I was running through my Google Reader this morning when I came across this post from Scott McLeod. Actually, it's more like a question for reflection than a post.
Given the realities of our modern age and the demands of our children's future, is it really okay to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technologies into their instruction?
Of course, there are posts for and against the idea of teachers being required to use the technologies. What I found interesting was that no one answering seemed to have asked the teachers with whom they work what they thought. So, to see what the teachers in my building think, I emailed them the above question and am waiting for a response. I figure that we have come to realise that kids need to have input into education so why not realise that we need to ask teachers also. We may be surprised by the answers we get. We tend to ask this question and want an immediate response from teachers. "What do you need to incorporate more technology into your teaching?" without assuming that, at least for most, they are already using technology in some way. It might not be a computer or SmartBoard but it could be the use of overheads or the use of video. They might have students reading along to a cassette or following a DVD reading of a play. We get so caught up with "the computer" that we forget that technology comes in many forms. Because we don't value the others, teachers get overwhelmed and the resultant answer is "Time". Now, I've argued that time is a crucial factor, probably the largest factor, for teachers not using technology. But what do we do with the time? That is the million dollar question.
This made me wonder what was so hard about asking teachers the above question? Do we not want our schools to be teaching 21st century education and skills? How do we know what we are doing if we don't ask? I've read many a post where there is only one teacher in a school using technology while the rest of the school continues on, oblivious to what is happening in relation to technology. I also see where technology is just another set of tools used to assist students to help them with understanding and creating their responses. Although I think that we need to listen to teachers, we also have an obligation to give the students the best education that is possible. So how do we bridge the gap between want and need?
I may be someone you consider “an early adapter” but here is the thing, I am lousy with technology integration! Every attempt I make is met with roadblocks and stupid errors… I feel LD when it comes to technology integration… I use technology despite the strikes against me.
My biggest asset: I am not afraid to fail!
My biggest question: How do you teach that?
Visit my Math class and, despite my efforts, a wrong question is not seen as a learning opportunity but as a failure. Kids understand this when playing video games- so why can’t we get this to transfer to the classroom? (highlight mine)
As an administrator, this is the struggle that I would like all the teachers in my building to go through and I would be willing to become involved. Providing support for this teacher as they search and try, willing to fail in order to find success later. More importantly, Dave has made a connection between the entrenched right/wrong mentality of school and the successful learning for understanding that kids are applying in many other facets of their lives except school. Because schools are a reflections of the society of which they are a part, being right/wrong has become "most important", having finally reached that point in schools. However, while this is taking place in schools, we are seeing more and more the move away from this linear perspective in many sectors outside education. People like Daniel Pink are pointing out that we need to do more than just be best at getting it "right or wrong". We need to better at descerning shades of grey, helping others, giving to others and a host of other things that, until recently, were not overly important as societal issues. They have always been there but not at the magnitude that we are beginning to see now. As we move from this linear societal view, we will need people who can create and understand in ways we are not accustom.
As David points out " I am not afraid to fail!" is not something we can teach. It is something that we must model but this can only be done if we, as teachers, are willing to push ourselves outside the comfortable ruts/graves that we are in at the moment. So, do we need to have teachers integrating technology? My answer is, why not? What is keeping us from having that expectation? Do we take away their freedom of choice? No. They can select the technology they use, how to use it, what they will do and what they will accomplish by using it. Does it have to be big? No but they must use it. It will be our role to provide the necessary supports to help them. For many, it will be the time necessary to cope with the change. In fact, as my grade 9 social class has found, change is not the problem but it is accepting the change that creates the discomfort because it forces society to review their priorities and that is not something done easily.
As I wrap up this post, I wonder why school systems are so resistant to bringing in technology. I wonder why teachers become so bothered by having to learn new ways of doing things if they are, in fact, models of life-long learners. I question why we can't ask teachers, as a collective, to begin using technology. In Canada, we asked them to bring in the metric system and teach it, no questions asked. As a literacy, is not having technological literacy not an important skill for now, never mind the future? As I haul my laptop from class to class, taking notes, recording events, I see this as no different than hauling a notebook to do the same. It is becoming less of a noticeable thing but I still have no other teachers using a laptop on a regular basis. (It is my own laptop, not supplied by the division - I've given that one to my Special Education teacher who, I thought, needed it more than me.)
As David points out " Visit my Math class and, despite my efforts, a wrong question is not seen as a learning opportunity but as a failure. Kids understand this when playing video games- so why can’t we get this to transfer to the classroom?"
It is this type of work where we need to bring more teachers into the fray by asking them about the whole right/wrong thing. So, not is it wrong but why? They have the problem solving skills but are just not transfering it. Why? In Education, why are mistakes still seen as failures? How do we change this? There are no easy answers. We are only just beginning to ask the questions. As educators, we are at the center of a debate about education and, like it or not, if we don't begin to adopt technologies and use them, we may end up left completely out by forfeit. For me that would be the greatest failure of all only because we are being asked but aren't sure how to answer. How would you respond to the question? Why?