Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tech Gurus need to Shut Up.

Scott Macleod is saying that he is Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency

"All teachers suck at tech."
It’s 2012. Technology suffuses everything around us. The Internet and Internet browsers have been pretty mainstream for at least a decade. And yet, I continually run into significant numbers of educators who still don’t know how to work their Internet browser. They struggle with copying and pasting. They get confused just clicking between 2 or 3 different browser tabs. They don’t conceptually understand the difference between their browser’s Google search box and the box where they can actually type in the URL and get there directly. They have no idea that they can right-click on things like hyperlinks or images. And so on… [And this is just the Internet browser. I'm not even talking about individual software programs or online tools.]
I have a few things.

This is hardly just a teacher issue. Frequent any tech-centric forum and you’ll hear these complaints are endemic to EVERY field, from nuclear physics to graphic arts AND Education. When I am helping the nurse in the emergency room with a computer issue and it's brain-dead simple, I don't run screaming that all nurses should be tech nerds or be fired.

You need to stop lumping the capable with the clueless and stop implying that I am just like that apocryphal moron. Sure, you "continually run into" them but you also continually run into capable people, too.  We don't hit you in the metaphorical gut in such a memorable way, though. I suffer these fools, too, but I don't want to fire everyone who can't run AutoCAD.

You need to stop conflating your pet peeves with actual problems. Not understanding the difference between the URL box and the Google search box is a minor issue. The only difference, when you come right down to it, is that the one gives Google one more sliver of ad-revenue. Maybe. I'm sure that I could find some equally "silly" thing that you don't know about IE or Chrome.

In education, the answer is many-faceted:
  1. Free up the tech people to make tech available to the faculty and to provide training for teachers and students. SOMEONE has to be the go-to guy, looking at various options and deciding which might be worth following. Tech is coming out constantly - you can't expect faculty to succeed with two full-time jobs simultaneously: (1) teach high-school math and (2) discover, evaluate, learn, train on the 1200+ software tools on the 10+ major platforms.
  2. Introduce tech to the classrooms that works as promoted. Too often, the starry-eyed purchase something that winds up being ignored because every time you go to use it, it fails and you have to have a plan B ready for the 45 minutes you have these kids. The tablets needs to be able to connect to the Internet ... all the time, in every classroom, without a 15 minute delay.  By the time I finish taking roll, the tech should be working. If my smartboard crashes every time I use it, I won't count on it.  If the tech guy comes in with a wide-screen monitor for a 3:4 aspect ratio projector, you're not going to be able to use one of those two. If the students can't access their Google accounts, you won't get much done. If the school tech guy can't get the filter to work seamlessly, then you will be constantly doing things that are not what you planned. 
  3. Plan for repair and maintenance. If you ask the average person to repair the tech in his room, be sure that he will make some mistakes - it's not just a teacher thing.
  4. Free up the faculty to develop these new resources. Remove the stigma / penalties for those who try something new and fail the first couple times.  If your teachers are afraid for their jobs, they will be ultra-conservative since few want to take a wild-ass chance on a curriculum revamp with merit-pay and test scores and observances and evaluations on the line. When parents and administrators and school boards are all questioning a new way of teaching, few teachers are going to jump at the chance to be the guinea pig. If it has to be perfect the first time, it won't happen at all.
  5. Research and Published Results. Tech-gurus and bloggers and educational researchers are consistently contradictory as to the value and efficacy of new (or rehashed) ideas.  It would be really nice if you-all could agree on starting school at age 3 or age 7, whether this tech or that tech is best, whether collaborative learning Integrated Math or Singapore Math is best. Figure this shit out for me so I can apply it.
  6. Free up the money to let this all happen. Tech is expensive. Tech mistakes are expensive too.
  7. Free up the faculty from union restrictions. Yeah, I said it. In the  push to help guarantee fair treatment for all teachers, the NEA and AFT too often negotiate contract compromises that bind faculty or give faculty the sense that going around that provision is tantamount to surrender in a bloody civil war. Occasionally, the faculty need to tell off the Union Rep in order to get the time to receive training that actually helps them.  Of course, the school has to be sure that the training actually helps them.
We aren’t asking for much.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the friendly pushback. :)

    I wasn't trying to lump all teachers together. I was trying to note that folks who still are struggling with their Internet browsers have little to no ability to create meaningful technology-enriched learning experiences for students.

    As for the rest of your post, I have little to disagree with. Most/all of these are leadership issues, which is why my center, CASTLE, focuses on the leaders.