Are We Chasing Technology or Mastering It? | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Slow down, you move too fast...

These are the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's famous The 59th Street Bridge Song. Most think the title is "Feelin' Groovy" but like most S&G songs, the title makes you think a little more about the context of the song rather than simply giving it to you. You have to slow down and listen to each lyric and allow their harmonies to take you to their world.

These lyrics came into my head last night as I was participating in the fast moving stream of #edchat. The topic was "With the development of tech in our society, how prepared are educators?" My first reaction was why are we worried about pace? Why do we care how fast everyone is acclimating to technology inside or outside of the classroom? This is not why we teach. We teach, or at least I do, to provide students with fundamental skills that they can take with them beyond my classroom. I give them adaptability skills and present them with a variety of challenges in Language Arts daily. I move at a different pace than most of my colleagues, but I make sure I hit all of the standards and never move on until they are mastered.

So why are we concerned about pace or using "new" tools before we have mastered the ones we already have? I don't want my students to move to the next skill set before they have mastered their current set. As teachers we model this daily, yet we are so anxious to find the next tech tool or create the next buzzword in education. At this pace we are spreading ourselves too thin and short-changing our students. It is not the way to integrate technology or 21st century learning skills.

As a technology specialist I want to allow teachers to move at their own pace and allow them to use whichever learning tool suits them best. To other technology specialists, I would suggest that you present these slower moving colleagues with some ideas as you move ahead at a much different pace. Don't come at them aggressively or arrogantly, just say, "I have some ideas that may or may not help your lessons. Give them a try and if you need help, let me know." Give a collegial nod, and walk away.

If your colleagues use PowerPoint effectively and the kids are learning from it then let them go. Let them check it off as technology integration! Don't be one of the Tech-jocks and scoff at their slow uptake on the tech wave. Embrace them! Give them a short, resounding golf clap for stepping out of their comfort zone. And remember, not everyone teaches like you; just as our students don't all learn the same way.

Educators should not pace education at the same pace at which technology moves. It is far too fast, and too sudden. Technology is old when you buy it, however, content and skill sets have been thriving, although evolving, for years. When we combine the two tracks we can create a dynamic classroom environment. If we focus on a few tech tools a year and evolve those tools each year or each semester we will be giving our students a rich, dynamic curriculum.

Let's focus on what we have in education and master it before we move on to the next trend. The iPhone is a good example of how we should all pace our classrooms. Each year Apple comes out with a new iPhone. They expand and evolve the previous version while keeping the core elements in tact. They add a little each year without racing or worrying about what others are doing. They are confident with the product they have and understand that they can always make it better. And, last time I checked they do pretty well (save for that minor antenna issue).

Take this approach and pace in your own classroom this year. Allow your colleagues time to learn, evolve, and master before you start shouting WIKI! MOODLE! GOOGLE! DIIGO! TWITTER! in their face. As my uncle once wrote in my 21st Birthday card, "Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint."

Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy.

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Barbara A. Boksz (Schulz)'s picture
Barbara A. Boksz (Schulz)
Computer Literacy Teacher

As a Middle School Computer Literacy teacher, I see technology differently. Yes, kids are more familiar with technology than we are in many ways, and we should be using the technology to tap into their way of learning. However, I see myself as teaching them to expand their uses of technology to the world of work. They use it to communicate, socialize, and inadvertantly learn about the world around them. But many of them come into the classroom trying to use texting for communicating in a formal manner. In addition, most come with little knowledge of what word processing or spreadsheets truly are, or how they'll use them later in life. They know how to make PowerPoints, but have not grasped the principals of visual design, or using them to make a point rather than tell the whole story. When I teach them about databases, it really stretches their thinking when they have to decide whether a sort or filter is the best tool.

Even in today's Youtube society, most kids (in my Title 1 school) come into class without the knowledge of how to shoot and edit videos, and what it takes to make one creative. So how can they analyze and evaluate sources appropriately if they don't understand how easy or hard it is to create a video or hoax? Learning how and when to cite sources is a real challenge as well.

So in summary, I see that there's a new "electronic pencil" for them to use to navigate a global world, and it's my job to teach them the skills they need to navigate that world. Even knowing the proper protocols to use in a chat room (many businesses are now using IM for interoffice communications), is something that has to be learned in a classroom. When they first get on a chat with me, they go crazy and silly, probably because their chats have had a wild west atmosphere with very little adult supervision. Teaching them what's acceptable and not acceptable in formal situations is a new skill. Adding global perspectives to that so they'll be able to work with international colleagues is a goal of mine. However, right now that is very limited by my district. I feel my kids will not be prepared for the future world of work.

So while I want to go faster with using the technology in the classrooms, I feel like my hands are tied by neaderthal like restrictions imposed by lawyers who run the school district.

Jennifer Richmond's picture

[quote]what skills can we bypass or retire in the 21st century. ... I feel that once we reassess our content and evaluate what we can do without and what we need to update, then we can begin to incorporate technology or new tools to assist in the learning process.[/quote]

I definitely agree with this point. It hints at the idea of "power standards". What are the benchmarks that our students REALLY need to know / learn & let's make sure we teach them intensely.

I think a kind of "trap" that people get caught in with technology is that their goal is to use the newest technology thinking it will motivate a student to do their work / better work. While these fancy new bells & whistles may "hook" a few of them, I think thoughtful, well-planned unit projects / problems can just as effectively motivate and engage our learners.

I do think that students enjoy using technology they use on their own within the confines of the classroom, but I don't think that means we need to use everything our students use at home. I also think that teachers can earn a lot of respect from their students when they kind of turn over the reigns to their students and let the students become the teacher. This, in effect, takes the pressure to "learn new technology" off of the teacher and the student can use technology in a more inquiry-based way.

Great post and lots of great comments here. Just thought I'd put down some of my random thoughts, too! Thanks.

Mark Connell's picture

The biggest problem that I see with adopting new technology in schools is the same problem that businesses ran into in the 1990's. Too many people want to have technology for the sake of technology. The approach is backwards. First, let's identify the problem that we are trying to address. Then look for a solution. The approach being used all too often is to buy technology because it is going to "fix things" without ever knowing what we want to fix. If a specific technology is the right solution to a problem, then we should adopt it right away. If there isn't a problem, or the technology isn't the answer, why are we putting resources into adopting it at all?

Tom Miller's picture
Tom Miller
Community Technology Executive for OneCommunity in Cleveland Ohio.

Great articulation of the challenge of keeping pace with tech...

We tend to overlook the functionality of the existing technology we've already adopted. How many teachers have squeezed all of the instructional value from Microsoft Word across all disiplines?

wendy cooley's picture

These are very relevant questions. But I think in trying to prepare our students for the here and future we need to be sure they have enough skills to manage an assignment or LIFE when the technology is wrong, or broke.'s picture

i like your point of view but i have an application on my life ...i feel myself learning little ...but amazed of what is becoming more modern and fun ,technology is wonderful but it masked the scientific goal...

brahim elouafi's picture
brahim elouafi
teacher of English at a high school Morocco

To my mind,technological tools are invading our life in almost all its there seems to be no escape whatsoever from adopting/adapting these mechanisms into our field of work'especilly teachers whose duty it is to educate future generations.We are doomed in one way or another to use technology in our classrooms.

Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson's picture
Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson
Proud Mother of Destiny;4 Grandchildren:Tristen, Peyton,Joshua & Braydon

When I was teaching (Vocational Home Economics) Technology was just taking off into the Educational direction. Computers began the first of many challenges for my students and myself. I worked along with them to utilize Computer Skills with their Vocational Skills in all Home Economic Curriculum from teaching: Child Development (Babies had Computer chip to set), Culinary Skills-required use of many different machines and Sewing and Textiles Class had to use Computerized Sewing Machines/Sergers. Yes, the world of Technology has come a long since I began teaching,now that I am returning to finish my Master's Degree the WORLD of TECHNOLOGY has glogalized with all schools in every class utilizing and students are learning; so as to have an idea of what they want to do with their life-there is one thing for sure they will never escape virtuality.

Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson's picture
Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson
Proud Mother of Destiny;4 Grandchildren:Tristen, Peyton,Joshua & Braydon

Yes, we have to stay-tuned to all new things going on in the World of Tecnology or we will be doomed!

Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson's picture
Ms.Teresa Faye ( Auton) Jackson
Proud Mother of Destiny;4 Grandchildren:Tristen, Peyton,Joshua & Braydon

I agree, the classes are to short that are offered in Technoloy. These classes long enough to cause stress and make us feel a little duh- Well, that is what I experienced. Teachers then didn't have time to teach all skills nor did they have the resources to expand Sessions to followup skills we used in our classroom.

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