Embracing technology: a matter of time or priority?
There are a lot of technophile teachers out there. You know the type, or you may even be one of them: they have the latest tablet and smart phone, are using all kinds of cool web apps in their classroom, have a blog or two going at the same time, and they manage to send out tweets several times a day – and on top of that, they really are awesome teachers!
But there are also many teachers who are still not plugged in, and when the conversation turns to technology, they say that although they like the idea of using more technology, they just don’t have the time to do anything about it.
This idea is brought up in a thought-provoking post by Bill Powers, Why ‘I Don’t Have Time for Technology’ is No Longer Excusable. Powers discusses how many educators use the excuse of being time challenged when it comes to keeping up to date with and using technology to enhance student learning and outcomes. So, instead of plugging in to the conversation, they let the conversation go on without them, claiming they don’t have time to tune in.
A great point Powers makes is that the use of social media, such as twitter, has made it much easier for busy professionals to stay up to date and share ideas with one another. So, he wonders why it is that some educators don’t spend more time on learning and collaborating, to help them be more effective in their roles? He asks his readers: “is it lack of time, or something else?”
As I thought about my answer to this question and read other blogs on the topic, I considered the idea proposed by some that it was a teacher’s duty, part of his or her professional responsibility, to stay current and connected, especially when it comes to the practice of integrating technology into the classroom. (See the post by Nicholas Provenzano Professionals Make Time For Learning for more on this.)
It is true, there is a lot at stake when it comes to keeping up with technology in our classrooms, and teachers do need to be effective at technological and digital integration.
Why we must get every educator to embrace technology
In their book, Shelly, Gunter and Gunter (2012) point out that our world is in the midst of a digital revolution and today’s students are fundamentally different from previous generations of learners. Not only do they view the world through the lens of technology, but they also think differently, and the backgrounds and expectations for learning that they bring into the classroom with them are different.
As educators we must meet our students where they are, and help them grow from there. To engage digital natives, we have to thoughtfully integrate technology into our curriculum that allows our students to use their digital backgrounds as the platform for their learning.
We are also responsible for preparing our students to live and work effectively in this digital age, and we simply cannot teach our students the skills they need to use without having them actually practice using those skills in our classrooms.
Back to the question of time and priorities. . .
So, yes, mastery of seamless integration of technology in the classroom is imperative today. Most educators I know are at least somewhat aware of the importance of integrating technology into their lessons. And many teachers do use computers, and doc cams and smart boards, and whatever else schools make available for them to use.
Are they using these tools effectively to meet the needs of their digital learners? The answer to that question seems to be left up to the individual teacher to figure out – and some teachers seem to be more in tune than others with the need to connect digitally with their students — and with the benefits of connecting digitally with them.
With so much at stake, we really do need to consider why teachers would not make learning about and using technology a priority in their lives.
As Powers states in his post, “we emphasize and focus on what’s important to us.” Maybe the reason some teachers are not focusing their time and energy on learning about technology is because they still are not fully comfortable with using it. Even though almost everyone uses technology in their daily lives, there may be teachers who feel intimidated by the idea of trying to squeeze it in to their lessons “on top of everything else.” These teachers may need help seeing how the integration of technology is not an add on, but an investment that can transform their teaching and actually help them.
In a post referred to by Powers, Steven Weber’s I Don’t Have Time points to Bill Ferriter’s idea of Flipping the Faculty Meeting as a way for school leaders to set the tone and lead teachers to using technology through example.
Another idea I came across for helping more teachers integrate technology into their curriculum is explained by Mary Beth Hertz in her post Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. She says schools need technology mentors as well as technology coaches to help teachers effectively integrate technology into their classes.
I like both of the ideas outlined in these posts, and the general idea Ferriter suggests about school principals using meetings and other opportunities to lead by example when it comes to integrating technology. Having teachers use technology for their own learning experiences and having them share with each other about it can get them excited about investing their time in learning to use technology in their classes. Principals can and should also tap into the resources they have, e.g., teachers at their schools who are technophiles and who enjoy and have seen the benefits of using technology in their classes, and develop them as mentors.
Those of us who do feel comfortable using technology could also make a concerted effort to reach out to other teachers by acting as mentors, starting a technology blog for our department or school, asking if we could post our blogs on the school website or teachers’ portal and then promoting our blog posts to others at our school via e-mail. We can start the conversation at our schools.
I do think that individuals are ultimately responsible for their learning, but just as we need to meet students where they are in our classrooms, school leaders, and those of us who are technophiles have to meet other teachers where they are, inspire them, and help them get to a point where they can take more ownership over their learning. Then, I think, we really will have a technological revolution in our schools.
How does your school motivate teachers to invest time in learning about and using new technologies? As a technophile teacher, how are you involved in this process?
Resources: Shelly, G., Gunter, G. & Gunter, R. (2012) Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology in a connected world (7th ed.) Boston: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.