The conversation continueth…

I love it when Hiba says a few quick things!

I encourage you to read Hiba’s comment, and Troy and Melissa’s, in response to my last post. It is so important IMHO for us to be talking frankly, reflectively and supportively about the difficulties and fears that we/others have in regards to using technology in our teaching.  Ignoring the problems will not make them go away!

I totally agree Hiba – using technology for the sake of it does not lead to effective teaching. And I think you’re right – this is bound to be the thing that Shaun has experienced. And yes, ‘too much of anything IS too much’. But…who decides what is too much?

“Just a few quick things” from me 😉

The end of your comment Hiba is very telling – you love and can see a clear use for OHPs, digital stories, twitter and youtube. Ok, but what about other teachers who don’t like these things? When they are told they ‘have to’ use them, won’t they have the same feelings as you expressed about other technology?
So: (1) teachers will best use what they know about and can see a use for, and (like all other pedagogical tools) each teacher will have their own style and ‘favourites’. I think this is OK, and a natural product of how we work.

What do you do with teachers who are refusing/reluctant to learn new things? New tools? New ways of doing things? Is it good enough to just say ‘blogging is not a preferred teaching tool of mine’? Well, perhaps…but is it good enough to go wider than this and say ‘online learning is not a preferred teaching tool of mine.’?   Er, NO.   IMO this is tantamount to saying ‘I just don’t like doing group work’. Unlucky mate. Because:
(2) there are things that we know, for sure, things that are like fully researched and proven and everything about how collaborative learning enhances the learning experience, and about how online tools can facilitate this better than pen and paper work. This is not a matter of opinion, or personal style (though whether you use a wiki or a blog or a Ning or Moodle etc. certainly is).

I hear you about being too immersed in technology. I am a screen junkie, and have to constantly remind myself that not everyone is. I DO prefer to mark essays using track changes and comments in Word (it takes more time for me to negotiate the margins of someone’s handwritten essay than it does for me to just TYPE), but that’s just me. I don’t think that everyone needs to work this way. But I do think, at some point, you have a (dare I say) duty to expose students to this method of editing. This is especially important because:
(3) the distinction between ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ has been helpful, but is is not that black and white. Fact: not all kids have the kind of access to technology that you describe yourself as having – this is a class/SES/cultural issues that we MUST remain aware of. Another Fact: just because you use a lot of technology doesn’t mean that you can think critically about it, or apply it to new knowledge. Case in point – students’ PowerPoint presentations are generally REALLY AWFUL until they are taught how to apply skills of good public speaking, visual presentation, summarising, metalanguage/metathinking etc. How do you explain this phenomenon if it is true that ‘all young people already know about technology’?  There’s a reason why English teachers teach novels, and don’t just say ‘go read it at home kids’.

Back to the concept of ‘too much’. You know what else I think we use too much of? Workbooks. And writing notes off the board. And teacher talk. And homework (when it is not project and passion based, which I do like). But these practices are never questioned, never challenged, never stopped because people find them comfortable and familiar. And no-one notices when they are overdone because they are part of the traditional landscape of schooling, and because (most importantly I think) because this is how parents, and politicians, were taught and what they expect to see from kids’ classrooms.

My Head Teacher will get me in trouble if my kids don’t have a workbook, but no-one else gets in trouble for not having a blog!

So: (4) Let’s make sure we’re applying the ‘too much is too much’ rule across the board, and not just as an excuse/a reason for neglecting the new. If what we mean is ‘we haven’t had enough PD to use this right’ then by all means say that. But there are some things that would be good to drop out of our current practice to make room for the new.

One thing that we know about teaching is that no matter what you are taught to do, as a teacher you will instinctively model your practice on the teaching you received at school.  Fighting against this instinct takes concentration, and learning about new practices and tools takes a lot of work. Because of this, teachers who are embracing technology are feeling increasingly overloaded and burnt out this is the real problem that needs managing.  In Hiba’s post I felt a real sense of fatigue, and I know how she feels because I have felt that way too.  We teachers have to look after ourselves personally and adjust our level of change commitment as our energy ebbs and flows.  People who yell and scream and try and force everyone to use technology all lesson, every lesson need to be more sensitive to change fatigue…but in return, teachers need to ‘man up’ when the energy does flow, and explore these new tools for refining their craft.

Without understanding and effort on both sides, the student will be the one who misses out.

  1. #1 by Troy on March 21, 2010 - 3:29 pm

    ‘too much is too much’…Here here…This is my life, at school summarised. I would never ever tell someone who employs traditional teaching styles in their classroom that they do too much or what they do is wrong, or that it isn’t real or that I don’t value it.
    Then why do I have to justify my professional and personal desire to embrace aspects of technology to enhance all those other things we do? Using technology, like Indigenous ed, like embracing not just having a welfare policy or literacy and numeracy across every subject needs to become ‘normal’ rather than an alternative to or a replacement for other elements.

  2. #2 by David Chapman on March 21, 2010 - 3:32 pm

    My couple of thoughts:

    Technology is not the answer, but it is part of the solution (ooh how deep!) –

    I enjoy technology, have for a long time, and often incorporate it in my classroom teaching. What frustrates me is when technology is seen to be this oppressive beast that merely takes the place of a workbook or a whiteboard. Why spend hours creating a keynote or powerpoint when a good whiteboard marker will do?

    We live in an amazing time – a time to really change the way we teach. This is why I try to avoid OHPs, projectors, and the like – and try to create student centred learning. This is where technology is fantastic. A laptop with a good net connection opens up the world like never before, and with great apps students can create like never before.

    Content is not king – it is still valuable, but skills are key, and technological skills are essential for learning today. A great project that requires student thinking, research and creating, is far more engaging than any worksheet or presentation with cool sound effects.

    • #3 by Margaret on September 25, 2010 - 12:13 pm

      I love this conversation, because I can relate to ALL the opposing points that are being made. Technology is a tool for learning, not an end in itself. Sure, we must prepare students for the world at large, and this world includes technology, but technology is not the answer to all ills. Just because you present a blog to students, doesn’t mean they are going to be engaged with it, especially in low SES areas where students don’t have the same levels of experience with this form of communication. It stands to reason that people with high levels of literacy will be those who engage with blogs. It is learning difficulties and literacy levels which need to be addressed. If technology helps with this, then well and good, but if a teacher simply does not have the skills to incorporate technology into their classroom, then it is in the students best interest not to force the issue. Sure, lead gradually from behind, upskill teachers, engage the interested ones, and eventually the younger generation who are technically literate will be in the majority. But remember too, that in high schools, students experience the skills of a range of teachers – if one doesn’t use technology in the classroom, then another one willl, and this will provide the student with a smorgasbord of options. We had thinking skills before we had technology, and there are plenty of ways to engage students with thinking without the use of technology.

      And another thing – content is not a dirty word. After all, we need to have something to think ABOUT. Otherwise the frivolous nonsense that passes for creativity in some contexts will become the norm. eg I liked the suggestion about a Facebook page for Shakespeare – that would mean the student would need to gain some knowledge about Shakespeare to achieve it successfully. Lets learn to discern between true creativity and flashy presentations.

      • #4 by kmcg2375 on September 25, 2010 - 1:07 pm

        Oh, I hear you Margaret – I’ve seen enough pointless but flashy presentations to last a lifetime! Interactive Whiteboards are one example of where I see a lot of this…IWBs CAN be a powerful tool, but there is a lot of time being wasted too in schools where IWB use is being forced, resulting in some teachers using them in very shallow and superficial ways. No teacher should have a mandatory technology ‘quota’!

        However, I think the literacy issue is more complicated. While I agree wholeheartedly that there are issues of disadvantage that overlap with issues of both literacy and ‘digital literacy’, there are some opportunities offered by the visually rich, responsive and interactive nature of the online world that I think the potential to use it for pedagogical and engagement purposes should not be overlooked. I’ve seen so many kids who won’t write in class type so much more…gives them a sense of accomplishment, and gives me more material to work with in drafting!

  3. #5 by kmcg2375 on March 21, 2010 - 3:33 pm

    You are right Troy – and I think we also all need to be more sensitive to our different contexts. Hiba and I have the benefit of working in a school where the Executive are very supportive of technology, and keen to push boundaries (although there are still battles with individual staff, and significant equipment issues).

    Teachers who are using digital tools in schools that aren’t so supportive are having a much more ‘soul-destroying’ time of it. Fatigue sets in even quicker when you have to battle the equipment, other teachers, AND the bosses 😦

  4. #6 by Jan on March 21, 2010 - 3:36 pm

    Thoughtful comments Kelli. By the way, I’m led to believe your HT is trying to embrace personal growth with respect to his own use of technology 🙂 . I especially like you references to professional learning and change fatigue. Everyone has a balance to find, as does a school. But what do our students expect of us? This is something I’m about to explore using the notion of focus groups within a Tight Loose Tight construct.
    I enjoy reading your posts.

  5. #7 by kmcg2375 on March 21, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    A good point David – it is all about thinking. As a teacher I try to choose the best tool to promote student thinking, and using technology has some clear advantages, but is not the end-game.

    Our school has been working on the development of core skills and values that will underpin our whole school approach to learning and teaching. This has been great for moving us past debates about content and tools, and toward debates about how best to develop the values and skills. Do other schools use a similar strategy?

  6. #8 by kmcg2375 on March 21, 2010 - 3:41 pm

    Thanks Jan 🙂
    Yes, my HT is awesome! A classic non-believer 3 years ago, now building his first wiki…it has been amazing to watch this happen. I have learned so much working ‘under’ leaders who are not scared to take risks. One of the biggest lessons has been that fear of risk is not always fear of being ‘shown up’ or of ‘failure’, but fear of burn out. If you think teachers have little time for change, try being a HT for a day!!

  7. #9 by malyn (@ozmawbs) on March 21, 2010 - 3:44 pm

    I found this very interesting:
    One thing that we know about teaching is that no matter what you are taught to do, as a teacher you will instinctively model your practice on the teaching you received at school. Fighting against this instinct takes concentration, and learning about new practices and tools takes a lot of work

    In fact, I’ve pondered about this in my recent post about How best to teach maths? which ultimately asks, do you teach based on how you were taught or how you were taught to teach, ie with the learner in mind. Context here – learning theories in the past 10 or so years certainly lean this way and I am a new scheme teacher so this is what I was exposed to.

    Coming in from the corporate world into teaching, one of the things I’ve observed – no offence to any one in particular – is that some teachers struggle to be learners. They object vehemently about being forced to learn new things (often technology) and use accordingly. They object to days of ‘professional development’ which they feel are endless days of boring talk, talk, talk – when there’s so much else they have to or would rather do. The irony is that this is exactly what most students feel, day in day out – bored to be subjected and forced to learn things they see as meaningless or irrelevant.

    When teachers start to really emphatise with being a student, then they are able to learn better and quite likely, teach better . They ‘make the most’ out of what education is, as it currently stands – not to say that one shouldn’t bat for educational reform but that’s not the topic here. Anyway, for example, if we have to use workbooks – how can we best use that? In my maths class, I encourage my students not to copy my definitions on the board verbatim or as is. They are free to use sms/txt language, or rotate a diagram or draw their own ‘doodles’, if it helps them remember- and writing things down does help us learn and remember (even if we never go over the notes again) – if I find the study I read that from, I’ll come and re-post.

    And Hiba is right, it’s exhausting work – and that’s because not only are we teaching, we’re forcing ourselves to learn as a matter of course. Reflective, learner-centred practice is hard work – and those of us who do use technology know that technology helps, more often than not.

  8. #10 by Hiba R on March 21, 2010 - 7:09 pm


    I am honoured to be mentioned in your blog.

    I was happily reading away until I came to this line:

    “You know what else I think we use too much of? Workbooks. And writing notes off the board.”

    I think my heart stopped beating.

    But then I realised that you were trying to make me see outside the square (right?). I never thought about it that way, that there is ‘too much’ of the old stuff, and that’s just as bad as the point I had made about ‘too much’ of technology. It’s absolutely true. Although I confess, I am an avid lover of the workbook, but there are definitely things out there I think are done too much of. Photocopied sheets – hand out – read – answer questions.

    And I like that you pointed out that just because I use technology doesn’t mean I can analyse how good it is.

    But the thing I mostly wanted to point out was this: Fact: not all kids have the kind of access to technology that you describe yourself as having – this is a class/SES/cultural issues that we MUST remain aware of.

    yep, yep. As a kid, I had access to some technology (the ones I mentioned before) but I did not get broadband until LAST YEAR! I did not have a mobile phone until I was 16, and no mp3 or digital camera until I had a job. So I empathise with the kids who don’t either. And it’s probably what used to piss me off about university lectures. They would get some technology officer from some rich private school come in and lecture us about how we can use mp3 players or iPhones/iPods with the kids, and I would keep thinking “ummmm…not everyone has them!”.

    But I think that’s a completely different issue in this crazy web of technology.

  9. #11 by kmcg2375 on March 22, 2010 - 4:26 am

    People following this conversation might also be interested in this blog post, and the book it mentions:

    • #12 by Karen on March 22, 2010 - 4:55 am


      Thanks for the link to my blog post. I can see we’re thinking and writing about many of the same issues. You’re fortunate to have such a supportive administration.

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can bring the “ethos” (Knobel & Lankshear’s concept) into the classroom where there *isn’t* technology.

      Wish I had more time to read, write, join your conversations….

  10. #13 by Troy on March 22, 2010 - 3:56 pm

    Hiba R, Kelli, loving this discussion…
    “Fact: not all kids have the kind of access to technology that you describe yourself as having – this is a class/SES/cultural issues that we MUST remain aware of.”

    Fact, a lot of our kids, and adults, as pointed out by Kellie in her last blog, don’t weave into the traditional set of a workbook/classroom/learning/teaching styles that are forced upon them. I think of the boys in my class, I think of my gifted students who are given word counts on assessment tasks or our Indigenous students who are constantly taught in a room with four walls, where many of the ways students learn (therefore their culture) are totally ignored…If we talk about access, or even ‘back to basics’, or interestingly a curriculum based upon thinking from as recently as the 1960’s female students, working class kids, studnets with Indigenous heritage would be labelled early on and placed in a pigeon hole…sorry, getting of the point.
    Access to the dominant culture can be overcome with the help of technology.

  1. Change agents – Pirates vs Ninjas | Kelli McGraw

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