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Tech disconnect December 4, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Hardware.
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Unplugged I came across the following on a blog written by a high school English teacher in which she expresses frustration with the use of technology by colleagues:

Why am I frustrated? Because there is a disconnect between the technology department and the rest of the school. It is a school filled with teachers (some; enough to drive you crazy) who really want to maintain the status quo. Part of the disconnect, though, is lack of training. How can we expect people to pick up and use new tech tools if there is no training? Even at the simplest level, explaining how to use the school’s email system would make allow people to use the tools that are available. We teach children, why don’t the adults get some learning, too?

I have to mention that the author of that piece, Fred the Fish (her pseudonym) wrote to me last night want to take a peek at my blog, so this is a good time to point out that any perceived criticism from me is meant with all respect. That said, why aren’t schools or school districts providing technology training? That’s one question, but almost every district I know even in under funded Arizona offers optional training to teachers in the use of technology. The real question I want to ask is, “Why haven’t more teachers tried making web pages or setting up blogs of their own despite the training they have received?”

I have been the volunteer webmaster for the last two years for a neighborhood school called Shumaker Elementary. I know the teachers and know also that they received training in how to put up their own web pages. They have server space available, one computer in each classroom, a computer lab, technical support from a Technology teacher, a supportive Principal, and a district that district technical support maintaining their web pages.

Casual conversations I have had with teachers NOT from this school, suggest that some teachers believe the parents are not interested in using the web to learn about their school so they don’t believe they should bother. The attitude is that it isn’t worth the time and learning to work on the web pages if they aren’t going to be read by parents. Again, this attitude may not be the attitude of this particular school (as far as I know since I haven’t interviewed them yet) but the attitude does seem to prevail.

There appear to be several issues that cause teachers not to develop their own webs or blogs: 1) availability of technology or connectivity although this is gradually becoming less important, 2) the availability of time to learn the tools well, 3) a low importance of the use of technology in the personal lives of teachers, 4) the chance that their efforts will be ridiculed or criticized, 5) the feeling that there will not be enough participation from parents, and 6) the personal feeling that technology will not improve their teaching.

The last issue is one of efficacy, a belief that their efforts at using technology are valid and important enough to prevail in the face of personal intellectual inertia, the occasional failure or potential technical flop. It is in this arena of empowering teachers that I believe a strong administrator can be of the greatest use. In response to Fred the Fish’s comment above, I wonder why the administration of the school does not insist on having every teacher use the e-mail system for school-wide memos. The administration could ask for e-mail feedback from every teacher just to get them using the system more. Sounds like there is a certain amount of inertia to be overcome in Fred’s school. Perhaps in future correspondence I will learn a little more about it.

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Comments»

1. Dana Huff - December 6, 2005

I have noticed the same thing, and frankly you hit it right when you asked why teachers aren’t more willing to try “making web pages or setting up blogs of their own despite the training they have received.” That’s what I did. I learned how to do everything I do on my website through sheer trial and error. I have had no training whatsoever. I think part of it is that teachers aren’t willing to put in that sort of effort on websites. I wanted to learn it, so I did. Even my principal cautions me about using all this technology, because her fear is that I will spend too much time on it — and I don’t think she means that I don’t spend enough on other things, but that it cuts into my personal life. My headmaster expressed the same concern when I broached the subject of a blog with him last year. I think it has been worth it. I have lost count of the number of times I have been able to tell a kid, “Well, it was on the website,” when they claim not to have known about homework or tests or what have you. It’s worth it to me to spend about 10 minutes each day for that reason alone.


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