You Don’t Have To Like It

I just read a post on a mailing list where the topic touched on teachers that struggle with technology.  The phrase that really got me going was something about making allowances for teachers who don’t like or understand technology (whether they are new grads or close to retirement) and how this is all a bit hard for them. This is something I feel really passionate about so I have to say it…

Technology in schools is NOT a new thing.

I just cannot accept excuses about technology being optional, whether it’s from someone who is new to teaching or others who are close to retirement. There are children in those classrooms every day who deserve the best education we can offer them, and it is completely unfair if that education is less than it should be because someone wants to pick and choose which aspects of their job they feel are important.  No child should have to put up with out of date learning experience just because their close-to-retirement teacher is “taxiing to the hangar”.

Computers started appearing in classrooms back when I was still at teachers college more than 25 years ago. There has been an expectation from EVERY school, school system and government policy that I’ve worked under in the past 20 years to embed and integrate technology into the education process.  Using technology in the learning process, and having some understanding of it and what it enables our students to do, is NOT something that was dreamed up in the last few months, or that appeared suddenly with the DER/BER/<insert acronomyn here>.

I’m so tired of having the integration of technology into learning overlooked because it’s “too hard”. As educators – actual professional educators, who actually go into classrooms every day and teach for a living – we do NOT have the luxury of choosing whether we should be integrating technology, or whether we want to learn more about it, or whether we think it’s relevant to the learning process.  It is, it’s part of the job and if people don’t think so, then they ought to be getting a copy of the Saturday paper and looking for a something else to do where they CAN be selective about what part of the job they are willing to take seriously without it impacting on our future generations.

Your government, your state, your diocese, your school system, your school, have all been mandating this technology integration requirement for at least 20 years that I’m aware of. Every school I’ve ever worked for has dedicated many hours and dollars to providing professional development, training, resources and equipment to make it happen.  The fact that we are STILL having this conversation about teaching professionals who are not up to speed with this stuff after all this time is downright embarrassing to the profession.

It makes me crazy when I hear people talking about using technology in the classroom as  being “hard”, as though it’s also optional.  Every job has hard bits, but if they are part of the job, you just learn to do them.

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

CC BY-SA 4.0 You Don’t Have To Like It by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

61 Replies to “You Don’t Have To Like It”

  1.  Hear, hear! In any other profession, those employees aren’t expected to not learn a new method or use a new tool because they “don’t understand it.” Could you imagine if surgeons just “did it the way it’s always been done?” Whether it’s technology, a new curriculum or method, or a collaborative opportunity, we should have a teaching force of professionals who are excited and willing to try out new things as professionals and life-long learners. I know many teachers who feel burnt out and unappreciated and it’s a downward spiral of “Why should I do anything extra– I’m not acknowledged or paid for it?” We should either create an environment where teachers don’t feel that way by overhauling society’s perception of teachers or get folks who are truly passionate in there. Great and thought-provoking article, Chris!

  2. I agree with everything that you have said Chris. I remember discussing this with a friend a while back and he said “I hope the Pilot on my next flight has kept up to date with new technologies” yet many teachers don’t see that they need to. It is frustrating that so many teachers, young and old seem to feel the excuse “I don’t get technology” is an appropriate out for not continuing to learn and develop their knowledge.

  3. I recently spent a whole day working 1:1 with an experienced teacher who had been hired to work in a nearby school but had never “had the opportunity to use technology”. Hello- I have to teach you EMAIL? In the process of carrying out this very expensive exercise I did discover that in previous schools the opportunity had been there but had been resisted – you are not surprised, I know.  And as I tried to pack 20 years into one day, I thought about all the other teachers who were not getting their PD hour (in groups) today because, in the past, this person had had the luxury of picking and choosing which part of the learning process they were going to ignore while their colleagues got on with it.

  4. I totally agree with you!–” you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it “.  Fortunately for me, I like it (technology) very much and I do it a lot! HAHA.  I am thinking about the writing PD that I went to recently.  I love the ideas that were given to us but find it hard to find time to fit everything in.  But in the end, I still do it because i have to.  It’s part of my job.

  5. Professionally irresponsible, I agree with you.  A problem I encounter constantly with certain older Principal peoples … :-/
    Have you read this: http://wedontknowhowluckyweare.blogspot.com/2011/04/if-you-expect-pathetic-you-probably.html

  6. Oh, it’s alright for you guys. You understand it. I just don’t get computers. They don’t like me. *principal shrugs shoulders and walks away*

  7. Great post, Chris. And I love the comments from Wendy and Byron. Why do some teachers think that keeping up with professional learning is optional, when they’d be outraged to discover the same attitude in their doctor or a pilot?  I believe some teachers avoid learning about technology for three main reasons: lack of confidence (they’ve had bad experiences in the past so try to avoid the embarrassment of repeating them); they have tried things in the past and the technology has failed (more embarrassment, and a convenient excuse to avoid having to update their skills); and feeling time-poor in a busy, demanding profession.

    Schools can help reluctant teachers overcome these problems in a number of ways. Firstly, administrators must demonstrate that they regard professional learning as essential: schools have to provide time and appropriate guidance to teachers who need to develop ICT skills. We’ve come a little way towards this by having state professional bodies mandating certain types of PD – it’s up to school leaders to make it work, and make it achievable. Secondly, ICT PD needs to be delivered in a way that isn’t humiliating or doesn’t undermine the sense of professionalism of the teacher: i.e. the trainer needs to teach like we’d expect from a good classroom teacher! Thirdly, the infrastructure has to be good enough. No system is perfect, but there should be a reasonable expectation of equipment and networks working most of the time, with timely technical support when it doesn’t. A good ICT leader can often use equipment failure to show colleagues a work-around, or another way of achieving the desired learning outcomes. 

    Unfortunately, a lot of these solutions are a bit utopian: we’re all constrained by funding, time and the skills of administrators, trainers and colleagues. But there is another way to get reluctant staff on-board with technology: motivation. If ICT leaders can find something to attract the interest of their less-technologically experienced colleagues, they are half-way to success. I remember a former colleague whose school-supplied laptop was usually left at home because he didn’t see any use for it. Once he’d discovered podcasts, however, he quickly developed the skills needed use these in his teaching, and whilst he didn’t ever try using an IWB or social tools, his students benefited greatly from the podcasts he played them and referred them to. 

    So Chris, I understand your frustration with teachers who avoid using technology, but try to find that small spark of interest, that tiny window that will open a whole new vista to them and their teaching.

  8. Great post Chris! Although i agree with everything you say I’m not sure it will make a difference in tech integration. My reasoning? I’m not sure that there has been a mandate. I know I sound “old school” but until there are repercussions for not integrating tech I don’t think much will change. Too many schools will not hold teachers truly accountable for learning and using tech in the classroom. In many cases, teachers wear their lack of tech experience as a badge of honor.

    But I suppose every little bit helps and hopefully one day we can look back on your post and have a good laugh!

    1. Yeah, it’s the “I don’t do tech and I’m proud of it” badge of honour you mention that drives me nuts. That’s the attitude that’s completely unacceptable.  I know many teachers who don’t know much about edtech but they are willing to learn… and that’s commendable because it’s ultimately about a willingness to learn.

      I suppose the real issue is not really about whether a teacher is willing to embrace the use of technology, although I happen to think that’s important in and of itself…. the bigger issues is WHY some of those same people resist so hard, and it often comes down to an unwillingness to learn. change and adapt, and THAT is the attitude that is completely unacceptable for an education professional.

      Perhaps it’s just the push to integrate technology that brings these the stink of these other attitudes more clearly to the surface?

  9. I totally agree with you. Imagine the teacher that said “I don’t do English – it’s too hard and i don’t like it” Teachers have used this as a way to avoid having to live up to their tag as professionals for too long. Schools need to have the power to do something about lack of engagement with technology. My 3 year old son recently asked a pre-school teacher where she had hidden the computers and iPads. Her response – “I don’t do technology – it is only a trend.” She then explained to me that trends come and go and her job is to develop children, not to entertain them with expensive toys. My son is no longer excited about going to pre-school next year. (At least with that teacher!)

  10. I agree to an extent, however it’s quality Professional Learning that makes the difference. In my 25+ years experience as a Leader in this area (from a Primary School Perspective), I have come to believe that it’s about ‘whole school vision’ and implementing a vision that is inclusive of technology in everyday curriculum. The benefits of using technology in relation to powerful teaching and learning needs to be modelled, shared and evaluated in the context of your learning environment. This in turn allows one to develop their pedagogy and with a ‘shared pedagogy’, strategic planning in Professional Learning then becomes the focus to drive action.

  11. There WAS a time when you could be a great teacher without using technology… that is no longer true. You are spot-on on this. We need to model learning, re-learning, trying, struggle and accomplishment. We need to be human and teach our learners to appreciate that they are teachers and learners just like us!

    Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking words and ideas.

  12. It’s also the little parts of the school culture that need to integrate technology – why are daily meetings or minutes being passed/read out or put on a whiteboard? Why is it even possible for a teacher to not check their email – it should be a major source of communication. Why don’t schools have blogs or Facebook to communicate with parents?

    And that personal spark is so important – people won’t use things effectively in the class if they aren’t using it themselves. So teachers have to be using it themselves, there is no other option.

  13. Almost 30 years ago, I was teaching kindergarten in a very small private school, and one of the upper grade teachers brought in the “parts” to build a computer.  The 8th graders that year were totally into making this thing work (and at that time, just making it work was a small accomplishment)!  I thought to myself, what a nice thing for this teacher to do; he’d really gotten the kids interested in how something works.  I hope he’s still around when these kindergarteners get to 8th grade, they would enjoy this type of thing.

    Boy was I wrong!  In those intervening years, an explosion in personal computing began.  We soon had nearly 17 computers in the school, all strung together with “phone” cable creating network. Well it DID let us all use the same one dot matrix printer — if the paper didn’t jam. 

    In that same time period a very good friend of mine finished her education degree and got a job teaching 2nd grade in our school.  She was delighted to send the kids off to the “special” technology/library period because it was her ONE 1/2 hour student free moment of the entire week!  She herself never did get into using it…

    I moved on — out of Kindergarten and into the position of teaching art and technology to the kids in that same school.  My friend was supportive of what I was doing and even came up with some nice ideas of what I could do that fit into what her kids were learning.  But she never touched those computers herself.

    She retired 5 years ago, and moved away, never having actually become a computer user; still to this day she uses the phone, because she knows that will work.  As a result; she is pretty much cut off from the most of the people she knew all her life.

    I retired last year and find that my world is continually expanding with new and interesting connections with educators all over the world.  I think there is so much more to keeping up than just ‘liking it’. 

    To those teachers who embrace technology – keep sharing your excitement; to those still afraid – do it for yourself AND for your students. Step back, get out of the way, and you’ll learn.  If not, just step back and get out of the way.  The field of education is not for you.

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