There are plenty of teachers who think technology is important
But there aren’t many people who are willing to spend lots and lots of time learning to use it for good instruction, and there are fewer who are willing to teach the skills explicitly to their students. Often teachers are content to use some tech in their instruction (“I put my board notes in PowerPoint”) without trying to move any further. Many people tell me things like, “The kids know more than I do!” and they feel the statement speaks more to the characteristics of the younger generation than it does to their own priorities.
How important does it have to be?
Most teachers I know now see themselves as teachers of literacy, and many as teachers of numeracy. These sets of skills and understanding are pretty universally accepted as essential for students to develop. Kids need strong reading skills, so we need to be good teachers of reading. No problem.
So why is it weird to suggest that if kids need strong technology skills, we need to be good teachers of technology? How important does the development of those skills have to become for our students’ futures before we consider them essential to our teaching?
We “get” reading and math
We all learned that stuff, in some form, to varying degrees. We have relevant learning experiences (good and bad) to draw upon which can inform our teaching. And we see how we use those skills regularly, how much they help us as professionals and as citizens.
Technology is different somehow
Computer technology? Online collaboration? File maintenance? Because this area is “new” (by comparison, I suppose) and rapidly evolving, even young bucks like me (who had PCs in their elementary schools) don’t have a relevant school experience to draw upon. It looks different now. And for some reason the everyday experience of using technology personally (e.g. Gmail, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) isn’t viewed as similar to (or even useful for) teaching the use of technology in the classroom.
We don’t know what’s next
I don’t what computer technology will look like in ten years, and neither do you. But I know one thing: it will be closer to what we have now than it will be to what we had twenty years ago. If I taught my children now based only on my experiences with my XT, or my 486 DX2, or even my Blackberry Curve 8330, I’d be doing them a disservice. We should use today’s Web, today’s tablets, today’s networks. And that means being familiar and competent.
There isn’t really enough time
I know. There truly isn’t. I’ll admit, I’m a better teacher of technology than I am of reading, because I’ve spent a lot more time on tech and I can’t do everything really well. But there are three things that make me feel okay about this:
- I’m a competent teacher of reading. Not awesome, but good, at least.
- I know where to go for help with my learning.
- I will continue to improve, because I know it’s important to get better at it.
I have to prioritize my own learning based on my role. In preparation for next year, when I’m teaching high school students again, I’ll have to shift my focus heavily to literacy and numeracy, while maintaining a foothold in tech.
So we need to learn more
Computer things look different now than they did when you and I were students, but they’re increasingly important, so we need to prioritize our learning in this area. We can’t rely on students to show us the path, to teach us the skills (although we can learn from them in many ways). We need to learn, plan, and educate the next generation so that they’re as prepared as we can make them. Hopefully the next generation of teachers will be highly reflective and highly connected; I believe they will be, if we require it of them and first of ourselves.