Friday, January 05, 2007

Aren't we in the business of Education?

A simplistic question, yet the answer painfully eludes us when referring to EdTech. We have administrators that don't support efforts to enhance the learning environment of the students in their schools. There are Information Technology Directors blocking web sites that have a worthwhile educational purpose. There are teachers who stridently refuse to learn how to incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum.

Why is this happening?

Personal ego? Fear of the unknown? Not wanting to look incompetent in front of peers, students or administrators?

I would say that all of the above is true. This isn't a revelation to anyone that has been involved in EdTech for any length of time, but why I am blogging on this now? Because there is a critical mass beginning to form within the EdTech community and more specifically from society as a whole, to change the status quo.

Most of the notable EdTech bloggers have written on this topic over the past week and many other national publications have done the same thing.

David Warlick's - Two Cents Worth - "The Collision" and "Looking Forward"

Miguel Guhlin's - Around the Corner - "Consciousness" and "Truth, Trust and Transparency"

Will Richardson's - Weblogg-ed - "Perfect Storm"

TIME Magazine's Article - "How to build a student for the 21st Century."

I have functioned in my role as a Technology Coordinator on the premise of: "I'd rather move forward, knowing there will be mistakes along the way, instead of waiting until everything is 100% secure and knowing that day will never come." As EdTech professionals we need to educate the Administrators, Information Technology Directors, teachers, students and parents about the appropriate use of technology in an educational setting and in life. To do this, we must take risks that are educationally sound and support the process of teaching and learning.

Kimberly Moritz's in G-Town Talks echoes this sentiment.

"Enter the alternative to blocking everything—education.
Stop filtering everything, teach kids how and where they can go on-line while in school, and give consequences to the 2% who make a mistake. Our students are supervised at all times in school, so add software that allows the study hall teaching assistant to monitor all computers from his desktop. Talk to teachers and students about appropriate use. Remind parents in the district newsletter about our acceptable use policy and explain our philosophy about educating our students rather than prohibiting them."

As I mentioned in my previous post today about digital citizenship, there are programs to be undertaken that will make it easier for the Administrators, Information Technology Directors, teachers, students and parents to understand. As we move forward in the process we need to remember that most of us involved in EdTech, chose to do what we are doing. And that we didn't choose this because it was easy, but because it was a challenge and a chance for each of us to make a difference in the lives of teachers and students. As we move forward there will be a greater demand from the students and society as a whole to move toward transparency.

1 comment:

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

You know, I can't help but dwell on a conversation I had recently with a teacher at my school. All the teachers in the grade below hers, and all the teachers in the grade above hers, have scheduled regular weekly times to bring their classes to our open lab to work on projects they're doing themselves. This is above and beyond the one period a week their students come and work with me and my co-teacher in our lab for regular technology class.

The crux of her sentiment, regarding why she does not make the time in her already busy schedule to bring her class to the open lab to work on stuff, is that she fears she would be "doing more harm than good" in letting them continue to keyboard without their "hands on the home row," even if they were producing better work and learning more by incorporating technology into some of the work they're already doing the traditional way in her class.

She prefers reading handwritten papers.

Now, I don't know what grade level y'all teach, but my five years in 5th grade and the subsequent year in 6th, not to mention the eight or so years of teaching before that, have taught me that if there is one thing I DON'T want to read, it is the handwriting of a child. Times 30.

Know what I mean?

Too many teachers, I believe, are under the false impression that they have to know how to use the software and hardware in order to have their students use it. If we waited for that, we'd be back to slate and chalk. They just need to supervise, oversee the non-technical aspects, and know who to call if something does not work.

I personally think that "keyboarding," as such, is a non-issue. Kids are going to IM their friends, text on their cell phones, and manipulate text in more ways than we can imagine. What's the point of spending class time "teaching" them (via Mavis Beacon or some such software) what they can practice at home if they have computers. (Note: where I teach, pretty much all the kids have computers with Internet at home. And I DO use Mavis Beacon with my first and second graders for short bursts about every other week or so.)

So what do I do? It's just as wrong to "force" a teacher who is not comfortable with technology as it is to deny technology to kids who can handle it. Do I continue to wait for the dinosaurs to retire into extinction and plot my overthrow of the status quo in mumbled whispers to myself?

For now, I shall.