Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Technology in Education- Part2

My Mistakes

I have been a computer resource specialist at my elementary school for almost 10 years. I have always believed that throwing a happy face on everything makes people want to embrace technology. Being helpful and nice encourages teachers to try new technology experiences. Show them how technology makes life better, or how technology makes teaching subject matter easier, and their own desire for improvement will take over. Then there will be no stopping them. I pictured myself like some sort of cheerleader shouting out the window of a train, “Come on everybody! Jump on the technology train to Happyland!” Then the train pulls out of the station and I am the only passenger.

I have had it all wrong. Non-native technology users don't want technology. They use it because they have to, and there is little pleasure associated with the experience. These uncomfortable users want things to return to where they have been for years, books, paper, pencil, or if you are real careful, a pen. They like chalkboards, and dry erase markers are acceptable, if they have to use it, but they don't like them because they smell funny like a new car. There is nothing wrong with these tools. They serve a purpose and should be used to teach SOLs and beyond, but now there are many more tools that must be used. The difference is that our children must know how to the new tools. The future depends on it.

I have always believed the truth in the proverb, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” It is basically what every teacher works for everyday; to provide for the student’s future and make them prepared for the world.

In effect, my past philosophy of putting a happy face on technology and doing things for people, has only served as negative re-enforcer for both me and my staff. I tried to always be helpful and upbeat about things, and they would always ask me for even the simplest of tasks. I would do what needed to be done, and they would never learn what they should have been doing on their own. So the codependent relationship would continually cycle, year after year. I would fish, and they would eat the fish.

Learning is difficult, but when the light bulb finally goes off, the eureka moment is spectacular. Our students know this, they may never say so, but they like to learn. They experience this sensation all the time because everything is new, exciting and worth discovering. Adults don't often see learning this way, because we get paid to work, not learn. Doing a job faster doesn't mean slowing down to learn a different, or possibly a better way of doing something. You must take a minute to learn to fish before you can feed yourself.

I can easily see both sides to this problem. From the teacher's perspective- Why do what someone else can do better and faster than yourself? From my old point of view- Keep people happy and they might adopt some of this new technology. But I had it all wrong, because this is a never ending cycle. The teachers don’t learn, the students don’t get better instruction, and I become more upset.

The problem is that my job is to help the students and the teachers to use technology. I concentrated on the teachers thinking the "trickle down effect," would work. My school is large and it is not possible to be with every class, every week. I concentrated on lesson plans for teachers and keeping everything running smoothly. I assisted with minor technical problems and supported the teacher’s needs. All of these are legitimate things, but behind the scenes activities. Ultimately, I found that the trickle down effect doesn’t work if people use umbrellas.

I tried to concentrate on training the teachers, but no one came to training. I tried to plan, but only a couple of grade levels would really make an effort to attend. I worked hard to come up with a program to promote and recognize the use of technology. I called it the "Technology Star Program." After a month or so I realized that it was joke to everyone, except me. I could not understand what was going on. I was working hard but nothing I did had any impact. I was on a road to nowhere, traveling at top speed. I could not grasp that you can not teach people to fish if you keep supplying them with fish.

Then it all became painfully clear to me. One day, I was in a meeting with teachers planning for technology instruction. There was some general chattering about this and that, when one teacher says something to the effect, "I am going to go back to school so I can be a CRS and sit around and do nothing all day." Of course, she was "joking," in that way when you say the truth with such emphasis that everyone has to know you couldn't possibly be serious. I think it is called sarcasm. Anyway, I knew at that moment that everything I had done to that point was for nothing. I had not helped anyone. I could have been digging ditches for all the real impact it had on instructional technology at my school using the trickle down theory. They only wanted my fish.

While I was not rocking the boat and trying to please everyone, I wasn't really making anyone happy, and whatever I did had no value to them. They only really cared if they got their ink or their password changed, and then they just wanted me to be out of the way. They would smile and agree with whatever technology talk spewed from my mouth, and then go right back to doing what they wanted. The worst part of all was that I knew I had failed the students. I was hurt and angry, but these emotions are wonderful motivators.

I had to create a new approach…


sheila.teri said...

Reality bites. Some teachers haven't jumped on the train and it's our students who are at a loss. Our students are "checking out" because our teachers are not "checking in" with 21st century learning. You're reacting to the struggles that CRSs face on a daily basis. We are right there with you!!!

Al said...

Another post! Yeah! I am glad that others are supporting me because I am not feeling the love right now.
Thanks Shelia!

kayakin.fool said...

I am with you Al. I have been gone for a week and I haven't had a chance to read your follow up (if there is one) yet. I will look forward to reading it, because I feel like I could use a "new approach" too...

Al said...

Thanks, kayakin.fool. I really am glad I begin this blog. It has been good for me to get these things out there and I love the fact that people are responding.
Thanks for taking the time!