I just read two posts by Tom Whitby entitled No Time, No Funds and Digital Pointers? and was motivated to write on the topic of teachers reluctance to use technology. If you’re unfamiliar with Tom Whitby it’s worth the time (yes, you have some) to read through his posts. He’s a huge educational technology advocate and an asset to new and established teachers. His blog is at My Island View and he can be followed on Twitter at @tomwhitby.
As someone whose job is to help others integrate technology into their classrooms, I spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways of doing so. Do you “plant the seed” and occasionally water? Or do you hold their hand at each step? I’m naturally the kind of person that likes to figure things out or make them more efficient, so I tend to favor the seed approach. Until recently, my assumption has been that if you give teachers tools they will use them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I think this is so cool. Everyone is going to love and use this.” Not so. Those that would be inclined to adopt new tools would probably do so anyway. And those who would not be so inclined are not going to with a simple introduction and periodic checking in.
This brings up a very common problem among many adults, fear of technology. And to be perfectly honest, and blunt, I don’t get it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say things like, “I’m computer illiterate” with complete comfort and no sense of embarrassment. Now, it’s one thing for adults who are not educators to cling to their techno-illiteracy and it’s quite another for teachers to do so.
First of all, teachers are supposed to be models for students. One of the most important qualities we hope to instill in our students is lifelong learning. This does not stop once we get to something that plugs in. In fact, it may be more important to demonstrate a willingness to figure things out when it comes to technology. For better or worse, our world is relying on technology more each day. If we don’t attempt to figure out how to work all this stuff we, at worst, place a lot of trust in those that do and, at best, risk being left in the dust.
I wish I remembered where, but I once read a comment to the effect of “Most of us don’t know how our cars work and yet we’re perfectly comfortable driving them daily.” Nobody’s expecting teachers to be able to tear down and rebuild their computers. But if you refuse to learn how to use them to help your students, what message are you sending?
Really, what message are you sending?