This is not optional anymore…

Spending the last four days at a national leadership conference (CASA 11) in Niagara Falls on 21st Century Learning and Innovation (which had no Twitter hashtag until a few of us got together to start one), and then spending the week prior at ISTE, the conversation about technology in schools is a major theme.  Although technology is dominant in the conversations, I keep hearing the following phrase:

“You can be an effective teacher without technology.”

The above statement is increasingly frustrating as it seems to give people an out from using technology in the classroom.  There are so many skills that our students need in today’s world as the ability to collaborate, create, communicate, and apply all of these in their environment.

My question is, in our world today, can you be an effective learner without using technology?  We constantly talk about preparing kids for their future but I am concerned that some of them are not even prepared for their world right now.  Gerald Aungst pushes this thinking when he talks about other professions moving forward with technology, but educators seeming to have the option to opt out of implementing this:

Do we have the right to say, “I don’t do that”? Perhaps if it were only an individual decision. But educators have accepted responsibility for the growth of the students in their care, and choosing to avoid technology for themselves leaves their students with no choice.

I will be honest…I am getting increasingly frustrated getting “handouts” at  a leadership conference discussing innovation and “21st Century Learning”.  Not everyone is in the digital world and I believe in differentiated learning, but it seems like I didn’t get the option of how I learn best.  Do our kids? In only one presentation that I attended were there actual digital copies of information, and only one session with a place for people to collaborate during the session online.  As leaders, we need to get this sooner rather than later.

A year ago, I wrote a post entitled “An Open Letter to School Administrators“, where I ended with this:

This is not about technology. This is about connecting and sharing with others and yes, technology can be a fantastic medium for this. It is still ultimately about the relationships you create. Remember that there is a difference between an educational administrator and an educational leader. How do you want to be remembered?

Has much changed in this last year? There are so many more administrators and educational leaders that are connected now and pushing the thinking and practice in schools, reflecting the importance of taking risks in their learning, and are getting better for the sake of their schools.  But through many of my conversations and observations, there are many that are not.  The excuses of “there is no time” doesn’t fly anymore; this needs to become a priority.  It is not the only priority, but it is one deserving of the time and effort to implement and move forward.

All educators need to get on the path and move forward in the area of understanding and implementing meaningful use of technology to serve learning.  Sustainable growth takes time to develop and when we see growth, we know we are moving forward.  This is fantastic. (Rome wasn’t built in a day…)

Our educational administrators however really need to get going on this.  Leaders right?  If teachers in your school or division see that you are not moving forward with some conviction in this area, why would they believe that there is any sense of urgency?  Why would teachers think this is important if our administrators aren’t modelling effective use? The teachers that are moving forward need you to understand this area and support them.  They don’t need you to be at the same level, but they at least need to know you trust them and will put the systems in place for them and more importantly, their students, to be successful.  Take some risks and model both in success and failure that you are a learner; this is what we expect from our students.

There can no longer be an “opt out” clause when dealing with technology in our schools, especially from our administrators. We need to prepare our kids to live in this world now and in the future. Change may feel hard, but it is part of learning.  We expect it from our kids, we need to expect it from ourselves.

This is not optional anymore.

  • http://www.bethstill.edublogs.org Beth Still

    I have been thinking a lot lately about what sets schools and districts apart from one another and what I finally realized is that the really great districts have visionary leaders. Visionary leaders know that technology matters. They work to make sure computers are either provided for students or that there is a policy in place that allows students to bring their own devices. They make sure teachers have the training they need so that technology is not just an add on, but that it is used to enhance instruction. Visionary leaders also encourage teachers to reach out and from their own personal learning network which extends to all corners of the world and they make sure that their teachers are able to do this during the school day. Of course, they model this as well. Visionary leaders don't allow overzealous IT departments stand in the way of learning. Instead they let their teachers know they stand behind them as long as their reasoning is sound.

    Finally, visionary leaders don't let teachers off the hook because they don't want to change. They work with them to help devise a plan for them to learn how to grow. They give teachers the opportunity to be educational leaders within their school by allowing them to share their knowledge with other teachers.

    Thank you for a powerful post that I will definitely share!

    • Ann S. Michaelsen

      This is a great post, and I will share this with my teachers and school leaders! It is frustrating that it is taking so long to change our schools and it is frustrating to hear conversations on how teaching without technology is a good alternative. Teachers who say that are often quite dependent on technology to prepare their teaching and to do their research, as well as every other aspect of their life. The next level is the sharing. If we could only get students and teachers to share their learning, using technology, I think that would be a good start. And school leaders should share as well! In Norway too few school leaders write and share how they work. When I start with a new class at school I find that the students are often conservative and prefer the traditional ways of learning. Particularly those who have done well in middle school. But carefully and slowly showing my students all the tools available to share and connect, I got them on board. This year we even wrote a book about how we use technology to learn and collaborate and the result is quite remarkable when I remember how traditional they were at the beginning of the school year. it is our responsibility as teachers to help our learners! And we need to do this with teachers and school leaders as well.

  • jennaream

    Great post! Your question 'can you be an effective *learner* without technology (or as you later point out- with a limited range of options with which the learner can manage their own learning) is critical to the conversation. Thanks for bringing this point to the surface.

  • http://www.atking.ca @tk1ng

    I'm a techy, love the stuff, love getting my hands on the latest digital edge, but I get to do it with years of experience spent working in IT, almost none of my colleagues have this advantage.

    I just did a year being the technology go-to teacher at my school. I'm flabbergasted at the lethargy and technical illiteracy of the majority of my staff. We've got people who don't know how to do simple fixes (ie: getting on wireless, rebooting to resolve system problems) and trying to use digital technology they have virtually no understanding of.

    No tech teacher would dream of using a lathe or a ripsaw without having expertise in it themselves, yet we push classroom teachers to use webtools when they barely know how a PC works, we do the same thing with students. Teaching an introductory elearning/in-class hybrid class last year underscored the technical illiteracy we ignore in a third of our students because we like to assume all people of a certain age have an intuitive understanding of technology (they don't).

    Teaching media arts for the first time last year, I purposely left 'sandbox' time at the beginning of each skill-based unit, where students could hack away at the new software, make mistakes and get comfortable with it, yet a solid third of them didn't want to try, they just wanted me to tell them (over and over again) how to do simple tasks they couldn't be bothered to actually hands-on familiarize themselves with. Literacy is developed by focus and familiarity that create a comfort level that allows for experimentation; it's a building process. Many staff and students don't want to/can't be bothered to do this with digital tools.

    I'm all in with you at the administrative (leaders, right?) level. Until we stop treating technology as an end in itself and start seeing it as as a defined skillset we need to develop across multiple grades and disciplines (and staff), we'll continue to drop it. It will take an intentional, province-wide push from K-12 in all disciplines to establish a meaningful digital literacy strategy (that does not just focus on what software can do).

    Great post, I hope someone listens. http://prezi.com/qm7tjsicjtee/elearning-blended-p

  • http://www.mrmacnology.com Jeremy

    Like many others, I think I'm a bit biased when it comes to the purposeful use of technology in education. I see that phrase, “You can be an effective teacher without technology,” and I can't help but think of several of the luddites that exist in so many of our schools. Much of their fear come from an inherent discomfort with change. They proclaim to be "life long learners," but this only applies when the learning fits within the confines of their already established schema (primarily of teaching and self). I'm not claiming that any one of these teachers are ineffective. In fact, some of these individuals are just that, great teachers. They have their plans made years in advance and know exactly what they will do each and everyday. They teach the content and move on. They are comfortable with it. The path is well worn and there is little reason to blaze any new trails.

    So what if we change that statement to something that includes some of their more effective strategies with those of educational technology (communication, collaboration, inquiry, innately differentiated learning, etc). How about, "Good teaching is good teaching." It may not be perfect (semantics will always vary), but could this help embrace old and new? Effective learning can take place in a number of ways. Fortunately we have a plethora of new technologies and tools to choose from for our schools and classrooms. Does this mean it's the only way. Obviously not. But is it often a more effective way to learn something. Probably so.

    • georgecouros

      Don't you think it is weird that we work in an environment where there is such reluctance to change, but our students do it all the time? (Class to class, year to year, etc.?)

      • http://www.mrmacnology.com Jeremy

        I find a lot of what we expect students to do and what we do as teachers to be hypocritical. We often try to push students to their limits, encourage them to take risks and try new things, and yet we tend to be fairly reluctant to do the same as teachers.

  • http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com Cathy

    George,
    Thanks for your post. I understand your concern. When I go to conferences focused on leadership, innovation or technology I hope to see technology in the forefront of presentations. I once sat through a math professional development opportunity about innovative practices delivered on an overhead with list-like speaking points projected. I have seen administrators pull out their notepads for notes and look at those of us tweeting, taking notes on our phone, and bookmarking sites as if we are off task.

    I think leader means a lot of things in education today. You do not have to be an administrator, a coach, a lead teacher to lead, but those in these positions should be working to become current in technology and social media. Many of the roadblocks we face in using tech in our classrooms are a result of administrators who are afraid of tech. They're afraid of putting learning and thinking out into the world. They do not yet understand the collaborative nature of learning globally because they haven't participated in these communities. We'd be working smarter to understand the possibilities, learn to use them safely with children, and teach students media citizenship along the way.

    Thanks for reminding us of the importance of creating learning environments of TODAY.

    Cathy

  • Gord Holden

    Share your frustration. Lots of talk about 21st Century Education, but little evidence of any resolve at district levels to support it. As a DL teacher I've been taking my students on field trips to Tanzania, Mesa Verde, Kobe, Yellowstone National Park, and even drilling core samples on asteroids in space. We've traveled through arteries, circuit boards, and time. We've spoken with historical characters and victims of natural disasters. We meet in classrooms my students have created in Barkerville, the SS Enterprise, and castles. They do not learn about Rome in those classrooms either, but instead build it. They "experience" chariot races and public baths. They speak with slaves and gladiators. The power of using immersive technologies for experiential learning in authentic and contextual environments is unquestionable, but the reaction from senior administrators has been limited to "Great work."

    I've left the Public School system for a year to work with an Independent system that seems to understand that educators who opt out are in fact modelling that behaviour for their students. If graduation levels are not as high as what our governing bodies think they should be, they need to give their heads a shake and wake up. While a good education is more important than ever, many students (both in and out of school) see the current model as irrelevant. Many students (and likely the best of them) could easily argue (and will at least successfully convince themselves) that they would be learning more practical skills by staying at home, pursuing their own goals with the technology and autonomy that's available there.

    The Ministry of Education in B.C. appears to be planning to take action regarding teachers who are reticent to retool for 21st Century Education. While it's hard not to understand why they would want to do this, I think they are missing the point. Until School District administrators are brought in line, teachers face an uphill battle trying to keep up with technological change. Superintendents' positions (and salaries?) should likely be tied to the degree of innovation and progress being made in their district. Make them accountable for this and the support and encouragement needed by teachers is much more likely to follow. JMHO.

    • http://whitcanblog.blogspot.com Whitney Allen

      Please share some of your virtual field trip resouces!! I believe technology pollinates learning and have aggressively pursued the integration of as a classroom teacher and administrator. Unfortunately the status quo is powerful. Teacher evaluation should include the use of technology as a learning tool, as well as, administrator evaluation. The Common Core standards is competency based. Students must be able to not only create knowledge, but produce knowledge. It's time to take a driver's Ed approach to leaning. Give the keys to the students and tell them to keep it between the mayonnaise and the mustard!

  • Bruce.

    Good post George.

    I think a great place to start in our school is with our Professional Learning Communities. I've been frustrated at how our PLCs that were once division wide have somehow morphed into school based PLC teams. The focus is becoming more narrow, and that is a real problem for me. This year I'm going to work towards developing E-PLC's in our division. We'll see where it goes…..

    • georgecouros

      Thanks for your comment Bruce…Good luck in moving forward next year :)

  • Mark Flynn

    George – Bravo! To add. after 31 years in public Ed,, I am now growing into higher Ed. I am teaching in a MEL program for aspiring Principals, etc. and am committed to providing a 21st Cent. Lrng. environment. It is imperative if they are to go out and lead a school or district. I am including collaboration, paperless, passion-based learning, 1-1, Twitter with hashtag for the class, backchanneling, experience-based learning, real-life content, etc. It must be in IHE's, I have run out of patience, and it is not an option.
    P.S. I am pondering Google docs exclusively, blended learning, Pixar's +1 collab on steroids, flipped classroom, Exciting!

    • georgecouros

      Sounds like you are on the right track Mark! I hope things work out great because it sounds like you are headed in the right direction.

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    While I totally agree with all you say, what's missing here is the approach we take. It's fine to be fed up and see where people are just not getting it. It's also important to point out this is about students' learning more than our discomfort.

    The problem with the doctor analogy is that they are given time to learn. It's not just a concept that they have to figure out on their own. As a profession, we don't believe it's important enough to make the necessary changes. It's currently individuals choosing to change. That's slow and laborious, but it's the reality. No amount of complaining or shaming will help. it's only going to increase resistance.

    My approach will continue to be demonstrating and modeling with humility, particularly when it comes to teachers. Leaders, however, I think do need some added pressure. Yet still it comes down to modeling, relationships and trust.

    I feel your frustration when some use 21st century terminology and do very little to demonstrate it. I'm just cautious about how we support change.

    • Josh Stumpenhorst

      Dean,

      I was going to mention something along those same lines. If you think of some teachers who have been in the profession for many years…10 plus, where are they being trained? How are they even able to keep up with technology if not given time and support to do so? While I agree that we need to keep pushing education forward in terms of technology use, we can't blame people for not getting on board unless we have the structure and support to do so. Like you, I choose to model my own use in hopes of bringing others on board with me.

      • georgecouros

        @Josh and @Dean,

        I think that modelling is so essential but just doing that is not enough. In fact Dean, when you say sharing is a "Moral Imperative", is there no pressure in this statement? When will people find time to share? I totally agree that time is of the essence and that is important that it is provided, hence the reason administrators get it. I think that saying education needs to change or get better (which I have heard both of you say), there has to be BOTH pressure and support. Without support, people will not be able to learn and move forward. Without pressure though, people will also think that it is not necessary. Working with several administrators who have been in the profession for 25 + years they say that these types of conversations have been happening for years in education with very little progress. Modelling, although admirable, is really not enough.

        • http://educatoral.com/ Alfonso Gonzalez

          I totally agree with you, George. Without pressure teachers won't even take advantage of training that is available right in their building. Here's an example. I started the school year by offering Techin20 trainings every Thursday. I created a Google form giving teachers a list of different things to learn from how to use our Google Apps accounts to how to use Prezi. I prioritized the 20 min Thursday trainings by teacher choice (those that got the most votes first). I was in my room ready to go every Thursday but by Winter Break I stopped because only one teacher attended the first training and that was it. Our counselor attended a few and one of the district secretaries who wanted to learn more to make her job easierr attended most of them.

          I was and still am pretty shocked. I was there offering to show teachers anything they wanted to learn and I had NO takers. And my principal was even willing to offer clock hours for the trainings! But she didn't pressure teachers into attending so no one made the time to show up. So I do believe pressure will help. At least pressure to show up at first and hopefully they will find enough value or success to instrinsically want to continue showing up and learning.

        • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

          Fair enough. I hope the difference in talk about the Moral Imperative is that my stance isn't about blame as much as it is about the benefits and purpose of sharing. As well, I equate sharing to teaching. It's one in the same.

          Perhaps there's some semantics here but I'm simply worried about coming across as shaming people. I've watched you enough to know you don't do that but without some support and follow up, telling leaders to "smarten up" might not get us very far. t's not that your message is wrong, I'm just not convinced that in my experience and position, it's the best, most effective approach.

  • JoAnn

    Bravo!! George, you are so right. I think many teachers say they want their students to be life long learners but forget about themselves. Life isn't about being comfortable especially when you are entrusted with shaping the lives of others. There is no such thing as perfection so let's get over it, get in there, and get the job done.

    • georgecouros

      Thanks JoAnn…It is essential that we model the learning with our students, both with the smooth parts and the bumps. I appreciate your comment.

  • vernanz

    I helped launch a small totally online course recently.

    Then: in the staff training they asked "Where were the instructions for the dropbox?" A link said: "DROPBOX: post your assessments here"
    I said "They are all inside the link to the dropbox". Person X said "Well we need instructions to tell them to click on the link"

  • vernanz

    oops. For the record. Posting here in a random part of the south pacific, my post appeared as coming from vernanz. little glitch somewhere.

  • http://edutechmusings.blogspot.com/ Chris Fancher

    Great post and the replies have really made me think about this "problem" that has been taking up more and more of my brain power. That problem is teachers who are capable and caring in the classroom and are doing good things with their students BUT aren't receptive to any of the stuff I send their way. If I say the word Twitter they snicker. (Lord knows I'm not even going to say anything about Google+). If I send them things to read about in an email they don't open the email and accuse me of spamming them. If I post a link on FB (most of them have found that, at least) and suggest that they look at it, I hear the spam word again. I've suggested having Tuesday Tech days (or similar name) where I, or anyone else, could introduce some tech they have been playing with and we could discuss ways to use it in the classroom. But there is no interest shown. And the irony? We are a 1:1 school and each teacher has a laptop AND an iPad2 to use (with an IWB in the classroom). Oh well…. Did I mention it was a great post?

  • http://www.noeltigers.com wmchamberlain

    A thought occurred to me while reading the comments. Maybe it is not the technology that is the real problem, but the shift in how the information is presented, discussed, and even learned. Maybe the real problem is teachers still don’t want to give control of learning to students?

    • http://www.21innovate.com Brad @dreambition

      Yes, I agree. Control is huge and it is hard to give up. Much harder for some. It is also very hard to unlearn habits and the way we were taught.

  • http://avenue4learning.com Michelle Baldwin

    I've been sitting on my reply for a while. Still not exactly sure how to respond, but am going to try anyway.

    We are in the midst of the biggest shift in education that any of us has ever experienced. When I first started teaching and they brought a computer in my classroom, I had absolutely no idea how to use it. My "techier" friends used to make fun of me for not knowing the difference between memory and storage. AND… there was no time or support to learn. The computer became a management tool for me, and that was it.

    Now, several years and experiences later, my colleagues have looked to me as a tech expert. Not only do I know the tools, but I know how to use them to change how and what my students learn. Why? 1) I am a learning sponge, and when I don't know how to do something, I won't rest until I do. 2) Somewhere along the way, I was given the opportunity to learn with support and time. The typical spray and pray models of PD that exist in many school districts are not enough to help people tackle the shift from everything they learned in teacher preparation. On top of everything we expect teachers to do, we want them to learn on their own. They're teachers, right? Life-long learning and all that.

    I think you really nailed this when you pointed at educational leaders. That doesn't have to be administrators, necessarily, but we need better visionary leaders who can help to put into place a system that helps new and veteran teachers to think differently about teaching and learning. I was frustrated also that those things were not happening where I was teaching. I'm just lucky I have found a new school and new visionary leaders who "get it." But, like Dean, I'm not sure how to help the rest, other than to continue modeling and encouraging…. and to keep pointing to the leaders who do "get it" and hoping for the best.

    • georgecouros

      I think that when you first started with your computer, technology was nowhere near a top priority. You look at business now, there is a huge shift not only on emotional intelligence and the importance of that, but also the importance of using technology as a way of connecting and communicating with customers. Not everyone is going to need to know how to use a video, but in every industry some element of technology, and especially in the area of communication, we are going to know how to use this in a meaningful way. It needs to be a priority now. This is not a futurists view; it is a right now view.

      All of that being said, I have worked as an educational technology integration specialist and an admin who had this same skill set. How much difference do you think it made when I was an administrator who had to do all of the other aspects of his job and still made this a priority? I am sure you can figure out what school made more strides yet in one school, educational technology was my WHOLE focus. It makes all the difference when administrators (school or division based) jump into the water and show that they are learning alongside. As a teacher, it is good that we push each other, but when you are the one proverbially signing the checks, you need to be able to get this stuff. There is a saying that goes, "As a leader, I do not expect anything from my staff that I am not willing to do myself." Both elements of that statement are extremely important; both the work and the expectation.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • http://www.currix.com Ann-Caryn Cleveland

    George-
    I love this post. Especially since currently, women make up only 8% of the workforce that makes the technology tools you utilize in the classroom. In order to prepare students of the future we have to make them creators today! It was great to meet you at ISTE and I love what you are doing here. Keep calling them out!

  • Earl Samuelson

    “Meaningful use of technology” is a VERY significant phrase in your post. I have heard of instances where students work out solutions to problems using pencil & paper and then input these solutions into a computer; the computer then “marks” the assignment and provides students with the results. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is no different than checking in the back of a text book to self-evaluate. Is this a meaningful use of technology? Some would say “yes”.

    My post became too long to be accepted here so is now a blog post of its own. View the remainder of my response by clicking on the following link:

    http://samuelsonmathxp.posterous.com/meaningful-use-of-technology

  • kwhobbes

    George,

    As I've watched you learn and grow over this past year or so as you began to dive into the online world, getting to know people and putting in time to develop your PLN, then start Connected Principals and work to advance the use of technology, your passion for what you are doing has been obvious. You have written and tweeted, developing a great number of relationships with a great many people who believe as you do.

    Like many educational leaders, you want to do what is best for the children in the school and, from your posts and your comments, you have a particular belief about how teachers/administrators should act and what they should do. You don't accept that people in education can continue to not embrace technology and administrators need to be the leaders in this area, pushing the envelope. Yet, a short few years ago, you were in a similar position but because of the prompting of others and their encouragement, you've jumped in, risen to the challenge and your star is shining. Now, after cultivating a PLN of like-minded educators, having an opportunity to attend a number of conferences at the international level, your post reflects this growth. Congratulations on all that you have accomplished.

    As has been said by Dean and others, we are dealing with people, their feelings and lives. I don't believe that we can ram or smash our way to teachers using technology. I believe that teachers can be effective without technology, our First Nations people have used oral story-telling and passing on their traditions in a way that is very different from what our present systems and there is something to be learnt from them, if we take the time to do so.

    Your frustration is palatable and its obvious you have little patience for anyone who isn't embracing networking and learning as you have come to understand it. Please, for the sake of those who are not yet there, remember where you came from not so long ago and, then, reflect on the time and energy you have devoted to growing this change. Realize the opportunities you have been given that others, including many who have been working at this for a much longer time, have not had and the impact that has on a developmental level. Not all leaders and professionals have had these opportunities but, because of life and the choices they must make, have taken a different path. It's easy to tell, it's harder to listen, talk and then walk with people who not only don't agree with you but who want nothing to do with what you are saying.

    As an educational leader, I choose to see that there are many ways to solve a problem and, combining the strengths of those around me helps to build a better learning community that is diverse, strong and better able to manage the demands and challenges that we face. By embracing these differences we are learning from one another and growing together, trusting that no one will be dismissed or dishonored. There are frustrations of course but it's how we choose to respond to those frustrations that allows others see what type of leader we are. LIke others have said, I continue to model and support, offer assistance and apply appropriate pressures, moving everyone along the learning continuum."

    • georgecouros

      Thanks for your comments and kind words Kelly. Your words on my work in the last while are appreciated and I know that you must have also seen the importance I have placed on building relationships with not only my own staff, students, and school community. Relationships are key. Although you are very correct that the world of networking was something that I did not know to a great extent, I have always placed an importance on the understanding of technology. I would like to think that I did some good things before the last two years, but I have, just as Dean suggests we need to do, been open to sharing.

      I have also spoke of the importance of people appreciating their own lives. A whole person is one that is more likely to be successful in their work, whether the field of education or not. I truly believe that. I also believe that there are many things that we can learn in different areas, hence the reason I did not say that technology WAS the priority; it just needs to be one of them. I just really believe that more emphasis needs to be placed on this. Through constant interactions, a lot of them private, many teachers are feeling frustrated that they are hitting road block after road block. This push is ultimately about helping those that we serve, students, and then staff. As I said, being on the path is important, but I in no way say you have had to arrive. There are some things in education that I actually have no patience for (such as teachers believing that relationships are insignificant in schools), but as I have continuously modeled, I am always willing to walk alongside those in their journey.

  • Royan Lee

    When “You can be an effective teacher without technology" is an excuse, it's an ethical issue.

  • kwhobbes

    George,

    It seems that your post is directly targeted to those who don't use technology – you reference the medical comment by Gerald in his post about something similar. You ask :

    My question is, in our world today, can you be an effective learner without using technology? We constantly talk about preparing kids for their future but I am concerned that some of them are not even prepared for their world right now.

    In response there are all types of learning – some which needs technology and some which don't. Having spent time with some First Nations' Elders, I've come to see that there is, indeed, a great deal of learning that can be done without technology. It depends on your perspective of learning. I don't disagree that technology is indeed important in our schools and learning. As you say in your response, "A whole person is one that is more likely to be successful…" and there are parts of learning and being a whole person that require no technology and which we also need to cultivate and nurture. In pushing to help those we serve, we must be mindful of what we push. Teachers are frustrated – some by technology, some by the lack of technology, some by the amount of curricula changes, some by the increased assessment expectations,…. the litany goes on. Do we listen to all of them or do we listen to just a few?

    • Dominique

      What a relief to read your post. Thank you!

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  • http://brainvibeforeducators.blogspot.com Shawn Blankenship

    Great Post! Without technology our students are limited to what their teacher knows and is able to do. It is not the responsibility of the teacher to know everything, but it is irresponsible of the teacher to not embrace technology to provide knowledge beyond their expertise.

    "If we teach today a we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrw." John Dewey

    It simply can not be an option anymore. Recently, I attended a conference in which Dr. Debra Pickering presented and she paraphrased a statement made by a Superintendent in New York. "Technology is good. However, a great teacher can teach in a field with a chalkboard." My question is this, "Will this student be prepared for his/her future?" Of course not! Let's not rob our students simply because we are not willing to learn, grow, and change.

    Thanks for your post, Shawn

  • Samuelson Mathxp

    Let's all make sure we use technology in a MEANINGFUL way. Everyone here is clearly on the technology band-wagon……technology integration plays a significant role in each of the classes I facilitate as well. There is something wrong, however, when I'm told that I 'MUST use technology for at least 20 minutes each day in each of my classes'. I incorporate technology when it serves to benefit the learners I'm in charge of helping. I have no problem using technology in a high school math class but am always aware of the requirements of post secondary study…….see link below:
    http://samuelsonmathxp.posterous.com/meaningful-u

    • Dominique

      My colleague was told all teachers had to use online calendars. I said why. Because then everyone can be on the same page. Isn't that much better than going all the way to the library and booking the computer room or the gym or whatever. I think maybe not. Going to the library I would say hello to at least two parents and 5 students, talk to the librarian and see a book on the shelf that looked interesting. Technology is not THE answer. Creating community is. Yes, you can do some of that online and much of creating community happens by being together and talking face to face. That is what is important to me as an educator.

  • Samuelson Mathxp

    I've read many opinions, here and elsewhere, all touting how great technology is but very few individuals actually include HOW they are using it in such a meaningful way. Perhaps some examples can be shared to add some value to the discussion. Here's one example of how I incorporate technology in my Introductory Calculus class.
    http://samuelsonmathxp.wordpress.com/

    Having my notes available to students in this way will allow more time during class to explore actual scenarios connected to those notes. As the subject material becomes more advanced, applications of technology can be utilized; this will not, however, come at the expense of understanding the concepts and procedures required at post-secondary.

    Feel free to rip my opinion apart.

    • Bubbles

      That's awesome. A model for others such as myself.

  • http://redefiningteaching.blogspot.com Tiffany Della Vedova

    Great post. I agree we need to model first, which is a major missing link. I thought I had a handle on this during the year when I led a curriculum revision which included collaborating online to refresh our guides. To some extent it worked; it was at least a start, but I can still see gaps between people who see the technology as attached to specific assigned tasks when the goal is to expose them to tools which can be implemented in their own planning and instruction. I've also realized that when I lead through modeling, I run the risk of setting myself up as a know-it-all type so that people start seeing the technology associated with me. It's a tricky balance, and if only they knew/believed the truth (which I try to tell them)…that I am forever playing catch-up to trailblazers, that I don't understand all of what I am trying to use, but that in the end, it is all okay because we are learning together. The fear is what we have to contend with; fear of judgment, failure, etc.

  • John

    I'd like to push back on this! Thanks…

    If this is not optional anymore… then what is optional? As humans, we still retain choice, right? I'd say a major issue is that schools are not offering choices. The "not optional" sounds a lot like old-school schooling. The importance of technology needs to be a personal discovery, and that is how as I teacher and mentor I look to guide… as a way for discovery around discussions of what's best for kids.

    So regarding the tech piece, in his book, You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier starts off by saying, “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself.” In my experience working with digital technologies, often we are often sharing ourselves and publishing work before we have any experience in the world. We are asking teachers to share before they feel like they have anything to share.

    So we get technology into the hands of students and teachers… but what do/will they share? Just having a blog doesn't mean there are words and experiences to share on it. Maybe there is not much meaningful use of technology because there isn't much SUSTAINED meaningful learning. What are people doing that is worth sharing? Teachers are rightly not finding use for these tools because there is no reason to. There really isn't UNTIL you have something worth sharing. Much of the current day-to-day, is very day-to-day, if you know what I mean. Mundane schooling.

    Our teaching must first be experience rich, and I mean experience in a way that honors our humanness. Ask everyone what makes them come alive. What is your vision? Sitting and clicking, no matter what you are reading or with whom you are "connecting" is a very limited way of viewing and experiencing. I'm not sure that doing this helps us evolve forward, nor do I see it as the answer to the education issue we are having. Technology has become the next box to place our ideas in, it just looks cooler right now than a classroom and happens to hold attention more easily and the information is less distilled. Why would this educational revolution (which has been going on for 100 years now with little change) be changed with technology? These technologies shape us, we are not shaping the technologies. We shape the CONTENT of them to a degree, but don't we usually say "it's not about the content"? Just look around at people who are "connected". What active sense do you get from this? How have they been changed?

    What are your students doing with technology? Sitting in front of a screen? Moving their fingers? Keeping one eye on what everyone else is "doing"? How are we cultivating all of the tools of our humanness to be a part of what is going on around us right now? How are YOU, your human self, connecting with the world? I believe we need to invest in people being people. LIVING. Having alive, energized experiences! If we invest in people being droids staring at screens, well, that is a wonderful proposition for a company like Cisco, or Apple, or SMART, or Verizon. Maybe they'll give you a job as a leader… but it seems we are doing their marketing work for free. Technologies are not necessarily in service of the work our ancestors did to make us the powerful, thoughtful beings we are today.

    While my post might sound like it's coming from a luddite (and I don't use that word as a pejorative), I have studied with Alan November, been to BLC conferences, I lead technology PD and use web technologies extensively in my classroom (found my way to follow this blog and George's tweets :-) ) to share with my community and connect my elementary students. We blog, tweet, create websites, movies and more. But I'd give all of that sharing for taking more time for true living experiences and learning that connects people with the world around them that they have a direct effect on. More living, less (but some) sharing.

    The off button is so close right now. Go ahead. Do it! Go LIVE!

    • Dominique

      John, I took a big breath out when I read your post. I am not against using technology either and feel excited learning new things. And sometimes I think it is candy and feeds my addiction mode. I want education to be more than that. There are so many things I want to share with my students and it is a choice in what I spend my time learning about to share with them. Some of that may be technology and to me there are so many other things that they are starving for….like how to relate person to person.

  • John

    Thanks for the blog post in the first place George!

    Yeah, I've found that too. There is so much that I'm doing and exploring these days that is helped along by online connections. Like this conversation! I think your blog supports this kind of connecting. We are experiencing this as adults in the world (though I do think many of us could use less screen time).

    Are our learning environments open enough and engaging enough that students are having the experiences you talk about having? I don't mean technologically open but open in a way where interests and passions and loves are at the forefront. And then are students being supported to go and live and grow those things that are important to them? That doesn't require technology, it requires a shift in thinking about how we approach teaching. The tech helps, but the way you live your life and the way many schools are "living" isn't the same. I just think there are too many math worksheets and test prep and other things that don't need to bring us online. And many teachers don't have the opportunity to see how what they're doing could be shared out. Or how giving kids control is actually a safe and energizing thing for their work.

    There are projects that call out for online connection, and as leaders, we can find the ways to bring what our teachers are already doing to new audiences and partnerships. I don't think it's technology first. Those teachers you find that are saying "no" might need to see how their projects are enhanced and when you talk about the kids (instead of teachers), and more people see and share in the excitement that grows when kids take more control, then we move along a bit.

    Cheers. And congrats on your work here. How wonderful to receive ideas from people all over the world!

  • http://shelleywright.wordpress.com Shelley Wright

    George, you’ve obviously written about an issue that matters to people! Personally, I think you’re right. I know teachers who refuse to have anything to do with technology because they can’t be bothered. It’s not their thing, and besides, I can always teach it when they reach grade 10. Personally, I think they’re abdicating their responsibility as a teacher.

    Can one be an effectie learner without technology? I can’t. And that’s probably true of most people, especially our students. I think one of the most significant things I can do as a teacher is show my students how to create and leverage a learning environment.

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  • Bubbles

    Even though I am a fantastic teacher of and with digital technologies and my students are fantastic explorers of digital technologies. Effective teaching can happen without digital technologies. If the plug was pulled on the world's electricity tomorrow would I still be able to teach effectively, yes. Teaching, mentoring and coaching is about caring, nurturing and communicating to people their worth and potential in rich ways so clearly they begin to believe it themselves, whether the communication is face to face or virtual. I agree meaningful learning ought to take place whether with our without technology.

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  • http://shift2future.com Brian Kuhn

    I sense some intensity coming through in this post. I like it. Side-bar, I just attended the 2011 World Future Society conf in Vancouver, BC last week. 1000 futurists from around the world – very diverse group. Probably only about 20 active tweeters!! Even with just the few, the back channel learning that happens is amazing. People not even at the conf participate in debate, learning from each other and conf attendees is not replicable without technology! Besides lack of full immersion for the many, the other frustration is format – 2-days of the conf were for an Education Summit – we drank from the firehose of lecture format with little interaction. I raised this in a feedback piece and got resistance – seems though that I may be involved in designing next year’s summit :-)

    I think too often we are apologetic for using technology. We seem to think it is “just another tool”. I disagree, increasingly. The future ain’t like the past and the way learning and teaching occurs shouldn’t reflect the past. Technology has forever changed most aspects of modern life – the list is endless. Why would education be an exception? Technology needs to be seen for what it is: an unstoppable force of change and people in education needs to be actively involved in guiding and shaping the outcome. Where better to do that than in our classrooms of today. I note Gord Holden’s comment above – he’s taken me on a whirl-wind 1 hour tour of the virtual learning worlds he uses with students – that 3D immersive learning experience is the future and is impossible without embracing technology. Not connecting students to those experiences is a disservice.

    As to Dean’s and other’s comments, I totally agree that we need to carefully nudge, lead, help, etc. others one at a time. We should also incentise teachers and administrators wherever possible. In our District we kicked of a teacher laptop initiative this year – 500 of our 1850 teachers signed on. It’s a cost-share between District and school, is opt-in, and teachers and principals have to commit to ongoing embedded pro-d to be able to participate. Our goal is to equip all teachers with a very good laptop to support what we believe is an essential way of teaching and supporting learning. Schools and their PAC’s are purchasing LCD projectors where possible to amplify the value of the laptop for students. We allow and support teachers and students in bringing their own digital learning devices to school.

    Another way is to require the use of tech to improve business of education practices where employees (all of them) have to use technology to do what they do as employees (HR, Finance, Purchasing, Facilities, IT, etc. functions). It’s just one more way for people to have to embrace tech – it adds to their digital literacy growth over time..

    Open doors, talk the talk, walk the talk, show the way, provide incentives, infuse tech increasingly, we’ll get there!

    • georgecouros

      Thanks Brian…great comments. I think that modelling is so important but the "nudging" that you talk about also needs to happen. The question we always need to look at again is "what is best for kids"; once we (students, staff, and community) have a clear vision of that, we move forward together. It is so important we start with what the students need first.

      Thanks again for your comment :)

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  • http://yourchildwillread.com Paula Lee Bright

    I'm 57. I learned how to use techology for fun. Our kids will live in a digital world and must be prepared for that future.

    Anyone not willing to learn some basics is doing a serious misservice to the children in their care. Sounds rough, but that's what I truly believe. And our children in schools that offer less technology because of lack of funds? They will need even more if they are to somehow miraculously rise out of poverty without being technically literate.

    Heaven help them, if we don't.

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  • dprindle

    None of my presentations come with handouts. They come with QR codes that participants can scan to get the information on their phones, I also give out a tinyurl to my presentations, and have a link to all of my workshops and presentations on my website. Teachers no longer have an excuse to leave out technology. Most students have smartphones and use those for class.

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