Enough Excuses

UK blogger Terry Freedman wrote a great post on the TechLearning blog called “Oh Sir, you are too kind“. He actually wrote it a while ago now (Sept 07) but I only just stumbled across it… I guess that’s one of the great things about blogs, the way they can capture someone’s thoughts at a particular point in time and make them available to anyone, even people who stumble across them much later.

Terry’s basic premise is to ask why we keep putting up with teachers who can’t or won’t get to grips with ICT in their teaching. He seems to think that it’s time to tell teachers that ICT is an important component of being a teacher and that if you can’t, won’t or don’t get yourself up to speed with technology and how it should be used to integrate with student learning then it may be time to find another job. And he suggests that we are being way too nice about accepting this sort of thing, and allowing the laggards to get away with it.

He’s absolutely right of course. The laggards ARE still lagging, and schools don’t seem to be willing to draw the line in the sand and start demanding some ROI on the millions of dollars they’ve spent in professional development over the years. Terry says we are too nice. OK Terry, here goes…

For many years now I have been in the position of someone who works with teachers to assist them learn about, and then embed, technology into their teaching. Some get excited about the possibilities it offers, and some have actually told me that they have no intention of doing anything about it. Some say that they are too old, some say they are close enough to retirement that they aren’t going to worry about it, and most tell me that are just too busy with all the other stuff they need to do. It ticks me off to hear the excuses that teachers come up with about why they can’t integrate technology into their teaching… “I don’t have enough time, I’m so busy” is the commonest one.

Poppycock. We all have 24 hours in a day. We’re all busy, we all have too much to do and not enough time to do it… so how come some people are able to learn and apply what they need to learn and apply, and others cannot? If we all have the same amount of time in our day, then it’s clearly NOT a matter of finding time, no matter how much people use that as an excuse. Are they suggesting that the people who do learn this stuff have more time on their hands? Do I not have enough things to do, so I’ll just get good at using technology in all my spare time? If they don’t want to learn what they ought to know, then just come out and say so, but don’t insult me with the “I don’t have time” excuse, because trust me, I don’t have time either.

Is it intelligence? Maybe some people are just too stupid to use a computer. Maybe some people really are incapable of learning this stuff? Aptitude has something to do with I’m sure, but that only explains why some people might pick technology skills up quicker than others… it doesn’t explain why some don’t seem to be able to pick it up at all. Especially when you see the basic, basic stuff that seems to confuse some people… I mean jeez, how hard is it to make a frickin’ folder and save something in it? Trained monkeys could do that. If people are too stupid to learn basic, low level operational skills, then maybe they are too stupid to teach.

But we all know that time and intelligence have nothing to do with it. There is only one factor in this that really matters, and that’s the motivation to learn these things. After 30 years of the personal computer being in our schools, ongoing opportunities for professional learning, and the continual development of better, simpler and more intuitive technologies, there are no valid excuses that teachers could possibly dream up to justify why they could not or should not be actively embedding information and communication technologies into their classrooms. We manage to do all the other stuff that teaching entails – write reports, do playground duty, turn up to class on time – but for some reason when it comes to adopting the use of ICTs in our work too many people still feel they have the right to treat that as optional. It’s not. It’s part of the job of being a 21st century educator. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

I think Terry’s right… it’s time for those teachers who have not accepted ICTs to shit or get off the pot. I’m tired of accepting excuses. Technology is, and will continue to be, an absolutely integral part of the lives our students will lead. The work we are doing in our classrooms to prepare them for this future must contain a significant amount of access to, and understanding of, this technology or we are failing them as teachers. To be a technologically illiterate teacher in the 21st century is unacceptable, unethical and unprofessional. To hold students back from using the tools that they need to be literate for the 21st century is, quite frankly, immoral.

Seriously, if becoming technologically literate is too hard, or you don’t think it’s “your cup of tea”, then get out now. Quit. Let someone else take over and do the incredibly important work of educating our young people using the tools they deserve.

Thanks for getting me fired up Terry.

Image: ‘Car Problems

CC BY-SA 4.0 Enough Excuses by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

30 Replies to “Enough Excuses”

  1. I’m close to retirement and doing a web 2.0 course. My school has always supported teacher education in ICT.

  2. I too, from time to time, have been guilty of making excuses for not using technology in my classroom – time and availability of hardware – being the usual excuses. However, I strongly believe where there is a will there is a way. I also believe that it is those teachers that are embracing technology and embeding technology to improve both their teaching practices and educational outcomes for their students are those who are continually wanting to improve, change and modify what they do to best meet the needs of their students. Those that won’t embrace new strategies and techniques just won’t because they couldn’t be bothered, it is not a “technology thing”, it is being objectionable to change, to something new and maybe having to think a little more than doing the same old thing day in day out.

  3. Time and professional development funding are needed to truly enable teachers to value and effectively use new technology in their classrooms. A non-threatening supportive environment, small study groups and mentor involvement can make an enormous difference in developing teacher skills and confidence.

  4. Hi Helen, Laura, Judi, Chris, Vanessa and Michael.

    Thanks for the feedback. Judging by your shared email domain, I guess there must have been an event on today somewhere where people were asked to comment on a blog. 🙂

    Just reading between the lines, I’m hoping you don’t get the impression that I’m unsupportive or impatient with teachers who are trying to learn this technology stuff. On the contrary, I think I am very supportive of those teachers who want to take steps forward, and one of the things I love most about my job at the moment is that I get to work in an environment where pretty much all the teachers there are keen to take the ICT journey. It’s a real joy going to work every day knowing that the staff is keen to move to whatever the next step is for them.

    I agree with all you say about supportive environments, small groups and getting on-demand access to assistance with tech questions. The school I’m at has allowed me to set up programs that hopefully address the issue in many of these ways. The things you suggest as being so important – more time, time to play, hands-on time, funding for PD, did I mention more time? – are absolutely the keys to success for those who really want to move forward.

    I guess my issue is with those who simply don’t want to move forward at all, regardless of how much support they are offered.

    Vanessa, I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with your comment… it’s not really a technology thing, it’s about being resistant to change generally, and that’s not a good characteristic to have in the 21st century!

    Thanks again for your comments.

  5. Hello Chris,
    Thanks for your response to my trusty group of “eventers”!

    “…..I guess there must have been an event on today somewhere where people were asked to comment on a blog. ….” – not just any old comment on any old blog though! Your post was great to get people thinking – about their assumptions, their viewpoints and their perspectives. Lots of thought provoking responses/comments agreeing with and taking issue with what you said. Just the thing to “get your teeth into” and become part of the convesation.

    Thanks Chris for a great discussion provoking post, and to all the commenters for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Chris, I have been following you blog for many months now but have not commented before. Then something happened at my school that reminded me of this post of yours I had read.
    What do you do when it is the IT coordinator/Network manager who will not allow these changes to happen. At our school there are a group of us who are embracing the changes and opportunities that Web 2.0 is offering. We have been using them in our classes and getting excellent responses from the kids in terms of their level of engagement and the type of work they are producing. Yesterday we were told we are not to use Edublogs, WordPress or Blogger for the self-learning journals our students were to set up. We are only allowed to use Novell Teaming,a new product our school has signed up for and none of us are upto speed on as there has been no inservicing. Now we are not dumb but it is not straight forward to use and does not have the bells and whistles that help to get the kids on board for things like blogs and collaborative writing spaces. We were not given an educational reason or even a safety reason for not being allowed to use the free tools out there on the internet. We were told we have to use this because that is what the IT manager want us to use. Have you seen this program? Talk about a sure fire way to turn kids off. So what do we do? How do we change the thinking when we are being constrained by those who surely should be encouraging exploration? We are not a wealthy school but our infrastructure is good thanks to this same IT manager and we are being told “You can only play if you play with my toys”. And I’m sorry but I want choice especially when the options are safe to use.Aren’t we about teaching the students how to pick the best tools for the job and the safe tools on the web. I am sorry to rant but I thought you might be someone with ideas for how I can deal with this situation as you are so passionate and positive in your posts.

  7. Hi Faye,

    Thanks for the comment. Firstly, I’m assuming that this Novell Teaming stuff is hosted on your school servers. I can see both sides of this… As an ex network manager I can imagine that the real reason you’re being asked to use the inhouse blogging tool is that it is inhouse. If it’s hosted within your network (as opposed to Edublogs which is being hosted outside your network) then the potential bandwidth savings can be significant. Hosting all that traffic internally on your own network means that every single request does not have to go through your school firewall and count toward your monthly data allowance. It also means that the school can have more control over content (ie, can easily pull a blogpost that is deemed to be inappropriate). These are the practical reasons that, I imagine, would make your network admin want you to use a school-hosted solution. Our bandwidth bill at the school I teach at is around $90,000 per annum, so I understand why they might want to minimise the traffic!

    Having said that, I’d be taking the issue up with the principal. (Bearing in mind that the principal may be behind the directive to the IT manager!) Explain to them the reasons hwy you see the other tools as better. I’d be getting as much info on the Novell Teaming stuff as possible so you can make a compelling case for using third party tools… if you can’t give good reasons why they are better (other than you just like/know them) then you might be fighting a losing battle.

    Good luck with it. I’m off to find out about Novell Teaming…


  8. PS… having said all that, of course it may just be that your IT manager is being a power-crazed control freak. I don’t know the exact politics and economics of your school situation… there may be valid reasons or it might be a complete power ploy. Do your research before you go in too hard! 🙂 Good luck!

    Reasons to use Edublogs/Wordpress
    1. Hosted offsite means no extra work for your IT staff
    2. No local backups required (time consuming and expensive)
    3. All the latest plugins and themes provided
    4. Free for students and staff
    5. Uses the latest WordPress engine, so is as close to an “industry standard” as you will get
    6. Students can access anytime, from home/school/etc
    7. Home access requires no school bandwidth

    Reasons to NOT use Edublogs
    1. Bandwidth constraints
    2. Lack of control if things are inappropriate
    3. Novell team what?? Who else uses that?


  9. Thanks so much for all your ideas and advice. You gave me a lot to thinks about and confirmed some opinions I had. I was told that bandwidth was not an issue so that narrows down the possible reasons. As you suggested, we will do our research and proceed with tact as we are committed to making the shift and have heard enough excuses.

  10. I have a community of friends in other professions, such as architecture, engineering, nursing and urban planning. These people are simply stunned that teachers are allowed to treat ICT use as optional. If an architect refused to use computers, they would be sacked. Simple as that.

    These other professions don’t have spare time either.

    They get mighty annoyed that their own children are disadvantaged by teachers who feel they have the right to live in the last century.

    Simply put, ICT use by teachers is poor because it has not been supported by educational leaders, who treat teachers as if they are some sort of delicate flowers. Until we get serious as a profession this will not change,

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