Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is it alright to be a technologically illiterate teacher?

I recently read Learning from the Met: Teachers as Digital Learners from The Tempered Radical by Bam Bam Bigelow. Here are some things that stood out to me (but you can get more if you read the original article). My thoughts are in italics below each item.

1. "Every year, MetLife churns out an impressive report titled Survey of the American Teacher. Based on one-to-one interviews with 1,000 classroom teachers, 1,000 students and 500 principals, this year's survey---released yesterday and available online here---"documents current attitudes, examines trends and considers future implications" influencing teaching and learning in the American classroom… "

This was a very interesting survey so if you get a chance to read it, please do and notice the trends that are noticeable.

2." The results of the survey, however, were not terribly surprising: Teachers just plain haven't embraced digital forums for personal growth. "

I think teachers are cautious and have seen too many fad programs out there. I think sometimes many feel this digital world is just another fad that will disappear over time. Unfortunately I think they are wrong because I don’t feel this is going to go away. And the longer we stick out heads in the sand and ignore this new world, the further disconnected we will get.

3. "While I can understand the conflict that American teachers feel about these tools----we talk about how important it is to find ways to learn with technology while districts ban any kind of communication between teachers and students in social networking forums and suspend teachers for poor judgment in their personal communication----these kinds of trends should concern everyone who cares about education. "

Teachers should be encouraged to explore these tools and figure out ways to teach our students digital citizenship. By learning how to use the tools and ways it can improve our lives, we can help the students use them responsibly too. I believe that when the automobile first came out, that society frowned on the use of them when young people used them irresponsibly. Then eventually we started to teach our young people how to drive responsibly (Driver’s Education classes came about). The automobile wasn’t going to go away and neither is technology.

4. "Here's why: Because our students have embraced digital forums: I've always been taught that responsible educators try to tailor learning experiences that align with the interests and motivations of their audiences simply because increased levels of motivation most often result in increased levels of learning. If that's true, then digital forums for communication and growth simply must begin to find a home in the American classroom."

When educators refuse to learn digital forums for communication and growth, it is like showing up at school today with a horse and buggy because you refuse to learn how to drive. The world is constantly changing and educators need to be able to look at the big picture and see the changes that are coming. We need to be the “go to” people for our students and not the “left behind” people.

5. He then goes on to ask, “Is it alright to be a technologically illiterate teacher?”

Absolutely not. I think that teachers need to take the initiative in learning more about technology. I know teachers have heard about blogs and things like Twitter since it is all in the news. If they don’t know what these are, they need to find out about them and see how they can use them. I read blogs daily in order to stay current on education topics and learn about other tools that are out there for the classroom. By reading blogs, I get inspired and motivated to try new things. By joining Twitter, and Plurk, I have developed a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) that offers support and encouragement when I need it. I have been able to bounce ideas off of others immediately and get feedback on these ideas. I have grown so much professionally by being around other educators and learning from them. As an educator, we need to constantly grow professionally so we don’t become stagnant. It is not acceptable to be technologically illiterate anymore. I feel it is also impossible to be this way and still be a successful teacher.

Original image: 'Students working on class assignment in computer lab' by: Michael Surran


Eric Turner said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I am retired military (I spent 21 years in military intelligence) and a current history/education student with four children. I can recall clearly back in the late 80s when computers hit the military, thinking that it was a "fad" and would go away! Boy was I wrong!! Since that time, I have seen technology move intelligence forward. I have seen intelligence use "chat rooms," message boards, Video-teleconferencing (video chat in essence) to discuss intelligence findings. I have seen 3-D fly-throughs of strategic locations and such. Technology is large and in charge.

While in college, I have seen the current young students use technology in ways we as kids, would have NEVER thought about using things. Technology makes things so much more versatile and powerful. There is absolutely no parallel to the past regarding it. They are more likely to be texting across campus then actually using the phone. I use MS One-note to take classes (on my laptop) and can automatically cross-reference to my other notes in that class.

Finally, my kids range in age 4-12 and they are fairly technologically savvy. My 12 yr old just started keeping a blog and my daughter is asking to (10yrs). I think blogging is a great way for kids to improve literacy and comprehension as well as writing (of course.)

One last thing, I don't know where I found it, could have been this website, but it was a great video about how kids are using technology.

I especially appreciate the analogy of experimenting with technology like people experiment with science. If teachers aren't willing to change their style and integrate technology in their curriculum and methodology, and not just passively (using MS PPT to throw notes up on a whiteboard), but actively using it to further education, then they will be left behind.

A few years ago I saw a young high school student post a message on Facebook. She said that if teachers were smart, they would be using Facebook, because that's the only book she's opening.

Sorry for the long comment. This is something that is near and dear to my heart. Technology will be an integral part in my classroom. Being retired and having the extra income I will purchase the technology myself if the school system won't. As teachers we have to meet the students on their turf. Their world is nothing but technology while we are still trying to show up to school (as you say) in a horse and buggy.

Bill Graziadei, Ph.D. (e)Learning Consultant said...

OK here goes, I don't agree with the idea that 'every' teacher needs to use technology that is referred to here. I do strongly agree that they need to find out about them and see how they can/might use them; but, only if it serves the purpose of what they are trying to accomplish in educating their students in their classroom in that subject matter.

However, if and when a student learns and uses IT from other teachers (that will happen) then a teacher that might not be using IT should welcome the 'use' by the student when used in an appropriate manner for the subject matter at hand.

Yes, teachers need to stay current on education topics and at a minimum learn about technology tools that are out there for possible use in their classroom, just in case it helps them deliver a better approach to learning the subject at hand. Only then should they use IT. A teacher must discover IT for her/himself, if it's to be meaningful to the student and learning. There is too much 'hype' out their to clutter up learning any more than it already is.

joangee said...

Teaching and being techno-illiterate? Having spent years teaching myself skills to use; it worries me to think there might still be folk in education who are techno "Luddites".

Emily said...

I think you make a good point in mentioning that we as teachers must become technologically literate in order to better understand how are students are using technology. It is important we strive to be ahead of our students rather than being comfortable left behind

Travis said...

Is it okay for a teacher to be technologically illiterate? Yes. In the grand scheme is it best? Probably not. Can a teacher teach without technology and have students who learn. Yes.

What do we define as technology? Is an overhead technology? A pencil?

But more to the point of the post, and a point that has an almost obvious answer--no. Teachers as a group entity cannot exist without technology knowledge. Teachers need to grow with the available resources, adapting to the students.

Given the way that the world communicates, or even the way that a community can interact--vidcasts and podcasts are wonderful instructional tools; the internet is limitless; and technology is more than a word processing program.

loonyhiker said...

Thanks to everyone for this wonderful conversation! I think it is one that we need to continue to have and think about. I'm not sure we will be able to come to a solution but without conversation, I know we will never even try.