Years ago, I had a principal who was a huge promoter of early literacy. Most everything he did could be connected in some way to efforts to increase literacy among our elementary students. Innovative reading programs, new instructional methods, professional learning initiatives, even silly contests, you name it, if he thought it would get kids reading and writing and “move the needle” on early literacy, he was all about it. One of his favorite phrases was: “everyone’s a reading teacher.” It’s a phrase we still hear today in my school, and many still take to heart.
I teach elementary technology. Students come to see me once a week for about 40 minutes. Though my “computer lab” isn’t very traditional - it’s a state of the art, learner-centered space I designed myself that leverages mobile devices and features a STEM emphasis - it is nonetheless a throwback to the days when computers first came to schools and were placed in centrally located labs. Kids went to the “Computer Lab” to “do technology.” Although there were often computers in the classrooms, whole-class, technology-infused learning was, for the most part, considered the domain of the technology teacher.
Fast forward 15+ years or so … despite giant leaps in technology, many “Computer Lab” curriculums reamin pretty standard: core skills like word processing, spreadsheets, internet safety, multimedia authoring, working with the school network, keyboarding, etc. still dominate. The tools have changed, but the most basic technology literacies are largely the same.
Recently, though, as cloud computing in particular has taken off and the price of devices has plummeted, more and more “technology” is happening outside the “Computer Lab.” Kids are using Chromebooks, iPads, personal devices, programmable robots and more to explore and learn. Technology teachers, where they still exist, remain responsible for ensuring that students acquire a solid foundation of technology skills. But as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, two things happen. One, students are more likely to see educational technology tools used in in “regular” classes and two, the demand for students to be skilled with those tools increases accordingly.
We technology educators take what we do very seriously, and we recognize that foundation skills we’re helping kids develop are critical to their careers in today’s technology-infused learning environments. And so I imagine that technology teachers everywhere, like me, cringe when they hear a colleague say things like “students don’t know how to cut-and-paste,” or, “they can’t save a file to the network,” or “their keyboarding skills aren’t very good,” or “they don’t know how to use spell-check.” We cringe because we are responsible for ensuring kids acquire those skills.
Technology keeps moving forward, of course, and students benefit from greater access to new and innovative tools that seem to be released every day, but that can put all educators - regardless of subject area - into positions where they, too, find themselves being technology teachers ... requiring them to be well versed enough with the tools and technologies to be able to answer questions and even communicate new concepts. (Or, at least, be able to figure things out and explain what they’ve learned.) In today’s high-pressure, high-stakes school environment, the last thing teachers need is something else they have to teach. And yet, here we are...
One recent example is the launch of Google Classroom, a new service that makes it easier for students and teachers to work online. While students (like at my school) who have been exposed to these technologies and tools in “Computer Lab” will be fine, those that haven’t - or haven’t achieved mastery - are going to have questions. Questions that will need to be answered, either by a teacher in the room or perhaps a fellow student. Which is why, in my view at least, everyone is a technology teacher.
What do you think? Does every teacher need to be a technology teacher these days? How do your students acquire the skills they need to be successful in your class with the educational technologies you incorporate into your lessons?
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.