The Song Remains the Same

I remember using computers in school all my life.  From Commodore 64 in elementary school where we would practice our typing to the first computer in my high school that had internet access (one, in the library when I was in Grade 12).  Comparing that time of computer access in schools seems so slow compared to what our students are now experiencing.  I went through all of high school with a computer that did not even have Microsoft Office on it and did just fine.  All I needed was a word processor.  Now, with new web tools, hand helds, updates, programs, operating systems it is hard to keep up but I manage because I want to.  I have only had a Blackberry for two weeks and can not imagine how I walked around before without constant internet access.  I am a “techie” and it can be a lot for me.  I get frustrated with other teachers often and I have to remind myself to step back and put myself in their shoes and imagine how overwhelming this must be.

I had never really thought about a time when TVs in the classroom or overhead projectors would have been new technology. Reading it, it seemed funny to me and my first reaction was to laugh.  But it’s true, those inventions that are so common to me from my schooling, would have changed the face of teaching.  (Actually, I very rarely use the overhead projector, both because we don’t take notes in my class and because I have SmartBoard access) The difference now is in the pace at which it changes. It is hard to keep up, but fighting it is not going to make it go away.  Almost every student in my class walks around with a computer on them at all times whether that be their iPod or their phone and I would love to encourage them to use them to their full capacity but I am held back by resistance from others!

I am reminded of a project last year that I was doing where I needed my kids to research and asked them to use one print resource (just so they would know how).  I had a couple of girls that needed information on the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I told them to use an encyclopedia and was met with “what’s that?”.  I told them it was like Wikipedia but in a book and they understood.  So off they went to the library only to return a few minutes later telling me that there was a major problem.  I looked at the encyclopedia page that they had opened and saw that it was published before the wall fell.  I laughed and told them to get a lap top.  It was then that I started to really think about how the Internet was effecting my teaching and their learning.  How important is it that they use books because really, are they going to?  How many times a day do I reach for my laptop to Google something I don’t know compared to grabbing a reference book.  It’s a 10:0 ratio.  If I don’t do it, they won’t.  This has also changed what I teach.  In the article a reference was made to the article “Is Google making us stupid?”  My answer to that is an emphatic “no”.  I think it is just the opposite.  We have instant access to any answer to any question we could ask, I think it is making us smarter.  It’s easy, it’s instant and if we really care, we will look it up.  This has changed the way I teach in that I do not teach facts, I teach strategies, ways of wondering and ways of finding out.  I also try to teach caring enough about something to want to know.  This is an entirely different realm of education than what I was taught in and personally, I’m loving it!  And this is only the tip of the iceberg as I have only referenced Internet use in my classroom.  This year  we have used Facebook, blogging and the game Sims 2 to learn.  But again, all this is because I am comfortable with it.

The article talks about TPACK and making sure that pre service teachers are “trained” to use technology as part of their pedagogy and not an add-on.  I am not concerned about new teachers.  Right now the issue that we are facing is the fact that so many current teachers are afraid or unable or even unwilling to adjust and keep up with the students.  It’s not fair to the students to sit back and just wait for them to be replaced by teachers that are comfortable. When reading the article I took comfort in knowing that eventually, just like the TV and overhead, eventually modern technology use would be just a standard component of the profession.  As the kids we teach now become the teachers, keeping up with the rapid changes will be common place but what about now? What can we do?  Right now in my school board there is no Professional Development offered to teachers in technology.  Is it fair to expect them to learn on their own?  What about the teachers that are just becoming comfortable with email? When are they supposed to learn or be exposed to what is available?  There needs to be time set aside to expose those that are not comfortable with or aware of technology to play.  Maybe a forum where teachers who are using technology in their classrooms to share with others is needed.  But with that again, time is needed to access it.  The most common complaint from teachers that I hear is that they just don’t have time.  Having said that, I think it is the responsiblity of the individual teachers to take advantage of opportunities that are there.  Go to conferences, attend anything that is offered.

There is also another issue that the article did not address and that is the availability and access to technology, which is a constant frustration for me.  If we have people who do not use technology and are not exposed to how much kids use technology making decisions for how much access we are given in schools, we will continue to fall short on the possibilities that are out there.  We need people who support and understand the importance of technology making decisions for our schools. The only conclusion I can come to is for myself and others like me to continue to advocate for these things and share what I can. I will patiently wait for the day  that I will read an article about a time when cell phones/iPods/Web tools/etc. were new and scary. And I will again quietly laugh to myself.

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2 Comments »

  1. Marnie Said:

    I think the article raises a number of good points that you have alluded to. I think the article only mentions pre-service teachers once – it was not intended to be the focus but part of the spectrum of teacher-users who are coming to work with students in a field who may or may not be armed with new tools and who may or may not see them being used within the field. It always comes back to the decisions we make about what we use, why we use and the need to examine the 3 areas of TPACK and not get caught just thinking about the technology which I can say I have done.

    I fully understand the staff challenges around PD around technology. Perhaps the question in the current context with teams etc. is do you need to rely on someone to come to your school to provide the support or is this something you can begin to do with small groups of interested teachers on your staff. You have a lot of expertise to offer – how can you do it in a way that is manageable but helps some one or more people ahead in their thinking. Just a thought.

    • I agree with you Marnie on the subject of small group internal PD but again it’s a matter of having the time to do it! We have a half an hour a week of Professional Learning Committee time and you know how much you can get done in that time. Even when I have given sessions on available technology (i.e Smart-Board) it is then up to the teachers to find the time to integrate it into their teaching and that has proven to be a challenge. I am always willing to share what I know and am trying to encourage others to learn but it still remains difficult!


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