A Public Explanation

During the summer I received a random e-mail with a question about educational technology. The question was simple enough, “What are some do’s and don’ts of hiring a tech-savvy teacher?” Having recently gone through the interview process for my new job, I thought I would do a decent job of answering the question. I was told that my answers would be used for a publication, but I didn’t know which one, nor did I know when it would be published. In an overly serious tone I decided to provide do’s and don’ts from my viewpoint of having once left a fantastic job teaching technology due to a non-educator’s role in removing and restricting useful and important technology tools. Big mistake…

And David Warlick, a leading voice of ed tech, called me on it. Not only was Mr. Warlick unimpressed with my list of do’s and don’ts for hiring a tech-savvy teacher, which was published in the recent issue of Interactive Educator, but I’m not much impressed by my statements either after reading them in print. I could use my blog to say that I was completely misquoted, and that I had no idea of where my words were going to be printed, but that would be misleading. The article quoted me pretty well, and the only thought I have to share in my defense is that I really didn’t take the time to explain myself fully for each of the answers. With a little luck, I can use my blog as a way not only to offer my apologies to David for providing some pretty simplistic answers, but also as a way for administrators out there to start thinking about what items should be on a checklist for hiring new tech-savvy teachers.

What I said: DO hire someone who was trained as a teacher, not a technology expert. They are more likely to provide engaging and meaningful technology lessons that are driven by the content, not just the technology. DO look for someone who has a decent knowledge of state and national technology benchmarks, especially the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) benchmarks. DO hire someone who belongs to and is an active member of a state or national education technology organization. DO hire someone who has decent knowledge of the technical side, such as how servers and Internet filters work.

What I SHOULD have said: DO hire someone who is passionate about teaching AND learning. Sure, they can be technology experts, but make sure they aren’t just going to instruct students on how to use technology. Make sure they’re going to instruct students on why and when to use technology. DO hire someone that is familiar with technology standards, and has a strong desire to be a life-long learner when it comes to professional development and new technologies. You’re looking for an educator that is first and foremost a learner, explorer, and awe-inspired agent of discovery.

What I said: DON’T hire someone who has little or no educational training. You want someone that understands education theory. DON’T hire someone who is unwilling to learn new programs or expand their own horizons. DON’T hire someone who only views technology as an extra layer of fun mini-games for learning (math games, spelling and word games, etc.). These teachers are just creating electronic worksheets with little real educational value.

What I SHOULD have said: DON’T hire someone that couldn’t make it in the IT world and is looking to “fall back” on teaching unless they have a desire to learn and explore with students (there are many fantastic individuals our there that have made this transition from IT to teaching). DON’T hire an individual that is still teaching the same way they were 10 years ago (not sure how applicable this is in today’s constantly evolving educational environment). Tech-savvy teachers should be willing to dive in and explore new programs, ideas, and find ways to make even seemingly poor technology resources shine.

My original do’s and don’ts for hiring a tech-savvy teacher are much easier to apply in a question and answer interview session. As I said earlier, I wrote them just fresh from an interview in which questions were thrown at me from all angles of educational technology. My new do’s and don’ts for hiring a tech-savvy teacher are probably much more difficult to determine in an interview, but requiring portfolios and evidence of past instruction would help tremendously. When it comes down to it, there really isn’t much difference between hiring a good tech-savvy teacher and hiring just a good teacher.