Ed Tech’s are stupid!

I have been thinking about comments Chris Betcher said a few weeks ago about how do we get teachers to adopt 21C tools. I’ve also been spending far too much money in three general computing rooms of late fixing petty damage. A trend that is increasing from an almost zero level a few years ago. As ICT teachers use these rooms, it is frustrating that the room they need to do their job is often not 100% due to damage to mice, keyboards etc.,

I’m thinking that in the Ed Tech rush to engage staff in the potential of Web2.0, that we have actually made it all to easy to get out of their depth. I see lessons that involve summarising the text book into power point, or Googling into a Publisher leaflet daily.

This leads to students being bored – the task is hardly new, but repetitive across multiple subjects.

Showing a video in a computer room is equally passive – and lets face it most of the good bits are now on YouTube, so there really is no valid reason for spending 2 lessons showing a video these days.

These activities can often be completed by students in a short time, so they pad out their time, often resorting to petty damange to while away their time. Classroom management is lacking – students appear to be busy, but are not challenged. To them, its probably less boring than being in the text book classroom. Yet it costs the school time and money to support this poor use of ICTs and actually prevents Ed Tech from developing further.

But herein lies the problem. We want them to use it, so access is made easy. PD is offered, but suffers from the power distribution law syndrome where a few, do most, most of the time. Teachers know that they can set some task – say a video – but don’t need to ‘learn’ to use it personally – they don’t go through the student experience – so a guessing at the value of the activity at best. They assume that the ‘digital natives’ will just get on with it – else the IT people or computing staff will be the ‘go to’ people for the students. We accept this, and of course help the kids as we figure at least the kids are using technology.

But it is not acceptable. Teachers should take the time to learn how to do the task – if they don’t then how then how do they know that it is even valid or do-able.

We allow the same excuses; I don’t have the time, I don’t have the PD; I don’t have the access etc.,

Office is not a 21C skill, its largely a solo, passive use of ICT. At best its a low end ‘mastery skill’ these days. Its been around for over a decade, and teachers have been using it in exactly the same way. How often have you seen a teacher showing kids in a Social Studies Power Point task – how to hyperlink or use navigation icons even?

Sure it has syllabus elements – but does not teach critical thinking, collaboration etc., and does not develop independant writers or reflective learners that we are all so passionate to see.

We tollerate it for the simple reason that we hope that students will at least have access to technology. When in fact it is wasting valuable time.

Use of these technologies is not tied to any level of competency. It almost like we allow it as an appology for the interruption to traditional chalk and talk teaching methods. But a decade on, teachers still cite Office as a challenge – so we never get to the ‘shift’ conversation. Teachers head it iff way before that.

We (IT) spend time and resources servicing outmoded technology, we repair damage from students who are bored, we ignore the fact that 90% of all ICT experiences are based around the same activity and so commit time and resources to facilitate minor, low level learning experiences.

An ICT teacher cannot go to a science lab and just start using equipment. We can’t go to the wood-tech room and start using tools, nor can we go to the food tech room and make Pizza, as we’ve decided to make a leaflet about it. We don’t do it, because we would be told in no uncertain terms that we don’t know what we are doing, and that these resources are NOT for ICT people. But Ed Tech is an open door to anyone – despite their level of competency or ability to manage a digital classroom.

To get to Chris’ question – I think that use of computer services has to be explicity tied to PD, to explicit ‘standards’ (perhaps NETs), and in explicit time frames. Prior to allowing them to use the technology.

If you want to use the room, then use it in a way which will engage students and not cause problems to ICT staff or replicate ICT learning in other classrooms. Instead of using IT to fix problems, use it to generate opportunities – for students – and professional development for staff.

Perhaps we might upset people in suggesting this, but I’d hope that teachers are professional enough to see that offering them opportunities to go beyond their current point of reference (the past) is not a critisism.

The staffroom is one of the most delicate ecosystems I’ve ever been in. Unlike advertising, where you’re either adding value, or being escorted to the lobby.

It seems logical to me that if I was a non-experienced (in ICT) teacher – or one with limited use of technology – in English, I’d ask for help, just as I would need help in setting up and running a science experiment.

Non-ICT staff seem to have no problem in offering criticism of the system, the room, the speed, the screen etc., if the system is not working as they want it. They assume that it is not their problem, and we accept that. Yet they are not too interested if the conversation is reversed.

I see some amazing teachers doing amazing things, and I also see shocking uses of ICT. Perhaps limiting access to ICT services, based on competency – will serve to improve the teaching and learning, and in turn will start to see flow on changes in the curriculum.

I think maybe that our desire to see change, clouds the reality that it will not happen unless access is tied to profficiency  – just as it is in every other KLA who has specialist tools.

I am sure it won’t go down well, but if there is a mentor/support program in place to provide solutions – then perhaps we can start to ‘turn the supertanker’ as Chris put it. Right now, those in the wheel house are off course, and Ed Tech is on the bow yelling ‘Iceburg’ into the wind.


6 thoughts on “Ed Tech’s are stupid!

  1. There are no tech guys like you where I work. Education and technology have mostly been seen as somewhat separate entities. I think they are moving away from that some, but probably not enough based on who and how they are hiring for new tech positions they are creating. A true educational technologist’s focus should always be on STUDENT learning, and I have rarely, if ever, seen your focus shift away from that objective. [#4 out of 10 my big fat Montana A@#$, is arse a bad word in Australia]

    “I see some amazing teachers doing amazing things, and I also see shocking uses of ICT. Perhaps limiting access to ICT services, based on competency – will serve to improve the teaching and learning, and in turn will start to see flow on changes in the curriculum.” –

    This quote scares me a little…I am probably guilty of some of the shocking uses of ICT you speak of. However, I am excited about the upcoming year because of the things I have been learning about read/write technologies. Learning this stuff (Web2.0) takes time…time that many teachers are not yet ready or willing to invest until they see teachers like you successfully implementing it with students. I like how K. Jarrett put it in one of his WS’s on being a connected teacher…It is not about having the time…it is about prioritizing your time…

    I am not sure what KLA means…probably very obvious…

    I talked with my boss about QA yesterday…I get to use it in my classroom…I hope I implement things in a good way…Keep my focus on student learning like you do…

  2. Hey Dean,
    It is an interesting post I sense your frustration and hope that you have leadership support so that all teachers eventually can access these facilities. My main thinking with this is, In education we are the only industry actively integrating ICT everyone else just uses it. There are no battles in the private sector it is just expected, hopefully we will get to a stage where it is just done and not battled to be “integrated”

  3. KLA – Key Learning Area. Recognizing poor use is the first step to acknowledging you can do better – and we can always at least try to do better. QA is hardly a low level activity, and I think you’ll see your students really get a lot from it, and look forward to reading your reflections and theirs.

    I agree, IT seems to be focused on keeping a system running, rather than looking at what it could do. But that involves a fundamental change and recognition that change is needed. Directing IT to me is about observing how fast technology is changing learning. It is no longer two things, one facilitating the other.

    I think administrators are really struggling to understand this, and really want to have some one acting as a mediator between school and IT. In fact they need someone who can bring the two together, not just pass messages back and forth.

    The classroom teacher has an amazing opportunity to deliver powerful practice, but poor use gives kids bad habits, and further fuels the arguement that ‘teachers’ (as a group) are unable to understand technology’s finer technical aspects. The truth is, we don’t need to anymore. QA is a great example of that and in middle school, I think your passion will engage students, and you have a new array of tools to deliver it.

    Just don’t expect everyone to go ‘wow’. It takes a lot of time to even bring a few teachers on board, but no time to get the kids interested.

    Its always about the learning, never the bling for me, and extending my classroom – beyond the physical space, and the time spent in class. Its now almost midnight, and I’ve ‘taught’ half a dozen kids tonight via classroom technology I’ve put in place this week.

    And I’m happy to do it and keep doing it. An hour spent ‘googling and pasting’ is a waste of everyones time. Maybe this is why so many students are not choosing IT subjects … they are over low level activities at school, when at home they are engaged in activities and social networks that actually form part of their lives.

  4. Enjoyed the post and see a lot of what you say in our school. I’ve been guilty of it myself but am at least aware of my limitations and trying to learn some new skills to then teach my kids better.
    Whats your view on IWB’s ? Will this allow “non” ICT teachers to have a different tech tool in another space and allow ICT to be taught by trained experts? or does it just shift the issues elsewhere?

    I get frustrated that in trying to upskill I have to wait 2 weeks to get installs done by techies. I am not deemed competent at work, (nor is our ICT expert) although I complete these installs at home easily. DET NSW seems to block so much from those teachers trying to learn new skills.

  5. Yes, DET actually calls Twitter a dating site, so I hear. I am fortunate in that our principal allows me to run independent internet lines, so I run my own filters. I don’t think IWBs are that great in High School in AU, though UK teachers love them. I’ve not found they give a return on investment to be honest. Have a look at the cheaper option – Avermedia digital OHP, this allows teachers to project paper/objects to a projector.

    Teachers who don’t have sufficient access, or experience to deal with IWBs or learn how to make killer powerpoint or visual materials really take to them. Best of all, they can get a student to work them easily – so the paper can be captured and shared via a flash drive.

    They are cheap, simple, portable and have had a big impact in more traditional teachers. The pedagogy doesnt shift much, but at least the content is on screen and can be saved/shared.

    Small steps … thanks for the comment

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