Saturday, October 15, 2011

Where is the bar for teacher tech know-how?

I was having a conversation with some teacher types about technology use by staff. We were talking about PD and someone suggested we offer more PD on file and email management. A stirring debate started about offering this.

The main question is this, "At what point are teachers, or any professional, expected to know basic computer functions as part of their job?"

Should time and money be spent on showing staff how to create folders? After 10 plus years of computer training offering, should there be certain expectations for computer use and should teachers be held accountable for not learning?

Is a messy desktop akin to a messy classroom?

Exactly where is the bar for teachers and tech know-how? Is it too low?

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this issue.


  1. Ok, first of all I agree with your premis, however I'd like to challenge you on the subject matter of your topic. Creating files folders. Teachers do need to be trained to stop using file folders, to stop teaching their kids like their brains are file folders. It is an old metaphor that doesn't line up with brain research. Instead, teach them to tag, label, or or otherwise create collections that are not based on individual files. Our documents, pictures etc.. Rairly should exist in one folder. The document should existe in multiple folders while continuing its status as 1 document, not multiple documents. This requires tagging. Interstingly, this may be very close to how our brain stora info. We attach what we learn to multiple points of information that we have already learned.

  2. Hi Nerdy,
    I have been part of this conversation a number of times over the years.
    I am a computer USER not a geek. Just like I am a bicycle / car / lawn mower user.
    How I use my computer files, e-mail etc does not need to be prescribed for greatest efficiency by others. It simply has to work for me.
    No one constant tells me how to use my bicycle / car / lawn mower!
    Yes, I probably can do it, quicker, tidier, smarter, BUT ... what the heck. When I do it my way I know I can do it again.
    I admit that from time to time I do have discussions with our computer geeks and learn something new, but that needs to be controlled by my needs.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
    Cheers - Barry

  3. My state does an annual survey of public school educators to determine their "tech literacy". Teachers are expected to pass annual proficiency requirements and participate in continuing ed. However, some of those courses offered are things like "MS Word 101", "Excel", "Visual Thesaurus", etc. Unfortunately, the rigor is not there yet.

  4. A great question, and one that I have thought about many times in the past. With so many resources available to teachers and students, there needs to be some expectations for educators.

    In my former school they offered PD a couple times a year on computer basics, html, etc. The problem was the PD wasn't mandatory and few participated. Only the teachers that had an interest would participate, and many that didn't are the ones that need the PD.

    It is difficult to get teachers excited about tech in the classroom if they are not aware of the possibilities and the benefits. ~@west4me

  5. I appreciate what browns! had to say. I agree that folders are not the vest to organize for everyone. The point with teachers is that they don't utilize tech. For those who barely use tech any training will get them using tech more often and for more things. We have to start small with many teachers. They may not be ready to use Facebook or Twitter, but they will use email. It's still communication.

    My experiences are closer to William Cunningham's. Last year I held tech trainings every Thursday for 2o mins. Short trainings based on need. Teachers got to choose. Only one teacher showed up to the first meeting and then no more. I stopped the trainings by December and haven't even brought it up this year. Those same teachers still come to me and email me with tech problems but I'm certainly not hearing any complaints about lack of training. At least they better not complain to me!

    I cannot get them to come to trainings even if they are short and based on need. It has to come from the admin. If you require a PD, provide the time and resources then maybe you'll get more participation.

  6. After reading about how very important tech is in the classroom (couldn't agree more) it almost hurt to think about how very aged the general curriculum is in many language schools.

    There just doesn't seem to be any demand for media/tech approaches when looking for English teachers . I eyed through (they have 100s of job listings) and not in a single job ad does the school require, ask for or even wish teachers to be experienced in how to use technology in the classroom.

  7. @Rox Thank you for doing some leg work and looking for some facts to support what I thought.

  8. When I was Director of Tech for the past 4 years, I was given the mission to bring our entire preK-12 staff on board with technology. I approached this as if they were my PBL classroom, gave them a driving question (Given the changes in the world over the past 25 yrs, what do our students need to know and be able to do to succeed?), had them work in small groups.engaged them with relevant content and met them where there are, regardless of where they are. No judgement, no sarcasm, not even light teasing. We did twice monthly PD, personal PD, whatever they needed. I team taught, attended planning sessions, was present in the classroom as teachers took risks. For the most part we were/are very successful,of course we still had our hold outs. (one teacher didn't have a computer at home or even own a cell phone!)but now tech integration is a part of the walk-through look fors and teachers have more resources for support than simply the tech department. A great outcome was the relationships teachers developed with each other and their students as their engagement and creativity grew integrating technology tools into their day. When their fear was gone, they soared.

  9. The time has come to quit asking IF teachers are using technology personally/for instruction and ask HOW they are using technology personally/in the classroom. If it is mandated it will be learned and used by teachers----but it will have to be mandated. Tech training without enforced attendance is a total bust.

    I agree somewhat that I don’t care how a teacher uses it personally until if affects school function. If we require teachers to digitally submit lesson plans, they will HAVE to learn to do so. Believe it or not, this small requirement in …what year?? 2011… prompted teachers on my campus to quit writing lesson plans BY HAND in those lesson plan books. OH—they also stopped buying those lesson plan books as well.

    I do care immensely how technology is used for instruction. For example, Study Island gives the appearance of tech use but does nothing to stimulate 21st Century Learning for kids.

    Scaffolding will always exist for end-users, but we shouldn’t have to force professionals to keep up professionally! “The times, they are a’changin’”, so teachers better start swimming!

  10. Where is the bar is a great question. I understand the other commentators frustration in teachers' lack of knowledge and lonely pd sessions. While I think it is good for teachers to know how to organize information (whether it is tagging or folders), I've decided to not get bogged down in basics but to try and entice them into the really fun stuff first. If I can win them over by having fun with tech, I think they are more willing to become more well-versed in essentials.

  11. This is a great discussion. I think it's important to meet teachers exactly where they're at, tech proficiency-wise, and scaffold their learning.

    That's no wonder they're not excited about PD when the topics are things like Email 101 and Creating Folders. You've got to have basic tech proficiency under your belt before you can get to the really fun stuff.

    It's a huge catch 22 that I hope will become increasingly irrelevant as tech becomes more and more integral to our lives.

    I think the bar keeps moving. 5 years from now, will we have to train teachers on email management? Probably not as often, unless the school's email system is extraordinarily complicated (and some are.) But by then schools are more likely to expect teachers to keep online lesson plans and grade books and maybe even blogs, and then you've got to train them for THAT.

  12. My name is TJ Wolfe and I'm a graduate student. I was formerly a middle school teacher. I loved teaching and helping students, but wasn't prepared to help most of my colleagues with all of their technology needs. It quickly became difficult to teach and help colleagues at the same time. It was also incredibly difficult to see good and creative students get in trouble in their classes because they couldn't stand doing worksheets all day! As Prensky says, students are digital natives. It's difficult for them to watch a teacher struggle to turn on a data projector or get a video to play.

    I went back to school to find a solution to the problem of teachers not understanding technology the same way students do. In particular, if Karl Fisch is correct in saying that "we're preparing students for jobs that don't exist, with technology that hasn't been created, to solve problems we don't know we'll have," then how can a teacher who barely knows how to turn on a computer prepare a student (who knows how to program a computer) for the future?

    I think we need a common set of standards/steps for understanding and using technology in the classroom! Just like we need common core standards for curriculum, technology should be the same.

    Not long after starting graduate school I began putting together some simple and effective steps for understanding technology that any teacher or student can understand. Understanding email/messaging is the first step and foundation of the framework. I agree that a messy desk correlates with a messy classroom, and a messy inbox is a clue of a messy personal management system.

    The steps in my framework are:
    1. Messaging
    2. Productivity
    3. Sites
    4. Documents
    5. Media

    To see and/or read more about the steps, please visit my personal blog:

    Please feel free to leave comments here and/or on the blog! Would love to hear your thoughts! :)

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU for this discussion! It's great to hear that other educators are thinking the same way! I hope we can recruit as many educators to this discussion as we can! Students need teachers that understand technology as well as they do, or better! Teachers need to be technology leaders in the classroom! The students need technology guidance, not restraint!


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