Friday, November 14, 2014

When Did The Shift Begin And Why?

For 9 years at my school I was basically a "silo" teacher in my little computer lab seeing every student in the school one day a week for keyboarding instruction and whatever happened to be the latest thing I felt I needed to teach our students for success. In those 9 years I never ONCE had a parent or teacher come and question anything I chose to do in my classroom with their students. In fact, most the time they didn't even ask what I was doing.

BUT the culture has shifted dramatically and I sit here this morning wondering WHY? When and why did the use of technology in the classroom become something that is inherently questioned? Why does society assume the worst about it instead of seeing its benefits now? Why does society assume the teacher can no longer manage technology? Each week I feel like I have to constantly find a balance for the "trusting parents" vs. the "hyper-vigilant" parents regarding technology. Every week I feel like I make someone mad. It's not a fun place to be but it seems to be a necessary place to be. In our elementary school, our students as a whole have LESS time with technology now that we are using tablet devices than they did when they came and met me in the classroom this week but I'm questioned more than ever.

In "my perfect world," my elementary students would have scheduled technology class once a week where they would be taught digital citizenship lessons along with basic technology skills constantly throughout the year. That "perfect world" would include me having time to observe in classrooms to make suggestions on how to infuse technology into lessons already being taught. It would allow me to make sure best-practices are in place in all classrooms.  It would give me opportunities to teach teachers new technology "stuff" on a regular basis as well as co-teach with teachers willing to give something a try.

In my "perfect world," my elementary students would be gaming- yes! I said it...gaming. They would be using critical thinking games/apps on a regular basis. They would be using intuitive software that would help them feel like successful students because their educational needs would be met where the student was at that moment. In my "perfect world," teachers would be encouraged to use social media as an asset to their classrooms and any technology would be acceptable- including cell phones.  *GASP*

BUT the world is not perfect. I push, I pull, I tug, I tow with the amount of time I have, the resources at my disposal, and the attitudes of our community. Every teacher feels overwhelmed at times and today I feel that way. Sometimes I get stuck on the potential and forget to see the current growth. Sometimes I feel I've had to justify the school's (and my own) position so many times that I begin to shake my head and wonder "IS IT WORTH IT?" I know I can't make everyone happy. I'm living that daily but I would like to think that I am making a difference; that parents, teachers, students, and administrators are seeing the positive results of technology used well. Will there be issues? You betcha but I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the attributes technology brings to education far outweighs any detriment.

By teaching students HOW to learn instead of WHAT to learn we are opening wider the door for lifelong learning. By creating a culture of inquisitiveness we are teaching these students how to reach into their back pocket for the rest of their lives, grab their computer in the shape of a smartphone, and search the web for anything they don't understand or want to know more about. THIS is the first generation that truly can learn on the go; lets embrace that wonderful gift and allow them to enjoy "just in time" learning!

I know my "perfect world" is not the same as other people's "perfect world" and so I seek balance. I know I need to lead and teach in baby steps regarding technology. I know I have a responsibility to help others understand best practices, how we work as a community in deciding how much and what kind of technology we use, and to be available to help when someone is ready to take that "next step." Some days it is overwhelming. Other days it is so wonderfully done that it puts a smile on my face and in my heart. Those are the days I realize my "perfect world" is based on attitude and intent as much as any long term goals I might have. Regardless of what my dreams might be, the ever-changing fluid nature of instructional technology will never be "perfect" but it will always be worth it in my eyes.