Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The REAL Digital Divide

I never intended to be on a controversial bandwagon. I didn't mean to teach anything someone could be vehemently opposed to. For years, I naively didn't even imagine that my "helpful tech tips" to fellow co-workers would be seen as anything but useful nuggets to be stored away for future readiness. And then the veil was lifted, the sands started shifting, the rolling of eyes began, and I started tiptoeing.

What in the world did I do, you ask? I went from being the mild-mannered, silo'd computer teacher to harking the benefits of technology integration in all classes and curriculums. I went from "that sweet teacher down in the elementary school that teaches our students really cool computer skills" to "that tech coach that's trying to change the way we've taught."

I'll be honest, it took me 2 1/2 years before I even realized seeing me walk down the hallway made some people feel uneasy. I was that naive. I truly and totally thought every single teacher would see the merits of technology in the classroom, that they would agree with me that it had the ability to revolutionize learning  as we know it. To me, it was a no brainer so when I tell you I was shocked that people were offended by my offering of technology coaching in the classroom this would be a dramatic understatement. 

You hear a lot about the digital divide in education these days- the haves and the have nots. You hear about how the lack of connectivity for some poor and rural students is causing a digital divide in today's world of education and I believe that is true.

 But there is also another digital divide- educators that are adopters/adaptors of educational technology and those that see no use for trendy technology in the classroom to disrupt pedagogy (and of course whenever there are two camps of opposing views, there are those on the spectrum).

Those along the spectrum are the ones I work to show the benefits of how technology can streamline their classroom or add another dimension to their teaching. Those spectrum educators are fun to work with because I love the challenge of helping them. Those early adopters are the ones I say "hey, I heard about this idea, are you ready to take it to the next level?" They are the ones that keep me on my toes and make me research and push myself to never be satisfied with where I am as an instructional technologist. 

But then there are the "naysayers." Some blatantly spit the word "technology" every chance they get, some are more subversive in their approach but regardless of what the technique is, the digital divide happens and the the abyss gets larger and deeper between each camp as the school year progresses. Feelings get hurt, pride gets ruffled, and real meaningful dialogue from both camps happens as well. With any divisive subject (toilet paper dispensed from top or bottom? Pepperoni or cheese? White after Labor Day or not?) things can be learned from both parties if those involved are willing to be open minded in discussions.

I'm not making this stuff up, it's that time a year when my fellow educational technology professionals are lamenting the same things I am. A school year is almost over and sometimes we still feel like we are banging our heads against the wall regarding those we feel are entrenched against what we are striving to do. I hear the angst, disappointment, and struggles in their voices  as we sit around licking our wounds and pulling up each other's boot straps to take on the end of this school year. 

I've learned a lot this year. I feel like I think about educational technology almost to an obsessive degree. Because of this, I have learned better ways to be more diplomatic with the hesitant educators. I've watched lightbulbs go on when I've done a better job explaining the WHY and HOW of technology integration this year. I've gotten a better grasp on it myself- I'm a more confident implementer- I'm much better at adjusting a lesson midstream than I was in the previous two years. I've failed forward- daily. 

I try not to take the anti-technology camp's comments as personal. I find joy in the little successes and share those successes as I can. I work everyday not to become biased and jaded towards others so that it won't affect any opportunity I might have to help them in the future.

As I said, I never intended to ever teach a controversial subject. I never intended to have to justify what I teach on a weekly basis, but not all crusaders choose their path. This blog post comes from a Twitter chat comment I made to someone really discouraged last night with the negativity and refusal to use technology in her school district that she's been dealing with all year. My comment to her (which has become my goal for this school year) was "Be the difference. Be so good at what you do you can't be ignored." It's not an original quote for sure, but it empowers me daily.

For all of you out there on each side of this digital divide fence, if we are all truly striving to be our best and keep our schools "student-centered", I think we will find our happy place for everyone involved. Let's play nice.