I Just Don’t Like Technology

This is how the day started this past Thursday morning. I was about to begin Day 2 of ActivInspire training with a group of elementary school teachers when one of the 18 educators came right out and said “I just don’t like technology.”

DAY – TONE = BROKEN

How did I respond? Well as others in the group chuckled, guffawed and attempted to defend their colleague, I quickly brainstormed some follow-up questions.

  1. Do you not care for using technology in your classroom because you don’t feel comfortable using it?
  2. Do you allow for opportunities for your students to interact with technology in your classroom?
  3. Are you open to seeing how interactive whiteboards (IWB) can help make lessons more engaging for students therefor helping them understand and retain more of the content of your lesson?

Well, in the moments that I was deciding what to ask this teacher who had announced to the entire group that she didn’t like using technology, the group had asked her to expand on what she had said.

Since the elementary teachers were from four different buildings within the same school district, they all didn’t know each other. This particular teacher was an in-class support teacher who “pushed-in” to several different classes who had IWB’s so she was told to come to the training. She shared with the group that she didn’t want to use the IWB, she didn’t use computers, and that she didn’t even want to use a cell phone. Actually, her colleagues from her school shared that this was the case and she had no problem being vocal about it in the building.

SHE IS NOT ALONE

I was reading one of Doug Peterson’s recent posts about how he doesn’t want to be “trained” on a professional development day. He writes about how he wants to be given resources on where to go if he needs more help. He wants to be given examples on how to use the skills and tools with his students. I read this with a bit of confidence as this is how I design my professional development.

THIS IS AN ISSUE OF

CONTINUING EDUCATION

I sat in the doctor’s office for several hours the other morning to wait to see him. I feel he is a good doctor. I go to him because I feel he keeps up with current research and trends in his field. I do not care to see a doctor who is practicing what they learned when they went to medical school. I want them to remain current and to continue to research and learn.

Should we expect the same from educators? In the No Future Left Behind video published by Marianne Malstrom and Peggy Sheehy the students actually say “I can’t create my future with the tools of your past“.  Should teachers be accountable for demonstrating they are effectively using current technologies with our students? I’m interested in your opinion.

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17 thoughts on “I Just Don’t Like Technology

  1. Lisa, it makes me uncomfortable to know that the same things we were grappling with 10 or 15 years ago are still the case. But I see it at the schools I support and during the grad school classes I teach. It is a philosophy and a resistance that for some, hopefully fewer, goes deep.

    I do feel there needs to be a mandate from leaders that 1. this is the world we live in now 2. this is the world for your students 3. technology can offer options that absolutely nothing else can provide – and 4. this is an expectation that you will embrace options in your practice that take advantage of the unique and empowering options of technology.

    Sounds like you had some backup plans (admirable) and that you teach adults in ways are truly development and not “training.”

    Hang in there!

    Pamela

    1. Pamela – Your list of 4 is a great list and we do agree that this needs to come from the top down.

      How do we get the leadership in education all on the same page as far as continuing education and keeping up with current trends? I’m feeling that this might be more of a challenge than keeping the teachers current.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Lisa

  2. It’s tricky when you get into admin’s role in this. Should school administrators mandate tech integration in schools? If so, can they provide a clear picture of what that looks like? Does simply using a Word Doc. once in awhile or doing a Google search now and then qualify as technology integration? Some administrators and teachers would say yes. Some schools use software like Achieve 3000, Plato, or A+ and teachers are required to have students complete modules on these. Is this technology integration? More and more districts are evaluating teachers on whether or not they are integrating technology in their classrooms, but I have yet to see or hear of a rubric or guideline provided by leaders for what “technology integration” should look like in a typical classroom. Do know of any good ones?

    1. Tracie – you make great points. There are different interpretations of successful technology integration. I work in New Jersey and we are one of 11 States that are part of the Partnership for 21St Century Skills. I work with teachers mostly on using the technology that fits the skill and objective that they are working with their students to meet.

      Having said that, we also have to meet the Standards set by the State. These Standards are 8.1 and 8.2 and you can read them in detail at http://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/2009/final.htm but the Dept of Ed for NJ is unveiling the revised Standards at the NJEA convention early in November.

      There are some models, advice and articles out there for assessing technology integration:

      http://www.techlearning.com/article/16686

      http://www.netc.org/assessing/home/integration.php

      http://www.evaluationtoolkit.org/resources/48/original/326_sam_tech.pdf?1231731940

      I hope that helps and thank you for your comment.

      1. Thanks for the resources – I’ve not seen these before. I’ve downloaded/bookmarked for future ref. As far as your original post and your teacher…I think this goes back to a difficult question we have about education. Is she an effective educator? Is it possible to be an effective educator in this day and age w/o using tech? How do we mandate common sense?

  3. Lisa,
    Of course I struggle with some of the same attitudes. Sometimes, in frustration, I just want to burst out, “Well…how do you feel about electricity and running water?! Geez, this is a requirement of your job – a job that impacts a future generation – a job with a huge responsibility to do what is right for kids. If you don’t like it, perhaps you should work somewhere else.” Some day I might get the guts to actually say that. Though it probably won’t lead to a very effective PD session. 🙂 I do understand that teachers tend to resent any training they are forced to attend. They view it differently if attending by choice. Yet, some will never make that choice, so it’s a vicious cycle. I wonder if the pressure really has to come from other directions including parents who demand digital literacy for their children, administrators who will only hire teachers who integrate technology, Pre-service programs that integrate technology throughout the curriculum rather than requiring one separate tech course (or none). Of course that means that parents, administrators, and universities need to get on board. A tall order, I know.

    On the flip side, we as teachers always focus on the one or two students who challenge us or don’t get it. It’s in our DNA to reach every student. The reality is that you must also focus on all those other teachers in your sessions who are open minded, who come nervous about technology and leave excited about a project they plan to do with their kids, who embrace technology because they realize the potential impact on student learning. You ARE making a difference on teacher at a time.

    Wendy

    1. Thanks for your comment Wendy. I kept thinking about the whole “Don’t punish 100% of the group for what 5% of the group is doing” philosophy.

      The day actually went pretty well. What bothered me most about this teacher’s comment was that it wasn’t isolated to that particular day. Apparently it’s her montra every day at school and her colleagues have come to accept it. Her students shouldn’t have to accept it.

      So, going back to what you wrote about the pressure coming from parents, administrators and pre-service programs, we know that there has not been a universal bar set as to what is acceptable. Tracie Weisz asked if there were examples of assessments available as to what is acceptable.

      This teacher could care less what is acceptable. How do we change that? Or, how do we work with the administrator of the building to change that?

      1. As Wendy says, “It’s in our DNA to reach every student.” Let’s take that to reality. Not all students can learn using typical teaching models. In order to reach all students, we must change methods. And technology is the easiest way to do that. We need to stop talking about using technology. Instead, let’s talk about reaching students. No teacher should be allowed to deny a successful education to every child. Technology allows the non-reader to read, the non-writer to be expressive, the hyperactive student to stay focused, etc. It is not an option anymore.

  4. Lisa:
    Though I am not a PD person by trade, I hear these types of comments frequently. What’s worse, in my neck of the woods techno-phobia seems to be institutional. I work in a large, urban, very ethnically diverse district with many English Language Learners. The district is more focused on student achievement rather than how to use technology as a tool to close the achievement gap.
    IWBs don’t exist in the secondary schools in my district and the only reason teachers have access to a computer is to take attendance using our new SIS. Computers at my site have not been upgraded since the school opened nine years ago; in some schools they haven’t been upgraded in more than 10 years. Though we have institutional access to email, many district teachers don’t use it. There is no online calendar of district professional development. Teachers do not have printers.
    With technology issues such as these, it is no wonder that educators are allowed to not integrate technology or express disdain for those who do. It is our obligation to make lessons engaging and relevant to our students. Yes, technology is just one tool (much like storytelling and simulations are tools), but it is one that our students use everyday anyway. Why aren’t we?

  5. Ann Lavelle says:

    I am in a small Catholic school and our teachers are more on board with technology than not. I think what works best is to give small specific things that you know teachers will like to enhance their lessons and overtime they become more accepting of technolgy integration. After having enough good experience they forget their fears and look for ways of integrating technology into their lessons. I think sometimes going to a large group meeting is not worthwhile – people need to experience by doing whatever we are asking them to do in the classroom. They need to walk out feeling excited and confident that they can do it. I think we need to rethink professional development.

  6. Bud Wrigley says:

    I agree the attitude of this teacher is frustrating. The example of a doctor staying current in skills, knowledge, and techniques is on I use all the time. This teacher who does not like technology probably would never imagine going to a doctor who still treating patients the same as he had in 1985, but it’s okay in her mind to teach her students that way. What a shame!!! Top down mandates are tough because it usually leads to a compliance attitude instead of one in which the teacher wants to do the right thing. I am coming to believe that an approach in which we try to gain small victories and move on to the next challenge is the best approach. If I can get a small core of people trying new things, tan maybe the teacher in the classroom next to them will try it and then the network will grow. Just a thought…

  7. @Ann – I agree that we need to rethink PD in general. I believe in sustained professional development. The one-stop workshop is a thing of the past. We need to support educators in their enthusiasm and quest for knowledge and improvements.

    @Bud – Small teacher leadership teams work great. They can work with each other and then turnkey to their colleagues. Those “small victories” are priceless – they are one of the pieces of my job that I cherish – but the effect that this attitude from this teacher can take on students is too much to bare. I just wish I had the solution. I just know that there is none as we can only affect change on so many that are willing to move forward with what’s best for our students.

    Thank you both for your comments.

  8. Lisa,

    I have also come across teachers like this in the last few years as a Technology Literacy Teacher, Technology Trainer, and now an Instructional Technology Coordinator. In reading some of the comments and your responses I think most of us have some idea on how to work around or with those types of teachers. There are those occasions where no matter how many times we tell teachers that its necessary or mandate or required, etc there are going to be those teachers who will do their best to not comply. In some of those cases, some of the things that I have done is actually speak with them on a one to one basis (when time allows) or I will go and speak with their campus principal to see how they deal with this person and try to work at it from that angle.

    For those teachers who come in stating “I CANT learn technology so why try?”…I ask them what they would say if one of their students came up to them and said “I cant learn math so why try?” I remind them that we are like our students and go on and state things that they would (or should) tell their students like, practice makes perfect, you wont know if you can do it until you try it, etc.

    I have also gone so far as reminding some of the teachers who come in with an “attitude” that if they had the ability to earn a 4 year degree then learning technology should be no different. Sometimes, I say that nicely, other times it comes off a little more sarcastic, anything to get the fire started is what I think.

    I also agree with what Wendy posted in that we should concentrate on those teachers who are excited or who have become excited about technology and work with them to fully integrate that technology into their classroom and hopefully that begins to rub off on their colleagues.

    Of course I also believe that every campus and district is different and we as trainers and leaders need to find ways that work best with those campuses and teachers.

    Good Luck!

  9. Hi Lisa,

    A while back I was at a workshop where I saw Steve Barkley present. Do you know him?

    This is his website:

    http://www.plsweb.com/

    And this is a course a colleague here is taking:

    http://www.plsweb.com/graduate_courses/full_course_listing/on-site/star/#

    Reason I mention it … when I saw Steve used this technique with our group of about 150-200 people it was positively MIND BLOWING. It was so empowering! I was astounded. He role-played with a willing group of people playing the most recalcitrant users you can imagine and in EVERY case he was able to respond to their concerns with a series of questions that overcame their objections and focused them on the task at hand. It was absolutely surreal. Anyone who does tech integration needs to see this guy present. I am still trying to get his powerpoints.

    We really need more of this kind of thinking – overcoming “I can’t” or “I don’t have time” is THE single greatest challenge we face because once we get a group of smart, hardworking people excited about a problem, we can accomplish ANYTHING!

    See you on Wednesday at NJEA in Atlantic City!

    -kj-

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