Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Want to Work Myself out of a Job

Pink Slip
I want to work myself out of a job.
I read a tweet the other day: “When is it going to stop being called ‘technology integration’ and start being called ‘teaching?’” I retweeted with gusto. Then, I thought about it a bit more.
Nice. Insensitive, arrogant, ignorant, but nice.
So, technology fully-integrated into teaching: what would it look like? Imagine this: students following their interests in self-initiated projects, leveraging technology to create original products and demonstrate learning to a global audience. Teachers as facilitators, partners, nudgers, clarifiers.
Good stuff. Great stuff. Dreamy stuff. But how do we get there?
Therein lies the hypocrisy of the tweet: “When will we stop calling it “technology integration” and just start calling it “teaching?”
AS IF teachers just have to make the decision to integrate technology, and all will be well. If only a critical mass of teachers, heaving all their weight, would throw a giant switch and voila: seamless technology integration: teachers and administrators and students and Apple and Google kumbayaing together in a circle of love.
The reality is that we have to have an honest look in the mirror and ask: what’s the discrepancy between the rosy-colored picture above and school-as-we-know-it?  What has to happen for effective technology integration to happen?
3 things:
1) Scrape the Plate: Teachers need time to learn and integrate technology in an authentic way. Teachers have more classes and more students and more responsibilities than ever. We have to make room on their plates for technology by first taking something off their plates.
2) Kill the Bugs: We need enough bandwidth, enough technical support, enough reliable devices. We must minimize technology glitches so we can ensure that technology is increasing student learning, not delaying or distracting from it.
3) Tech for All:  We need universal, reliable computer access for all. Teachers are smart, efficient professionals who value their scarcest commodity: time. They will make a full commitment to technology integration only when they know it will be time well spent, only when we can ensure that reliable technology will be available to themselves and their students, inside and outside of school, 24/7.
This is a seriously tall order. But this is a seriously tall moment. This is a Guttenberg moment; this is paradigm smashing, but it can’t happen overnight, and clever little quips won’t help, however cute they may be.
And while these are necessary conditions, they are not sufficient conditions. They won’t work unless educators are also willing to take the jump.
(Insert metaphor here: Enter Friday’s staff inservice). Among my Introduction to Google Apps sessions was one slumped over teacher, unwilling to take the jump. She assumed the computer right next to the door. She didn’t look up once. She never signed into her Google Apps account. She paid no attention to me or anything going on around her. She had to be there contractually, but goshdarnit, we couldn’t make her learn anything.  Her one saving grace was that she provided me with a juicy metaphor.
dinosaur metaphor
Staring at her monitor, oblivious to all, she is a metaphor for resistance to change. She is allowing the world to pass her by. She is ignoring this transformational moment in education.  She is curling up in the fetal position and embracing extinction.  She is an excellent metaphor for professional and educational inertia, and for that I thank her.
So there it is: three conditions and the educators who are still standing:  all critical components of doing right by our students in learning and technology.  With that, I long for the day when I (and edtechers like me) am able to work myself out of a job: when “it’s no longer called ‘technology integration’ but ‘teaching.’”
Until then, we have work to do.

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