Technology and teachers

I would like to make a correction from my last post, and I think it is an important point.  Teachers are really not techno-phobic, many of us have been very good at accepting and using computers in our own lives and even to do some of the record keeping at school.  The problem as has been pointed out, has been the transference of that technology into our teaching.  Today I read Bill Ferriter’s post on the Tempered Radical, and it is a brilliant post about what happens to teachers when faced with trying to adapt to something new.  Apparently he stirred some feathers with his brilliant attack on the way interactive whiteboards (IWB) are used in the classroom, and one of the responses was from someone who accused him of not being willing to adapt.  Beyond this person totally missing the point about IWBs in the classroom, it obviously got Bill’s back up and he wrote a brilliant piece about why teachers, and anyone for that matter, approach things cautiously.  He argues that teachers simply don’t see enough benefits from changing: “…they weigh the perceived benefits of new interactions against the perceived mental and physical demands before changing….”  I think this really encapsulates what anyone does.  One of the things that I have just experienced is the realization that with a standardized test at the end of a course it becomes increasingly impossible to vary dramatically from the themes therein.  There is no place on our final exams for students to show how they can use their research skills, so even though it might be written into our curricula, it seems hard to be motivated to teach it.  What will happen at the end of the year when students in different classes compare ‘notes’ and discover that one of them was in a class where all they did was drill for the exam and another was in a class where time was ‘wasted’ on doing a research project?  I understand that it is not that simple, but is it seen that way by those around us, our administrators, parents, and other forces demanding accountability and ‘back to basics’?  Nonetheless I am going to stick to my plan to be more adventurous with my course that I start teaching on Monday, because if I don’t try, who will?  I understand what the end of the course will bring, but I need to hope that my efforts will do more than help prepare my students for ‘the exam’ but that they will also prepare them for life.  By introducing them to web 2.0 tools and other approaches to learning maybe I can have a longer lasting effect.  As Bill notes near the end of his piece, he was ready to give up on collaboration because it was so difficult, yet he persevered and discovered that often initial change comes at low cost.  This is where I am today, I looking to try and bring that sort of low-cost change to my school.  If you have never read the Tempered Radical, I highly recommend it, it has been one of my best discoveries of the last month.

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