Taking the Technology Journey at NCETC

I just met the hotel newspaper fairy, while stepping out of the elevator, after going all the way down to the 9th floor to find a working ice machine.  He’s short, wears round-rimed glasses, and has combed back black hair that sweeps back into wings above each ear.  He seems to wear a uniform, though its more like a bellman’s attire than a policeman — as is the case with the hotel bill fairy, who slips the bill under your door on the last morning of your stay.  The newspaper fairy is also a nervous fellow, as I pretty obviously startled him when I walked out of the elevator. 

20th NCETCIt’s the 20th NCETC, and they threw a wonderful reception last night with lots of food, a chamber orchestra, and lots of people — and the conference staff was obviously excited.  I’ve attended every NCETC and I believe that I’ve presented at every one.  The earliest state conferences I attended (more than 20 years ago) were run by a regional computer club called Micro 5.  It was almost entirely about Apple IIes, and the rage was The Print Shop.  There weren’t a lot of people using computers, and we didn’t seem to mind that we were a minority – a very special minority.  After all, most schools didn’t have them, and the ones that did, usually had less than a half-dozen.

Today, there are still a lot of teachers who don’t use them and don’t want to.  It’s the theme of this conference , so far as the conversations I’m having here.  Three times already I’ve told people, I’ve had this conversation three, four, five times already today. 

“We can’t even get teachers to fill out a simple web form for our information system.  Teachers are telling us ‘We’ve taught well for 25 years without computers, we can do it another five.’  and ‘I do not have time to learn this stuff!'”

It’s true that a teacher can be a great teacher without using technology and it’s true that teachers have a tragic lack of professional time to develop and refine their skills and knowledge.  ..And sadly, it is also true that a few teachers are not very good learners. 

But I think it’s wrong to expect teachers to use technology.  It’s like saying, “I expect you to use the chalk board!”  But what if half of the teachers in your school said, “I can be a good teacher without using our textbooks or any other text-based resources.  My students are going to learn without reading.”  Now that would probably shock us, because deep down, regardless of the testing culture of U.S. schools, we understand that reading is a working skill, not just an academic skill.  That students should be using this skill, not just learning it.

I think it’s the same with computers and networks.  Using digital networked content is part of being literate, and it is a working skill.  Teachers who aren’t using computers and the Internet in their classrooms with their students every day are depriving their children of the opportunity and the right to use basic literacies as working skills.  You can be a good teacher an not use technology.  But you’re not doing your job.

That said, we need to provide three things to teachers, if we are going to expect them to take the “technology journey.”  We need to give them

  • A Road – digital networked content no more than an arm’s reach away,
  • A Destination – Something on the other side worth working for, and
  • No Choice

2¢ Worth

11 thoughts on “Taking the Technology Journey at NCETC”

  1. David,

    I like your three ‘needs’ I can’t agree more that what needs to happen is schools need to start hosting their own networks that are “an arm’s reach away” for teachers. It’s made all the difference at our school. Here http://www.saschinaonline.org you can see the lates blog posts from over 600 students and 40 some teachers. All hosted on our school server.

    We do need to make these tools an arm’s reach away and that means hosting them ourselves. The tools are out there WordPressMU, Drupal, Elgg just to name a few. We can not/should not expect teachers to have to host their own blogs at blogger, there own wikis at wikispaces, and their own podcasts at odeo. Schools need to embrace these new tools, set up servers and start serving their teachers.

    I also think schools are missing out on a huge PR opportunity by not hosting these tools and having some control over the look/feel of the sights.

    Of course the choice thing is huge. You told me once a couple years ago in one of our first e-mail exchanges that “As long as it’s optional some will opt not to use it”. So true!

    Thanks for the conversation!

  2. David,

    Bear with me this is my first time joining the conversation. I love and promote technology in education but have been trying to sort through these thoughts over the past few months and your latest blog post brings it home.

    Maybe this is just a merging of thoughts but during a seminar I attended at my school to view a trip one of our administrators took to India this summer as part of World View he was showing pictures of students in classrooms in India. They were in uniform in a classroom with school desks. There was no technology that I could see. The classroom teacher holds a Ph. D.

    The other thought is that in India one of the major technology barriers is the infrastructure. In the cities where large call centers are located like Infosys and Tata they have their own power plants because they cannot afford to have black outs.

    So my convergence of thoughts happens while thinking about the “Did you know” video where it states that in “In India, there are 1,100 people just like you.”
    That 28% of the population in India with the highest IQ’s is greater than the total population of North America. They have more honors kids than we have kids.

    How and when do these kids learn to use technology when the infrastructure is not there to support it ?

    The most obvious difference that I can see is that more emphasis is placed on Education.

    I think I am still trying to sort through this?

  3. David and Angie:
    I think the key to having teachers use technology is also to point out that it is what our students need. Teachers may have taught for so many years and been successful and may still be successful in a sense, but their students of today and in the future are not getting the skills they need once they leave the K12 education forum if technology is not involved somehow. I have one teacher in my building who uses the argument that they may have the technology here in our building but once they leave our walls they will not have the technology. How do you counter this one? I’ve always told him that they aren’t looking hard enough where they go after they leave us. With public libraries and academic libraries having free internet, the excuse of not having access to it doesn’t always fly. If students need access to it, they can find it. I understand our high school students not being able to make it to the public library and such (we offer an after school program with busing for students who don’t drive or whose parents won’t come to pick them up). However, a college student can have the means to get to a public library or the college library to find a computer. I have a hard time with his arguments.

  4. Gee thanks for puncturing my illusions about the newspaper fairy and the bill fairy! All I need is for you to tell me that airport baggage handlers don’t look like the Yeti (in spite of the size of the footprints they leave in one’s baggage) and that’ll be the hat trick.

    But to get on to the more serious part of your post – I think your three provisions are spot on. The problem is that it doesn’t lie in the hands of the “we” you refer to. It lies in the hands of officials and politicians who are largely even further back on this journey than the teachers themselves.

  5. Karyn, I couldn’t agree more! Many people who make decisions for our classrooms are totally unaware of the power of these tools. Which means we need to educate our students AND the decision makers. I have recently started by sending interesting blog entries to my principal, superintendent and technology coordinator. It is not much, but it is a start. The more I read blogs like this one, the more I feel the need to do more. Thanks for inspiring me!

  6. David,

    I’m with you on at least 1/3 of your recommendations – no choice.

    Teachers may choose to use MicroWorlds or Sibelius or MediaBlender or InspireData or MBL probes, but NOT to perform their professional obligations.

    Every employment contract requires personal growth. Failing to do so is in violation of that agreement.

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