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  No child should have to put up with out of date learning experience just because their close-to-retirement teacher is “taxiing to the hangar”.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 4.0 You Don’t Have To Like It by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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

  1. I am in complete agreement and I also feel that frustration! However I do appreciate the contribution of old Al who took out the tough boys and taught them how to make a wood fired pizza oven. I would love Al to integrate technology into his work but hey, those boys are turning out great pizzas! (And delivering to staff meetings!) 

  2. Yes indeed Chris. You have hit the nail on the head and hit it hard.  Your commenters are all in agreement. As are all those who have tweeted about your post. Surely the frustration is that all those teachers out there we you are talking about won’t read your excellent blog because they don’t read blogs; they won’t see the tweets because they haven’t discovered the wonder of a twitter PLN; so they keep on doing what they are doing without technology impacting on them at all. At my school they don’t even read emails until days after they were sent.  They don’t follow advice from the IT people because ‘it was too hard’ or ‘I didn’t think that meant me’. I am sick of hearing school leaders make excuses for these teachers and telling me that they have other strengths! I suspect it is not only technology that they don’t embrace I think it is any new idea – why are people so afraid of change?

  3. Chris, I may the lone voice paddling against popular sentiment here but I’m not sure that posts that rant against the perceived techno-shortcomings of the general teaching population are all that useful or thought provoking. Hey, I’ve been known to get a bit frustrated when others don’t see the importance of what I’m seeking to do, so I’m not being too big a hypocrite by wading in here. I work at a public school which is considered to be reasonably progressive in its focus on learning, and technology is only one piece of the overall picture so saying that teachers just need to “do it” is a bit of a simplistic slogan that turns a convenient blind eye to everything that needs to be in place for students’ successful learning. Generally, I only have a day and a half a week to focus on the technology in my coordinator role – the rest of the time I am working in a classroom grappling with the incoming Australian Curriculum, working on embedding Learning Intentions and Success Criteria into my lessons and tasks set for my students, thinking about how to reform my Mathematics lessons so that I’m not merely passing on my poor learning methods and strategies from the eighties, ensuring that students are thinking about resilience and working tough and being organised, ensuring that my Science includes 5 E’s reflection, that I’m connected to my learning team as we move forward in our inquiry units and that we are adhering to the the Understanding by Design principles …. you get the picture, I’m sure. I’m struggling in a few of those areas but I’m certainly not ignoring or glossing over any of them even though my skills are not as proficient as many of my colleagues. They depend on me to guide them in the appropriate technology choices in the same way that I’ll lean on them to help me design an appropriate Learning Intention or to structure a Maths lesson that gets the students thinking in the way that they should. In the same way, my colleagues are not ignoring the possibilities that ICT have for their teaching and student learning but in a pressure packed job, not all areas get the same attention at the same time. You and I might want them to raise their proficiency and “just do it” but so does the Maths focus person and so does the Literacy Coordinator and so does the Student Wellbeing committee, and you know what, they are all legitimate. So, many teachers feel constantly torn and for them, coming to grips with much of this is a hard slog. Integrating technology is not necessarily the fun and engaging way to go that clearly the majority of us commenting here find it to be. I mean, look at us all, blogging and tweeting and hanging out in Second Life. It is a form of learning that we find incredibly engaging and from time to time, it can mask us from the reality that we are in a small minority of educators. Is it fair to judge their prowess from our standards? Because if we do, then what stops the Mathematics leaders from demanding the same and if I haven’t devoured the complete works of George Booker, or don’t spend my weekends creating maths gameboards or learning the nuances of a scientific calculator, am I being a deficient educator and worthy of ridicule? Education is always in constant flux and teachers spend their whole careers in a state of unlearning and re-learning. I know that for every thing I can do well in terms of tech integration with students, there are other teachers with other skills in other areas outdoing me and no one really has the moral high ground.

    1. That’s a cop-out, Graham. Everybody is pretty tired of the “I’m too busy to learn how to do that” excuse. It’s like a plumber refusing to use silicon because he doesn’t believe in it. Eventually, some pretty big leaks are going to occur, and someone will be in deep water.

      You, yourself, refer to demands from different curriculum areas on teachers – but the point is that nobody says “sorry I don’t ‘do’ Maths or English or history…” but they DO dodge the use of IT.

      If a curriculum component is a part of your expected job, there is no excuse for doing it badly, let alone not doing it at all.
      Are you honestly happy to accept mediocrity (or less) on the basis that someone else can do the job better? Or because someone else might pick up the pieces?

      1. Well, my comment was sort of cast in a “devil’s advocate” mindframe, seeing if I might get a bite and I see you’ve obliged. Maybe text comments are sometimes a difficult medium in which to express opinion and I may not be the world’s best communicator but I’ll try to clarify and build on what I was seeking to say.

        I actually don’t know many educators who actually put technology into the “I’m too busy to learn how to do that” category. But I do work with quite a few who are doing their best to come to grips with tech integration as they juggle all of the other expectations coming their way. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing it. That’s the point I was trying to make. And there are teachers who actively resist changing their practices in English or Mathematics, even when PD and current research is telling them that they must make changes for the benefit of their learners. In high schools, I have heard of Science teachers who say they won’t bother with the literacy aspects of their subject because that is the English teacher’s responsibility.

        I’m heard and seen the adage that technology magnifies teaching practice. Technology will help make a an excellent teacher become even more innovative in providing learning opportunities for his or her students. But adding technology into mediocre practice won’t make much difference, just digitise practice as it currently exists and for the teacher who isn’t seeking to continually improve, technology will only magnify their deficiencies. But tech integration is also a school wide responsibility – if teachers aren’t evolving their practice, those of us charged with the technology focus of our school need to work with them to ensure that students don’t miss out.

        I suppose what provoked my response is that I’ve read posts like Chris’s all over the web, lamenting those incompetents who don’t “get it” and I don’t think it achieves much more than getting a round of “hear, hears” and a tone of self-righteousness in the comments. Teaching is complex and becoming increasingly more so, and every facet deserves as much focus for our students’ futures as technology use for learning. Is everyone here on top of every aspect of their teaching practice? Or will some at least admit that, like myself, there are aspects of our job we are not top of totally, components that are works in progress and parts that we find harder to engage with. Think of those aspects and at least recognise the fact that technology use for learning does not come easily for everyone – and that does immediately label them as being less than worthy educators. And please do not read this as me advocating for opting out of technology.

    2. Hi Graham,

      Sorry for taking so long to get back to on this comment…  I’ve been travelling overseas and haven’t had the headspace to think it over.

      I think you sum it up in your last paragraph when you say “Education is always in constant flux and teachers spend their whole careers in a state of unlearning and re-learning.”  For those teachers who accept this state of flux, who willingly learn and unlearn and relearn, I don’t think anyone would criticise those efforts. You’re absolutely correct in saying that there are MANY aspects of the classroom competing for our attention: staying up to date with current developments in literacy and numeracy, brain theory, learning theory, etc, not to mention staying abreast of information about allergies, child safety legislation, OH&S, etc, etc… teaching is a busy job, there’s no argument about that.

      My beef is with those that have simply given up, or refuse to do the learning, unlearning and relearning.  It’s not really about technology per se, although I think that the requirement to integrate technology is a trigger that brings these attitudes to the surface.  The real issue is that some teachers – who are supposed to be learning professionals – have forgotten what it means to learn, unlearn and relearn.

      1. When you summarise it like that, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s the process of being able to constantly re-invent oneself as a learning professional that is crucial and technology is one piece of the overall picture.

  4. Great post. I went to a course recently where we were reminded that we are educating our students for a future we don’t know about. We must keep up with the present and give them the skills to explore the future.

    1. Hallo
      I think the problem is a very deep seated one: that of Mindset (see Carol Dweck’s work on this). Those people who have a ‘fixed mindset’ fear change, and rely on knowing stuff to achieve a final end.  Those with a ‘growth mindset’ take risks with their learning, celebrate challenges to their perceptions and enjoy the journey. When they make a mistake, they regard it as a way to improve, not to avoid.
      Those teachers who give the message that they ‘should’ know everything because they are the holders of the information which is to be transmitted to pupils are bad teachers. If you have the fixed mindset, you believe that your talents and
      abilities are set in stone–either you have them or you don’t. You must
      prove yourself over and over, trying to look clever and talented at all
      costs. This is the path of stagnation.
      If you have a growth mindset,
      however, you know that talents can be developed and that great abilities
      are built over time. This is the path of opportunity–and success.
      Dweck demonstrates that mindset unfolds in childhood and adulthood and drives every aspect of our lives. The influence of teachers is of temendous importance.
      I am nearly 60 and am happy to admit I don’t know how to use much of the technology: I just ask the kids. My job is to help them navigate through the plethora of information out there, to learn to discern and discriminate, to examine everything critically: to draw out strengths and help overcome difficulties. To pretend that ICT is a mere adjunct to the real job of imparting information, a mere enhancement to learning and teaching, should be a sackable offense! The very nature
      of teaching is changing because of the technological context within which
      education now occurs. An expanding definition of literacy, and fundamental
      changes in the way we access information, alter our teaching approaches. This
      is particularly so for those for whom traditional ways of learning have not
      been very successful. (I work with leanrers with dyslexia).
      To ignore the mulitple modes of accessing and demonstrating knowledge and understanding is not just foolish and arrogant – it’s unprofessional.
      Our job ultimately is to enable the construction of meaning. A teacher who learns together with her pupils, making and celebrating errors along the way, is the one who will inspire them to strive for understanding.
      Thank you for a great post.

  5. In my experience as teacher trainer and Head of Faculty, and despite all the excuses you hear as to why not make the most of the available technology to enhance teaching and learning, it all boils down to this: teachers remain unconvinced of the pedagogical potential of using technology in the classroom or, especially, beyond it – the thought of using social networking in the educational context is generally feared, jeered and ridiculed (by that, sadly, I mean misunderstood).

    To too many teachers it’s either technology or academic rigour. In their minds you can’t possibly have both. In my view, this is the notion we need to dispel if we want teachers to convince themselves and then their administrators (technology integration must come from the grassroots, in my opinion) that the effective use of ICT is indeed pedagogically sound and, above all, desirable. 

    Until that happens, we will be shortchanging whole generations of students.

  6. I agree with a lot of the comments on here, but I also think that this sort of attitude is condoned by SMT’s view of technology. Hey, I wouldn’t even be able to read this at school; youtube is banned; even wikipedia has been an issue since the latest internet safety programme was brought in, and don’t even get me started on facebook, skype and twitter. Even if there wasn’t this paranoia against web-based technology, schools are reluctant to spend the money bringing networks up to speed (let alone teachers – God help you if you don’t “get it” in the 1 hour CPD given the one time it was decided the school couldn’t do without a bit of quick training).
    Having worked quite closely with a few technophobes in my department (lovely people who want the best for the kids but are at the end of their careers and do feel threatened by how quickly they see things change around them), I know a lot of it is a question of confidence. I’ve spent plenty of time patiently explaining things and it’s great to see them understand things, but it is very slow progress. Understandably, it is threatening for them to see young colleagues like me, and pretty much all the kids they teach, know much more about technology than they ever will. Does it mean they can ignore it? No. But I do think we need to teach teachers how to use it easily and with the confidence that it will work, rather than expecting them to get on with it.

  7. This is the story of a program that works. 10 years ago, when I started teaching, there were two teachers who objected to every technology that was introduced in school. They frequently complained that I was wasting time having the kids do original projects using Technology.  I was so glad when they left my school.

    In the meantime our district started a new program, INTERACT. 2 Teachers from each campus would go to an intensive training the first week of summer*. Then at the end they received a grant to order the equipment they were trained on for their classroom.

    The third year I got to go YEA! I was shocked to see both the anti-tech teachers walk into the meeting. They had done a complete 180. The program had closed a huge gap – because you got the equipment. The anti-tech teachers had become jaded after going to workshops seeing how tech could help and going back to classrooms that did not have the tech.

    The other interact teachers and I all have teachers coming in and borrowing equipment. Once our principal sees we are using the equipment and great learning is happening, then he will buy it for the rest of the campus.

    We also have fantastic CITS that are on campus 1x a week. They help teachers integrate tech into their lessons, and with any glitches. Our CITS was a lifesaver this year. We had Promethean Boards installed, one set of them would function for a week then stop. The CITS did a good deal of brainstorming/trouble shooting with our IT person and the company doing the installing. All but one was fixed – and that one the problem was isolated to the computer not the board.

    *This was changed this year. Now it is 4 teachers per campus.

    1. Hi Peter, 

      Which part do you need “the peer reviewed facts” about?… The idea that technology has been around for 20 years in schools? Or the idea that there are still large numbers of teachers who haven’t embraced it?

      Seriously, you need “the facts” before you’d accept either of those assertions?

      There’s an awful lot of experienced teachers adding their voice of agreement in the comment stream above…  does that count as “peer reviewed facts”? I don’t understand what you’re wanting.

      Dude. It’s a blog… it’s as much about opinions as it is about peer reviewed facts.

  8. And what do you say to teachers who achieve excellent results without technology in the classroom? There are certainly teachers who do. Those who aren’t convinced that all that glitters is gold. I am fascinated by technology myself and use it for my own professional development and also in the classroom. However, just occasionally I do stop and ask myself whether my students could have got “there” without the internet, whether cutting and pasting virtual documents is better than cutting and pasting real ones. I know about the opportunities new technologies provide, but what should matter is the outcome, not necessarily the way we get there.

    1. It’s a good question.  There are certainly teachers who do get excellent results without the use of technology. One of the frustrations for me as an ICT Integrator is the stonewalling I sometimes get from teachers who get these excellent results, who push back and say “why should I bother integrating technology when my students are already achieving success at a high level?”  It’s a fair question.

      I suppose my response would be “Success by what measure?”  I happen to believe that many of the measures we use to gauge success in education are flawed…  as the obvious example, doing well on a standardised test does not mean that you are en educated, enlightened individual.  Being able to score highly in a test does not mean you have a broad understanding. Being “smart” is not the same as being wise. 

      I’m idealistic enough to think that we should be focusing on the big things that matter in the long term, so quite frankly I don’t really care too much about measuring students up against the short term goals that most education is founded on. 

      Your point about not everything needing to be based on the use of digital tools is a good one. Obviously, it the big picture – the learning outcomes – that matter and if they can be achieved without the use of technology by teachers then that’s great.  We shouldn’t get hung up on doing things with a computer when other non-digital ways are better. Use the best tools to get the job done.

      My issue with that is that in many, many cases, the use of a digital tool IS the best means by which to reach an educational outcome.  Not always, but often. If a teacher does not feel able to operate comfortably in this digital world, then any opportunity to leverage these tools is lost.  And that’s why I feel it’s unacceptable to be a digitally illiterate educator.

  9. Chris – you have hit the nail on the head! We are teachers. We are the adults. We are in a profession who need to keep learning about technology in the workplace. Technology integration is not an option in a 21st Century learning environment. Imagine what would happen if teachers opted out of learning maths facts.  Statements like “I don’t do times tables”  or “I don’t do fractions” would bring about an uproar. Great comments!

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