Saturday, April 14, 2007

Solving the Altruistic Excuse

In my position as a Technology Coordinator for a school and school district, it has been my job to advocate for the use of technology in the classroom as a way to bring the world to the students we teach. I know I am not unlike others in my position, where there is resistance to many initiatives from teachers and administrators. Typically, administrative resistance comes from financial concerns and lack of awareness. When dealing with teachers, the resistance comes from perceived cost to benefit ratios and what I call, "The Altruistic Excuse." The Altruistic Excuse is when teachers tell me that they cannot use technology in their classrooms because not all of their students have access to computers and the Internet in their homes. "Why should I assign something that some of my students cannot complete, or it would cause a great hardship for them to complete." (e.g.: going to the library or a friends home, etc.) But, just as the phrase says, teachers think they are being altruistic when they 'protect' some students by not assigning assignments that use technologies that they may not have access to. To me, this is nothing more than an excuse by teachers to keep from having to learn how to use the technology themselves. (Digital Natives / Digital Immigrants / Digital Refugees)

In some ways, this has been a focus of my work over the past two years. I have looked for solutions that will eliminate the Altruistic Excuse. The Digital Bridge and Global Communications programs we have created have been in part, a response to the Altruistic Excuse. Finding ways to connect teachers and students together in new and different ways and increase the level of collaboration and spark the conversations that create a richness and depth in education have been the goals.

The reason I write this now, is that the OLPC has finally been shipped! It is the 'missing link' in solving the Altruistic Excuse. I became very interested in the project when it was launched because I saw the potential it could have on education, world wide. I started reading many of the previous writings of the project leader, Nicholas Negroponte. Negroponte, has been on the media scene for years writing articles for WIRED Magazine in the early 1990's, which became a book, 'Being Digital' and having been the director of the MIT Media Lab for the previous 30 +/- years. Negroponte's presentation at last year's TED conference, outlining the OLPC project really brought many issues into focus for me.

So, time to put the pressure on those in the educational community, teachers and administrators, to bring complete and open access to media. Now, how we teach students how to interact with the media they have access to is a completely different blog post!

Remember the mantra... "There is a big difference between teaching thirty years and teaching one year, thirty times."

Let me know what you think!

1 comment:

Bob F said...

Totally agree with your viewpoint regarding the altruistic excuse. While teachers are in the profession to make a living, it is also our obligation as professional educators to continue to develop and enhance our skill set and pass this on to our students. Otherwise, as Will Richardson stated, "we will be deemed irrelevant by our students."

I'm tired of hearing from teachers that "Technology just isn't for me." What would their answer be, say they are an English teacher, if a student said, "I appreciate your help, but I just cannot perform in an English class." An English teacher would not accept that. As a fellow technology person, I agree with you Kyle - no more excuses. Let's step up to the plate. But it's not only teachers, it's leadership as well. District leadership has to realize the importance of connecting our students to the technology, and providing faculty with ongoing and meaningful staff development. Not to mention we need to use and continue to build upon the technology infrastructures that we have created!