Monday, August 28, 2006

I do not want to fix computers!

I often refer to myself as an educational technology or technology integration specialist. The response from colleagues is too often, 'OK, so can you fix my 'xxxxx' problem?' Can I make this very clear...I do not want to fix computers or computer related devices! Why is it when you tell people you have a degree in anything to do with technology (MA in Educational Technology Leadership from the George Washington University) they think you can troubleshoot, fix and know a computer from the inside out? Is this what it meant to be a computer expert years ago?

Yes, as I have moved around as an international educator I have been in positions where there has been limited tech support in a school and I have obliged by doing what troubleshooting I could. Well, in most cases it has been a case of my own classes and needing to get the HW and SW back online for the students to work with as quickly as possible.

Did I tell you about my first teaching experience in Kuwait? I worked at an English speaking school for Kuwaiti girls. There was a 'no men allowed' rule therefore no men (of any type) were permitted to pass beyond the reception area. This allowed the girls more freedom to take off their hejabs during the day and participate fully in physical and other curriculum activities. I was the IT teacher and taught Grade 3-Grade 11 (and Grade 2 music...but that's another story). I had 2 computer labs to maintain, a cupboard full of very good, mainly British software and an open invitation to develop a program. Needless to say however there were the inevitable technical problems, many of which I could not fix myself. The solution? Call the tech support people (men) and invite them on campus after 5pm. Well, I got a little tired of having to wait after work for the 'men are now allowed' time of the day so insisted on bringing them in to the computers during class time. This was finally allowed as long as I warned the classes beforehand by calling out 'man in the corridoor'! This prompted the teachers to shut all doors and girls to reclaim their hejabs and veils.

Life is a lot easier now. I have a Bangladesh tech team of 5 wonderful people and a mobile, ubiquitous handheld and laptop program with a wireless network. It is an exciting time as we move into our 3rd year of using handheld technology and have 5 year levels of laptops (grades 8-12). But enough about the hardware, my speciality, so I claim is the integration. But where do I start? What can I do to motivate and inspire teachers who feel imposed on to have to use the technology and tell me they would prefer to go back to pencil and paper? Where is the imagination? Where is the passion for trying new things and leading the way? Why am I often blamed for moving too fast? Why has it taken 3 years of weblogs and blogging at our school for one teacher to tell me they are finally starting to feel comfortable initiating it in his classroom? Am I really that impatient that I lose touch with the average teacher and hide behind my 'speciality' mask?

I loved Jeff Utecht's post today about 'Transition Techies'.
He said:

"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".

Thanks Jeff! If I have one more teacher tell me they are not coming to the Web 2.0 workshop I offer because they are catching up their basic spreadsheet skills I nicely and try to understand, but with difficulty.

In terms of integration, it is every teacher's responsibility to use software and hardware tools to best improve student achievement and learning outcomes. If that means using a pencil and paper for some things OK, but it also means opening your mind to the possibilities of the 21st century and being willing to explore new ways of communciation, interaction, online social networking etc and to do it without fear. What is the Star Trek saying..."To boldy go where no man has been before". I encourage, invite, implore educators to look beyond their comfort zones and to also take advantage of your educational technology specialist.....not just to fix that latest software glitch!

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