Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 5

No Time

This could easily be everyone's number one concern.  My take on it probably won't be very popular, either.  Let me ask a few questions:

Do you skip teaching or using anything that you don't already know how to do or use?  
Do you believe students need to learn how to use technology for more than FaceBook, texting, and iTunes?
Do you think that students in your classes today will need technology skills in their future?  
Do you think things have changed in the workplace and economy since you were in school? 

You can see my point.  I know that balance in our lives is important, but does that mean that you don't do anything?  Isn't it better to get started than to do nothing?  

Almost every teacher I've met cares deeply about the success of their students.  They have almost always done whatever it took to prepare students the best way they knew how.  If there was something that could help, they learned it and gave it a try.  

But something about technology is different.  People don't seem to have the same willingness to learn how to use it effectively that they demonstrate for nearly everything else.  This is in spite of the fact that we are surrounded by reminders and wake-up calls to reform schools and change the way we teach.  Public school has become all but obsolete in today's world.  

Let me give you an example.  Take Mark Klassen.  He's a cinematographer.  He has a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Vimeo page.  So what?  These are his teachers.  He didn't learn and hone his craft in school, he learned it from others who were interested in the same things as he was. He got online and got mentors.  He got feedback, which helped him grow and learn even more.  His audience is global.  He learns from everyone.

"Sharing my work online so that other people can see it and give me feedback and advice on it has become a huge part of the way I learn…It's inspiring and motivating, and a lot more people are finding me now."  --Mark Klassen, 2011

Do you see the difference?  There isn't a teacher alive who can stand at the front of a room and deliver that kind of education through lectures, with cell phones off, with no one talking to their neighbors.  This is how the world is changing.  This is how the spread of knowledge, the availability of information, and the abundance of others with things to share are making school a place where kids power down and turn off.  

This is our wake-up call:  if we don't do something drastic, we are going to make ourselves obsolete.  Unless teachers can become stewards in this information age, we will be nothing more than overpaid babysitters.  It doesn't matter how good of a teacher you are, because you are only one person.  You don't have all the answers.  You can't do everything that the 145 contacts in Mark's Vimeo network can do.  

"My question:  At a moment when our kids have (or soon will have) ubiquitous access to the content, resources, and people they need to learn whatever they want or are required to learn…a moment when they can create and share works of meaning, beauty and importance to inspire the world…which is a more compelling story of learning for our students?"  --Will Richardson, from TIE presentation, 2012

In the end, you are a teacher, those students need you to prepare them for THEIR future, not YOUR past.  So move on, get over yourself, and dig in.  Just get started.  I know it's overwhelming, but understand you don't have to know everything, and no one else does either.  You only have to know enough to model things you will use with students.  You will learn the most along the way after you get going anyway, so quit procrastinating or hoping retirement will come sooner.  The kids need you NOW, not when you get around to it.  

Survey Comments that fit this category:
"Sometimes I feel like I don't have the time to TEST things out before hand! I spend a lot of time researching and finding new things, but time seems to run out!"
"Time to cover the "basics" as required by ACT and curriculum. There is very little time for "extra"."
"What holds me back is that there is only so much time in the day for work, caring for my family, and other obligations. Learning new technology takes time for exploration, learning, and practice."
"Lack of adequate professional development and time devoted for professional development (unless it is all on the learners own time)."
"Time is limited on using the equipment. When we have a class of more than 20 students, we are unable to use laptops, because many are not in good running order. This leads to frustration for students and staff. Staff is not trained in all the aspects, nor do we have the time to learn it all. It would be great to have a tech person that could teach students."
"When technical issues occur and I cannot fix them on my own in a timely manner it takes away from instruction time. I have concluded that it is not worth wasting my classroom learning time trying to trouble shoot technology. If I had more training, I would like to incorporate more technology into my classroom, but at this time the pros do not outweigh the cons."
"Time to learn all I need to know to be able to trouble shoot problems that come up."
"-Lack of time to "weed through," view, and practice apps, etc. before using them with students
-Cost of apps
-Little glitches that take too much time to fix leaving little time for work on the activity
-It would be helpful to have more technology, apps that kept records (data, scores) on student performance. There are probably some out there but it takes time to find them."
"Not enough time to get efficient on technology!"
"Getting discouraged with roadblocks due to lack of knowledge to move ahead with an idea or project.
Other commitments that take time and energy, so at that point I'm too drained to add something else to my "to do list".
Finding the time and motivation to spend A LOT of my home time sitting at the computer trying to figure out what I know and don't know how to do.
Being afraid of having to asked for help or support.
Lack of computer time with the students. During a normal week when we have school on Thurs. afternoon my class gets 50 minutes per week with their hands on a computer."
"What holds me back at times is: 1) lack of proficiency with the technology, 2) lack of time and higher priorities that are more "pressing". I figure no parent is going to sue me because I do not use enough technology in my classroom, but they could sue me if I do not properly implement their child's IEP. That is what I mean by "more pressing priorities"
Training during the workday.
"Limited training opportunities during contractual time. Have second job to complement low teacher salary. Can not do training outside of work day."
"I believe the number one reason that keeps us from using more technology is the lack of time needed to learn about devices and programs."
""Time"---the time it takes to learn how to use it and the time to prepare the lesson or material included in the new technology"


  1. Teachers integrating technology into their lessons is the best option, and I hope more teachers start to come around and get over whatever is holding them back. But if they don't, what if technology was an actual class like music and pe are in elementary school? And in high school it is a required course. That will force technology into the students education. Classes would consist of various real life projects that involve technology in a variety of ways.

    1. I think that would be both good and bad. It would, on the one hand, give students some skills that they could take back to their classrooms and use so that teachers didn't have to teach them how to use the technology as well as the content. However, I think it would provide another "excuse" for those who don't want to use it in their classrooms. They could say that kids are getting it down the hall, and they don't need it in their class.

      In reality, every classroom should be using the best tools to accomplish the best learning possible. Today, that means that we use the internet to find information, collaborate with others, and produce authentic and meaningful work that kids identify with. The classroom instruction itself needs to change to reflect this new way of learning and getting information, and I'm afraid that if we continue to view technology as a separate event, something they go to another class to "get", no one will understand that it should be an integrated part of their daily teaching.

  2. Another idea - when I was working at WES our principal was working on integrating cooperative learning, so at every staff meeting she would have a presentation of a new cooperative learning strategy. The teachers were then given until the next staff meeting to use that strategy in their classroom. At the next staff meeting teachers shared how they used the new strategy. Principals could use the same format to integrate technology.

    1. YES! Administrative support is huge! When I worked in another district, every single school had an improvement plan with technology as one of the items. That meant it got the same attention as Cooperative Learning and MTSS (those were the three goals at the time).

      I always think about these two truths: what gets measured gets improved, and what you permit you promote. It goes both ways. You have to choose your battles, for sure, but I think this one is worth fighting.

      When we don't expect teachers to integrate technology effectively, we promote those who don't. Teachers are busy people, and I believe it is impossible for them to do everything in their job description every day. If we don't help them focus on a few goals, they get ignored.

  3. I agree with and have experienced what Andy said about learning the most along the way. I have decided to take the plunge NOW for my students' sake and have been learning as we swim along. Do I sometimes feel like I am drowning? Maybe, but do the kids? Not one bit. They are the ones keeping me afloat. So, Andy asks: Do you feel students' technology skills are needed in the future? Do you feel that things have changed in the workforce and economy? Yes, is my heartfelt answer and I've decided to do something about it for my students' sake. I challenge you to dive into the pool of innovative teaching with technology for the students of our future. After all, the hearts of teachers want what is best for kids. Technology integration is just that!

    1. Here is something I've noticed about teachers who use technology well vs. those who don't try: the ones who don't use it tend to be more stressed out, more dissatisfied with the work their students produce, with student apathy, with lack of parent involvement, with the whole business of education and the insurmountable task of teaching today's students.

      In contrast, those who make a commitment to use it well (not just use it, but continue to refine how they use it to be truly effective) are happier. They tell me over and over how they have rekindled their love of teaching. They speak to the power of the students to create what is meaningful to them, and how they connect to curriculum in new and astounding ways. They notice their students caring more, investing more of themselves in their work. They notice them problem solving and helping one another. The whole process, although it takes more time to plan in the beginning, they report to be incredibly rewarding.

      Just something to think about.