Professional Learning

Are We Chasing Technology or Mastering It?

Blogger Andrew Marcinek cautions against embracing new technologies without mastering the old ones.

September 9, 2010

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.

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