Thursday, December 19, 2013

Educational technology: Friend or Foe?

This is mostly just...observation.  I don't know, maybe you run into this at your school as well.

I'm Miss B, and educational technology is my friend.  Sometimes people can yell "Help Desk!" in our hallway and I come running.  This is how I feel:

I love helping and teaching how to use a computer and new hardware, software, and programs.  It can also be really time consuming for me and I don't get paid for the hours of help I am providing.

I've heard so many are a few:

"I scanned this in.  How do I make changes do it?"  (You can't change the hand written page you scanned in... you will need to rewrite it and rescan it in)

"How do you scroll down on a laptop?"

"How can I find the file I just saved?"

"How do I use that program?  I always type it in an email and then copy and paste it to Word."

"I pressed a button and now my computer screen is huge.  How do I change it back?"

I've had a few problems that I don't have the answer to, but mostly I'm able to help out.  Even if I know the answer or can fix the problem, I'm still learning from them.  I've learned that everyone has different ways to find things.  There are so many ways to get one task accomplished.

However, it does make me think we have a problem here.  Hopefully not just in my school.  Our teachers can't find their files.  They don't know the different between a .docx and a .pdf.  They don't know how to use the hardware they've been given to do their job.  Is it their responsibility to find a class to take or teach themselves, or should that be something we teach our teachers?  I don't know.  I'm asking.  

I had a class a couple years ago that was so excited about the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8.  They loved the commercial....remember this?

They were talking about what they wanted for Christmas and someone said they wanted Windows 8.  "It's so cool!"  I was intrigued.  You want an operating system for Christmas?  That's cool.  I went along with it.  

They kept talking about it, so I finally chimed in and said something like "It would be awesome if we had Windows 8 on our computer so that we could use it on our SmartBoard!"


"We could use Windows 8 on our Smarboard?"
"Of course."
"Can you click the keyboard onto it?"

Now it was my turn to be confused.  Click the keyboard onto the board?  That doesn't make sense.  Plus it would just look silly.

The problem was, they had no idea that Windows 8 and the Surface were two different things.  Part of this was the way Microsoft marketed the product, but part of it was because although these kids have grown up with computers and know how to get around a computer program, but they don't actually know how it works.  They haven't been taught.  

Naturally, we stopped and had a conversation about computer hardware vs. software.  Once I started talking, I realized how much they didn't know.  And oddly, how much they did at the same time.  My students and I teach each other how to do things on the computer all the time.  Where did you find that button?  How did you get it to do that?  I think it's important that they see me learning how to use these things, too.  

In my experience, many teachers aren't really able to explain it either, through no fault of our own.  These things change fast and it does take constant learning to keep up.  Luckily, I like that part.  

We tend to find what we like, create it, and then keep it to grab every year.  Is that easy?  Yes.  Is it effective?  Usually.  Does it save us time so that we can do other parts of our job (paperwork, grading, finding the counselor to discuss an issue, call parents)?  For sure.  But technology doesn't work that way.

I love using technology as a tool in my classroom, and I wish we had more of it in the classroom so that I could start using it and continue learning.  There are so many great teaching tools out there, but schools have to have the means to acquire them.  But even if schools have great resources, they are only as good as the teachers using them.  I've found that teachers, at least around where I'm living and working, can find technology to be really overwhelming and confusing.  Not just seasoned teachers, but newer teachers as well.

I don't have an answer.  I don't even really have a problem, just an observation. I have ideas.  I think we should be taking more time to teach and train teachers.  I'm sure some districts do much better than others.  I really feel like there should be educational technology classes (emphasis on the plural form) required for a degree in education.  

I find it exciting.  There is nothing better than getting new gadgets, figuring them out, and sharing them.

Last week I had my students take part in the {Hour of Code}.  It was awesome, and I've got a few that are hooked on it right now.  Some found it hugely frustrating and didn't want to continue when it got "hard".  But those that enjoyed it have really taken off.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to try the {Hour of Code} yourself and have your students give it a shot.  Very cool learning.

Happy Teaching!

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