Thursday, January 24, 2013

If You Don't Use It, You Lose It

Almost every article about contemporary education that I read involves promoting technology in the classroom. They speak about the benefits and all the things we can do with technology. They speak of the DOE and state/federal governments needing to step up with funding to purchase these new pieces of technology. These articles are littered with positives about the use of technology in the classroom in this fast pace and ever changing world. I believe there is no denying the positive correlation between increased technology use and higher student academic achievement. So with all these advocates and all this new technology at our fingertips, why have test scores not risen dramatically?

I believe this is because teachers are being given these amazing pieces of technology  but are being given no guidance as to how it should be used. I would compare it to giving a blind man a map to a huge treasure. The  map (technology) is useless if the blind man has no idea how to read it (implement it). I saw this happen firsthand at my high school. Many of my teachers had a smart board in their classrooms, but few used it for more than showing simple PowerPoint. In fact, some of them didn't turn it on once during the entire year!

Now, I will be the first to admit that learning to use new pieces of technology can be overwhelming at first. However, that is not an excuse to just ignore the fact that you have it. Teachers that don't use these awesome pieces of technology do all other teachers a disservice. We cannot lobby for increased funding and more technology if the current technology is not being used or implemented properly.

My solution to this is two-fold. First, offer more technology-oriented workshops and require teachers to attend a certain amount of them. Second, if a teacher openly admits that they will probably not use the technology, do not put it in anyway. Give it to a teacher who actually will use it. Give it to a teacher who is excited to learn about it and use it to enhance their teaching. Giving it to a veteran teacher with the hope that they will use it is useless.

I do believe that as the next few years pass, those teachers who do not embrace technology will either retire or conform. New teachers these days embrace technology and learn about it in college. However, until this transition is complete, I believe we have to attack this problem so that we do not face even larger funding issues in the future. We have to show these organizations that technology does enhance learning. If we do not, the funding will never increase.