When I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress last summer I mistakenly assumed that all posts would seamlessly transfer. I have since found the error in my thinking and have decided to re-post some of my more discussed posts. This post first appeared in February of 2012 but still rings true to me.
I once sat on an interview committee in which the candidate proudly proclaimed that to integrate technology her students would use word processors and publish their work in a monthly book. My toes instantly curled. It wasn’t so much that she had used the words “word processor” but rather that she thought tech integration meant to have students type on a computer and then publish their work, that that would make them ready for this century of jobs. So a couple of things come to mind whenever we discuss tech integration in schools.
Students have often more seamlessly integrated technology into their lives than their teachers and didn’t even need to take a class on it. We chalk this up to them being digital natives or because they have an interest in it. Yet not all children are digital natives and most of them have had role models that show how to use the technology. They also know that tech is valuable and can add to their lives rather than detract from something else. And then there is the fearlessness, many students are simply not afraid to mess around with tech, but many adults are. It is time for us to be role models in our own fearlessness.
Some teachers assume that clicking on a SmartBoard or having students type their papers mean that they are “integrating” tech. This is one very limited usage of tech, in fact, it doesn’t really count as integration. Better integration is when a student decides to film a video to show off learning rather than create a poster. True integration is when students have ideas and fearlessness to use technology to show their learning as a natural extension of the classroom. Not to type a paper.
There seems to be no urgency when it comes to actual technology integration into the classroom, but more of an urgency on how to buy the flashiest gadgets and then offer limited training or support. How often do we hear about a district that has spent too much money on 30 SmartBoards, 100 iPads and how they will be placed in the hands of the students to enhance their learning? How often do we then hear about the support they will offer their teachers or how those products will actually be used to enhance learning? There seems to be an assumption that if you give it to teachers they will use it effectively, which we all know is not true. Some teachers might, but most will use it superficially and after a while the product will languish, unused, outdated, and just another relic of someone’s hastily thought out idea.
Some teachers feel that integrating technology is optional. Integrating technology is no more optional than teaching how to use a pencil. And while many may find that extreme, we cannot equip our students with the skills they need to be successful learners and teachers without teaching them to use technology properly. Many schools see typing as a necessity but then cannot bring that view into how to stay safe on the internet, how to search properly on a computer, and myriads of other things that technology can offer us. How to use computers effectively is now a life-skill and as teachers it is our job to equip students with these.
Teachers who have been labeled “techie” teachers are sometimes viewed as a one-trick pony, that is all they are passionate about and therefore they cannot possibly have an effective classroom. I certainly am one of the techie-teachers in my district but many are surprised at how little we use tech on a day to day basis. That is not to say we don’t use it, because we do, but we also do many other things. In fact, using a tech tool is just one option my students have to show their learning. What I do practice is fearlessness in tech usage and that I pass on to my students. Not that they always need to use some sort of tool, we use our pencils more than a computer, but that they can effectively use whatever whenever they need to.
Teachers think they have a choice in their classroom. I am sorry but the choice should not be teachers’ anymore; every school should have an effective technology integration curriculum to offer students the skills they need. We do not have a choice in teaching literacy or math and should not be given one when it comes to technology. This is not about what WE want the kids to know but what the KIDS need to know.
And I am sure I could continue the list, however, these are my main concerns. We cannot afford to not focus on proper technology integration in our schools. It is not about the gadgets, it is not about the typing, it is how to use technology tools fearlessly, respectfully, and effectively. All things every teachers should be teaching, no excuses.