I’ve always been attracted to technology in education. I’ve recently learned/ been reminded that technology in education, isn’t a frivolous add-on, but a government obligation!
In early days my attraction to technology involved taking many chances on a computer or internet based lesson, perhaps with an early web 2.0 application, only to have any myriad of roadblocks creep up: sometimes hardware based, occasionally planning based, often ‘connection-speed’ based. Sometimes the idea was such a good one that I just had to go back to the planning board and try again; sometimes the idea wasn’t worth the rigmarole of overcoming the technology frustrations. I continued to peck away at available new technology in the educational field. Our school board was very fortunate to have an early and intense introduction to SMART boards and SMART Notebook technology. (Thank-you, Dave B.) I quickly became hooked; many would consider me a SMART Notebook junkie. Admittedly, I couldn’t imagine teaching without my SMART board and SMART Notebook files.
Despite my attraction to technology, I remained skeptical of the value of social media in educational circles. My connected colleagues like to tease me about my initial disgust and skepticism barely three years ago when they suggested that I should join Twitter. My response, “I don’t care what Justin Bieber had for lunch.” Fortunately, they persisted and I was quickly blown away by the connected universe of educators. I quickly realized that this universe is a place where Professional Development happens weekly and even daily, instead of a few times a year. Once the skeptic, I was soon giving PD sessions on the value of Twitter for educators. It is exciting to watch as fellow educators discover the universe of education available to them as educators.
Yet, for as many who are transformed in their own learning journey by being connected, there is a large body of educators who continued to feel that being connected is not something they are obligated to do:
“I’m not interested in technology.”
“It takes too much time.”
“Technology is just a crutch. Good teachers don’t need technology.”
“Kannekens, slow down. We can’t make people use technology.”
I’ve recently learned/ been reminded that the technology piece, isn’t a frivolous add-on, but a government obligation!
In my Gonzaga University Masters Class last weekend we did a thorough review of Alberta’s Teaching Quality Standard (TQS). I always find that reading through the KSAs is a very sobering experience, even for an experienced teacher. Yet there is one section that seemed to jump off the page during this particular investigation. Here, in plain print, in an edict of the Alberta Government, is a requirement that many educators and educational leaders seem to overlook or at least downplay:
KSA 8 (3h): Teachers apply a variety of technologies to meet students’ learning needs. Teachers use teaching/learning resources such as the chalkboard, texts, computers and other auditory, print and visual media, and maintain an awareness of emerging technological resources. They keep abreast of advances in teaching/learning technologies and how they can be incorporated into instruction and learning. As new technologies prove useful and become available in schools, teachers develop their own and their students’ proficiencies in using the technologies purposefully, which may include content presentation, delivery and research applications, as well as word processing, information management and record keeping. Teachers use electronic networks and other telecommunication media to enhance their own knowledge and abilities, and to communicate more effectively with others. (taken from http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/teachqual.aspx)
So as I reread the KSAs, I am reminded that my quest to help others become connected is not ‘off course’. After feeling that I just had to slowly encourage people to try new technologies or suggest once again that they become ‘connected’, I am bolstered with the TQS legislation that states teachers must “keep abreast of advances in teaching/learning technologies and how they can be incorporated into instruction and learning.”
Tom Whitby, a connected educator with over 40 years teaching experience, blogs about being connected as an educator. Watch the video in his blog for his take on being connected. Whitby agrees that on their own, teachers won’t choose things that are uncomfortable. Change, such as learning about and implementing the tools of modern technology, is uncomfortable for many. It involves leaving the comfort zone, but teachers need to do this. We are not teaching students for what we do today, but what they will be doing in their lifetime. Whitby goes as far as arguing that a teacher who is not connected (using digital devices to connect, create, collaborate) is an illiterate educator!
Our profession assumes that to be a teacher is to be literate, to know how to read and write. Will there come a day that digital connection and literacy is also considered an essential part of being a teacher, and not just an add-on?