Tag Archives: edtech

It Would Be Funny If It Wasn’t So Serious

I had already heard about John McCain’s inability to use a computer even before I read Tim’s post at Assorted Stuff yesterday.  I certainly agree with Tim that if this man is going to be our visionary, it seems essential that he at least have a passing knowledge of the potential of these tools.  As Sarah Lai Stirland points out in her post, these tools are the way to reach out to Millenials:

Even if he doesn’t feel the need to e-mail, perhaps he should check out tools such as Twitter to reach the Millennials. It’s not just about the coolness of such tools; it’s about getting a candidate’s unique persona and voice through a medium to connect to a new generation.

It occurred to me that John McCain may not be concerned about reaching the Millenials.  Maybe he figures he’s already lost them to his rock star opponent so why bother  to reach out to them.  But, there is something much more serious at stake here.

I believe one of the primary reasons teachers don’t use technology as much as they might to support teaching and learning is because they simply don’t have access to technology on a regular basis.  Access comes through funding, mostly federal funding.  How many other senators don’t use computers to support their own learning, thus making it difficult for them to understand why a teacher might want to?  Throughout the year, we in the ed tech community have been fighting to retain the EETT funding for K-12 and just yesterday I got an email from ISTE asking me to contact my senator about the “Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners” program that should be part of the Higher Education Reauthorization Bill.  The purpose of this legislation is to extend the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) program that provided funding for projects related to preparing new teachers to make effective use of technology.  But the funding is not included in the Senate version of the bill.  I wonder if John McCain had anything to do with that?  You still have time to contact him as well as your own representatives to make it clear that this funding must be included if we are going to be able to educate the next generation on how to use computers effectively in the classroom.  For more information about the Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners program and a copy of the legislation please go to: http://www.iste.org/Advocacy/Feb08-support

One more comment from this teacher educator about the importance of this funding.  I’ve been reading a lot lately that the use of technology in schools will change once the current generation of teachers retires and the digital natives move into the classroom.  I don’t think that’s an accurate prediction.  I think the next generation is comfortable using technology but being able to text message and post pictures in Facebook is a far cry from using technology with students in the classroom in effective ways to support learning.  Please take the time today to contact your legislator (and Senator McCain, too) to let them know that this is important to you and to our students.

Add Your Voice to THIS Conversation

Here’s why I love Twitter: I came upon this great conversation about using technology in education. Two very smart, thoughtful practitioners are exploring the role of tech, but also thinking about education in general. I’ll do a quick summary but you really should read the full posts:

Here’s the post I read first and that came through Twitter: Nancy Flanagan cautions against seeing technology as the answer to everything in education, and in her role as a music educator, makes a passionate plea for live, group performance:

I also know that an elegant, powerful school lesson may be as simple as reading aloud and talking, and that there are some execrable projects posted on Voicethread. The teacher who does not instill rigorous principles of editing, evaluation and content synthesis in conjunction with use of Web 2.0 tools is in many ways worse than the teacher who has not moved past the overhead projector—when the excitement of having kids’ work available to the world wears off, we may be left wondering what, exactly, they have learned.

I nodded my head when I read this: I read some 4th graders’ blogs this week, and while I applaud their use to encourage writing, many were littered with grammatical and spelling errors. Sorry, it’s the old English teacher in me who thinks you should polish work that you’re going to publish. I know blogs have a more informal reputation–and even as I write, I hope you don’t go back through my own posts to find errors that I know are there–but I think this is a place to hone technical skills as well as encourage writing. Most blog software has a draft function built in so students could do peer editing. So, I’m with you, Nancy. And, as a life long musician, I believe group live performance does offer a different insight into collaboration than a wiki or discussion forum.

Bill Ferriter over at The Tempered Radical gently disagrees with Nancy and he goes on to make an interesting point about what we personally hold dear:

I’m beginning to wonder whether or not our aversion to instructional technology is really more a result of the pleasure that we take from our own approaches to learning. Is it possible that we see “the best” learning as the way that we learn best?

Do we inherently (unintentionally?) discredit new forms of learning because they don’t remind us of what we value the most in the teaching and learning process—or because the final products aren’t the kinds of final products that “look right” to us?

I don’t know that Nancy is clinging to live performance as an outmoded type of learning, but rather suggesting that we make sure we don’t abandon everything from the past before considering its possible value in our rapidly changing world. Yet, I understand Bill’s fundamental argument: change is tough and gets tougher as we get more entrenched in our own favorite practices. I would suggest that one way to help teachers move past this is to provide ongoing, professional development that encourages teachers to do exactly what these practitioners are doing: having an in depth conversation about the issues they face.

I’ve really enjoyed reading these teacher leaders. In a side conversation, Bill and Joe Thompson are discussing the role of technology in their own lives and I found myself nodding again about the difficulty of achieving what Bill calls “digital balance.” After I finish this blog post, I’m going outside to work in my garden for an hour.

I think what I appreciate the most is their willingness to be honest about technology in their own lives and in education. Bill points out that this isn’t an either/or discussion and Joe reminds us that there are many gray areas. So, chime in here: what role should technology play in education? Or in your own life? How are you making decisions about what technology you will use and how you will use it? How do you find the digital balance in both classroom and life?