A Post to Regret

In general, I try hard not to write posts that might offend or appear to be critical of the schools and teachers in my kids’ lives. Teachers work hard. They have too much to do. They are expected to do more than is humanly possible. They serve as nurse, college professor, psychologist, coach, judge, referee and more. They aren’t paid nearly enough.

Yet, sometimes I get frustrated. Really frustrated. Like today.

I’ve been very lucky to immerse myself in the field of educational technology for the last two years (almost). I don’t have to be distracted by field trips, parent-teacher conferences, truancy, etc. But today I am frustrated by schools, teachers, administrators refusing to think outside the box. By refusing to try to learn new things. By thinking that since that’s how they learned (whether it’s 3 or 30 years ago) that that’s how it needs to be.

Isn’t that enough? Nope. I’m frustrated with the snail pace of decision making. With the constant phrases, “kids will be distracted by the technology.” “Kids will just cheat.” (perhaps we need to redefine our definition of cheating, by the way.)  “I learned without technology, so can they.” With the refusal to think that there is more than one way to teach a child.

Quit telling me (or them) to put that computer back in their pocket. That’s how the world works now. Why aren’t kids being encouraged to do the same? Instead, teach them how to use it responsibly. Take advantage of what they want to use and teach them with that. Quit telling me that you can’t use any technology in class because not everyone has a phone, or texting, or a smartphone, or an iPad. Then figure out how to get them something. It can be done.

Do you think perhaps the reason kids are goofing off and being distracted by their technology is because your lesson is boring????  That perhaps that page of math problems that looks exactly like my math book 30 years ago is no longer engaging to a kid?

Quit telling me that it’s their job. Quit telling me that students should make themselves interested in the topic, that they are in school, that they need to make themselves motivated. They should be interested just because it’s what they are supposed to learn.

That’s a cop out. It’s the education system’s job to keep changing, to keep things relevant to kids. It’s a teacher’s job, and administrator’s job to keep looking for new ways to engage and educate students.

I don’t know about you, but my workplace looks pretty different now than in 1988 when I had my first “professional” job. I typed memos, made photocopies, put them in envelopes and put them in interoffice mail. It’d take two days to get info out. Scheduling a meeting? It took a nimble secretary hours to nail down everyone’s schedule and send the paper notice out. The job I have now? It didn’t exist even five years ago. Couldn’t have been envisioned.

Yet, my kids’ schools teach pretty much the same way I was taught, and I graduated from high school 30 years ago. It’s a disservice to kids to think they all should learn the way we were taught.

I know there aren’t enough hours in the day. I live in that world, too.  Don’t expect to hand teachers (or students!) a device and expect them to come up with great ideas. Thinking outside the box takes inspiration. Give teachers time to read blogs. Send them to conferences. Encourage them to watch webinars. LEARN! Start trying new going to half-day seminars. Watching a webinar. Open your mind. Learn something new. Or – get this – have the kids teach you.

If you’re a teacher, I’m sorry if I offended you. Instead of being upset, please help me understand. Why aren’t my kids’ schools keeping up with the world?

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3 thoughts on “A Post to Regret

  1. This is a great post; there are too many layers to the onion to have a simple answer.

    1) Some students are going to use technology for inappropriate uses. I was told by a college choir director that he now has to ask his students not to text during a rehearsal (I thought this was a high school disease…I should have realized it goes further). Even when you try to teach proper use of technology, some students can’t handle it, and they end up ruining it for everyone.

    My guess is this is the number one reason why your teachers are taking the airplane approach with personal technology in your school.

    2) The loss of control is a big issue, for teachers and IT personnel. We fear what we can’t control. I just saw an Acceptable Use Policy where the use of cell phone and tablet cameras were addressed. No one is supposed to video anyone else without consent. Still..if that one bad teacher, student, or administrator moment makes it on YouTube, careers end.

    3) Furthermore, you can’t be an expert on every device, and leaning to a past conversation we had, BYOD is a bit dangerous in that regard. A few years ago, while I had my iPhone, someone gave me a BlackBerry to program. I couldn’t even figure out how to make the BlackBerry work (I kept trying to interact with it like an iPhone). I’m a techie, so I try to stay on top of things…and I’m lucky enough to have devices that run iOS and Android, not to mention Mac (home) and PC. I can speak “most” of the common interfaces out there…but I’m not everyone. One of my favorite quotes is from David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times, who said, “Techies tend to forget that the world isn’t full of techies.” And it’s true–we do.

    4) A lot of teachers don’t have any clue what the technology is all about. It’s fear. If you can’t use a device, you surely can’t comprehend how it could be used. I put a hierarchy on personal technology integration on my blog a few days ago, and that first category, exposure, is dreadfully important. When I give conference presentations, I specifically try to show audiences the amazing things that are possible (most of the time, not even HOW to do those things, as that would require additional sessions)–and that is the most important thing that can happen.

    Be comforted…the federal government has put a date on digital resources in our schools…2017. Teachers will have to adapt, or find another career.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I’ve been thinking about it since I read it last night. My first thought was, never underestimate the experience or culture of the hopeless and disenfranchised to instill a stunning paralysis. In my view, that’s why poor people don’t vote and why educators don’t see the importance of Web 2.0 et. al.–they are too busy surviving. We treat them like irresponsible children or worse, dogs and then wonder why they act that way.

    I think the choirguy is right about the onion and the many layers of the problem. I guess it simply doesn’t hurt enough yet to motivate different behavior. It looks too overwhelming to handle; teacher control is another big elephant in the room; teachers simply don’t read or talk about professional or social issues; and they don’t know what they don’t know.

    I posted to you before about the need for civil disobedience which I greatly prefer to the whining of educators and the constant complaints about what they are being “made” to do. Somehow, somewhere, we need to find the courage to draw the line in the sand and say, “this far and no further”–or live like sheep.

    I’m so discouraged I gave up posting to my blog and even didn’t get the right name when I posted it below–so please note the corrected url. If you read some of the old posts, you’ll see views like your own.

    On an up note, I see Doug Johnson on your blog roll. I just got a copy of his new book, The Classroom Teachers Technology Survival Guide, and find it worthy of focus for a group of educators–small learning community, department, interested educators, parents and educators, whatever–for a year or for a summer as a study guide to move to a wholly new place. Along with some web research, the book has the power to help map the journey.

    I look forward to rading more

  3. crossons says:

    Chris and Skip –
    I sincerely appreciate your comments and feedback, and admit I am a little embarrassed that you read the post. A little background: I have kids in two schools – a public high school, and a small private school. I happened to have meeting at both places on Wednesday, and left both meetings very discouraged about the attitude towards technology adoption, and, frankly, about the way my input really doesn’t seem to matter. Thus, the rant.

    I agree that there will be kids abusing the technology. This is true. There are kids abusing the system now, even with no technology. There are some kids who are currently misbehaving who might actually be engaged with some form of technology! This abuse of technology continues right into the adult world. I can’t tell you how many meetings, conferences, etc., I am at where people are using technology for something besides the task at hand: texting, watching YouTube, Facebook, etc. When I teach tech workshops (to teachers) one way we judge the success of the workshop is how many teachers we see bouncing to Facebook or email during the training! This is why it is important to start teaching the social expectations in school. Adults don’t always know how to handle it. How do we expect kids to, especially when we aren’t good role models? At the museum where I work, we find it is the parents/chaperones/teachers who are inconsiderate with their mobile devices during museum lessons and field trips – it’s rarely the students.

    I also get the loss of control. I’ve been working in an IT department (developing digital content) for five years. I admit I was a huge control freak about web content. It is incredibly freeing to give up that control. We recently moved to Google Apps for email, etc. It was excruciating for the network staff. Yet, now, they are the BIGGEST champions. Yet, it shouldn’t be about control. It’s about what is best for the kids.

    The BYOD conversation is huge. I’m with you that it is full of problems. Yet, I can’t see how all schools will be able to swing 1:1 with school provided devices. Personally, I like the single device structure much better. One of my kid’s schools will be (someday) a 1:1 with school provided device – it’s just how they work. The other school will be a BYOD. I just can’t stand how long it’s taking. My kids will miss it all – they’ll have moved on before these schools take any steps.

    I like the hierarchy you posted – I take it to heart, and that’s how I’m trying to be considerate and polite by exposing people to the ideas. I do it nearly every day at my job, and it is so rewarding to hear people take ownership of the things I’ve introduced (like Poll Everywhere at a conference, etc.) Someday, I won’t be looked at like a crazy parent when I ask if my daughter can use the $1.99 graphing calculator on her iPhone.

    By the way, I attended an Apple seminar this week. Chris – you should get on their list of presenters! Your use of the iPad is incredible, and music is definitely a subject area missing from their repertoire.

    Chris – I saw your post about your conversation with the IT staff. Sounds definitely like things are moving in the right direction!! I know some of those conversations are happening in my schools, too, so we’ll both keep our fingers crossed!

    Skip – I really appreciate your comments about teachers being too busy surviving. I need to remember that. And I find Doug Johnson’s blog incredibly amusing and spot on. I just ordered his book.

    My civil disobedience is having my kids do assignments using the tools that suit the learning. If it’s a pencil and paper, then that’s it. If a VoiceThread shows more learning, then use that. If my daughter has trouble accessing text, I find an audio version of the book. I encourage my kids to use their phones in class if they need to find info. This feels like civil disobedience. Does that count?

    I’ll just keep trying. I can’t stop asking.

    p.s. I did find out that one of my kids’ schools is moving to Google Apps for Education. This is a GIGANTIC leap. My only disappointment is that it was driven not by educational purposes, but to save server load and maintenance. Oh well. I have been asked to help with training, and I will remember to take baby steps, show something they can do that day.

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