Posts Tagged new technology

Talk About Lost Opportunity

When I think about all of the things in technology to discuss, it’s almost overwhelming. Probably the one topic that leaps to the top of my mind is “lost opportunity.” There are so many chances to help teachers integrate technology effectively into their classrooms. However, much of the time, it doesn’t happen.

I just spoke today with a colleague who was part of a year-long technology education program. He wanted to do something new professionally and he wanted to challenge his students. However, after a year in a very “forward-thinking and collaborative technology group,” he only came away with one or two lessons. That and a laptop. (Not surprisingly, the promise of a laptop was the main draw for many who joined this program.) In the end, the main obstacle to effective change in his classroom was time. He told me that it was too difficult to learn the software, to teach it to all of his students and then to teach them how to use it to demonstrate understanding of a concept. For him, it wasn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of teachers who feel the same way. So what can educational leaders do? They can listen to their teachers. Often the leaders of schools listen disproportionately to the many “technology experts” that promote the use of this tool or that tool. Too often these experts aren’t in the classroom anymore. They spend much of their time learning about new technologies and teaching others. That’s a fine thing to do. But to be most effective, they need to be in the classroom on a regular basis–not just for quick visits but full-time. Then they would know and understand the difficult realities of integrating new technology into the classroom.

Seasoned technology specialists who still teach can help other teachers implement technology effectively in their classrooms. They can help turn lost opportunity into real possibility.

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What’s Driving Technology Integration at YOUR School?

The driving force behind technology use at any organization is often hidden. Sure, technology happens but when it does, it’s difficult to know exactly how or why. Schools are no different than other organizations. Lots of people talk about what technology–what they want, what would be nice to have, how much time they’d save, etc. But many times, no one really knows how or why technology get purchased and integrated–or in most cases not.

Educational leaders need to open this process up. Examine the structure of the technology support team and how they relate to the end users. Educators need to ask a lot of questions. How is the tech support staff structured? What are their mandates and goals? How does the tech support staff respond to end-user needs? How do end-users utilize the services of the tech support staff? Who is leading the way in terms of technology adoption and integration? Does it come from the end-users? or the tech support staff? or from the educational leaders? What drives technology? Are the software folks talking to the hardware folks so that everyone has a shared vision?

What I’m saying is that there are a lot of disconnects. Many useful technologies don’t get adopted because there isn’t someone with foresight and vision in charge. Sometimes technologies don’t get implemented because no one is looking at the process. Other times technology gets purchased and it sits because there isn’t any follow through.

Without a clear vision for technology, the tech support staff can get trapped in a “fighting fires” mentally. They wait until something breaks and then fix it. Crisis management isn’t a bad thing–unless this is the way an organization always functions. It’s no way to run a top-performing school. There are so many great things that can be accomplished with insight and planning.

So take a look at YOUR school and ask yourself what’s driving technology integration.  It needs to be committed individuals with vision, planning and follow through.

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Who Should You Call? 911 or Facebook?

A recent event highlights a critical need for adults to help young people navigate the new digital world that we’ve created. Two girls who were lost in a storm drain decided that they should update their Facebook status instead of call for help. Read the story here at ABC News-Australia. It’s imperative that teachers and parents step up to the plate and help young people understand how to use new technology appropriately. We can’t sit on the sidelines and “let the kids figure it out.” We created this technology–it’s our responsibility that it’s used correctly.

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Adults and New Technology

One thing that many adult users of technology tell me is that they don’t pick up new technology like younger folks do. This is a common misbelief. I think the core issue has nothing to do with “young brains” or “digital natives” or even the “technology today.” I’ve used technology to teach every age group from adults to elementary students. There are two main differences. The first is that kids aren’t afraid of breaking things. That’s a good thing when trying something new but it’s a bad thing for those of you who are parents. Kids dive right in and begin using new technology-whatever it is.

The other main difference between how kids and adults use technology has to do with the fact that adults are used to being proficient. We pick up a pencil and we know what to do. When we get in a car, we know what to do. The list goes on and on. That’s a good thing-we’ve had a lot of time to learn about the world. However, when we encounter a new technology, there is a hesitation. Sometimes we feel as if we should already know how to work this thing. Adults want to be or at least appear to be proficient. Kids on the other hand are used to being novices. When kids see or work with something new, it’s just another day for them. Their whole world is series of new events, places, things, and ideas.

As adults, we can learn from the kids. When we encounter a new technology, we need to resist the fear of breaking it. Go ahead, play around, push all of the buttons, see what it can do. You won’t break it, I promise. Also, don’t expect to be an expert. Adults sometimes are so used to being the expert that we forget what it’s like to try something new. So go ahead, try something novel. Capture within yourself an adventurous spirit and dive into a new technology. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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