asked, why isn’t this happening in the classroom? Why are teachers not integrating more and more technology. To be fair, teaching has come a long way since the early 1990’s. E-mail, electronic gradebooks, and more integration has probably (I say “probably” because I’m not sure if a study has been done about this) led to a dramatic increase in school/teacher/parent communication. This is a good thing (parental engagement anyone). Even with this great improvement, when you go into a classroom there doesn’t seem to be much tech integration in the teaching and learning process. Why is this? I have got some ideas on the topic as you might guess. So read on past the break, agree or disagree and then leave a comment or four. Omar and I feel lonely without comments 😦
Idea Numero Uno: Fear of the Future
OK, this is more of a myth than an idea and I seem to hear this bantered around pretty frequently. If you haven’t heard it, let me enlighten you. Teacher So-and-So doesn’t use technology because So-andSo doesn’t know how to use it and is afraid. This maybe true in some very rare cases, but come on people. You are trying to tell me that a teacher, who stands up in front a room of children nearly 200 days a year, has to answer to principals, superintendents, and parents is afraid of using a computer lab with his student’s? Teacher So-and-So probably already uses e-mail, facebook, and other gadgets, programs, and doo-hickies on a daily basis. It just seems a little preposterous, especially when programs are becoming more and more friendly. To me, this just doesn’t hold water.
Idear Numero Dos: The Time Vampire
This one I have experienced, seen it happen to others, and can actually identify it in most cases. It is the dreaded Time Vampire. The Time Vampire is an activity or event (sometimes a person can carry this label) who seems to suck your most valuable commodity, time, out of your day. This is a little more believable. Teachers work their arses off and learning a new program can really take some serious time. Take a look at Photoshop. I have spent hours upon hours on a single project that spans over multiple days only to realize I screwed up on day one and need to start over. Yet with a little research and some help from your friendly neighborhood techie you will soon see that many of the web 2.0 programs (many are free by the way) are actually quite easy to use and require very little time to learn. Look at Animoto. So if your big hang up is the dread Time Vampire, do a little weekend research, ask your local techie (heck even e-mail me) and start exploring the possibilities!
Idea Numero Tres: Failure is not an Option!
OK my good people, it is secret time. I am afraid of failing at most anything. Video games, sack races, eating hot dogs against Kobiyashi, and staring contests with my visually impaired friend Omar. This idea of trying something, only to have it blow up in your face, is never a good feeling, and as teachers we have all planned lessons that have totally fallen apart and that feeling is truly terrible. So how does one confront, deal with, and ultimately conquer this fear? Time and diligence.
My first year I suffered failure after failure and even questioned my choice to join the profession of education. I stuck with it and here I am a competent teacher who is striving to become an excellent teacher. I didn’t just not give up, I relied heavily on the experience and guidance of teachers around me. This is what led me to become a tech teacher. In my mind it is the ultimate risk. You are dealing with so many aspects that are out of your control that disaster can strike at any time. Scary, yes, exciting, yes, but it always keeps me on my toes and challenges me. That is why I love being a technology teacher and why I never plan for failure (who does that). I know it will happen eventually and I will deal with it, reflect on what went wrong, and learn from it. Don’t let this dread of failure keep you from trying a little tech integration. Plan it thoroughly, talk to teachers who are integrating at your school and share your ideas with them, and then give it the old college try.
Idea Numero Quatro de Fromaggi: The Psychological Approach
Now before you get all impressed, this part of the post was inspired by a Lifehacker post (found here) written by Kevin Purdy and then by a post he refers to from the blog Fast Company written by Dan Heath. Anyway, the posts deals with the difficulty of real change and it just seemed to fit. Read on and then let me know what you think.
In his post, Dan Heath talks about why change is so hard, and changing from traditional teaching techniques to technology integration is a big change. Dan mentions that change takes an enormous amount of self control. So what does this have to do with teachers in particular? As teachers we are bombarded with constant change from changes in the daily schedule for assemblies to district wide new initiatives. You might be asking yourself “SO?” Well Heath goes on to explain that these changes require self control to follow through with them and that people (you, me, Steve) all have a limited amount. It gets used up and can leave one exhausted and craving comfortable, familiar routines. I think you see where this explanation is heading. It makes sense doesn’t it? As teachers, even the best teachers, sometimes become exhausted. So, how does one avoid this. My suggestion is to use the support of your colleagues. If someone has done this already, then have them walk you through it. Research and plan thoroughly-there is just no substitution to covering all the angles, and go slowly. If you’re trying to integrate Photoshop and it starts to become a little too much, look for an alternative.
Technology integration is important, you want to make sure you do it right and have a good experience. Remember, if it is completely unenjoyable for you as a teacher, you probably won’t do it again (think about drinking orange juice just after you brushed your teeth). So there you have it. I may be wrong about each and everyone, but I won’t know until you leave a comment. So, go ahead and knock yourself out with those comments.