Safe Places

I just read Paul Yip‘s blog post “A Question of Vision” answering a question about how to keep Laptop Carts up and running. Two things struck home for me in Paul’s response. First, the honest conversations about how to use technology in the classroom are not happening enough. And Second, while my school has had several rounds of PD in differentiated instruction, EL instructional strategies, classroom instructional strategies, building PLCs, etc.. technology was not featured prominently in them. Technology PD has been mostly separate from Instructional PD and as the IT guy and a Teacher I’m now seeing that as an area I need to start addressing.

Getting back to Laptops in the classroom. By definition introducing new technology into a classroom should change how a teacher teaches. It should change what, when and where teacher’s teach. It should change teachers as teachers. If it doesn’t, then it’s a wasted use of limited school funds. So yes, the discussions need to take place. I remember when we put four computers in every classroom seven years ago, the reactions from teachers ran the gambit from “take them out now, I will never use them and I need the space” to “I can’t use them, there are only four” to “Awesome!”. Back then we did not really have the conversations that we should have and so some teachers embraced the change while others stacked it on a shelf and left it to obsolete itself.

Now as we are about to deploy netbooks into our ninth grade Math and English classrooms, I’m wondering if the conversations we’ve had this time around have been enough. I hope these teachers truly understand what is in store for them as they work to integrate technology into their classrooms in a radically different way than they have seen in the past. I also hope that the administration recognizes the support these teachers will need in order to successfully integrate this new technology into their classrooms and are committed to providing it.

I’m also concerned that the CA budget cuts have pushed most Teachers back into their “safe” places. The trend I’m seeing now is to resist change and hold the status quo. When it comes to technology, this is not how Teachers need to be thinking. Students are getting more and more wired and tech savvy every year. We should at least be meeting them half way if not flat out running to get ahead.

Technology in the classroom should not be a zero-sum game. It should not be about taking something away and replacing it with something else. It should be about building on what is already working while trying something different, taking risks, experimenting and making changes in an effort to engage every student. Teachers can’t wait for the perfect recipe of technology and curriculum to start teaching in the present. The budget crisis offers the perfect opportunity to have frank conversations about what is and is not important in the classroom, about what Technology can and cannot do and about why we teach and what and how we teach it. Instead I am afraid the budget crisis has pushed people back into the safety of their old ways, isolated them further in their classrooms as they try to hold onto what they have. We should all be taking a hard look at where we are and looking forward to where we need to be. Technology in the classroom is not going away anytime soon. Unless of course CA runs out of money.

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