We are learning, not technology, experts

I heard a tweet about how many teachers have never heard the names of the “technology experts” in education. I echo this sentiment and believe it is a real and huge problem. I believe it is a problem of labels and how technology leaders are promoted. Before my “conversion” starting in December of last year I had never heard of any of the edu-bloggers and twitter people that I follow, and I am a technology teacher! In order to see the large scale changes in our public schools we need to reach the masses of general education teachers and administrators.

The first “name” I learned was David Warlick through my “23 Things” class. I found other leaders by reading the blogs of Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer, Shelly Blake-Plock (TeachPaperless), Alan Levine, and Vickie Davis. I set up class and student blogs with the patient help of Sue Waters. I went to MACUL conference and heard Alan November, Steve Dembo, and Leslie Fisher speak. I had no idea who they were when I got there. I signed up to help mentor a pre-service teacher in Dean Shareski‘s class even though I had no idea who he was. I keep learning about and meeting through twitter many teachers and education leaders. My blogroll keeps growing as I learn from so many of these great teachers and thinkers.

Now back to the problem of labels. These people present at conferences and workshops all over the country and world. Technology education has an image problem represented in its semantics. I have read arguments about our terminology: Web 2.0, 21st century learning, social media, etc. Some want to ban them; some want to make new terms; others try to define them more clearly; I agree with those that have argued that this pleura of terms that technology leaders can not even agree on just confuses the average teacher who is being introduced to technology integration.

Unfortunately many teachers are not active learners and can easily use the excuses that they are too busy or not good at technology to keep from integrating technology into their teaching. The confusing technology terminology is another easy excuse for them to ignore new strategies of learning and teaching. They can just claim “I don’t teach a computer class.”

The other image problem is how we compartmentalize and divide classes: core vs. electives. Of course, there have been schools that integrate subjects, but most schools and teachers are still segregated by subject. Our school used to have teaming, but that ended years ago because of the budget. The biggest problem is classes like mine: Technology class. We are telling students, parents, and teachers that technology is something separate from math, science, social studies, and language arts. A more holistic approach would encourage computers and technology use in every class. That is the way technology is used in the real world: integrated.

Now for the kicker: I think we need to re-term our ideas from educational technology to best practices in learning. I do not have a fancy name for it. What I mean is that the technology experts that I have mentioned among many others, need to be seen by administrators and teachers as the experts on the best practices in learning instead of as technology experts. They need to present more at general ed. conferences, math, science, social studies, reading, writing, and special education conferences. Maybe they should be on shows like Oprah and the Today Show like Alfie Kohn. By focusing their time and attention on technology educators they are narrowing their audience when every teacher should adapt the best practices that they are demonstrating. Their philosophies of education should be taught to pre-service teachers not as a separate class but in the best practices and philosophy of ed. classes.

This in my opinion is the way to reach the masses (of teachers and administrators). Integration of technology is the key-at the classroom level within subjects and by our”big name” leaders being viewed as “learning” experts instead of technology experts.

2 thoughts on “We are learning, not technology, experts

  1. Mr. Byrne

    Great post. I often remind people that it’s not about having a long list of technology resources, it’s about having the knowledge to use technology that can engage students in learning. Yes, we need to rethink how we’re teaching, but that thinking shouldn’t not be in a box separate from technology. Wes Fryer refers to this as “blended learning.”

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  2. Matt Townsley

    Great thoughts here, Michael. It’s refreshing to hear more “it’s not about the technology” rants. Your post connected well with an NECC talk on TPACK. I linked to this post from my blog when talking about pedagogical decisions. http://bit.ly/KI0FE Keep up the reflective and thoughtful writing.

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