“Teaching” Technology

I’ve been doing a better job of checking my RSS feed (Netvibes) and scanning for posts that get my interest (instead of just being overwhelmed with the number of them). I came across one that I really connected to regarding my decision to pursue professional development in technology for learning. On his website “Moving at the Speed of Creativity“, Wesley Fryer skillfully and succinctly comments on the idea of ‘teaching technology’.

I’m not sure we need to “teach technology.” Do we “teach pencil?” Technology is a term we most often use for tools that are new. I agree we need to use new, digital tools for communication, learning & collaboration. But I think a lot of teachers get hung up by thinking, “They (the district) want me to teach technology, but I don’t know technology.”

  I don’t think we should expect teachers to “teach technology,” instead I think all learners should use technologies as appropriate to further learning goals. We need to all develop our communication skills, both with written words and spoken words. Technologies can help with this.

  As I continue to teach, I grow less enchanted with the idea of “teaching technology” and more enthused about “using the tools I need to learn what I want to and/or have to learn”.

 This reminds me of working in at-risk schools in the United States and the teachers who would be resistant to strategies and training to support low-readers and English language learners in their classroom. “I’m not a reading teacher.” “I’m not a language teacher.” But aren’t we all teaching forms of communication? Isn’t that what we want our students to be able to do? Don’t we want them to be able to communicate about their learning whether it’s math or art or history? Don’t we want them to be able to learn, communicate and collaborate? One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching for me is helping students improve their ability to communicate and express themselves. Technology is just another tool for them to use.

As educators, it is our job to give them opportunities to use those to tools to learn and to express their learning no matter our inexperience or apprehension about our own abilities to use the technology. I’ve seen teachers who are very connected and confident with many of the latest gadgets in their personal life uneasy about having their students use technology of on a regular basis. But, if our main goal is to prepare our students for the future, we need to provide them opportunities and guidance in using technology to develop the skills and strategies they will need.

I hope that as I get more comfortable and intentional about using technology ‘tools’ in my classroom, other teachers will see that they do not have to become ‘technology teachers’ In his post, Mr. Fryer refers to comments by David Warlick (creator of Citation Machine and author of books about technology and literacy) at a recent conference that get to the heart of what I think our attitude toward technology and education should be. Mr. Warlick states, “We should stop integrating technology! Instead, we need to redefine what it means to be literate, and integrate that!” And I realize that over the years I have seen my role in education as a literacy teacher, no matter the content I was teaching. So, my goal in pursuing the COETAIL certificate and focusing on technology is not to become a ‘technology teacher’ but improve my ability to provide a classroom focused on my students’ literacy needs for their future.

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2 Responses to “Teaching” Technology

  1. Meghan says:

    I definitely agree with your goal, and it is very similar to my own. This year when I’ve been teaching, I’ve come face to face with the reality of the limits of my students’ literacy in the digital area. While they know how to send text messages, write on each other’s facebook accounts, and play multi-player games, their understanding of the internet and how to interpret the information found there is still quite limited. As well, the methods that are used to communicate information are changing now, with blogs, wikis, videos, animation, becoming more and more prevalent. These days we are rarely satisfied with people standing up and giving a speech, now we often expect the accompanying visuals of a slideshow or movie. Reading an article is as much about reviewing the comments as it is the information itself. So for students to be literate involves a set of skills that we must provide.

    As well, if we expect them to be good digital citizens, we must teach and practice those skills as well. It’s amazing how often I’ll see students who can be polite in classroom discussions revert to rude behavior when behind a computer. Learning appropriate behavior online is so important these days, and where will they practice this, if not in class?

    Naturally this all must be seamlessly integrated into all that we teach, not isolated in a tech class. For these are the skills that we need to be literate in our world now, and to marginalize them on the side only serves lessen the impact of the lessons we wish them to learn. So I commend you for your goal, for it is mine as well.

  2. Jen says:

    Thank you for your analogy! I also spent part of my career teaching in an urban school in the US. New initiatives were constantly introduced and to the dismay of some and the happiness of others were never around long enough to see if they worked. I never tried to be the teacher to say, “I don’t teach ……..” and I certainly don’t want to be the teacher in regards to technology either. We need to remove that vocabulary. I too, want to be able to not teach technology, but instead use technology to make my lessons more meaningful to my students. In doing this, I hope to prepare them for a future of successfully being able to be independent thinkers and problem solvers.

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