Thursday, September 20, 2007

Technology in Education- Part3

The New Path

I have recognized my failure but I decided I could not accept that I was doomed to a predetermined destiny of failure. I am not going to give up, and I will do what I believe is right for my students. I have the ability and the desire to transform not only myself but the environment that I work in. It only made sense if I looked at things differently and took the, “George Costanza Approach.” Basically, it is the opposite of whatever I have done in the past. My logic is, if everything I did in the past was a failure, then I can’t repeat what I did if I want to succeed.

The kids are the most important part of this equation, so I am going to do my best to be there for them- all of them. I worked hard on making the trickle down technique work, but the students didn’t benefit. So now I am focusing my energy on the students. I will be switching my attention from one side of the building one week to the other side the following week. When I am in the lab, teachers can watch, participate- at my direction, or get out of the way. It is certainly not the most diplomatic way to do things, but the previous way was a complete failure and I need to distance myself from that path or I risk falling into the same trap. The object here is for me to give the students the best possible technology learning experience and model what teachers should be doing.

When a class enters the lab, they become my class. They are entering my world. I believe that a positive experience in the lab is their right, not a privilege. Behavior problems before the lab are erased. Computer lab time will not be used as a tool for punishment or making up missed work. A teacher can come to the lab and become a student if that is what they wish. They can work with us as we use technology, or prepare for an upcoming lesson using technology. What I don’t want is a teacher who sits in the corner correcting Billy because he is not focused on what is going on. She is then not learning anything, not helping with instruction, and only creating a distraction for me. I am perfectly capable of handling any class on my own.

I think that I have the technology skills and teaching ability to make take this stance. I taught kindergarten for 8 years and have worked with every kind of student imaginable. I have been a computer resource specialist for almost 10 years. I have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. If these experiences don’t allow me to handle the most rowdy class there is and teach them something, I don’t know what will. My position is that I am not demanding any more respect from my teachers than I give to them. When I enter their classroom I try not to be a distraction. I just want the same amount of respect.

Teachers are a second on my hierarchy of concerns. That doesn’t mean that I have forgotten them or don’t care about their needs. I know what they need and I am trying to show them what they should be doing. I am demanding that they become active in the lesson planning process and I am calling them out for not participating. I can adapt on the fly to almost any instructional challenge. Teachers, however, do not have the skills, or the network permissions, to successfully pull off such a feat. Planning is optional. My theory on this is that if a teacher feels it is a waste of time, or if she has more important things to do, she is entitled to that decision. Her students will benefit from that planning time and she will at least know what is going on with everyone else. The teacher who doesn’t plan will not know what is available for her to do. The computers are not loaded with all of the software that they have had in the past. I am loading the software as I go because it takes time away from other instructional needs to do it all at once, and because it forces teachers to discuss with me what it is they plan to do in the lab.

My devotion to the students will certainly take up most of my time, but I have found that my public exposure has increased, allowing me to interact with many more teachers. Many things will still be left undone. There is simply not enough time in the day for one person to do everything. I work non stop at school, but the work is never ending. I want to do it all but I have a life outside of the building, and a family that needs me. I will remain in constant motion every hour of every day while I am at work, but that will still not be enough to do it all.

My new approach is more “in your face.” Not on purpose, but sometimes honesty is confrontational. I am no longer going to try and paint a smiley face on everything. If someone is going to talk to me using direct language, they should be prepared for the same type of response. I will question people about how they are using technology and offer my help. I will demand that there is communication about their personal technology efforts. If someone wants me to do something that they are capable of doing, they need to understand that my response will be to show them how to do it. Otherwise, I will refuse to be a part of it. If I see effort, I will match that effort, but I can not do everything for everyone. It is not possible even if that is what I wanted. I know, because I learned this the hard way.

Last past week I worked with every kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade class. It was exhausting, and more fun than I had all of last year put together. I felt like I accomplished something. The kids wanted me there and I made a positive step in keeping them safe on the Internet. That is a feeling that I don’t want to lose. This week I worked with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes. I was every bit as tired as the week before, but it was great. I loved it, but more importantly, the students loved it.

My lessons are infused with my love of technology, SOL objectives, and fun. The experiences are kind of like controlled chaos. Noise all by itself is not bad. Sharing with peers the excitement of learning is much more meaningful to a child than an adult sharing the same information. A quiet lab full of children is indescribably creepy to me.

I have shared my new philosophy with teachers this week, and last week, and I must say people are not quite sure what is going on. I do care about all of the teachers, but my primary interest is in serving the students. I have been told that this is not going to make me popular with my staff. First of all, I would need to question if I have ever been popular, and then I would need to ask, if I was popular, why? Was it because I was the “Technology Gopher?” The person who would do anything for you if you smiled and gave him cookies? If I was popular for that reason, I don’t want that anymore.

I am not sure how everything is going to turn out. There is much more to instructional technology than what happens in the computer lab, but I have to start somewhere that I can control. Right now, I am flying by the seat of my pants. But it is a start…

Tomorrow Part4- Personal Impact


amanda205 said...

Hi there...I was searching the internet and came acrossed you blog. I am currently a college senior and enrolled in a education technology course at my university and have been told to explore blogs where people are living the experience of using technology in the classroom. I have read through your comments and do believe you have some good points of how to use lab time and how teachers need to be just as involved and the lab time should not be used as punishment or to make up work but only as productive time. When I was in school I had so many labs where I just goofed off and the teacher was no help cause they didn't know what the heck was going on. This lead to me going to college not even knowing basics like excel or word. I have been forced to learn these on my own because most schools do not take technology time seriously. Keep up the good work and I commend you for standing by your technology convictions.

Al said...

I love it! Someone is reading my blog and sharing meaningful information. Thank you for your comments amanda205. You have made my week!

amanda205 said...

No problem. I will be visiting your blog often as it was made for my class =0). We are learning about all types of online learning and what is the best way to complete online learning for students.

Anonymous said...

That story about you and your wife is soooo cute. I think I would end up killing my husband if we worked together. =0). What grades do you both teach? How long have you been teaching? Is your school implementing more technology than most schools in your area? Do you find as a staff member you are provided with proper training on new technologies? Thanks.



Al said...

I am a computer resource specialist and my wife is a special education teacher. I have been teaching for 17 years- started as a Kindergarten teacher. I don't think they we are implementing more technology than other schools, but we do have quite a bit of new stuff every year. I know that training is a problem- training is offered but it is often optional- and everyone opts out... I am glad you enjoy my little blog. :-) Al