You are certain to enjoy today’s guest post from Neven Jurkovic. He has written a letter for all tech-fearing teachers and has done so in a positive and motivating way. So, for today’s post in this month’s tech series, consider how you might use his ideas and words to coax a colleague or even yourself! ~EMP
Dear Technophobic Teacher,
Thanks for taking a few moments to read this letter. As you’ll soon see, I wanted to write to you today to discuss three of the main concerns I’ve heard you mention about technology in schools.
Quote #1: “The kids will learn technology whether we teach it or not, so why waste our time on it?”
I’m glad you brought this up. I agree that it seems like our students are using technology even without our help – for example, we often see them texting on their phones once school is out, don’t we? But there’s a big difference between knowing how to use technology for entertainment purposes and for educational purposes. The New York Times went so far as to call this difference the “new digital divide.” So you’re right that they’ll learn how to make Facebook accounts and watch YouTube videos without our help, but will they know how to use technology powerfully to enhance their education? Without instruction in that area, I’d argue that many won’t.
Quote #2: “Technology changes so fast that anything we teach them about technology will be obsolete by the time they get into the workplace.”
I’ll grant you this: If we spend all of our time teaching specific tools or websites, you’re right, there’s a real chance that we’ll have wasted our time. But the point of integrating technology into the classroom is not to teach students how to use Prezi, for example, but rather how to use multimedia to present their learning. Our technology goals should be broader than any specific app or site: things like teaching students how to search for information effectively, how to use technology as a collaboration and communication tool, and how to become a digital citizen will have value for many, many years to come.
Quote #3: “We didn’t have much technology in schools when I was growing up, and we turned out just fine.”
The world has changed. Technology has made its way into a huge percentage of the jobs for which your current students will be applying. Employers will be looking for people with technology skills in an ever-widening array of careers. It’s up to us to help our students to gain those skills now. You may have turned out just fine without much technology in your K-12 education, but many of our students will find themselves at a significant disadvantage in the workplace if they don’t have significant access to technology throughout their K-12 education.
Before I end this letter, here’s a final thought: You don’t have to transform your classroom overnight. Start small, try one thing at a time, and allow yourself to learn the technology with (or even from) your students. Also, just because your students all have tech devices with them every day, it’s still OK to tell them to turn them off sometimes. Ubiquitous access to technology is a powerful thing, but it doesn’t mean they need to be using technology every minute of every day. You’re still in charge – no need to worry about that.
About the Author:
Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath: http://softmath.com/
Well stated, I make this argument all of the time with staff and parents. One of the bigger problems I see are teachers who are afraid to use it because the don’t know how and don’t want to take the time. Additionally, managing that technology in the classroom takes work, and that is a skill that needs to be taught.
That’s true Matt. While some teachers can jump right in and get going, others need guidance. Actually, I’m to the point where I WANT the time and training in new technologies even though I consider myself pretty tech savvy. It’s good to just be given the time to sit and work constructively with something as you ponder how it can be useful in the classroom.
That’s true, time is the biggest commodity. The teachers I have worked with were somewhat excited but hesitant when we started. Over time, the began to appreciate what they were learning- and even better- teaching others. My favorite part of the process are planning and collaboration as we create lessons and programs to help kids.
This post is arrogant to the point that it’s almost painful to read. Technology using teachers who have achieved this mental nirvana harm our cause when they fail to accurately reflect on the process that it took for them to arrive. It’s as if they were never in the state of the teachers belittled above and sprung full-born into the classroom as an amazing and innovative technology using teacher. Looking down our noses at other teachers will never convince them to change.
Instead, work on accepting people right where they are today without passing judgement on them as a teacher, or as a person, and providing opportunities for them to see the value in what you’re doing. Then take that a step further and provide a safe space them to play with these ideas while supporting them along way.
This post should have started with its final thought and then opened a space for dialogue around the three questions posed. Instead it tried to soften the blow of its implied prejudice by tacking on some kind words at the : “you did a nice job with the design of your blog”.
I’m sorry you feel this letter takes a negative view of teachers who may not use tech in their classrooms. I thought it was well written, hitting some key points. There are certainly some teachers out there that fear technology and may even try to use some of these “quotes” as an excuse to jump in and try something new. It is my hope that a teacher will read this and get a little bit closer to using new technologies or help out a colleague who is willing to try.
If you read any other posts at The Inspired Classroom, you may see that we value the process in all things creative, including all venues of teaching and learning. (In fact, I think there may be a place for a post on the process of bringing tech into the classroom.)
Using new tools, no matter what they are: new books, new curriculum, new programs, new art forms, new gadgets, takes time for sure, but with guidance and support, teachers can succeed.
Thanks for your comment!
Want to read more about teachers’ fear of technology, head over to Melissa Edward’s blog, “Figuring out how the Pieces Fit” for her mini series on the topic. It’s pretty great! http://www.melissaedwards.org/imported-20120430010433/2011/1/21/what-are-you-afraid-of.html