Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Longer "Preaching to the Choir"

My job changed just after Christmas from a full member of the Collegiate Renewal team, to one called Instructional Technology Analyst. While I enjoy both jobs, I somewhat miss the closer connection to instruction and working closely with teachers on strategies directly related to their instruction.

Now I do work with teachers, but I feel it is more at the adoption level. Many of the teachers I am speaking with now are teachers who are not necessarily pro-technology, and in fact, some see it as something that is taking away from learning. While people are generally very kind to me, I know that there are many who do not share my views of technology in education. While with Collegiate Renewal, I mostly felt like I was, “preaching to the choir.”

With my new position, I struggle to find ways to make people comfortable enough to try new things and be adventurous, and to see how technology is not just another thing to do, but another thing to help us do what we want to do. We need to define clear outcomes, then use the technology to help us reach those outcomes. So that rather than trying to keep the students from using technology (“it is so distracting”) we need to find ways of embracing the technology that is so engaging to the kids. As one of my colleagues commented today, “a pencil is a technology, but we don’t think about using it, we just use it to do the job we want to do.”

And while it is different work, I find it rewarding and challenging to have these conversations, just as I did when teaching students who weren’t necessarily, “buying what I was selling.” But when I can make them challenge their own thinking, then I have done my job.


  1. Congrats on your first blog post, Jay!

    I think you are right that many teachers are not positive about the use of technology in the classroom. In particular I hear teachers say technology is distracting or hurting kids' ability to think.

    If your classroom is not centered around engaging students in deep learning, I think technology does distract students. It certainly harms students' ability to think in certain ways - but these are off-set by their ability to work in others.

    More and more, I think personal literacy with technology and constructivist disposition are critical factors in how open a classroom will be to trying technologies. I also think they are critical factors if we want to get to transofrmative uses.

  2. If pencils broke more than they worked, staunch pencil supporters might abandon them. If they left imprints of what you had written not just on the sheet of paper beneath them, but on your bosses notebook and your students organizers, they would think twice about what (if anything) they wrote.

    People like you and I may be adventurous (if not sometimes reckless) with our technology use. You are never going to convince a play-it-safe personality to make use of tech until it is actually safe/easy. Until the pencil does what--and only what--they want.

    We need to play with pie-in-the-sky ideas like this TED talk, but the things to pass on down the tech food-chain have to be more tried. More tested. Safer.

  3. I respectfully disagree with you Captain :) The technologies we are familiar with are unreliable, they're just unreliable in a different way than technology.

    Pencils do break all the time, I haven't had a functioning sharpener in my room for my 4 years at my current school and on any given day a minimum of 10 students will borrow a pen/pencil since they've forgotten theirs. Our photocopier jams all the time. My overhead projector will blow the (only) breaker in my room if I'm not careful.

    While I understand that each of those items are single use items, and easy to control, I've yet to have a problem with my wireless access this year (and I access everyday). Even the issues associated with technologies that many teachers are concerned about - surfing the web, chatting online, being off task, etc - exist in the technology free classroom. Students doodle, pass notes, read books, have off topic conversations, do work for other classes (gasp!). Technology may facilitate students accomplishing these things more easily without the teacher noticing, but let's not use it as a scape-goat for why all of a sudden students have disengaged from our lessons.

  4. You've spurred me on to try and make a visualization. Just my ideas on the matter. You can edit it if you like :)

  5. Nice visualization - also I think the comments that spurred it (thanks meandthedoor) are excellent. I have never considered breaking technology in that light, and you are right.

  6. As educators we must let our comfort zones be the dictators of what we teach. Many of our students are technologically adept and could mentor their teachers if only we were willing to relinquish the control. In order for this to work we must envision our classroom as a collaborative environment not the teacher's podium.

  7. Sorry that should have read not let our comfort zones...

  8. I think you are right, Dan. Again and again I find the trouble is how we think about teaching, not technology. If we want a collaborative environment we go to the technology because our students do, and that helps us get over the fear.