Transition Techies

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Graham Wegner left a comment on a posting the other day, and like I try to do with everyone that leaves a comment I visited his blog to see what he’s talking about. After almost a year of being in the edublogosphere it still amazes me how few blogs I know about which is why I’m promoting the use of Will Richardson’s creation EdBloggerNews. If everyone in the edublosphere started using this service then we all benefit by expanding our reading to other blogs outside of our blogroll or bloglines account. Next is to figure out how David Warlick put ‘Add to EdbloggerNews’ at the end of every post so we can all add that to our blogs. David?

Also we need to continue to comment on each others blogs. I’m not saying every time, but if you have something to say shout it out. I’m sure I’m not the only person who checks the links coming and going from my blog. It’s a great way to expand our community.

So that leads me to this. Without Graham commenting on my blog I never would have found his entry ICT Coordinator-Techie In Disguise which led me to Brian Grenier’s blog. I’ve visited Brian’s blog before, but I admit it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in to see what he’s up to and to this posting. Graham quoted this from Brian’s post, but I’m going to quote it again because I think there is a lot of us out there that feel this way.

What’s been concerning me more though is how I can get teachers to understand exactly what my job is and get them to act upon some of my suggestions.  Let me try to clarify the predicament I am speaking of.  If I had to sum up my job in one sentence (which I do quite often), it would be this; I assist/train teachers with integrating technology into their curriculum with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.  That said, what I have come to notice is that teachers are calling upon me NOT to help them integrate technology, but rather to fix some technical problem (printers, network access, setting up computers, etc…)  I’m not quite sure how to address this situation, being that I really don’t feel I am in a position to tell teachers what they should be doing in their classroom.  I really don’t mind troubleshooting and solving problems for teachers, but I fear that by doing this too often I am neglecting to do what I really should, and want, to be doing.  I’ve tried taking the opportunity in the past to talk to teachers about technology integration as I was in the process of fixing some technical problem, but it doesn’t seem to sink in.  I usually get comments like “That’s a great idea” or “Hmmm, I never thought about doing it that way.  I leave thinking that maybe this teacher will actually try implementing some of my ideas, ask me to work with them one on one to get a better grasp on strategies, or share the idea with some of their colleagues who would show some interest.  I’m disappointed when the next time they approach me is not to talk about these ideas, but to fix some new technical problem.  I’d really like to hear some comments about ways you would suggest, or have approached, such situations.

First I LOVE Brian’s mission statement: I assist/train teachers with integrating technology into their curriculum with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement. That is a powerful statement and one that, if you don’t mind Brian, I’m adopting as my own.

Secondly Brian, Graham and I all share this same frustration and like any support group I’m glad I’m not alone.

I think we are Transition Techies. We are the technology teachers/integrators/assistants or what ever term you want to use that are faced with bringing technology education into the 21st century. I’m with Brian, I’d guess that 60% of the e-mails I get at work are fixing equipment, setting up equipment or installing programs. Not that I mind doing these things and actually quite enjoy it as I find it a way to build positive relationships with my teachers. Everyone likes a knight in shining armor who can swoop in and have your printer working again, or find a lost file. But that’s not my job as I view it. My job is helping teachers integrate technology in the classroom. There are two problems that I see.

1.  For most schools technology integration is optional. So I am supporting an optional program. I know it’s been said before but: As long as teachers have the option to integrate technology, some will opt not to. Since computers first started showing up in schools it was optional. Some teachers used the computer labs others didn’t. I think we set a standard why back when of technology being optional. Now we are faced with the reality that as a system, education views technology integration as optional. I’m not talking a class web page technology; I’m talking the kind of technology that Brian relates to. The kind that has an ultimate goal of improving student achievement.

2. Technology set up. I could be wrong but from what I’ve heard from others we are still in a computer lab setting for the most part. I know not all schools are this way, but as long as there are computer labs where students go to learn technology, then it will not be integrated. It will be skills and programs not learning within context. Yes students need to learn how to create powerpoints and how to work a spreadsheet, but those skills should be learned within context of the class, not separate lab times. Again we are caught in a 20th century model of education.

This is why I call us Transition Techies. We are the technology educators who are faced with this challenge to change a system. A system that is rooted in traditions and has always been slow to change. We are the people who are caught in this transition from 20th century technology education to 21st century technology education. In the 20th century we taught powerpoint, spreadsheets, word processing. In the 21st century we should be teaching collaboration, presenting, interacting, and communicating. Our focus should not be on the programs, but what the programs can do for our students.

One of my 7th graders had a comment the other day in class, “You mean there were computers before the Internet?” The kid’s 12  years old the Internet has always been around and he can’t imagine a time without it, or that there was a time you would use a computer without having Internet access. These are our students, they are 21st century learners, born in a time and world that is beyond powerpoint, spreadsheets and word processing and born in a time of communication, connections, communities, and interactions. We, the Transition Techies, are stuck between a  20th century system and 21st century learners.

[tags]21st Century Learning, Education 2.0, Blog Wondering[/tags]

Kids on computer from http://www.flickr.com/photos/zinkwazi/117097746/

Computer lab from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sojournerdouglasscollege/145134551/

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff, I’m glad that my facetious comment the other day led of this chain of events. It’s true – unless we edubloggers comment on each other’s blogs then it’s hard for others to know we exist. I’ve been subscribed to your blog since November last year so I probably should’ve commented before but I love the way that you have also expanded my original take on Brian’s post in new and interesting directions. That has added extra value to Brian’s original frustrations and made me notice new things in his post as well. I must admit though, I’m not a big fan of Edblogger News – to me, it still has the feel of a popularity contest because it just seems to me that articles get promoted because of the author more than the content – it tends to feel North American centric as well to me. That’s just my opinion.
    I totally agree with your comments on technology integration – we need to get schools in general to make it so that teachers cannot elect to “opt out”. A great David Warlick quote I’ve used in presentations lately is the simplest, best argument I’ve read to back this up.
    “We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time,
    and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”

  2. On commenting, I totally agree that comments keep the conversation going. It turns monologue into dialog. I guess that’s why my recent How to comment like a king (or queen) post has generated a lot of traffic.

    On the quote from Graham — I agree with David’s statement about technology being the pen and paper of our time.

    We also have to know that change can be challenging and not all teachers are going to migrate to this new pen and paper. I focus on chaning myself and my classroom and other teachers follow as they feel comfortable.

  3. I got to playing with the idea of adding such a link and I think I figured it out…I checkout out their bookmarklet and deciphered the code, then turned it into a link like they use and posted it in my WordPress blog posting’s code.

    I put it in two spots, in my index.php for the main site, and in the single post code, below the post metadata in the first, and below it in the latter.

    Share on EdBloggerNews

    As you can see, I wanted it centered. I need to go check David Warlick’s out, but this seems to work ok for me. Maybe he has other variables turned on.

    Hope this is useful!

  4. Hey Jeff,

    First off, you’re blog is looking great. When I read Tim L.’s post I decided to stop by. I’m obviously needing to get up to speed on the things one can do with WordPress plugins…

    About commenting…I think you’re right that commenting is a good thing in general. It does sustain and extend ideas in some important ways when done right. And I think EdBlogger News could be a good way of supporting community as well. My problem of late with both is that I see more and more instances where people are commenting or linking to stories in a pretty obvious attempt to simply market their own blogs. It feels like, and this is not in every instance obviously, the comment or link is more opportunistic than heartfelt. Maybe it’s just me…

    The “Transition Techies” title is great, I think. These are transition technologies, aren’t they? And we are, finally, at a point where technology can no longer be an option. We can always argue about the productivity benefits, but we can’t argue the connection benefits. The question is how long will this transition period last. And what will be the effects on those systems that take longer to complete the work?

    Looking forward to February!

  5. I’ll echo Will’s comment. I feel bad I don’t visit more sites, too much reliance on bloglines. BTW, I still have a few of your posts in my “Keep New” section. Hopefully I’ll have more time to ponder your good stuff soon.

  6. Hi Jeff, this is a great post; one that I will forward to my tech director and tech team. These are issues that all integrationists must face, especially in this time of technological transition. Most teachers are digital immigrants, as Mark Prensky would say, and our students are digital natives. In a way, we are DSL teachers (Digital Second Language.)

    I am starting this September in an integrationist role. I have been a technology leader in my district for a few years, but this is my chance to move past printer jams and actually “…assist/train teachers with integrating technology into their curriculum with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.” (I agree – Graham’s summary is excellent.)

    My district is forgoing new computers in each room 2-6 and installing an interactive whiteboard instead; I think this initiative will help my role significantly. I hope the IWBs will be the ultimate bridge for these teachers to use technology in an accessible way. These boards will bring tech out of the lab and into everyday instruction. Teachers that would previously be intimidated by the technology will feel more comfortable because the IWB fits in with their previous methodologies, thus opening the door for new possibilities. My job will be to show the value of these possibilities. One small way I hope to accomplish this is to publish a monthly e-zine that will connect technology with curricular goals. I am still working on September’s edition, but the Joomla! platform I am using has been really easy to work with.

    My best,
    John Calvert

  7. Thank you, Jeff, for your post today. We all have so much to learn from each other and it all starts with posting comments. Your encouragement helps for ‘baby bloggers’ like me. I didn’t know about EdBloggerNews so thanks for the information. If you don’t mind pointing me in the right direction, where do I learn how to do Technorati tags on my blog?

  8. Alan Knobloch Reply

    Jeff, you are correct in identifying one of our main obstacles being that technology integration is optional. Like most things in our world, if we want things to be done there has to be a clearly stated expectation and people have to be held accountable if the cannot or will not meet that expectation.

    At a previous school, which was a laptop school, each teacher was expected to team teach with the Technology Resource Facilitator (TRF) at least once per quarter. The classroom teacher was responsible for teaching the content and the technology teacher was responsible for teaching how to use the software or website. They were both responsible for design and assessment. The TRF would typically teach the software program or website on the first day, then come back to the classroom for two to three more days to help the teacher and the students while they worked on the assignment.

    Teachers were held accountable for meeting this expectation through the school’s supervision and evaluation process. The TRF also provided the administration with a detailed report of how he spent his time. Most of the classroom teachers thrived under this model because they knew the TRF would stay with them to work out any problems with the technology. We found that teachers did not need as much TRF classroom support as the year wore on because their skills were increasing as well.


  9. Wow! Someone gets what I’m going through! I deliver an ICT professional development programme to teachers in NZ. I am constantly told that I am too techie. ICT is about effective teaching and learning with technology and that teachers will integrate once the classrooms are set up in a more constructivist manner. Guess what – people are using thinking skills, collaborative learning and have put the desktops in the room – they are still not being used. I think this is because teachers need to feel confident to use them. I assist teachers to integrate technology but my first hurdle is to teach them to USE technology. Thanks for your post. Change is a long and difficult process but isn’t it exciting to be the agents of change?!

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  12. This tug between techie and curriculum specialist is common. To some extent, I believe we can manifest our own destiny by what we choose to be good at. If I can solve IP conflicts like nobody else, then that is how I become known. If I can get students excited about blogging for curricular gain, then that is how I become known.

    This year, I did a little exercise with my media and instructional technology professionals. I asked them to list their degrees and colleges/universities. A quick scan says what kind of people they are, where their passion was as they were preparing for careers. For the most part, their post-secondary training deals with people and curriculum.

    It is with people and curriculum that they will have the most value.

  13. Jeff, I posted to my eLearning blog in an inspired moment after reading your post yesterday at http://123elearning.blogspot.com/2006/08/i-do-not-want-to-fix-computers.html

    Today, as I reflect again on my/our belief that technology integration is non-optional I think of all the different and imaginative ways I have tried to sweeten the medicine so to speak for other educators. Providing just-in-time sessions for orientaiton to new SW or initiatives that take no more than 40 minutes, delivered on reasonable days after school have been OK, the last day of the week always hurts of course. Getting past the tech talk is a real challenge when face-to-face sessions are so short as most teachers still need the pedantic click here, now open this, now do this type of reassurance. Whatever we try to do or how we try to deliver the package it is like the addage, you can bring a horse to water tbut you cannot make it drink. I can give our teachers a handheld computer but I cannot make them carry it and use it if they do not feel the excitement and want to explore curriculum uses with the students. And there are always valid reasons why they may not feel like this…overwork, coping with a third world country (we are in Bangaldesh), too old (yes, some even admit they are too old to learn new tricks!). Systemic change is one of the big challenges of the 21st century and I thank you for your initiation of this conversation on Transition Techies!

  14. Jeff
    What is preventing teachers in today’s day and age from becoming effective users of technology for improved student learning?

    1. Access:
    How many classroom do not YET have computers or Internet connections? Technology that is not easily accessed will not be used.

    2. Comfort and confidence with the technology:
    The Milken Family Foundation (http://www.mff.org) developed a “Professional Competency Continuum: Professional Skills for the Digital Age Classroom” by Edward Coughlin & Cheryl Lemke, published 6/10/99. This “continuum” represents research- and classroom-tested approaches to developing the skills in teachers and administrators necessary for effective integration of technology in learning.

    Consider this quote from the publication: “Many excellent teachers view the use of technology as inefficient or unpleasant simply because they do not have basic skills of usage and troubleshooting. If teachers are not effective users of technology, it is unlikely that they will recognize how technology might be used well inside classrooms” (p. 13).

    Download a copy at: http://www.mff.org/publications/publications.taf?page=159

    3. Leadership and Staff Development
    If integrating technology is “optional” in most schools, where is the leadership that will encourage an expectation of technology integration? And, how many schools provide teachers with the appropriate staff development and modeling of best practices for teaching and learning with technology? How can teachers be convinced that the extra time and effort is “worth it?”

    From The Journal, “One Size Does Not Fit All” http://www.thejournal.com/the/printarticle/?id=17305
    By Janice M. Hinson, Kimberly N. Laprairie, and Janet M. Cundiff. “As the technological age continues to render traditional classroom practices obsolete, many educators are still untrained and apprehensive when it comes to technology integration….”

    How many administrators have “heard” the messages of David, Will, and can tie these to the ultimate goal of improving student achievement? Not enough, it seems.

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