Sunday, January 27, 2013

Professionals Make Time for Learning #edchat

I was reading a comment on a blog post the other day and it really set me off. The comment boiled down to the same old excuse that I'm just tired of hearing. "I just don't have the time for tech." Of all of the excuses out there, this is the one that drives me up a wall and is the most devastating to students in the classroom.

First, I want to say that I am a High School English teacher. I am busy teaching 5 sections of English that have essays and projects. I'm also a father and a husband. That takes up some time as well. I also write for Edutopia, Smartblogs, my own site and prepare presentations for various groups. I do all of these things in the same 24hr period that everyone else has. I wish I had a TARDIS or a flux capacitor enabled Delorean, but I do not. I find the time because the time needs to be found.

The excuse that there is not enough time to look into new technology and integrate it into the classroom is a lazy excuse. There is time, but priorities must be shifted. I do not play as many video games as I used to because I need to focus on other things. I work on my blog or I read great blogs instead of shooting zombies. It was a tough choice, but my students benefit from it.

I have also integrated technology into my life in such a way that I actually have more free time. That is the part that really burns me. If these "too busy" teachers actually took the time to invest in technology, they would actually save themselves time in the long run. Some time up front will save plenty of time on the back end.

As a professional, "not enough time to learn new things" should not be in the vocabulary. What other profession gets away with ignoring tools that can make their job easier, more efficient and valuable to their clientele? I do not want a doctor to tell me they are using the old methods because it takes too much time to learn the new ones. My dad is a doctor. I grew up watching him be very busy. He constantly had to read and learn for the betterment of himself and for his patients. As teachers, we have a responsibility to be lifelong learners. As part of that, we need to learn about the new tools that are coming out that can help us and the students.

I'm not suggesting that every teacher learn every tool that comes out. That would be impossible. What I am saying is that teachers need to make the time to learn something new and try and use it to make them better at their job and/or improve the learning in the classroom. We cannot allow each other to sit back and make excuses as to why we are not pushing ourselves to be better. "Not enough time" is a phrase that makes all teachers look bad. We need to eliminate that from our vocabulary if we want the respect we deserve.

Lastly, do not end up like Jessie trying to do it all. It's not possible.


  1. This excuse is one of my major pet peeves as well. Technology should not be an add-on to the curriculum. It's not supposed to be another thing heaped on top of an already full plate. It should be useful and authentic in its integration. That's when everyone benefits, and it doesn't feel so much like work.

  2. It's truthfully about the skills more than the tools or tech. If you have a basic set of 21st Century skills, they can be adapted to any new technology or tool that comes down the pike. By learning to work with some new tech, you can develop these skills, but the tech will always be outdated / replaced by something else.

  3. Hi

    I think good teachers do continue to learn. The best ones review their work continually and try to make improvements.

    However, there seems to be a whirlwind around technology in education - I'm reading about it everywhere at the moment. You mustn't get the idea that I'm a Luddite, BUT, sometimes technology is appropriate, other times it's used for the sake of it. And in fact, if anything's overused, it somehow loses it's value.

    the banda
    the photocopier
    the computer (and software) (and internet)
    the projector (and PowerPoint)
    the colour photocopier
    the laptop
    the tablet

    They're all (in)valuable, but they're only tools.

    It's the relationships and the interactions that the teacher has with the student that's most important. And we should never lose sight of that.

    1. I agree that technology is a tool, but there are some elements of productivity in the professional workplace that should be expected whether you are a teacher, an attorney, or you manage the Gap. When teachers say, "I don't have time to learn to use that LMS, email, the copier, the projector...." it can seem as though they are implying that it isn't part of their work as a professional. The best teachers do need to learn and grow, whether it be in technology or curriculum development, pedagogy or management. The excuse of busy is just no longer acceptable.

  4. You should get angry more often, nice rant Nick!

  5. I worry about the anti-socialisation of the tablet revolution too:

    the value of small group work - two heads looking at a computer screen rather than one, and solving problems together;

    the communion of a school assembly to share an idea, celebrate achievement, indeed just be together;

    even in form-time - students with eyes on their tablets rather than interacting with their friends or listening to the day's notices...

  6. I posted on a blog the other day that I didn't have time to find, learn about and implement new technology. I think it's great that you have shifted your priorities and now spend time finding ways to integrate technology in your classroom. However, I resent that you think that I should also shift my priorities. Like you, I wear many hats: mom, wife, teacher, friend, volunteer, sister, and cancer survivor. Yes, cancer survivor, which you would have no way of knowing about me since we don't know each other. I spent more than a year of my life in treatment, some of it easy, some of it grueling, and I continued to teach my students with a minimum of days out to recover from my treatments. So, when someone says they don't have time, please don't assume that they are making excuses, maybe they really don't have the time.

    I also said that my school doesn't have the technology available in my classroom. I have an overhead projector, that's it. If I want to show a five minute video I have to book a lab in advance, spend 5 minutes on transitions, at least another 5 -10 minutes to log in (yes, our log in time is that slow!), then show the video. So I'm using up about 1/4 of the class to show this video.
    You are lucky that you have the technology you need, so please don't dismiss those of us that don't have technology.

    I'm trying to learn, that is how I found this blog and your ideas, so please cut us tech newbies and wannabes some slack.

    1. Soccermom, you claim not to have the time to learn new tech but the fact that you arrived at Nick's blog and have commented on his post would say otherwise. We all have busy lives in and out of our professions. What I believe is most important is not necessarily that we make time to learn about tech but rather that we create time to continue learning to improve he learning for our students.


    2. Aaron, your reply and response to @soccermom is offensive and ignorant. To imply that "What is most important is not necessarily that we make time to learn about tech but rather that we create time to continue learning to improve" is ridiculous. I love Nick and most of his views but this one is off... Big Time.
      There are so many assumptions and presumptions about priorities and our own efficacy or passion that I wonder what the backstory is.
      Go back to your class Aaron and continue having kids burp into Vokis and voicethread and call it tech integration, but back off other teachers because the last thing we need is a snot nosed punk pointing his booger finger at us and saying, you need to learn this. You are not helping bro.
      I'm over the attacks on veteran teachers, great teachers can be great without technology. Period. And I pump the message as much as most, but your comment is ridiculous and I hope you realize it before you continue your holier than though rants on new teachers or those less willing to tell ya to piss off, man.
      Sorry Nick, but I am seriously over us attacking our peers. If anyone talked like this to my sister or Mom it would be go time, Acknowledge your strengths, model supports and ideas, then focus on children. No child will suffer irreparable damage from a lack of tech integration in the classroom, however adults modeling cliquey and bully behaviors is so uncool. And I think you know this.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Michael & @soccermom, I wish to clarify my earlier comment.

      By stating that you (@soccermom) arrived at Nick's blog points to the fact that you have in fact created time to continue to learning. While you may not feel as though you have the time to learn and integrate new tech, my thinking is that you must be finding a way to squeeze in some learning and at the least, be reflecting on your practice. My comment was intended to be a compliment, but apparently was misinterpreted. So let me be clear, @soccermom - i think it's great that on top of your responsibilities outside of school, that you still are actively reading blogs and connecting with other educators.

      Michael, again maybe my comment about 'learning in order to improve' was misinterpreted. My belief is that schools should be places of learning, not only for students but also for the adults. So, as administrators, teachers, educational assistants, etc, I believe we should always be trying to learn so that we can improve our own practice, thereby offering a better education to our students. I am the first to acknowledge that as adults, we have to strike a balance between our personal and professional lives. We must invest time and effort into family, friends, personal health and the countless other roles and responsibilities we each have. But even with all the 'hats' we wear, we still owe it to our schools and students to ourselves be learners. I hope I have clarified things for you now and I'm hopeful we can find some common ground in our thinking. If not, we may have to agree to disagree...



    5. Thanks @aaronakune for clarifying and I can see your point, for sure. Also, my apologies for getting so upset. I was just at a place where this post and the comments literally were the tipping point. We really need to get off the tech as a panacea and the "make time for it or be replaced by a computer" mentality. We are so blessed to get to work with children every day, let's celebrate that and cheer on the folks doing good work every single day. There are enough people and money trying to knock us down and beat up our teachers, I can't handle leaders and people I respect doing the same.

    6. Michael, I view tech very much as an amplifier. Tech doesn't make for good teaching nor is it a cure for poor practice. Our focus should be on supporting one another in our quest to provide good teaching to all students. If tech can be included in good teaching, not as an add-on but as a seamless necessity for students to use, then I think we've really hit the mark! And with regards to supporting one another, I think ONE of the ways we can facilitate this is through sharing in digital spaces. It's definitely not a replacement for the work we do sharing with our colleagues face to face but tech has definitely opened up possibilities to share that weren't possible in the past. The more we can leverage this the better. At the end of the day, I believe it's all about creating a community (small, large, local, global) of learners that inspire one another and will challenge each other to push forward!

  7. Great rant and great discussion in the comments. Thank you to all for sharing! I want to tweet this but the people who need to read it won't find it on Twitter. :/

  8. I'd like to broaden the conversation to learning and growing as a professional, be it with technology or other areas of growth. We all have lots of priorities we must balance some seen and some unseen. We do need to make the time to develop because we are professional educators and we want to fit the needs of our children when we teach. (Be it with technology tools or not, as professionals we will find what is best.) What I appreciate about Nick's blog is that it calls it unacceptable to say you don't have enough time to learn. He is suggesting it in the context of technology tools and I'm suggesting it in a general mindset of growth for teachers. Either way, we can all find the time, during most of the times of our lives to grow. But mmelayman is right, if someone is reading this blog or these tweets, then they are probably not the audience we are hoping to reach.

  9. Thank you for a thoughtful post. I too believe that being a professional meant that I have the responsibility to learn and find ways to improve my craft outside of my contractual obligations. If we as teachers want to improve our reputation and be treated like professionals, we need to behave like professionals. Fifteen years of being in the business world before choosing to become a teacher has taught me that.

  10. This has been a pet peeve of mine for almost two decades - basically since the world-wide web was invented in 1993. I was an ESL teacher in Japan at the time and I became self-taught in edtech because I could see the potential for making learning better for my students - ie way more relevant, constantly expanding, updated content than my static, dusty, boring school textbooks full of out-dated references and figures of speech. I spent HOURS learning tech from the ground up - if I can do it ANYONE can - trust me! So, joke of the day...a doctor from 100 years ago would be lost in the operating room of today, whereas a teacher from 100 years ago would feel right at home in today's classroom - and that's NOT a good thing.

  11. Couldn't agree more - it's a question of professionalism, love of knowledge and education; and, giving the best to one's students. "I don't have time for tech" just does not cut it any longer.


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