Monday, May 14, 2007

Does Technology make a good teacher?

I've been thinking about Scott Mcleods question, (previous post) and have discussed this with some colleagues.

Warren has been supporting educators in their use and implementation of ICT for more years than I can remember. His site WAZMAC is well worth checking out.

Let me quote Warren.

I have always found it effective to consider the "adopt and adapt" approach to professional learning. I find that when we are able to *adopt* technology for our personal needs, we very quickly *adapt* the technology for use in other areas of our life - eg the classroom.

The key here I believe, is personal needs. When we find some personal value in the technology we begin to capitalize on that value by implementing it in new ways. Sometimes this is seen as innovation. If one is working in a stale 20th century environment, anything "new" may be seen as innovation. Yet that same innovation may be seen as old hat at another school.

Digital cameras are probably the most common example, but more recently blogs etc are coming into the mainstream "adopt and adapt" realm.

Add to this list the use of mobile(cell)phones in the classroom, along with Interactive WhiteBoards. IWB's (See Here for a discussion on pro's and cons of IWB's)

We just need to make sure that our school systems can adequately support and encourage teachers who have adopted new technologies at home and are ready to adapt them for use at school.

Too often I hear administrators criticising teachers for not embracing change, when it is more often the administrators who are not creating a climate that encourages the desired changes. Or more often apply limits to teachers' creativity in how they interpret "change".

Innovation is often stifled so that administrative boxes can be ticked.

Change is very much a two-way street. And there are always risks.

Do we need more risk takers in our education departments? Risk taking is fine when it all works out, but failure is par for the course. How many times can one fail before it adversely effects the students? Do we hold the line and let others innovate first? Who wants to go first? At what cost?

Warren goes on to say:

Give people the tools and let them explore, learn, and adapt them in new and innovative ways.

All very good. A sensible idea, and no doubt one that works, generally. However, in a later discussion Warren outlines exceptions. There are always exceptions aren't there?
"A close friend is a teacher, and also runs a small hobby business over the internet, outside of school."

"He has adopted the technology at home, but doesn't necessarily "use technology" widely in his classroom (this is partly due to the allocation of equipment at the school). His classroom, is what I would consider to be a more "traditional" classroom."

My youngest daughter, who is pretty technology-savvy, was in Fred's class in Year 6 (3 years ago). Barely touched a computer all year - but had one of her most enjoyable and productive years at the school. Did everything the "old way" - spelling drills, mentals, etc, etc. She especially learned to enjoy reading books. And the whole class came to enjoy Fred's wicked sense of humour.

The focus in Fred's class was *learning*. And my daughter enjoyed learning.

Kinda defeats the "must have technology" argument though! But worth considering if we step back from the trees to get a clear view of the forest.

The bottom line is that a good teacher will create a wonderful learning environment regardless of the tools that they have. I guess we just assume that the technology thing make the tools better. But it may not be so. Maybe even the opposite in the hands of a reluctant practitioner.

Great ideas Warren. A great teacher teaches, no matter what the tools at his/her disposal. Is the money that is currently being spent on technology in schools being wasted if teachers are not teaching? IWB's in every room?

What are your thoughts and ideas?