The Importance of Teaching Technology to Teachers
We’ve all said it. “Technology is the wave of the future.” There’s no denying that. It’s actually the wave of the present. I know that every teacher in academe today has heard that the need to use technology in the classroom is imperative now. If we are going to engage our students in the class discussions and the lectures, we need to be doing this engagement with the technologies they are familiar with. Just last month, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) said the same thing. In their recent reconstruction of the definition of literacy in the 21st century, NCTE focused more on the technologies that are becoming imperative to literacy education. Their definition states:
> Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to:
> 1. Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
> 2. Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
> 3. Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
> 4. Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
> 5. Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
> 6. Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
(NCTE “Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies)
I applaud NCTE for the bold step to include technology in the definition of literacy. This is a step that we need in order to further the literacy of our next generation. Generation X found themselves pioneers of the Internet, and I already see my students (Gen-Net maybe) as pioneers on the Internet. I learned about Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and I think even YouTube through my students. I think it is wonderful that they are aware of these popular sites. But I think that before we can see such a shift in the definition of literacy, we need to first see a shift in the education of the teachers expected to accomplish this task.
I’ve been thinking this for quite a while, but I have not ventured to put it into writing because I was not sure how to go about discussing this change. So what finally fueled the fire? Will Richardson’s recent post on Weblogged. In this post, he raises this question:
> How in god’s name can we talk seriously about 21st Century skills for kids if we’re not talking 21st Century skills for educators first? (URGENT: 21st Century Skills for Educators (and Others) First )
So Will got me thinking about it. The comments on this post (there are over 100 at this writing and the dialogue is ongoing) got me contemplating the topic. The comments represent many divergent voices–those who want to see reform in education policy, those who are using technologies on their own, and those who are using technology in their classrooms as well as their personal lives. But what really got me thinking was after reading this post and the comments, I had a colleague mention to me that she was really excited about an upcoming presentation I’m doing on using blogs in First Year Composition. This was a presentation I did for the first time last year and one that I was asked to do again. Since I’ve now been blogging for over a year, blogs are kind of an “old” technology for me. But what she said resonated within my mind.
Teachers are hungry to use technology in their classrooms. But they don’t. While part of this lack of usage stems from problems with education reform that emerges from administrators and education boards not fully understanding the technologies themselves, another part of teachers not using technology in the classroom comes from the simple fact that they don’t know how to use the technologies, let alone how to incorporate these technologies into their classrooms. In some cases, the teachers don’t know about the technologies at all. I’m not kidding. You should have seen the look on my face when one of my students asked if I “tweeted.” I was dumbfounded and had no idea what she was talking about and I consider myself in the know about technologies. If we are going to be the teachers who use the technologies in our classroom, we have to become proactive in learning these technologies.
Take a minute and ask yourself what technologies you are well versed in. Have you posted to YouTube? Do you use PowerPoint to aid in your lectures? What other technologies do you use? Do you have a Twitter account? Make a list. When you have your list made, consider your colleagues. Do they know these technologies? Do they know how they can use them in the classroom? Is there a technology that you know one of your colleagues knows that you would like to be familiar with? Now, instead of waiting for somebody to put together a workshop on one of these technologies, consider creating your own workshop. Think about it. You’re a teacher. You know these technologies. Is there really a difference in teaching what you know about Google Earth to your colleagues and teaching it to your students? Within your own school you can create a technology club (much like a book club, except that instead of reading a book a month, you experiment with a technology each month). Get together as a group and discuss the technologies and how you could use these to aid your teachers. This is exactly what I’m doing with the colleagues I know are interested in using the technology but don’t know how. Sure, you may have to wait for education reform to allow you to use these technologies, but if you start using them, you can readily become one of the advocates who aids in getting the reforms to education that we need to teach these technologies to our students.