Sunday, April 03, 2011

Why do some teachers hate technology so much?

I've just been reading a great post by Sarah Ludwig called I hate technology which has got me thinking.  I posted a long comment on Sarah's blog but wanted to develop my ideas some more.

Sarah is talking in her blog post about students who lament that they hate technology, or get frustrated when it doesn't work.  I stopped in my tracks when I read her comment "we like technology so much that we assume everyone else will, too…", where 'we' is teachers.  Whoops, not where I come from!  I hear all of the complaints she mention from some of my teaching colleagues, but rarely from the students. 

To look at the issues as Sarah did:
1. If technology is not a constant in your students’ lives...
Part of the problem is that technology is not a constant in our teachers' classroom life, we don't have technology in many of our classrooms and we usually have to "trek down to the lab" for the technology part of our lessons.  I can't see this changing any time soon, as there just aren't any extra funds for technology to become ubiquitous.  I haven't been in the classroom for a few years now, and I know I would be frustrated if I was learning about wonderful tools and resources which I couldn't use because we just don't have the technology at our disposal.  It's easy enough for me to say, "just use what you have", but at the same time I'm expected to convince teachers to use more than they have!  And how are they going to develop confidence and competence in using technology with their classes if they have access to it so rarely?

2. Technology isn’t black-and-white... using a new tool can be daunting... requires a whole new set of skills...
While we have a lot of support available to help teachers acquire technology skills, there just isn't the time for them to do this, along with daily teaching activities, and keeping up-to-date with our pedagogy, language teaching methodologies, curriculum changes, etc.  Not enough support is given by the institution to providing teachers with additional time to keep up with the game, let alone moving ahead of it.  Really the only ones who are, do most of the learning in their own time.

3. Technology = troubleshooting...
When there is technology, in the lab or for the classrooms which do have IWBs, it is often the case of technology = troubleshooting, and teachers are easily turned off trying again.  It's not my role, but troubleshooting technology problems is something I seem to spend an awful lot of my time on.  Again the problem is inadequate institutional support: our IT help desk is not able to respond quickly enough to fix something during a lesson, we're lucky at times to get help in the same week! And we have only one audio-visual support person across 3 campuses! And there isn't usually enough time, or often the inclination, to teach the teachers how to troubleshoot for themselves, it's usually a case of "just get it working".

4. Teachers aren’t doing enough to emphasize the importance of tech skills...
We do need to emphasize the value of tech skills, for the teachers and the students, but, given the problems listed above, how? 

I sympathise with my colleagues.  Part of my role is to encourage and support teachers to use technology, but I'm finding that, without all of these things: without the technology being a constant, without adequate PD time, and without adequate support when things go wrong, I'm finding it difficult to convince them they need the skills and in turn to help their students develop their tech skills.  And because of these problems, many teachers can almost avoid learning any tech skills at all, which may suit them, and may suit some of their students, but not all and I think is doing them a disservice.

So, it would seem that the problem is with a lack of resources and time, nothing new there, but those problems aren't going to be easily overcome.  This post seems very negative, and I don't have any answers, but I am trying to work with what we have, to find subtle ways to entice teachers to experiment with some the fabulous tools we have got, to support them in learning how to use these tools, provide examples of ways technology can enhance teaching and learning, and I'm constantly thinking about more ways to engage teachers in using technology and to make it easier for them.

Many thanks to Sarah for sparking off these ramblings.

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