Putting Technology In Its Place

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I just read two blog posts yesterday that echo some of the ideas I’ve been wrestling with lately concerning the place of technology in the classroom, and I’d like to share them here.

Background:  As my school’s Library Media Specialist and Technology Coach, I have a responsibility to provide appropriate resources to my students and teachers, and to make sure they know how to use them.  With so many useful (and free) technology tools available out there in cyberspace, I want to make sure I’m keeping up with them, using them appropriately, and sharing them with those who need them. 

However, I don’t want to become so focused on the “coolness” of technology that I lose sight of my ultimate goal, which is student learning.  I also don’t want my attitude regarding the importance of technology to become so overbearing that I alienate teachers who, for various reasons, are hesitant about using a lot of online resources or tech tools.  I need to balance my role as a cheerleader for Web 2.0 with my role as someone who assists users with what’s actually going on in the classroom.

Enter Jennifer Wagner and Joyce Valenza, two educators who are doing wonderful things with technology at their respective schools.  I follow both of these bloggers through my Netvibes reader, and Jen’s most recent post questioning the real importance of the current emphasis on technology caught my eye:

Take the time to look at some upcoming conferences and read the descriptions of many sessions.  You will notice that they talk more about TECH than they do TEACHING.  You will notice that the emphasis is on the tool rather than the outcome….What if instead of teaching a tool – such as blogs, wikis, prezi – or placing a high emphasis on gadgets – such as ipads, interactive white boards, flipcameras – we placed the importance on student learning and teaching objectives??

So Jen is also examining the need for integrating learning literacy skills rather than just technology.  Let’s face it, right now I’m not seeing much interest when I offer after-school training on a particular piece of technology (i.e., eBooks, PhotoStory), so I obviously need to change my approach.  What if I offered a workshop on something with relevance to the immediate needs of the students and the teachers that just happened to also include a Web 2.0 tool?

Then as I was catching up on Joyce’s blog, I saw a post from October 14, 2009 (don’t know how I missed it earlier – I guess we see things when we’re ready) that spoke to the concerns I have with being an effective technology leader, as opposed to merely an ardent technology leader.

Joyce has always been a strong proponent of the need to provide our students and teachers with the most effective tools possible, and her description of her “Web 2.0 Day” at Springfield Township High School shows how brilliantly she makes the tools work for herself and for those she serves.  Then she uses this explanation of the relevance of every 2.0 tool she uses in a typical day as a lead-in to address a comment made by someone (Beth) who was trying to articulate the other side of the technology usage issue.  Part of Beth’s comment:

Yes, there are people in our profession who resist change. This is true in all of education. But outside of our blogging-tweeting-2.0 professional circles are librarians who are concerned about things like basic internet access, aging collections, fixed scheduling and no paraprofessional support….  Maybe it is, instead of judging the person who does not tweet or have a webpage, taking an afternoon to sit with them and walk them through setting up a twitter feed or google site. Just because someone doesn’t incorporate tech doesn’t mean they are opposed to it. It is hard, as a professional in the world of schools, to admit you don’t know something or don’t understand it. I don’t think our profession makes this easy either.

no technology I confess I’ve had that same lurking feeling that I’m expecting too much of my classroom teachers, and a suspicion that being too forthright about their need to get onboard with using more technology will alienate them, as well as fall on deaf ears.  So, how does Joyce respond to this?  In part by saying:

My personal feeling is that everyone should find some way, some very immediate and real-time way, to network.  In my mind, librarians who opt out of new information technologies and new ways to tell stories, opt out of their jobs and opt out of their responsibilities to learners.  These improvements in the information and communications landscapes reach way beyond our little K12 worlds and change the way the world does business.  We cannot ignore them. 

Joyce further says in the comment section of her post:

It is definitely *not* about saying “look at how up on technology I am.”  To the contrary, it definitely *is* about connecting my learners and my colleagues with each other and the tools they need to do business today….You might think it is elitist of me to use the tools that are freely available to advance learning and to help my fellow teachers create the best learning environment possible in my district.  I disagree.

Now granted, Joyce is speaking to library media specialists, not classroom teachers, when she demands that we step up and take responsibility for providing the best web resources possible to our school community, and I agree with her wholeheartedly.  No one makes a better case for using information technology than she does, and no one demonstrates it more effectively than she does, either.  However, I’m finding it does little good to offer the resources when teachers refuse to accept them. 

education_technologyWhich brings me back to the original question:  How do I get teachers excited about making the most of what the web has to offer?  I think taking a leaf from Joyce’s book (how ironic to use a print metaphor when writing so passionately about technology!) and modeling Web 2.0 usage myself is a good first step in luring them into using it themselves, but obviously I need to go further than that.  I am already maintaining two blogs, (this one and Book Buzz), a Library website, a Google Book account, and 2 public Netvibes pages, to say nothing of the glogs, wordles, photostory projects, webquests, online surveys, etc. I’ve created and shared over the past two years! 

Sigh.  I guess I still have some more thinking to do.


Photo Attribution: “Education technology” 
“No Technology in Brighton”
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