I recently read a post from Andrew Marcinek, an educator who I greatly respect and often agree with. Are We Chasing Technology or Mastering It? His post however caused me, for the first time after several years of connection, to disagree with him. In his post he asserts that we should slow down the way we expect teachers to learn and use technology as a tool for learning. He makes some valid points. We can never be on the cutting edge of Technology, since it changes and advances so rapidly. I totally agree. There is also an explosion of education applications available which causes information overload for even the most Tech-Savvy educator. Again I agree. I agree with Andy’s approach to teaching teachers. We cannot shove Technology down their throats with an arrogant approach espousing what we know as the best thing for all teachers to do.
There was a passage however that grabbed me, and set me off a bit. For those of you who know me, it really does not take too much. The passage read:
If your colleagues use PowerPoint effectively and the kids are learning from it then let them go. Let them check it off as technology integration! Don’t be one of the Tech-jocks and scoff at their slow uptake on the tech wave. Embrace them! Give them a short, resounding golf clap for stepping out of their comfort zone. And remember, not everyone teaches like you; just as our students don’t all learn the same way.
If PowerPoint were the lowest common denominator in the area of technology and learning, I might be less upset. The fact is that the chalk board is probably the lowest, followed by, 60 year old technology, the overhead projector. These are not bad tools for learning and each still may have a place in teaching and learning in the minds of some, but they should not be the focal point. The pinnacle of technology in the classroom cannot be PowerPoint.
I agree that we need to be patient and help educators along, but let us not forget who this education system is for. It is for the students. They are the learners that we must address as the focus of education. It is the comfort of the students with which we need to be concerned. It will always be the skills which students need, that must be the key to education. The tools of learning that kids need to master should be our main concern. Some teachers will never be comfortable with Technology and we must accept that. I was engaged in these very same arguments in the 80’s. We must however keep trying to engage them to engage. It is professional, as an educator, to be relevant. It is professional as an educator to be a learner. It is professional as an educator to be professional.
We are not educators to teach kids within the limits of our comfort zones. Hell, I grew up in the 50’s; my comfort zone no longer exists. As learners we need to move our comfort zones forward. We are teaching kids for their future not our past. (That is an oldie, but a goodie.) There is a place for blackboards, overheads, and even PowerPoint in education, but it is not where the focus of learning should rest. We need to prod and push people in the nicest of ways to strive forward. Yes, it would be counterproductive to overload them with the plethora of tools available today, but we need to move forward. That very same plethora will not go away in the future, it will grow. Standing in place is moving backwards in today’s technologically competitive culture.
I appreciate Andy’s concern for his colleagues. I agree with Andy’s approach to compassionate teaching. I part ways when it comes to placing the comforts of a few over the needs of the many, the students whom we have a responsibility to teach. We cannot be expected to be treated and respected as professionals unless we act professionally. Continuing to learn and to be relevant, as is required by our profession, is what we need to do as professionals. If I hold myself accountable to those standards, I cannot expect less from my colleagues.
Thank you, Andrew Marcinek for causing me to commit this to text on my blog.