Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology and the 21st Century

There was a nice comment on my rant the other day. I was discussing the merits of Dangerously Irrelevant's call for firing teachers who demanded training or who wouldn't learn new technology.

Sandra said "I'm wondering if DI is thinking of the same teachers I am who are perfectly happy to keep photocopying the same originals (or multiply-copied copies) they've used for 20 years, and who balk at the request to re-type them and make them available to other teachers digitally."

Before I ask for a teacher to be fired over this, I wonder if someone could explain exactly how much of this makes a difference in that teacher's classroom? Does re-typing something improve it? If that old map is still useful and correct, use it. If that hand-written worksheet still works, what is the need for change? (I am assuming it is legible. In fact, I note that many items deliberately use a handwriting font for student interest and understanding - maybe we should hand-write them sometimes?) If someone else wants to use it, why is a teacher required to put it in a convenient form? Why can't the recipient do that work?

We are too often changing without knowing that the result will be an improvement. I am very uncomfortable with forcing people to upgrade or perish.

I am in favor of technology and all the teachers I know are as well. What I disagree with is the notion that new is necessarily better and that teachers who don't jump into the bleeding edge are somehow deficient.

Change for the sake of change: Here's my take on the Frameworks, Standards, GLEs, Curriculum Mapping and Other Reasons to Re-type the Syllabus.
Sandra also asks "In addition to only using their word-processing programs for the most basic purposes, these teachers also refuse to learn how to use basic email and student grade software themselves, and either find someone more tech-savvy to give them their own personal tutorial session or insist that the school give them one."
This is a better point. I cannot imagine someone refusing to learn email. I can see the reluctance to learning gradebook software on their own. Many of those grading programs are garbage. The flaws are legendary and the implementations are often a joke. The interfaces are counterintuitive and cumbersome.

One school locally has a grading program that takes forever to use because of all the "wizards" it pops up, and then there is a different, on-line, system that the teachers HAVE TO MANUALLY RE-TYPE data into. Oh, and they're required to keep a paper gradebook and lesson plan book as well because the Principal wants to be able to review them. Any wonder why these folks don't bother doing more than one grade per marking period on-line? The retreat into "I want training" is pretty reasonable - it's a way of putting off the pain.

Then we have a philosophical question. If something is new, why should people be denied training in how to use it? Like Sandra, I am the teacher people ask for help because the tech guys are non-existent and useless. Why me? I spend hours on this stuff - I like it. I run websites with thousands of pages and I've been doing programming for years. I know how programmers think and I can teach.

Most people take a bit of time - I try for a two-hour window during the August inservice so I can get everyone done at once. It's a lecture with each teacher at a workstation. You can leave them to explore the software (taking 10 to 20 times as long to find 10 to 20 percent of the stuff they need) and do collaborative learning or 21st century on-line learning, ...

But teaching is quicker, better and more efficient.

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