How Optional is Technology?

Recently, Ryan Collins started a discussion about teachers wanting to opt-out of technology use in the classroom. He posed the following question to Ohio’s technology coordinators:

What does your district do with teachers who want to "opt out" of technology?  Since we are pushing technology integration, one of the things on my plate this month is to have this discussion with my superintendent and  assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction….

This is a big question, because it scratches the surface of a much larger one. My first reaction is that a teacher’s reluctance to use technology is fine, until it affects the ability of others to get their work done. For example, if an administrator "has to" print out copies of her weekly newsletter because some teachers don’t check their email, that’s a problem. If a student is missing questions on a test because he can’t read the teacher’s handwriting and doesn’t know what’s being asked, that’s a
problem.

If a teacher received computers as part of the Ohio SchoolNet Plus round one grants, she’s had computers in her classroom for ten years now. If she doesn’t
know this difference between save and save as, why are we still wasting our time?

But when talking about integration, is the low-tech teacher depriving the students of opportunities by not using technology? I know we’ve been focused on using technology to teach other things. Science teachers who are using technology can improve their science teaching. But a science teacher who is involuntarily forced to use technology will not improve the teaching and learning in her classroom by simply using the technology. While the students in that class would not gain all of the tech experience and skills that we want them to have, they could arguably have a better science experience in a low-tech environment. It depends a lot on the teacher and the situation.

As I was writing the draft of the TPT so I could file for e-rate funding, I ran into this problem a lot. How are we going to integrate technology
into the fine and performing arts? For the most part, we’re not. Insert overused hammer/nail reference here.

How will we know when we’re appropriately using technology? I think it’ll happen when we stop talking about it. "What strategies are you employing to integrate the use of technology in the social studies classroom" is an absurd question. We don’t ask that about TVs, or overhead projectors, or chalkboards. We use it when it’s appropriate. Appropriate use of technology becomes invisible. We stop talking about it and just do it.

The bottom line, for me, is one of opportunity. We need to keep providing opportunities for our teachers. Keep evangelizing the technology solutions. Keep listening to their needs, and looking for solutions. Ultimately, though, the teacher has to buy in, or we’re wasting our time.

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Author: John Schinker

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