Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Loss, Losers and Zealots

It has been almost two months since Alan November's  BLC11 conference in Boston.      Since then, I have consistently returned to Rob Evan's advice to the audience of tech-zealots for how to understand the resistant teacher.  (You know the one. No descriptions are necessary.)

 Here is a brief and embarrassingly insufficient summary.

   Human beings are deeply ambivalent towards change.  We love what is new but cling to our safe routines.  Many teachers have swallowed their hopes of finding satisfaction and meaning in their career.  They hate what is there but they also reject change.  Loss and bereavement is what the resistant teacher feels when confronted with the necessity of change.  Technology, in their perspective, devalues their work (personal notes, lectures, years of experience) and makes them feel unimportant.  So, their sense of loss and bereavement is completely normal.  Add to this, the confusion and general unsettled work atmosphere when technology is added to the mix.  (The darn stuff never works the first time around and often fails at critical moments!  Even the tech geeks can become infuriated.)  As if that were not enough, (always from the perspective of the resistant teacher) the introduction of technology creates winners and losers; those who 'get the tech' are winners and those who don't are the losers.

I have thought about this a great deal and I admit, Rob Evans is spot on in his observations.  It's true that loss and grief are normal reactions that might be experienced by many.  It's also true that technology can increase confusion and possibly even create divisions where none existed before.  I hope that I have become, as a result of considering his advice, a more understanding 'coach' with an inner disposition of calm despite emotional outbursts (not mine) and difficult situations.

I understand that we learn in different ways and for different reasons.  I appreciate the fear that technology can provoke in some people.  And then I think of my mother, Luci, who at 78 years of age began to learn how to surf the web and manage her files on the laptop her children bought her for Christmas.  She is the model learner in my books; independent, insatiably curious, and excited about her learning.  Luci takes great pride in learning how to do something by herself and then showing me her accomplishment.  She learns for the sheer joy (there's that Shareski word again - read his essay here) of it.

And then there are the students; you know, the ones who sit in our classrooms  and politely (or not) accept our mediocrity, who put up with our stale stencils and ideas from years past, and who don't complain when we ask them to 'power down' because we don't get the tech.  That's when the wise advice from Rob Evans begins to fade into the background and my ire creeps into the foreground.  Why should our students, who have the tools to fly, be forced to walk with cement boots?   Who are the real losers here?  How difficult is it to learn some small web 2.0 tool and integrate it in a meaningful way to help the students collaborate and connect so their learning can become authentic?  How long, oh, how long, must our students wait?  We are past the first decade into the 21st century.  Technology in our classrooms and pedagogy should be invisible by now, like the air we breath and the enthusiasm we exude.  Yes, I'm a zealot and I hope you will become one too.   So, almost two months after Rob Evans, and much consideration, I have returned to my previous position.  It's about the students and not our comfort zone.  If you don't know the tech, then learn it.  Get them to show you.  Become learners with them and see how much fun you'll have.  


3 comments:

  1. I really like what was said about doing something uncomfortable for yourself in order to better connect with and teach your students. I am not by any means a computer or tech savvy person. Choosing to take a course which will teach me how to apply these things in the classroom was a bit nerve racking for me, yet I see the benefits of doing so and took the class regardless of my inhibitions.
    I also think technology in the classroom is an excellent way to connect with parents and keep them up to date with that is going on in the classroom. Also for students who were unable to attend a class and want to keep up with their studies, why not post the notes on line? There are so many things technology will allow teachers to do and if they just take some time to figure out how to work such technologies (for example, what went wrong when their blog comment didn't post even when the "post comment" button was pushed) then everyone in the classroom will benefit.

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  2. I also think technology in the classroom is an excellent way to connect with parents and keep them up to date with that is going on in the classroom. Also for students who were unable to attend a class and want to keep up with their studies, why not post the notes on line? There are so many things technology will allow teachers to do and if they just take some time to figure out how to work such technologies (for example, what went wrong when their blog comment didn't post even when the "post comment" button was pushed) then everyone in the classroom will benefit.

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  3. Thanks for the comment Jessica. The tech is the magnifying glass that amplifies your talents and the students' learning. You've got a great teacher to help you learn how to begin implementing tech in your teaching.

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