Monday, May 10, 2010

Overcome With Techno-Fear...

Just so you know...this is a bit of a rant....

There has always been fear of change in schools. Take the year 1929. The following quote appeared in The Rural American Teacher:

“Students today depend upon store bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education.”

We see it in our schools today. I experience it in my role as a technology trainer. Teachers often have a great deal of fear when we introduce a new piece of hardware or software into the classroom. Fear is a natural part of the growing process. I have no problem with my teachers being fearful of using new tools, as long as they are open minded to the learning and growing process. My problem is with teachers (parents, community members) is that many are fearful of technology because they either don't understand or because it is simply a different way of doing things. 

One of the biggest challenges I face with teachers is their fear of screwing something up in front of their students or appearing that they (the teacher) doesn't know everything. It is a battle I face everyday. And just when I think I am (and those of us that train teachers in general) think we are making headway and opening doors the loudest voice in the education debate tries to slam that door shut.
President Obama gave the commencement address at Howard University. Before I talk about his speech lets go back in time a bit and remember that this was the President (candidate, President-Elect) that could not go anywhere without a Blackberry. He remarked that he had to have it to conduct business, even quoting in January 2009 that "They're going to have to pry it out of my hands." 

Keeping that in mind, this same President said this just 2 days ago: 

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter.
With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.” 


Ok, Mr. President, lets talk have a little conversation about Education, Technology and Fear....

I think this is an example of the same fear my teachers have about technology in the classroom. He admits in the speech he has no idea how to use an Xbox or Playstation or iPod. That may be true (but come on, an iPod. He can't even figure out a shuffle? My grandmother has one and uses iTunes. Oh and plays Wii everyday). And I agree with the fact that he says "information becomes a distraction." We have to learn how to filter what is coming in via all our technology and learn what to spend time on and not. We as teacher trainers have to teach our teachers this and teachers have to teach our kids how to do this. But to dismiss iPods or iPads or gaming devices as simply  "a form of entertainment." is a major step backwards. 

This is the pervasive attitude we are fighting with some of our teachers. That these types of technologies don't have a place in learning. But again, I believe his statement, and the fear of others stems from what they do not understand. If he (The President) would take a step back from RTTT (Race To The Top) and the other flawed policies of teacher performance pay and slashing funds from the education budget he should take some time to visit some classrooms. Why not head down to Pender County, NC and talk to my friend Lucas Gillispie who has one of the most successful iPod Integration projects around. Not to mention his use of World of Warcraft with kids in the classroom. Or talk to my friend Ric Murry who is successfully using cell phones to teach his kids history and geography. There are so many other examples and I bet we all can think of something really awesome an educator doing something to make a change in the way they teach kids. 
So instead, Mr. President, of dismissing what you do not understand and calculating the fear we in education are trying to eradicate, take some time, travel the country. Go in to classroom and look at what teachers are doing with technology. You have an open invitation to my school anytime you want to come. And I am sure we can find you 100 others where you will see the future of this country learning in the same ways, with the same tools they will one day use as citizens and job holders in our country. 

In the same speech this same man said that "Education is the answer to a troubled democracy." If that is the case, Mr. President, lets leave education to Educators. I just can't trust it in the hands of politicians...


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