I started teaching 20+years ago. My first class of 4th graders totaled 41 students. It was my job to teach them reading, science, social studies, spelling, vocabulary, art, and all the other stuff that kids are expected to learn. My colleague, Mrs. Jaworski taught math to the kids but everything else was up to me. I led and guided all the learning in the classroom and most of the visual aids I used were either in a textbook which I held up for all to see, showing an image I was able to transfer onto an overhead projector from an encyclopedia or other reference book OR whatever I wrote or drew on my blackboard. But I recognized the power of visuals in my teaching and as a self-proclaimed Bad Artist, I spent one entire summer attending a seminar for teachers to learn a time-intensive and detailed process of photographing pictures in reference books and transferring negatives of these images to overheads. It was revolutionary at the time to be able to make your own beautiful overhead sheets of images that supplemented teaching and contributed to students' learning. We've come a long way, baby.
In schools today, I see teachers faced with so many choices on how to present and teach their content, and when it comes to technology - almost too many choices. Some of my teacher friends say about technology, "it's just so overwhelming sometimes", and "it's beyond intimidating" and "I don't even have time to use the bathroom some days, much less read the latest news on how to do even more in my classroom". It's not enough that teachers have to teach to content-specific standards and the common curriculum of the school in a way that is engaging and understandable and assess-able but we also need to ensure we are assessing learning while also taking care of children's emotional and physical needs. Having to juggle the needs of 20+ children in a non-tech world is hard enough, but now teachers are expected to know and be able to flawlessly implement educational technology in their classrooms despite receiving any extra time to learn how to teach using this high-tech platform.
In a recent blogpost by Audrey Watters, a self-proclaimed education writer, Audrey lists no fewer than 21 fairly sophisticated ed tech concepts that she feels every teacher should know. I hold 4 advanced degrees in education, including extensive coursework in educational technology and I had to look several of these "must-know" concepts up. I could only shake my head and wonder if the people who come with all the must-know-these-terms lists or the myriad must-have-apps-for-your-classroom lists understand the huge number of constraints that teachers have to face on a daily basis, and most importantly, if they have ever been a teacher. I think those listmakers should know that teachers do want to know all those terms, learn and practice all those skills, and have access to all those apps and tablets for every one of their students. And really - they do want to know how to use technology to not only make their jobs a tad bit easier but also help their students learn all that much better. Yes, really - without exception, every single teacher I have worked with, truly wants their students to excel in every aspect. But there are only so many hours in the day and oh-so-many demands on teacher's time by their students, administration, district and every government official who demands more testing, more standards, more everything without actually making room for learning and adopting technology in a teacher's day.
Don't get me wrong, I am fully supportive of the use of technology in the modern classroom - I think this shift in the platform of education is long overdue and it is not yet done changing form. The technology is progressing and evolving faster than most teachers can keep up with and so I say, let's take it easy. Let's take it easy and provide guidelines, funding, and professional development time to guide teachers in understanding the best way to incorporate ed tech in their very busy teaching load. Let's recognize that the endless lists of must-do's, must-have's and every new development in educational technology are tools, just that - tools in a teacher's toolbox. Tools are there to assist teachers in teaching content to students in an engaging and provocative way, and in a way that allows teachers to assess learning and to ensure that their students truly "got it". Tools are not there to make a teacher feel less competent and overwhelmed and frustrated and feel less than, simply because they can't define The Garage Myth. Teachers understand how children learn and the best environment where learning can happen. Teachers are the glue - THE most significant factor in the learning success of a child - and to alienate them because of ed tech is a grave error.
An educator nomad traveling and teaching her way around the world. Fun stuff.