I'm writing this blog post with frustration (and a little trepidation) stemming from an incident that hit me rather hard recently. Schools everywhere are pushing technology into the hands of their teachers and ultimately their students at an alarming rate around the globe. And that is exciting! But is it enough?
I do what I can to keep up with technology by reading everything I can get my hands on, by following "up and comers" on my PLN, and by trying out new technologies whenever I can. It is exciting to discover something new that I can try with my technology students, and that excitement spills over into my conversations whenever possible. But what I'm discovering is my excitement isn't EVERYBODY'S excitement. I am finding that I make the false assumption that my passion for integrating technology into instruction isn't a passion for everybody (although I will never understand why!).
It is great that schools are finding money to purchase new technologies for teachers to use, but I fear a key element is being overlooked - training. If school leaders give a teacher a new piece of technology, say an interactive whiteboard, but fail to train the teacher how he/she can effectively use it to enhance student learning, they've wasted a lot of money on a piece of equipment that looks nice but will just gather dust because the teacher doesn't have the know-how to fully utilize it. Administrators can't expect that a teacher will automatically spend his/her own time finding ways to implement technology into the curriculum just because there is something new sitting in the classroom. Teachers are busy. They need guidance and direction on something new, just like students do.
Yet my frustration doesn't end there. With the integration of technology into the curriculum, there is one more key element that rarely gets discussed - camaraderie. If teachers are to be successful at integrating new things into the curriculum, there must be a willingness of colleagues to be flexible. Let me share my example:
I am doing a collaborative project via Skype with a group of students in Arkansas. In order for our schedules to jive, I had to find a classroom that would be willing to be flexible and change lunch schedules with me (we're talking LUNCH here, not rocket science - note the sarcasm). I put out an APB plea via email and got ONE response. The response read this: "I'm sorry, our team is too established in our regimen to change lunch sections with you." Basically what this said to me was, "We are too set in our own ways to help your students learn." Needless to say, I was shocked. Not one of my colleagues was willing to give up his or her precious routine to help advance the academics of my students. How sad is that?
In order for tech integration to be successful, teachers need to see themselves less as individual islands, and more as a COMMUNITY. We have to learn to be flexible. We have to come to the realization that there is more to our students' learning than what goes on between the four walls of our individual classrooms. They need to say to themselves, "My class is not the only one out there." If timing is an issue, then teachers need to realize that students may have to miss part of another class if that's the only way to collaborate with students 500 miles away. Flexibility is essential if we want tech integration to work.
Somehow we need to redefine the term school. Instead of being "an institution for educating students" it should be known as "a community of learners with multiple learning-facilitators."
How do we get there?