God knows there is more advice on the web and educational servers about great things to use in the classroom or things to stay away from and I am certainly not here to advise either way. I believe, as most experienced educators would agree, that the most important tool in the classroom is the teacher and his/her relationship with their students. Technology cannot fix a broken or ineffective teacher. A recent blog discussing Learning Management Systems does a good job of reviewing some of the choices available, and he is an advocate of Google app systems that have been recently released titled Google Apps for Education.
Most technology sections in county central offices are staffed with either a part time individual stuck with the job, to a moderate section with several staffers often with little training. The main function of the technology section is often to block progress rather than work with teachers to improve educational technology. Their first (and often the only one needed) wall of opposition is that of inappropriate use of technology. Always crying wolf and it rings a bell in the ears of the older less technologically informed county leaders, they often are successful at arguing against any new advancement/app/program leading teachers to use older technology or hiding their use of technology from supervisors. I visited a county recently where they were still debating letting teachers message each other! As I introduced several apps, websites, programs that they could use to enhance lessons, encourage more dialogue with students, they admitted they use some of them but they do not tell anyone because they “county administration would have their jobs.”
I’ve been on my soapbox recently about educating administrative leadership at the county/main office level, but technology is an area that ignoring the possibilities offered through the use of technology, often for absolutely no money ( Scribus, Gimp, Libreoffice ) is the opposite direction we need to be going in education. Perhaps it’s the perceived threat to technological advisors that they either refuse to allow new technology into schools, or the fear that their ignorance of new and developing educational programs will be revealed. I’m not sure but I do know one thing: Students already use the technology and are looking for educational leadership to help them make informed decisions.
Until we catch up in education with the technology used by our students and we can provide solid educational guidance on technological programs and equipment, we are failing our students.
I’m sitting in my “office” in a high school in Tennessee. The scene is virtually the same in many counties across the state and perhaps across the country. I am trying to access a public web site, TED (www.TED.com), to share a wonderful algebra teaching video with the schools I work with. Blocked. Earlier I was sitting in an English class where the teacher was trying to access a web site that discussed several of Shakespeare’s works. Blocked. Teachers in another county used to be able to communicate intra-school using the built-in messaging system. Blocked. While conducting research for a science project in the library, the entire class wasted over half the class period trying to find web sites that would allow them access a few medical sites. Blocked.
Now I know, having had several running battles with technology in other districts, that the solution to the problem is almost as easy as flipping a switch. Flipping a switch. But if you examine the individuals who are the technology representatives in schools you’ll find mostly non-educator, hardware technologists, with little or no vested interest in advancing the educational needs of the system. Their job is to block access to the system. They are the off switch in the portal to accessing the system. I’m an advocate for removing these technologists either completely or reducing their status in the system to a staff member working for an educator with a vested interest in the system.
To do less is to treat the educators in your system as juveniles equal in status to their students. The “switch” in the system needs to be the responsible educator in the classroom.
Technologists are necessary in a system when changing systems, revamping existing systems, installing new systems, as a technical advisor only. No authority to stop or block educational needs. A new high school built in middle Tennessee recently had the internet and overhead projector access in a part of the class rooms not useable by the teachers. Nobody asked the educators in the rooms where to position the desks; a technologist determined where. Reminds me of the illustration I saw years ago of an automobile designed by three different people: A mom with kids, an automotive engineer, and an automobile mechanic. The mom’s vehicle had a couch, places for drinks, garbage can, but try to find the engine! The engineer’s car was low and smooth, with great lines but how do you get into it? The mechanic’s car had the engine exposed with access to all the necessary parts and two lawn chairs thrown on the back for the driver and a passenger.
In today’s digital educational society the usefulness of the technologist has run its course. They are still needed to resolve point of service issues, install a printer, replace a monitor, etc., but their input into the how and why the system should run needs to be reversed. The reason we find ourselves in this position is most of the superintendents and school boards are littered with old fogies. I’m no spring chicken, but I can spot technical incompetence when I see it. I’ll never forget not too many years ago at a school board meeting, a young lady in the audience was taking notes on her laptop when one of the school board members asked her if she could make a copy of a document he had in his hand on her “electronic thing!” What a moron! Go to your next school board meeting and look at the people making the timely and necessary decisions about education in your county and you’ll see part if not most of the reason why education struggles in our country.