As a veteran educator, you might think you’ve seen it all when it comes to kids embracing technology–but you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a veteran educator embrace technology like … well, like a kid.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, because for the past several weeks, I have been on the front lines of the ever-expanding eSchool News Conference Correspondents program (see story, Page One).
At major ed-tech conferences throughout the year, eSchool News invites attending educators to report on workshops and presentations for their colleagues who are unable to attend the event. As part of this project, they are given a high-tech tool to use for their reporting. At the recent Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) and Texas Computer Education Assocation (TCEA) annual convention, that writing implement was the Neo by AlphaSmart computer companion.
Each time I witnessed the enthusiastic reaction these correspondents displayed to receiving their writing equipment, I was struck by the contrast between this reaction and a particularly negative image that seems to haunt the school technology field.
The image, often propagated by school technology advocates themselves, is that of a tech-savvy student who is light years ahead of his or her teachers when it comes to computers. In this scenario, the educators (i.e., the adults) are afraid to bring technology into their classroom because they fear their own students will make them look foolish. In other words, an educator might have the will to integrate technology but lacks the ability to make it happen. This person, out of sync generationally, won’t even attempt to compete with iPods, Playstations, cell phones, and other hardware or software the students use at home.
But seeing how our eSN Conference Correspondents took to their Neo devices at FETC and TCEA, I submit that this particular stereotype does not reflect reality, and anyone who would make decisions based on this notion is missing the boat.
What I have found is that our correspondents want technology in their classrooms so much that they are willing to volunteer their time to report on sessions and get hands-on experience with new equipment. I have also found that most are pretty tech-savvy, and whatever they lack in technical know-how, they more than make up for in passion.
Not a single educator returned the Neo saying he or she wasn’t up to the task. Not one failed to see valuable uses for such a device in his or her own school. In fact, many of these educators got more excited about all technology as a result of this experience. And many also told me they wished they could put such a device in all of their students’ hands–if they could only find the funding for such an effort.
It didn’t have to be a Neo. It could have been a laptop, handheld, or even a graphing calculator. The majority of educators I have met over the past several months–people of all ages–are really excited about what new technologies could mean for their classrooms. And if their already tech-savvy students could see that enthusiasm as I saw it, it would bring about a greater human connection between the teacher and student, a connection that would bolster the learning environment because the student would see that the teacher is not cut off from the 21st century.
So, on that note, and fresh from my experiences in Orlando and Austin, I ask those school leaders who have the power to make things happen to give teachers who clearly want the technology in their classrooms the very tools they need. If a teacher is ready to integrate hardware or software in an innovative way, open whatever doors are necessary for him or her to do it, because this is surely money well spent. No enterprising teacher should have to rely on prizes at ed-tech conferences to do what he or she knows is best for students.
New content this month
Exciting content continues to crop up on eSchool News Online. You’ll find two new additions to our Educator’s Resource Center: “Assessment and Achievement” and “Enhancing Curriculum with Web-Enabled Resources.” Sponsored by Software Technology Inc. (STI) and netTrekker, these collections of eSchool News articles and other resources will give you great ideas for your schools, right down to the classroom level. Here are the links:
Also, take a moment to visit the eSN Professional Development Resource Center, where you’ll find links to wonderful video tutorials by Atomic Learning. In many of the sessions at FETC and TCEA, these tutorials were mentioned as the best resource for familiarizing educators with the most widely used software products. Find out why here:
And finally, if you aren’t among the nearly 200 people who have already had the eSN Conference Correspondent experience, I hope you’ll have a chance to join us soon. The upcoming Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) shows will be two such opportunities. See you online,
Daniel L. David