Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Will I Be Normal? #EdChat

Short answer is never, but this is about a different issue.

I'm the tech guy in my building. I'm sure many of you relate to this. You get the same types of emails from teachers or admins asking for help to solve various tech problems. I happily send instructions to solve their problem or direct them to the correct website for the answer they need. I am the "go to" guy for all things ed tech. How long is this going to last, or should I be asking, "How long SHOULD this last?"

At what point should the expectation be that teachers know how to deal with common issues in educational technology? At what point should a teacher be expected to know how to use Google or any of their apps? When will being on Twitter or other social media be the norm and not something that gets people the stink eye?

There had to be a tipping point where using Power Point, email or chalkboards became the norm, when will this happen with vast tools available to the average teacher in the field? There needs to be a push to make these tools the every day tools of the teacher. I think the best edtech specialist in a district should make themselves obsolete. If they really do a good job, nobody will need them down the line.

So I ask, when will the tech that I integrate, and many other teachers integrate into their classrooms, be just as common place as the innovative pencil was in its time?


  1. You voice an opinion I've been feeling for some time now. As the resident tech person, due to trainings I've delivered in staff meetings from my own personal interest in incorporating technology in the classroom, I often get the "quick questions". While to some extent, I do not mind being the guru, inspiring others to overcome their technology fears and implement some new tools to their repertoire, I do mind the strain some of these basic questions take on my own class prep and work! As of late, the questions have not been pedagogical, or even about effective implementation. Instead they've been for password changes, or even internet searches! Just this morning a teacher came to me with her laptop requesting I assist her in finding an image of the March on Washington for an MLK activity she found online. The lesson plan linked to the National Archives, but the directions on the plan didn't clearly explain how to find the image. Rather than troubleshoot her search on the Archives (!!!!!) she asked me to do it for her!

    I think much of this change in technology expectations might need to come from above, in a contractual manner. But I also think that there needs to be a more comprehensive evaluation of a district's staff technology literacy, and training developed to improve this and level it off. THe disparity in my own building between non techies and techies is immense, yet the school only throws more technology at us. Is this the best way to get on board?

    I've found that the middle of the road teachers, not against technology but more just less experienced, have "bought in" because of teachers like me, willing to help. The professional peer pressure ought to build to encourage other teachers onto this path as well.

    Relevant post! Thank you! Also, great Mark Twain work yesterday on Twitter! @mcgdux

  2. I think you are absolutely right! I'm the technology intetration specialist for our school district and do the technology training - so far it seems I'm not doing such a great job. I run into many occasions when I see teachers who should know more computer basics and they are totally lost. Is it me? Am I not doing the right kind of training or is their head buried in the ground? There are times when I go over and over the same kinds of simple technology skills only to think I'm not making any progress. Some of my teachers are very content to stay where they are - not wanting to learn more. That seems so foreign to me because I crave to learn more and grow.

    I guess I'll get off my soap box now. . . and get back to work.

  3. As long as technology keeps moving, you will never be normal. You live on the edge and you help others see what else is out there. Stagnation and Innovation are two opposite forces. It seems to be the nature in education to stagnate, technology forces innovation. There will always be someone who helps others away from stagnation.

  4. Hi NIck,

    I'll leave the normal conversation for another time while also noting that I hope you never change. I have a couple of thing to say on this topic. First off is that if we are in agreement that we need to help our students become problems solvers, then don't we have to have some minimum expectation for our staff as well? I think that every help desk ticket should have a space for the person filing the request to state how they attempted to resolve the issue first.

    At the very least adults should enter their issue into the Google Search Bar to see if there is a solution there for them. I know of a few people that are even so bold as to use the Let Me Google That For You option to send along a response to a question that they found through a Google search http://lmgtfy.com/

    Hope all is well in Michigan and that we cross paths soon.

    Best Regards,


  5. It was great to read this post and even better to read the comments. I'm a tech teacher as well and I encounter similar experiences daily. It would be interesting to hear from the "other side" and have the teachers answer the puzzle about learning simple technology skills. Maybe it's fear, maybe it's inexperience, or they just don't really care. Whatever it is, it would be nice to know!

    Thanks again,

  6. Hi there,

    So great to know I'm not the only one with this challenge. I'm in the same boat. I so desperately want teachers to embrace technology and move with the times, but sometimes it feels like you are running into a brick wall again and again and again. I don't mind answering questions, or helping, if they will concentrate and listen. Sometimes I get the feeling that they think they don't have to remember what to do, because I will always be around to do it for them. We do a lot of our communication via e-mail, and to get the teachers just to check their mail daily is a mission. And Google is for some still a foreign concept.

    Thanks for this post!

  7. Nicholas!
    I agree with you and have been comforted by the others that have posted here. When I interviewed for my Technology Integration Specialist position I said I was going to make the position obsolete. I am failing miserably. I am off to help one teacher with iMovie and present another Google Apps training this afternoon. Ugh. Please don't get me wrong, I know the demands on teachers are great and ever-changing, but I too am waiting for this to just be part of our culture and common practice. We've got to be close, right?
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I feel your pain.

    I'm the *unofficial* tech guy in my building. (I'm a career changer. I worked for 5 years in biotech and 8 years in I/T before switching to teaching.)

    My principal has given me "tech support" as my administrative duty, which means I spend one period each day being available to help other teachers with tech issues when they need it. Unfortunately, our I/T department maintains a stranglehold on everything that requires administrator privileges. This is a problem because I/T has only three technicians for a district that has 25 schools and 13,000 students. There are a lot of problems that I manage to solve so we don't have to wait several weeks for a tech to get to them. However, for every one problem I *can* solve, there are probably five more I *would* be able to solve if I/T were willing to give me the necessary privileges.

    That said, most of the teachers in the building muddle through with what they do know. They ask me questions about new and unfamiliar technology like SMART boards and our grading software. In training sessions, I'm careful to teach them only as much as they actually need, and I follow up with 3-5 minute screen capture videos that they can refer back to if they forget.

    There are several teachers in the building who will never become comfortable with technology. (Our history department head, for example, is in her 49th year of teaching, all of it at our school. Her teaching materials are all on paper in a file cabinet, and she does her grades on paper using a calculator and then enters the final grade into the computer.) They're still fine teachers, and their students still get a good education. And they still come to me when they can't make the grading software do what they need.

    How long will this last? For me, probably my entire career. I enjoy technology and enjoy playing with it, figuring out what it can do, and figuring out how to incorporate it into my teaching. (I.e., I'm an "intuitive" learner. I want to explore find my own way to the goal or answer.) The majority of the population, including most other teachers are less comfortable doing this. (I.e., they are "sensing" learners who want to be guided through the process, learning from a mentor.) These are people who will shy away from new things until someone else has blazed the trail and then come back to show them how to follow.

    This is why every school needs a few nerds on the faculty.

  9. It's probably not going to stop until it's recognized by administration as a necessary (read: required) job skill and then picked up and taught in college programs because of it.

    Until then, where's the motivation for teachers to learn themselves when the "go to" tech guy at every school is so willing?

  10. I think it's fun to be abnormal! I'll wear my admin hat for a bit and say there are some folks who likely will not ever change. The key is for leadership to reinforce those who willingly take risks. In a risk-free environment, transformation is more abundant than in a setting governed by compliance and fear. Unfortunately our accountability system and resulting culture perpetuate compliance and fear.

    Enter risk-taking again: this time on the part of the admin/leader. The leader must not be afraid to deny the system. Stop talking about standardized assessment and start talking about what kids need to lead in the 21st century. Stop allowing people to feel comfortable doing the same old test-prep stuff. Stop reinforcing performance on standardized tests; don't celebrate them.

    Thennnnn...hire as many fearless, fresh, risk-taking, nerdy teachers as you can find. Make it cool to be a nerd! Until we admins start transforming the hiring process--and whom we seek to hire--we'll keep growing the old normal. By the way...give me a holler if you ever decide to move to Texas! :-)

  11. I would love to learn about new technology, but don't have the time to find it, learn it and then implement it. I teach 4 or 5 different resource room classes each year, along with all the special ed and regular ed requirements. I'm not looking for sympathy, I love my job, but don't have any more time in the day.

    We have an IT person who maintains our systems, but it is not her job to help us use technology in the classroom, she would love to do that but she is overworked herself with the basic maintainence.

    We also need a major upgrade to our technology and some professional development time dedicated to learning useful things about technology, but we have no money and most of our PD in the next couple of years will be dedicated to our accredidation from the NEAS&C.


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