Overcoming Technology fear for teachers and home educators
I sit and watch my son do his school work on his technology and wonder how he ever gets anything done. There he is with his phone texting his friend, his ear buds in listening to music, Facebook chat up, and theoretically doing an assignment. It’s a warm day so he’s gone outside to do get some air on the deck. Is this your picture of learning? No, neither is the view for many teachers or parents. I am convinced he is loitering, playing or at best just chatting. But then he comes a while later to show me the PowerPoint presentation he and his mates have created on World War 1 engineering advances and I find myself once again adjusting my thoughts and expectations.
My oldest son delivers pizzas for some spending income. At work he uses an online ordering system that tracks the flow of pizzas and lets them know when to make new dough. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system lets them know when to order new stock, the administrative database produces their timesheets on the computer in the office, and are immediately signed off by the boss, and when he delivers a pizza the delivery address is entered into the car’s GPS, though he tells me he is getting to know the streets of Hobart so well that he can almost beat the GPS at finding his way!
Computers, servers, online, wireless access, G3 capability, notebooks, iPads, iPhones, GPS, ERPs, the NBN, how are you fitting into the brave new world of information and communication technology or ICT? If you are under 20 you have just about now turned off and are going onto the comics. But if you are over 20 or have had little to do with computers you are no doubt grimacing. Yet as a home educator your job is going to be to ensure that your children are prepared for this brave new world. The Australian Curriculum to be slowly implemented in schools, will require teachers to work towards the integration of these skills and tools in the learning programmes of children. And this is a scary requirement, because the focus moves the educator beyond the teaching of mere skills, to using these as tools – and not just word processing, internet and email. But spreadsheets, presentation software, databases, and so on.
If that scares you as a teacher – you are not alone. This is a massive cultural shift for many educators. In a survey conducted by the education Department of Western Australia, published recently, it was found that eighty two percent of teachers are not regularly using ICT in the classroom, suffering from I have called ‘technology inertia’. Of those teachers who are using ICT regularly (18%), most are doing so to improve computer skills and to find out about ideas and information. The basic suite of ICT applications ever used by more than 95% of teachers is comprised of word processing, Internet, email and file navigation. Only 9% of teachers have a high level of ICT competence and integrate it into their classrooms, most of those being younger male high school teachers. The reason many educators fail to use ICT to move beyond the basics, and seldom in the teaching of learning of the children in their care, is because they are not comfortable using it themselves, are afraid that the students already know more than them, and worry about all the things that can go wrong. There is an answer to these problems and that is to get comfortable, yes some of your students will know more, and things do go wrong. So now that I have affirmed your worst fears, what can we do to move beyond it?
Change is scary – Embrace it
Let me begin by saying that the biggest problem is the cultural shifts, the way we do the things that have always done in just that way. As an educator you have probably fallen into a rhythm in how you teach your students. The use of technology requires you to change. In schools this change makes many teachers doubt who they are, what they have done and how they have always done it. Some leave, some refuse to change, some make adaptations, but not always good ones, and muddle along. The ones who embrace it become great teachers. Although they were probably already great teachers! But when changes, such as compulsory ICT integration, notebook programs or computer based admin systems, are implemented teachers often talk of not sleeping at night, and being scared to come in the morning. Dread was an overwhelming feeling. This was new to them, and that scared them. Change scares people. But with good tips, some techniques, a little know-how, and most importantly working together this can be addressed.
Things do go wrong – Face it
And yes things go horribly wrong! I love the comment by David Gefen, who said that ICT has always suffered from what NASA called as early as 1968 the “software crisis”: spending more than the allocated budget, missing the delivery dates for implementation of software packages, and having too many glitches. In my work in education systems, I work as a coach, facilitator and change agent, implementing technology systems, learning management systems, administration protocols and online learning. I love the work I do but I know that many people really struggle with it, and change is so relentless, especially technology changes.
Your students will know more – Work it
Well, maybe some. Most know how to Facebook certainly, use a mobile phone, or maybe put together a word document. But many don’t know much more than you do – so you are about to embark on a wonderful journey of discovery together. And here I would encourage you to let go of control and work together to learn. This generation, the digital natives are not afraid of pushing buttons – you probably are, but as I always say the most powerful button is the off switch! If it goes pear shaped, start again! Most of all though, enjoy your time together as you explore the brave world of ICT and overcome your technology inertia.
(This post is an adaptation of a longer paper written for the HBLN, May, 2012)