Friday, July 24, 2015

Limited Tech

Yesterday I got very excited at the Regis College EdTech Workshop as I learned about multiple Google add-ons and apps and other apps for student learning.

I played around right away with the tools for some professional work I am doing. I wanted to play around more to think of ways I could add those tools to student learning efforts. In year's past I have done lots and lots of tech projects such as digital stories and math movies. The tools now are even better.

Because I've met with very difficult challenges with regard to permission to use new technology in the classroom, I consulted with the tech department to see if the processes for tech use have changed. I found out that the processes remain the same which means that almost all new tech has to pass through a large number of leaders prior to approval. That takes a lot of time, and often the leaders don't approve the technology for multiple reasons.

So what is a teacher to do?

While I believe that teachers should have the chance to try out tech responsibly in their classrooms with students and then choose and share the best tech, I also have to follow the rules of the school system where I work. A couple of years ago I got so frustrated over the process that I raised my voice, and that led to weeks of harsh consequences that upset me and my family for a l o n g time. I don't want to repeat that.

Hence, I'll steer clear of most tech for the year ahead. I'll use the programs that are allowed and encouraged by the leadership, and I'll take a leave of tech conferences and new tools with regard to student learning. I will, however, use the tools I learned about to organize my own work and prepare learning modules for students and colleagues.

Systems are made up of many people, and there are multiple rules to follow for multiple reasons. In schools, teachers have some say over what they do, but if there is rule and they don't follow it, that's considered subordination and they get fired.

I write this to share my thoughts, to acknowledge that I will follow system guidelines, and to voice an issue that exists not only in my school, but in many American schools. In fact, and in contrast, one of the presenters pointed out yesterday that there's much less worry about technology use overseas and much greater ease and frequency of use.

There's lots of math to teach, and I can do it with Google docs, presentation, SCRATCH, paper/pencil, manipulatives, That Quiz, Khan Academy, Symphony Math, and a few other approved online and offline games. I can do the same for my STEAM teaching responsibilities. But part of the fun of teaching and learning is readily employing new tools that meet students' needs and invigorate the daily class efforts. For now, however, that work is on hold.