It’s not about the technology…

Jan 24, 2007 by

I’ve been attempting to praise the virtues of our state’s largest educational technology organization to the staff at my school (recently presented to the district Technology Action Group), and while it’s easy to fire up media specialists and teachers already using technology, I’ve found that many other teachers, and administrators, simply accept anything labeled “technology” as second tier after the core subject areas when it comes to investing time, energy, and money. That’s not to say that these individuals don’t see the value of technology in education. They do, very much so; the problem is finding a way to allocate dollars, time, and resources so that technology isn’t left out.

Sure, we’ll be sending three educators from our building to the annual MACUL conference, but with a building of over 35 classroom teachers, that number seems a bit low. What about the teachers looking for more engaging ways to teach math facts, or teachers that are having trouble with science concepts that could benefit from streaming video or virtual simulations online? How about the teachers looking for a way to make student writing and publication authentic? Publishing directly to the web would give students a HUGE audience for which to “perform” and increase their productivity (just check out all of the amazing work I never expected out of my fourth graders with their Wiki Word Walls). Too often investment in technology means dollars for hardware, software, and the occasional vendor-provided training (the kid that just flew in from California to show you how the e-mail program works). What about ensuring that technology purchases are matched with Professional Development dollars, or training sessions lead by teachers, for teachers? Yes, I know budgets are tight, and those luxuries seem to be just that…luxuries that schools can’t afford, but surely there must be some way to convince the keepers of the purse just how important continual training in educational technology can be.

Just yesterday I found an interesting blog post over at Learn Online, one of the edublogs that I subscribe to via Bloglines. In the post Leigh Blackall, a New Zealand educator that specializes in networked learning, makes an excellent point about making a “pitch” to “technophobic teachers” which I think applies equally well to non-technophobic administrators that may or may not be in charge of funding priorities when it comes to ed tech. An excerpt from that post:

[I reckon you have 4 seconds to make the right impression on someone when trying to explain/convince/sell them something.]

4 seconds, that’s about enough time to get 8 or 10 words out – so make them count. For that reason you have to choose your words carefully, and never use words that require further explanation. With this in mind I’m going to very conscious of my pitch to technophobic teachers and try to use words they should more readily identify with.

  1. Web2.0 and Socially networked software social constructivism
  2. Online presence and identity as well as network and online community the top 3 levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  3. eLearning, mLearning, flexible learning and blended learning etc learning
  4. Blogging Vygotsky-ism
  5. Software Media (Thanks Simonfj)

I’m not sure why I sat down and started writing this; perhaps I just needed to get all of my thoughts in one place, and decide what to do. Decide what I’m going to do to try and change it. Because when it comes down to it, it’s not just about the technology, it’s about the human element; connections between teachers, students, administrators, and the understanding that learning takes place not just in classrooms with textbooks and calculators. It takes place online, in cyberspace, in chat rooms, e-mail, virtual simulations, and more.

As Leigh points out, the ideas and educational theory haven’t changed, but the terminology has. Web 2.0 and social networks are really just the ultimate constructivist classroom; students connecting with other students around the world in order to help each other learn, and not just be taught. If I remember corectly, Maslow’s hierarchy perfectly explains why creating and maintaining an online persona is so engaging to students. In order to reach the highest level of learning, students need an outlet for creativity, problem solving, morality, and spontaneity. The last time I checked, updating a blog or adding a contribution to a wiki that can be seen by countless other learners not only meets all of those, but does so in a way never before realized in a classroom isolated from the Internet, computers, and technology. Perhaps much more evangelizing needs to take place before all paricipants in the learning process understand just how vitally important technology is to enhancing education, and not just a secondary pursuit once the social studies, language arts, and math training is done.

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3 Comments

  1. rick

    If I may be permitted to make a comment that others, much younger and much more educated than I, might take the wrong way, Ben you are right about the human element. Problem is, most “technology educators” that I have come across (and I am generalizing, honest) are often seriously lacking in the ability to really interact with those older educational professionals on the level that is required to accomplish anything. It is tough to explain, but all too often technology integration or even the use of technology in the schools is seen as a dictate from the powers that be and many of the individuals who would be technology coordinators just don’t know the whys and the wherefores of the everyday classroom. (Did they ever ban Google on you?) Imagine, and I use elementary school as an example only because that is where I am involved, walking into a classroom, not knowing a single thing, nothing, about the day to day difficulties a teacher may face and saying, well, we could do it better this way. Or, even worse, YOU SHOULD DO THIS.
    My view, before one could rise to the position of technology coordinator (the highest of bureaucratic accomplishments in the educational technology field) they would have to have taught other subjects to a variety of age groups.
    Better yet, and it is my opinion, they should have to have volunteered substantial time working in some kind of senior citizen’s residence helping the most elder of us to learn how to email or make flight reservations. Most couldn’t cut it in that world so why should they be involved with children, let alone telling veteran teachers what to do?
    The only way to bring folks along on the walk down the path is to let them know that you have the utmost respect for the problems they face in their classroom just coping with all the other requirements that at being thrown at them. Then, simply work, hand in hand with them toward THEIR goals.
    I could write for hours here. We have just had our first meeting to do our required tech plan and educators and non-educators alike were complaining about the approaches, the dictates, and the lack of understanding by those at the top.
    Throw this one into a forum. The challenges we face cannot be accomplished at conferences lined with people trying to sell you things and bureaucrats pontificating on stage just to make themselves look good. Accomplishments will only be made one step, one person at a time. I have found that technology use in the classroom is rather like that smile. Pass it on one person at a time. If they pass it on to another and so on, before you know it everyone is smiling. The same can happen with technology.

  2. Ben…that’s what I’m talking about bro!

    Your sensitivity to the human element and ability to view the whole playing field is really going to make it happen for your school.

    This was a great posting.

    Jim Forde 🙂
    edtechnot.blogspot.com

  3. Ben-
    Thanks for your latest posting. Here’s wishing that more educators will be able to make it to the MACUL conference in Detroit, next March 14-16 and get inspired to enhance how they are teaching with technology.
    Ric Wiltse, MACUL
    http://www.macul.org

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