Technology: it's what we do, not one more thing to do

I’ve been struggling lately trying to get through to teachers that technology isn’t an add on, but actually replaces the way work is done in class (read David Jakes for more). It’s so hard for teachers to take a leap from something that works, to try something new. I’ve been hitting a lot of dead ends lately with teachers which is frustrating and deflating. Just when I think I’m starting to make some headway, something happens and we take two steps back. It comes down to priority. You do not just get on a bike and start riding right away. It takes practice, patience and the ability to get up, dust yourself off, and try again. But what is it about technology that the first time something doesn’t work or a teacher gets frustrated that they throw their hands in the air and say things like:

“I’m too old to learn this.”
“I’ll never get this.”
“Why won’t this just work?”
“It never works.”
“I’ve tried using it…it’s just a waste of time.”

I keep trying to get through to teachers that the don’t need to know how to do it, they just need to know how it works. The students will figure out the ‘how to’ part.

Yesterday was a good example. There is a teacher who is running a musical class at school. She wants students to be able to download and listen to different tracks at home. I’ve taken time to explain to her twice how to rip music, upload it to the server, and then create a simple Word document that links to the different files. All and all I’ve probably spent 2 hours helping this teacher, who to her credit even when frustrated didn’t give up. I told her to send me a couple students one day and I’ll show them how to do it, that if they don’t know how to do it I could teach them in just a couple of minutes. Yesterday the students showed up and within 10 minutes they understood exactly what needed to happen. 30 minutes later the simple list of links was done.

We need to get past the point that we need to understand how the technology works. We don’t! We just need to understand how it can be used in our classroom to enhance learning. The students will figure out the ‘how to’ part on their own. They live in this world, they are good at troubleshooting problems and finding solutions.

Another example is our Moodle system. Not once have we ever explained to students who to register for an account on Moodle. No need to, they’ve created accounts on the Internet before. Teachers come to me worried that they won’t know how to do it, and that they don’t know if they can teach them how to register. I always say the same thing. Give them the web address and the enrollment key to your course…the rest they figure out. 600+ registered students have some how figured it out.

Teachers, allow your imagination to think of how to use the tool, don’t worry if you don’t know how it actually works. I know it’s difficult. Heck I just turned over an entire web site to teenagers. I don’t know how to run drupal, I can’t answer their questions when they come to me with a problem. But some way, some how, they figure it out.