A teacher said to me “I don’t have time to use technology in my teaching”.
What a strange thing to say! – I can’t think of any other professional occupation in which people feel that computer technology slows them down, gets in the way and makes their work less efficient? In other professions it reduces friction, increases productivity and saves time (and money). That is why those industries least forgiving of inefficiency, are most invested in computer technology.
I don’t think the teacher I spoke to is alone, either (I think her feelings are quite common among teachers, actually). And what’s more, I don’t doubt that she is right! Technology probably does make her work less efficient. But that is because she’s doing it wrong.
Steve Jobs said that a computer is like “a bicycle for our minds” meaning that it magnifies the efficiency of our thinking the way a bicycle improves the efficiency of our locomotion. I love that analogy – and I think it’s very true, but it does, of course, assume that you actually ride the bike (rather than wheeling it alongside while walking). In order to ride a bike, you have got to stop walking. You can’t do both. If you’re not prepared to give up walking, then the bicycle is a hindrance.
When teachers describe technology as a hindrance to their work, I say that’s because they are unprepared to let go of their old methodologies. Instead of “riding” technology, they’re “wheeling” it alongside their old teaching practices.
Teachers are forced to “walk their bikes”, because of administration officials at the district level and up that use software as a quick fix and they don’t truly understand how technology can revolutionize teaching. Having said that, there is no technology that can replace the human to human interaction that is required for successful education of our children. Effective teachers are also great problem solver’s and technology would simply be one more tool in their kit, not a panacea. Everywhere you dig, you’ll find the teachers are consistently having new layers of teaching methods piled on top of the old ones that they have to continue using. There’s so much that the district is expecting a teacher to be able to do in one day, with an average of 20 students, that trying to incorporate computers in the classroom does become a hindrance. There usually isn’t a one to one ratio of computers and kids in the room, so that means the teacher has to find a way to rotate the children amongst a small group of computers while at the same time keeping all the other kids separated and on task in their different learning centers. None of this that I’ve mentioned still takes into account the varying degrees of capability by the children, their emotions that day, their ability to stay focused, they’re wanting to be at school, etc. I am barely scratching the surface year.
You make some valid points about some systemic problems in education. But there is much that we as individual class teachers can do with the resources available to us. I know many teachers who are “riding” and finding that they are both more efficient and more effective. As one reader tweeted this morning “I don’t have time NOT to be using technology in my teaching”. That’s how I feel too.
Situations like you describe, Marc, (where there are only a small number of computers that students rotate through) is not what I’m talking about – that’s a situation of not having a bike to ride! But most teachers (in my part of the world – Victoria, Australia) don’t face that problem. There is plenty of scope for letting technology reduce friction, increase efficiency and save time – and I see many teachers who are doing exactly that. But I see many who are not.
i get your belief that it seems strange that a teacher would believe that technology Is a “hindrance”, but I don’t think you understand the real reason. As a teacher I often find technology a hindrence. It’s not because we are t using it correctly, it’s because:
1.We don’t have access
2 students don’t have access
3. Absences and irregular attendence
4. Strict schedules that don’t allow for flexibility
5. Students not doing that work at home and prevention interactive lessons.
Just to name a few.
Hi Michael – thanks for the comment. I think I do understand systemic issues in schools – I have been a teacher for 22 years. I agree that there are some systemic issues in some places that individual class teachers don’t have control over. That’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking more about teachers (who do have technology available) being unprepared to rethink their teaching and learning processes in view of the technology that IS available to them.
Your example I think underscores what I’m saying though, right? You yourself, find using technology a ‘hindrance’ because you are not (able to be) riding it. In your case it’s not your fault – the systemic issues you listed are preventing you from riding it. Nevertheless, because you can’t stop doing things the old way (for whatever reason), you are finding ICT a hindrance! I’m not casting blame – just saying that if one is not “all-in” with technology, it’s likely to feel like an encumbrance.
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Thanks for another great post; always so thought provoking.
I’ve been on family leave so I’ve been out of the classroom full time for two years. Sadly, I think I could be away for another ten years and teachers would still be saying “I don’t have time for technology”!
One point I’d like to raise is about technology and lower primary. This is an area I taught in for many years. I’d consider my use of technology with young students to be fairly innovative, varied and embedded seamlessly, however, I think in the early years there may always be a bit of “wheeling the bike alongside you as you walk”. Take reading for example, I loved presenting my students with a wide range of multi media texts to develop their literacy skills, however, there were times when we’d just use regular old books. Every day in fact!
I could provide many other examples in core subject areas, but overall I’d say that, especially in lower primary, sometimes you’re riding the bike, sometimes you’re wheeling the bike alongside you, and sometimes the bike is being temporarily left to the side. It’s important to consider the best ways to use your bike. This is what I think makes up an effective early years classroom in 2015.
Thanks again for a great post!
Hi Kathleen – thanks for the comment, I’ve missed you!
I completely agree with you and I certainly don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t do anything the old way. Sometimes the old way is still the best – many things, actually – and if the old way is the most effective, then that’s the way it should be done. It’s also true that when I wrote this I was looking at secondary schools more than primary schools. (Though I’m sure there are many inefficiencies in PS too)! But I’m not suggesting we throw babies out with bath water.
Thanks for an interesting post. I can see how using technologies require one to stop “walking” and start “riding.” Having said, riding a bike, at least at the beginning, is not an easy task. I remember falling so many times before I could freely ride a bike and I could see some people choose not to learn how to ride because the initial phase is too demanding.
What helped me transitioning from walking to riding (and learned to enjoy the efficiency of riding a bike) were my father giving me tips and little wheels giving me support until I could ride on my own.
The question I would like to ask you is that what technology companies can do to help teachers transition or ease initial barriers to adoption of technologies. Are there good features/tools/services you have seen (or would like to see) that help teachers switch from traditional methodologies to the new ones?
Thanks again for your insightful posts!