Thursday, January 17, 2008

Struggles of Trying to Be Tech Competent

Not sure I'd call myself a technology-in-the-classroom vanguard, I am at least a risk-taker, but this week I can see why more teachers aren't. The frustrations of scarcity of equipment, equipment failure, system failures, and professional development learning curve can be daunting.

As a team leader, I've spent this week in mind-boggling discussions that have included litanies of why teachers need technology and why they can't expect to get it, and I've spent class periods working with ninth graders struggling to learn creative processes for researching multi-media, remixing, and documenting information for a series of documentaries on Shakespeare's life, times, and works we are creating with Photo Story video and will broadcast on the Web. (Stay tuned.)

I'm struggling along with my students. We are learning together. From some perspectives that is the best way to learn. But for many teachers, and at times myself, the confusion and frustration makes the ole halcyon days of book-learning look like a welcome retreat. I'm rather comfortable with trying the new technologies and feel that they offer great relevancy and motivation for today's learners--and yet I'm frustrated and confused at times with my wanting tech savvy and lack of tech support.

Atop this, I'm finding great disparities in what some students know and what others do not. Even wider are the gaps in what parents are able to know and do and provide in terms of everything from understanding, encouragement, and support, to hardware, and software.

Yesterday as I walked down the hall I heard a cry of desperation from young teacher. This teacher, one from the digital generation, couldn't get a laptop signal to jibe with an LCD projector that is shared from room-to-room screamed "That's it! I'm done with this hassle. I get it all ready and then it goes down in class." I hope this is just a momentary fit and she'll gather her nerve another day.

I understand. I have to gather mine for tomorrow.

Every generation of good teachers take their stripes. These are ours, while we don't delay media literacy to our students despite a lacking critical mass of support from the learning community at large. Not only must we take the risk of trying emergent instructional technologies, develop reflective pedagogy to guide our continued practices with them, and work in a state of "perpetual beta," but also must we advocate with administrations, parents, students, and communities for the changes in school and system design needed to support, fund, equip. and sustain the sort of progress that will allow our students to gain competencies and remain competitive (as governments and schools around the world move ahead with greater celerity than we).
Image created with NGA Collage Machine

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