Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Don't Have to Be A Technology Whiz But You Do Need to Be Fearless

Image from here

As we find ourselves surrounded by more and more technology in our profession as teachers, we see teachers react in strong ways.  You have the embracers, the ones that think any tech tool will enhance their teaching whether it really will or not.  You have those who are open but sceptic, who look for tools that will create deeper meanings and not just be another flashy gadget.  You have the hesitaters, the ones that will not request but will use the tool when they get it.  You have the hand-holders, those who stare at something and do not use it until someone else walks them through the entire process, multiple times.  Then you have the skeptics, the ones that do not think any tech will enrichen their teaching because they don't believe in gadgets.  Finally you have the resisters, those who resist pretty much any change, whether technology related or not.  All of these types of teachers have their reasons for being who they are, all of them base their perceptions on assumptions and on past experience.

So for all of them I offer some advice.
  • Don't blame the tool.  Often we hate the tool before we have even tried it, it is like a gut reaction to change in education that one develops.  "Oh, here they come again with their fancy new ideas while the old ideas work just fine."  And while there is some truth in that, it is not the tool's fault it was placed in your room, so the least one can do is explore it.  Otherwise it leads to...
  • Judge first, condemn early.  How many teachers have gotten upset over new initiatives or things being introduced before they have even tried it?  Sometimes it is easier to get upset rather than just wait and see; many words have been eaten this way.
  • You don't have to love it but do try it.  I don't love every piece of tech in my room (SmartBoard I am thinking of you) but I do use it.  After all it is there so I might as well.  I may just prefer to teach in other ways and use different tools.
  • Mess with it.  Too many times teachers are afraid to even turn something on, let alone push several buttons.  This approach can no longer be accepted.  We should be guided by many of our students' approach to tech; turn it on and mess with it.  You never know what you can discover on your own.
  • Give it more than one try.  Even with my SmartBoard I continue to explore it, hoping I will have that aha moment where I embrace it.  It hasn't happened yet, but I will not give up on it.  It is there to stay and so am I.
  • Ask questions, but don't gripe.  Yes, satisfaction can be reached through commiseration over the latest tool but will that really push us any further toward figuring it out?  Start a conversation, reach out to others, but leave it productive.  You will feel better when you walk away.
  • Get help.  Sometimes teachers are too proud to ask others for help but not me.  I ask my students to help me figure stuff out, I ask other teachers whether globally or in my school.  Somebody else is bound to have run into the same problem at some point so why not solve it together?  Team approach works best with technology.
  • Be fearless.  Technology is not the master of us and it never was intended to be, and yet, how many teachers are deathly afraid of it all?  Yes, you may break something but so what?  At least you attempted to use it.  Again look to our students for how we should embrace technology; try it, use it, make it work for you.  
Being a 21th century teacher means we have to equip our students with the know-how of technology, there simply is no excuse to not fulfill our job.  Our students learn from us, even the way we react to change, so think of your approach as the newest thing is shown to you.  Will you model how to be fearless?

11 comments:

Aviva said...

Another great post, Pernille, and one that I will be sharing with some fellow teachers too. You have wonderful reasons on why we really should embrace the tool, be fearless, and see just what we're able to do (and what our students are able to do) with these tools in our classrooms.

Thanks for getting me thinking on this Sunday morning!

Aviva

Aaron Puley said...

A great post with a good summary of the steps / phases involved in the usage and adoption of new technologies as a teaching and learning tool. As a former consultant of Information Technology for Secondary Schools and a 21st Century Fluencies Consultant , I can tell you that I have seen much fear when it comes to the adoption of a new tool. One thing I always say as well is that you just have to play with it and mess around, no matter what it is. Learn what it can do, learn when it reaches its limitations and crashes, and don't be afraid to try new things openly in front of the students. Tell them you are trying something new and ask for them to support you if they can. I have found that students are very forgiving and happy when their teachers try new things. I also say that seeking help is a vital piece of the puzzle. You are never alone. A critical learning friend in or around your learning environment is great but there are thousands of people, message boards, forums, and YouTube clips that are just waiting to give you the answers you need, right now, without waiting another minute.

A great post!

L Butler said...

This is simple and true. The title says everything. I am on a 21st century learning committee, with the huge task of planning the next steps for technology in our district. This blog post is a must read for some of the people who are either a skeptic them self or are blissfully unaware that there are teachers who fit into a resistor or skeptic category.

Tom Panarese said...

I really liked this post as well. I'd like to add that sometimes the skepticism comes with the thought that whatever new tool or gadget is either: a) bought with money that could have gone toward other things, or b) being forced on us as a faculty.

I'm pretty sure that 9/10ths of the time, that pressure is imagined, to be honest, because we think it's the same pressure we get with new testing guidelines or discipline procedures.

I love trying new things but I'm definitely one to be very patient and really get to know what I'd like to do with them before implementing them, which is why it takes some time (that and ... well, all the other things that get in the way). But I love how you acknowledge that everyone has a different approach and learns at his own pace. So many people don't do that.

Curt Rees said...

Love it. Try, try, and then try again. There are so many tools out there in the world, not all of them will work, or work for your needs and those of your students.

Brad Saron @bradfordgs said...

Love the post, and agree with Curt. I just saw Will Richardson last week, who gave some advice to school board members about learning to use digital-age tools. He pointed to tutorials on Youtube as the primary resource. He also spoke to "messing around" too.

Stew said...

Great post! Your guidelines for adopting new technologies are right on. To piggy-back on what Tom said, I think another huge reason for skepticism of and resistance to technologies is the lack of effective PD that both invests teachers in the value of tech and how to utilize it.

Janet Abercrombie said...

One of the stumbling blocks for my colleagues is the belief that they (the teacher) needs to completely understand the tool before putting it in the hands of students.

My teaching partner and I have helped encourage our more hesitant colleagues adopt ePortfolios by doing the following:

1. Teach our class of students.
2. Schedule a time for our students to teach another class of students (one-on-one).

More than a technology exercise, this process helps strengthen our students' communication skills. While students teach other students, the following rule applies: Students are NOT allowed to touch other students' computers.

So, when communicating processes, our students can choose to describe the process. They can also choose to lay their computers beside their partner's computer and model the process.

When students teach students how to use the tools, the teacher is free to help students evaluate content and presentation. Every teacher can do that.

Janet | expateducator.com

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Thank you all for your comments, I have nodded through many of them. I am glad that the post is useful to some and that it makes other think. I agree that being a skeptic is not always bad, however, it is the type of skepticism we convey that can either be healthy or poisonous. I particularly loved the idea of students being the teachers, we use that in my classroom as well and would love to branch out on it.

Shauna said...

I loved your suggestion about watching and learning from the students. I watch 10-year-olds use technology every day. They are fearless about trying out new things and realize there is more than one way to perform a task. When they get stuck, it comes naturally to them to collaborate with others until they figure it out. I wish more teachers would follow their example.

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