I had to wait until I was 10 to get my Apple II GS, which I’m pretty sure had less power than my iPhone. I sent my first e-mail when I was 15, using AoL address. Today, if you walked into my classroom you would see me using technology in a dozen different ways. I’m really embarrassed by the number of Apple products I have in my apartment. I think a lot about how to best use technology in my classroom, because it’s something that best serves my students. I think technology can be fun and silly and transformative. I proudly post “Apple Distinguished Educator” on my Twitter profile. I spend too many hours e-mailing, reading online, checking Facebook, Skyping, and generally wasting time on my computer. I think most people I work with would say I’m techie
But I’m about to tell you something….
I’m a fraud. I have no idea how the internet works. I don’t know what HTML or HTTP stands for. I don’t know what’s inside my computer. If you told me that tiny pigeons existed in wires and delivered my e-mails across the world, I would believe you. This week my students asked me how to do something in Garage Band and I had no idea what to do. Please don’t ask me to set up your wireless or explain how to crop photos. I have a lot of Apple products only because I think they are pretty and shiny. The map that shows what countries people visiting this site took me ages to figure out. There are so many things I don’t know that I am shocked that the Apple Distinguished Educator people don’t take away my little plaque.*
But what I do know.
- It would take a willful and malicious intent to break a computer**. No matter what keys I hit or what buttons I press, I have never made a computer explode or spontaneously light on fire. I press buttons until I get the machine to do what I want to do. If I can’t make it do what I it to do, I find another way. Or I Google the answer. Or I ask my students.
- It takes time to “do technology”. I’m busy, like every other teacher. But like assessment or providing pastoral care, “doing technology” is imperative to our schools. And “doing technology” is a lot more than just pressing buttons. I write new lessons and plan new collaborations every year. Using technology to help students or assess student learning can take longer than traditional methods (though not always). I update my class blog. I read articles and go to conferences and join COETAIL. Yes it takes time, but it’s my job.
- I have to be adaptive and flexible and tenacious when I can’t get the machine to do what I want it to do. But that is nothing less than what I ask of my students.
- If I want to be in education in 10 years, I better be on the bandwagon now. This might be particularly true in international schools. We are moving a student-centered, collaborative classrooms quicker than we as teachers may like. And the learning curve is only getting steeper, for both students and teachers
- Technology and computers do change the dynamic in the classroom. I used to be the person who held the most knowledge. I was the expert. Now the internet can provide answers, students can fact-check me on their phones, and they know how to do things on their computers I will never know. And I have learned how to say “I don’t know” to my students and allow them to be the experts. Or find experts outside the classroom. I’m still the adult and the teacher, but the relationship has changed. Will Richardson suggests as teachers we are connectors first and content experts second. I’m finding this to be more true each year I stay in the classroom. Which leads me to my last bullet…
- One of my goals this year is to use the computer to help my students connect with others outside the classroom. Computers need to be more than a way to consume information, but a way to create, connect, and share. There are experts to learn from and people who want to learn from my amazing students. Richardson talks about this “Age of Collaboration” fully in his article “World Without Walls“. The Age of Collaboration is the one I like living in. I don’t need to know how computers work**** to help my students navigate this Age of Collaboration. But I do need to work diligently and thoughtfully about how to create an dynamic classroom environment that is open to this new era.
* To the Apple Distinguished Educator people…please don’t take away my nice Apple water bottle.
** That said, back up your work and don’t drop the machine or spill liquids on the keyboard.
***And if I do need to know how, I can google it/wikipedia it/ask on Twitter/ask my students