It’s not about the technology…
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.
Web2.0 and Socially networked softwaresocial constructivism
Online presence and identity as well as network and online communitythe top 3 levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
eLearning, mLearning, flexible learning and blended learning etclearning
SoftwareMedia (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.