Push, pull, resist. Is it time to be at war or peace with technology?

18-Jan-2012

It seems that every corner of the educational system regardless the geographical location is lobbying for using hi-tech tools in the classroom. At the same time, we can sense a growing tension on the teachers’ side, whenever it is mentioned to them. The question is where this tension is coming from and does it mean that every teacher even the tech savvy one resists using technology in the classroom.

I have even started looking closer at the issue after reading Matt Richtel’s article Teachers Resist High-Tech Push in Idaho Schools in the New York Times. Looking at the teachers I have come across as a teacher trainer, I must agree with Sabrina Laine, who says that it’s not that teachers object to applying technology on principle, but rather when left alone without any support or training to successfully implement hi-tech tools. I personally have met a lot of teachers who were very interested in the whole idea but at the same time felt it was quite overwhelming and they were really counting on receiving guidance and advice on how to successfully integrate it into their students’ learning process. I noticed that once they saw that it’s not another thing thrown at them and added to their job description by their supervisors, but a well organized and staged implementation process, teachers became open for suggestions and eager to have a go.

On the other hand, there are teachers who see the approach of technology as an apocalyptic time. In the article, Tom Luna mentions that due to miscommunication teachers became worried that soon they all will be replaced by computers and that teaching positions will cease to exist. I suppose that there is no need to worry about it as yet. However, I have also heard during training sessions some teachers saying that as online courses and test parts can be automatically checked there’s not much for them to do. I might have a very traditional approach to teaching deep inside, but it’s hard to believe or imagine that the whole learning might take place without teachers help. I believe that students still need a push from behind to study and stay motivated in the long term. As for now, teachers are needed and crucial to walk students through the language maze and assist with more complex issues. Even if there is a pure online course a teacher’s presence is still required, even if you call it a moderator rather than a teacher, but without this presence things can quickly slip away. And I do agree with Mr. Luna in the article that the role of teacher has changed in the 21st century; I believe it has evolved, transformed but also secured throughout all those years. This is why proper training and support is so important because teachers need such support when faced with a whole new situation in a very familiar environment, such as the classroom.

As I am talking here about the teachers’ resistance towards technology, it’s worth mentioning Ms Rosenbaum, the teacher discussed in the articles whose students are providing homework and journal assignments handwritten. It’s not that I find it unacceptable to give handwritten assignments to students, but rather the fact that for Ms Rosenbaum using technology, as I understand, is depriving students of developing critical thinking skills and thinking itself. I do believe that as online content pays such a big part in the students’ lives it is important to include it in the classroom: to simply teach them about selecting materials, what’s right, wrong or simply true or not. Technology is a tool and it’s to some extent up to teachers to decide when, what and for how long it should be used, so that students as well as teachers can benefit from it and leave the classroom feeling they have accomplished something very important.

Joanna

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