Thursday, February 14, 2008

A School That's Too High on Gizmos?

I recently read an article from the Washington Post that really hit home with me. I am certainly not the only person to comment on it (Will Richardson, Conservative Teacher, GenYes, Joanne Jacobs, and a Zillion Others) but the article is important to me because it illustrates the opposition that I face every day in my position as Computer Resource Specialist.

To sum the article up- a teacher is complaining because the staff of his brand new school are being forced into using technology for instructional purposes. They want to do what they have always done. In their eyes, the world has not changed. They feel that they are doing the best possible job using the traditional tools and don't want to be forced into changing.

Change is the important element here and how teachers, as well as school systems, handle change.

I think it is human nature that makes people avoid change, it is easier that way. Inside, I believe that we all say this- I can do what I did before, it was ok then, it will be ok now. Teachers have always been the vehicle of instruction. Stand in front of the class and pour out knowledge to the students. "Write down what I say, because it is important." Teaching with technology requires that teachers teach differently. This different way of teaching is a direct challenge to how teachers see themselves in the classroom. They are no longer the expert, but a learner and the technology is now seen as the vehicle for instruction. The teacher's role is diminished. Of course teachers will resist this educational technology change- right up until they retire, or they see the light.

I think as a rule, school systems handle change very badly. If the change can't be managed over a 10 year time frame, schools will not be able to adjust. Technology is changing much too rapidly for any school system to keep up, so school divisions tend to make leaps and jumps with the technology they put in schools. Funding does not supply a steady stream of techno-goodies into the classroom, and normally as soon as technology gets there, it is obsolete. Administrators somehow believe that technology purchases are finite. That this big purchase this year will solve all of our problems for the next few years. They are not eager to "dump" money into the bottomless pit of technology, year after year, so the spending ends. You can not approach a long term problem with short term answers.

Teachers have seen all of this influx of stuff before in some previous technology incarnation, or educational trend, and refer to this as just another part of a cycle. Next year it will be something else. Teachers, deep down, believe that if they can just get by this year, they will be able to wait out this latest technology push.

It is not all the teacher's fault; they are not adequately prepared by their employers for the change of using new instructional tools. When the techno-goodies arrive, in most cases, the teachers are just thrown in the deep end of the pool without any training. Most of the time any training that is offered, is up the teacher to acquire on their own time, and does not translate into the much needed core area professional development that teachers must have to stay certified. Optional training allows teachers to opt out.

So, now we all know there is a problem, how do we address it? Elementary my dear Watson, everyone involved in education must accept that technology is changing education and that each of us has a role to actively perform in this continuing process. The world is changing, do something to make these changes positive for the classroom. I thought this was going to be hard!

School divisions must implement long term plans for acquiring technology and demand that all staff members learn the skills needed to use the tools provided by giving mandatory training. All teachers should be evaluated on the technology training that is provided, during the yearly teacher evaluation process.

Acceptance of educational change must begin at the top. This is the most difficult task to achieve because the people in charge are the ones with the most experience and are the least accepting of any changes. Administrators must embrace technology changes because they set the tone in each building. If they don't believe in the value of technology, neither will their staff. It will not matter what gizmos the school gets, the overall educational technology program will suffer.

Teachers who resist this technology change need to understand is that this change will not undo itself and go back to 20 years ago. While it may be easier to do what we have always done, evolution dictates that only those who can adapt to changes in their environment will survive. If teachers are given the chance to change through appropriate instructional technology training and are still incapable of using these new skills, they should be removed from the classroom. The new teachers may not have the experience that older teachers have, but because they want the job, they are much more adaptable.

Mr. Welsh, the writer of the Washington Post article, is an experienced teacher with 30 years of service. He resents the technology changes that he is forced into using for instruction. I have a simple solution for him and all of the other teachers who resist the educational technology changes. Retire. Supplement your income with a job at Wal-Mart as a greeter. Wave hello to people and slap stickers on little kids who visit the store. You are a dinosaur and your resistance to change hurts the population that you are paid to serve. This unappreciative teacher has an administration that supports technology change in education, a brand new building, and it seems, a lot of useful technology. Mr. Welsh (and all those teachers like him), while I am sure that you are a good teacher, your inability to adapt does not make you a superior teacher. Do your students a favor, and get out of teaching.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I agree with you, 100%