Thursday, September 8, 2011

Technology Does Not Make the Classroom Succesful- the Teacher Does

It appears that technology is sweeping the nation as the answer to the "broken" education system in America.  Everywhere you turn school districts are touting their Interactive Whiteboards, their iPads, their one to one systems and anything else tech related.  Since I am techie myself, most people assume that I think this is a good thing.  Well, you're wrong.

I love technology and more specifically integrating it into my curriculum.  So my students blog to create writing portfolios, learn how to write for a specific audience, and document their learning.  We also journal every day in a notebook using that great tool; pencils.  My students create wordle's on our computers to watch for main ideas or overused words.  We videotape science experiments so we can post them for parents to ask us questions.  We use computers to do our research.  We participate in the Global Read Aloud so that we can share a book with classrooms around the world.  We project videos that boost our understanding, and yes, we even have a SmartBoard.  But the thing is, this doesn't mean anything if I don't know how to properly use the technology and then pass that on to your students.

You can stick a SmartBoard on any classroom teacher's wall and then claim that they are 21st century.  Well, guess what?  They are not.  Unless they know how to use the tools provided all you are doing is dressing up a dog and passing it as a circus horse.  The race to be more 21st century seems to be clouding the judgment of districts everywhere.  It is not about the tools, it is about the teachers.  So yes, some technology is phenomenal and does help student learning, but all tech is not created equally.  So it shouldn't be judged equally.

So when test scores don't rise even though a district is heavily tech integrated, people tend to blame the technology.  "See it isn't working."  And yet, the technology shouldn't have been part of that equation really.  I don't care how many computers you stick in a room, if a teacher is not facilitating them properly, or the wireless is awful, or they are outdated etc then they wont make a lick of difference.  The teacher is what will raise test scores, that is if we ever have enough time to actually teach in between all of the tests we have to give.

The truth is there is no simple answer to create a successful classroom.  You need to have a teacher that is invested, students who know that their teachers care about them and that they are in a safe environment.  You need administrators that actually trust their staff and engage them in discussion.  You need parents that are invested in the classroom as well.  And yes, computers make my classroom work better and I would say that classroom computers are a must-do investment.  But everything else? It's nice, but not absolutely necessary.  So perhaps we should be investing in teachers, raise their salaries so they don't have to work 2 jobs.  Stop cutting their benefits so they don't have to look for a new job.  Rather than investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into technology that may or may not get used.

9 comments:

Fred McKenna said...

I absolutely agree with you. Technology is an important component of a successful classroom but it is only effective when integrated into the curriculum by a knowledgeable teacher. Technology is neither the savior of our educational system, nor is it the source of its failure.

Samech said...

Very good post. I've been thinking a lot about the exact same thing, lately. Contrary to the current trend, technology is no magic bullet.

To me technology merely extends and amplifies whatever is there, it's like this old story with the scalpel: a tool of healing in a doctor's hand, a murder weapon in a criminal's.

yesterday I summarized some of my thoughts on this topic in this article here, in case you're interested.

Reidun Schreiner said...

Being in undergrad, I have observed many teachers that have the tools to integrate technology into their classroom. Unfortunately, many use their smart boards as glorified projectors, their computers lay idle, and the students stare with their mouths open and eyes off in space. I would rather be in a classroom with limited technological capabilities but an engaging teacher than the opposite, hands down.

Dorene Bates said...

I absolutely agree. The technology should not be the most important thing in the room; it should be the learning. Technology should be used as a tool just like a pencil is a tool. Great post

David Ginsburg said...

Couldn't agree more. In fact, I made a similar point in my recent post,Technology: Teacher Enhancement, NOT Replacement, which was inspired, oddly enough, by the ISTE 2011 Conference.

Mike Spinrad said...

You are 100 percent correct. Technology is simply a tool--its worth analogous to using mechanical pencils over the yellow ones with the rubber eraser.

tomschimmer.com said...

Great post! We can engage students more relevantly through technology, but it's still the teacher that makes it all happen! If all the technology does is make the stand-and-deliver lessons look more appealing then the point is lost. Thanks!

Esmé Comfort said...

What she said!

Crossing Borders said...

Totally agree. And, you are talking about the USA however the same can be said in my country, Argentina, or in many others.In my district teachers are currently being taught about technology, however, we have to attend the courses in the evening (6 to 9)after working from 8 to 5. I want tech in my classroom but I don´t think it is a magical solution for our educational problems. No device can replace a memorable teacher Patricia Lopez

 

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