Thursday, July 24, 2008

Issues with Technology Integration

After reading a post over at Successful Teaching, I was riled up enough about it to write an enormous comment. As I looked over it, I decided I was yammering a bit much for a comment and it might be better as a post. So I headed over to tweenteacher to see what the OP had said that sparked loonyhiker's thought processes.

It sounds like Heather is saying that you can't get the full measure of collaboration without allowing students to use technological collaboration tools (such as social networking websites and/or cell phones).

I thoroughly disagree.

Mind you, I don't think blogs should be banned. There's a lot of good content out there. However, I've yet to see anything brilliant on MySpace or Facebook. Ditto Twitter (though maybe I'm just not following the right people? I dunno).

But it's quite possible to collaborate face to face rather than online. I think more often than not, that sort of collaboration is preferable, even if it's not as quiet and orderly.

I think Heather greatly overstates the importance of social networking sites - they are not THE tools of the future, but only SOME OF those tools. And I'm sorry, but they're not that hard to figure out. No, I haven't "forced myself to learn the language of my students," but that's because I'm a discerning consumer. Or, well, I do try to be. I've left IM behind, and I rarely text. I don't jump to answer my cell phone and am quite comfortable leaving it off for extended periods of time. Life goes on.

She then goes into a list of reasons she has heard for not using technology, and gives refutations. My responses are behind the link.

1. The legal issues are scary: what if a student writes inappropriate content online? Um, have you ever seen the desktop at the back of the classroom? It covers vocab no teacher dares to mention. Yes, but seating charts are far less expensive than whatever that program is that lets you monitor and control a classroom full of computers. Also? When the desktop is refinished, the vocabulary is gone. Copy-paste does not work too well on desktops. (Ironically, I first thought "desktop" referred to a computer!)

2. The teacher education and support necessary to train teachers is scary. Do it anyway. Teachers need to be on the forefront of curriculum, not in its wake. Scary? Uh, how about time-consuming and expensive? See below.

3. Adding more to a teacher’s plate is scary. Of course it is, but take something off rather than put more on. Have an administrator cover yard duty so that you can actually focus on teaching instruction and practice for your next class. Does anyone honestly believe administrators will do this? And keep doing it?

4. Kids knowing more than the teachers is scary (to some teachers). Or it can be a very powerful tool. Regardless of your philosophies, the gap ever widens as we ignore its existence. Okay, I didn't see how this applied. If teachers are well-trained in using technology, it should be fine if the students know even more than is needed for the lesson. When I use Spider-Man as an example of a hero, it doesn't bother me at all if the students know more about the character than I do.

5. Some students don’t have access to technology at home so how can we expect them to do it? Well, many homes don’t have libraries either so it’s a school’s job to step up and provide. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have it and those who do not. Okay... wow. What kind of money does your community have??! I've got some socialist leanings myself, but that's a little too dystopian even for my tastes.

There are enormous costs involved with integrating technology, and they all require sacrifices. The time and money spent on technology are taken from other things. For one thing, there's the cost of the technology itself. And let's hope that the school picks the technology that becomes standard rather than the options that fall by the wayside. (Laserdisc, anyone?)

Then there's training time. And after that, instructional time in the classroom. Which short stories should I cut to allow time for technology instruction? Whose interests do I sacrifice?

Finally, we have to address concerns from angry parents, that is time taken away from more constructive endeavors. Not "what if a student" misbehaves, but WHEN the students - PLURAL - misbehave, the school must address it. This is not a digital citizenship issue; it is a citizenship issue. And I totally heart the internet, but I swear, it invites poor citizenship by offering relative anonymity.

Believe me, I'm not a complete Luddite. But as I pointed out to some of my dear Gremlins, there is no magic button. Heck, in most cases, the supposed magic button is actually a Tesla whirligig that never quite does what you want it to!


The Science Goddess said...

Keep in mind that most of the "technology" being mentioned is not stuff. It doesn't cost anything additional to use GoogleDocs...or VoiceThread...or many other options.

It's true that face-to-face collaboration can work just as well for some teachers and students as digital opportunities, but that doesn't mean that they aren't valuable and should be restricted. I look at it as simply a version of differentiation for teachers (and then students). Just as students can show learning in more than one way, teachers can instruct using multiple methods.

Those teachers who don't want to use emerging technologies shouldn't be forced to---but neither should they assume that their way is better than what another teacher can do using new formats. Give everyone a chance to shine with whatever tools show them off the best.

Clix said...

Expense isn't only incurred in purchasing physical materials. The time I spend learning about software and presenting my ideas to the administration and crafting permission slips and counting permission slips and whatnot is time that I am sacrificing from other pursuits.

I'm pretty lucky - I'm comfortable enough with trying new apps and using words and word processing programs that it's not that big a time investment for me. For others, though, that might not be the case.

loonyhiker said...

Wow! Great comments! Thanks so much for reading my blog and I'm really glad it helped keep this conversation rolling. I feel this is what blogging is all about! (Besides that, I really enjoy reading your blog too!)

Unknown said...

I'm getting the opportunity to pull more tech into my curriculum, and for the most part, because it is at my own pace, I enjoy it. I'm messing with Google Lit Trips right now (FUN). You are absolutely right: tech is a tool and is no better than what we can do with it. It DOES take money from other pots. Thirty years ago, how much did districts have to spend on IS? Not the thousands and thousands they're spending now. That said, I begged my principal for three straight years to get my department a $45,000 laptop cart :).

I, too, found the idea of an administrator taking over one of my duties pretty hilarious.

I have my kids blog on School Center, which we use to post homework, etc. That way I'm not opening myself up to liability out on the 'net and I can control the posts if they're inappropriate. I use it as a tool to get my LD students to just do some writing to increase their fluency.

Clix said...

Can you tell me more about School Center?

Unknown said...

School Center is our district's website management software. At minimum, we're supposed to use it to post homework assignments, but it has a lot of other features -- like forums and blogs -- that you can set up. I'm sure it's not that much different from Blackboard, etc.

I know there are forum/blog sites out there that are set up for teachers to use with their classes, but I've never explored them.

Post a Comment