We Are All Technology Teachers

29 11 2009

Last weekend I was honored to present a session at the Bridging the Gap conference at Yokohama International School in Japan. YIS has hosted this community conference annually since 2001, and the topic for this year was “The Future of Education: Using Its Tools Today.” The three day conference included formal sessions led by teachers from YIS, other international schools and keynote presenter, Chris Toy, as well as a full day of BarCamp unconference sessions. It was a great opportunity to dialogue about the way schools may look in the near future with not only teachers and administrators, but also parents and students.

One interesting topic of discussion came up on Saturday: an administrator asked me if we should be expecting classroom teachers to teach technology, to be responsible for this additional subject along with their standard course material. Basically the question was about the value of technology as an integrated subject (with all teachers responsible for the instruction) versus a discrete course (with one or two specialists responsible for the instruction). Interestingly, I haven’t really had this conversation in a while, since ISB had adopted an integrated approach before I even arrived three years ago, but it certainly was a hot topic in both KL and Munich where I was part of the transition process from stand-alone IT courses to an integrated model.

Having developed and implemented an integrated technology program from scratch in two schools and expanded an existing program here at ISB, I firmly believe that technology is best taught within the context of the core curriculum. The natural use of authentic technology within the classroom setting, just like the way we use paper and pencil without any second thoughts, is always what I’m striving for.

Sounding BoardA good analogy might be the way that over the past decade or two, classroom teachers have become more accustomed to the idea of differentiating for English language learners – especially in international schools, where often the majority of the class are not native English speakers. I have heard many administrators say “we are all ESL teachers,” with the expectation that no matter what subject we teach, we must ensure that all students are engaged with material that’s comprehensible to them. In all of the schools I’ve worked at, we’ve had extensive professional development in this area, and the consensus in education seems to be that if you’re a teacher in a linguistically diverse class, it is your responsibility to employ some of the professional strategies of an ESL teacher, even if you yourself are a Math, Social Studies, Science, etc teacher.  At this point, we’re all comfortable with the fact that we can’t simply give oral instructions, or that new vocabulary should be introduced in context, or that certain students might need more time to understand directions and perform certain tasks.

Maybe now it’s time to say “we are all technology teachers.”

I certainly understand that this is not a change that will happen overnight. Much like the move towards more ELL friendly instruction, teachers will need to learn appropriate skills, strategies and approaches to authentically and successfully embed technology within their core subject. Of course, this will take time, and during this transition, in my opinion, it’s the responsibility of the technology facilitator (or coordinator or integration specialist or whatever they may be called) to help their colleagues build their understanding of successful technology-rich teaching practices.

Often my colleague, Jeff, likes to say that his goal is to “work himself out of a job” by building teacher skill level to the point where they don’t need him anymore. Although I would agree that this is also my ultimate goal, I am conscious of the speed with which technology changes, and I’m not sure that we will ever get to the point where schools will no longer need some sort of pedagogical support in the technology field. After all, most schools still have ESL specialists, even though many of their practices are adopted by mainstream teachers.

Click!Similarly, most ESL programs have a mix of in-class and pull-out support – blending the best of both approaches to ensure that all students are learning and understanding both the language and the curricular content. Although I firmly believe technology should be embedded within classroom practice, I also see a place for discrete technology classes – especially when they are designed with a curricular context that enhances the learning in core subjects, or when they emphasis the process of learning how to learn with technology, or when they offer a specialized skill for students that are highly interested (like graphic design or Flash animation).

The important thing to remember, is that even if there are seperate technology courses offered at a school, that doesn’t mean that those classes are the only place where students learn with technology. To continue to use the ESL anology one last time, a student who has a pull-out intensive ESL course isn’t excused from using the English language in all of their other classes simply because they attend a class that focuses on language. Students and teachers should expect that technology will naturally be a part of every class.

What do you think? Should all teachers be technology teachers?


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15 responses to “We Are All Technology Teachers”

    29 11 2009
      bgaskins (19:23:29) :     

    I agree. We are all technology teachers in our curriculum area. We are all English Language Arts teachers too. We have the responsibility to teach reading and writing in our content area. It just makes sense…..
    Bill

    29 11 2009
      Jeff Utecht (21:27:39) :     

    Glad to know I won’t be out of a job anytime soon. I think in the elementary grades full integration is the way to go. Starting in middle school there should be specific technology electives for those students who like technology and want to learn specific skills. Yes there should be full integration within the core subjects, but technology classes around mobile computing, website design, and just plain old computers would be great to get those students who are interested started down that path. To often we don’t allow students the choice to go deeper into technology…..I hope someday we can do that.

    29 11 2009
      Clint H (22:23:34) :     

    Teaching, particularly in the high school, has become too specialized and compartmentalized for its own good. There isn’t a real-world problem – and by this I mean a problem in the world and not one made up for a textbook – that exists in a subject-specific background. All problems that we face include literacy, numeracy and technology (integration). I would wager heavily that every teacher at every level deals with these three concepts every day in their own lives (both in and out of the classroom). To pretend otherwise for their students and to not give them experience doing so is to live in a textbook induced coma…

    30 11 2009
      Bernadette Rego (00:11:12) :     

    Another great post, Kim.

    I completely agree that we should take an integrated model approach to using technology in the curriculum. I see technology as comprised of tools which have the potential to both aid and enrich the student’s learning experiences. I also would support having a separate technology instruction course, where topics such as netiquette and internet safety could be expanded upon and would compliment their usage of technology in both the classroom and home environments.

    Bernadette

    30 11 2009
      Kevin Jarrett (17:16:40) :     

    Kim! What a fantastic, resource-rich, real-world discussion of technology-infused pedagogy. Thank you! Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES! Your analogy is simple, powerful and one every teacher can relate to.

    I especially agree with the need for continuous, relevant, effective PD that meets the needs of teacher practitioners at all levels (beautifully explained here: http://bit.ly/8QAd2M), and with your comprehensive, outcome-focused job description: http://bit.ly/G1kna.

    These posts, along with the detailed emails both you AND Jeff recently provided me in response to my questions about redesigning our school’s own technology curriculum, are INCREDIBLY helpful. I’m sharing them with everyone I can!

    Keep up the FANTASTIC work! Oh, and I can’t wait for your K12Online 2009 Opening Keynote (http://bit.ly/7ydbAe) in just a couple of hours! See you there!

    Best, kj

    2 12 2009
      Sean Nash (00:24:40) :     

    Excellent. Great analogy… very similar as well to all of being “literacy” or “reading in the content areas” teachers. I agree fully. If real integration is to work for our students, we must all move ourselves and those colleagues nearest us- toward a richer adoption of appropriate technologies in our content areas. Each time this discussion pops up, I seem to always point back to the TPACK framework to help describe a teacher with the skill set our students need.

    I also agree with Jeff above in the idea that we also need more options for students to enroll in on an elective basis. We have a deep need for students to feel they can not only use technology when and where appropriate… but also to innovate and create new technologies for the future.

    Another post to point good folks toward. Thanks.

    Sean

    2 12 2009
      BobK99 (01:47:38) :     

    >Students and teachers should expect that technology
    >will naturally be a part of every class.

    I don’t see why anyone should think anything else. And I’d add ‘parents’ to the list.

    b

    18 12 2009
      Melissa C. Tran (03:36:29) :     

    I really enjoyed this article and couldn’t help taking your analogy a step further when reading to this: aren’t we coming to a point where teaching technology is nearing the importance of teaching READING? I realize that may be an exaggeration, but really, how much of one? In the next decade, isn’t it likely that those without tech. skills will be locked out to a degree comparable to that of those locked out by illiteracy today? As an educator struggling to keep up myself, I definitely believe in integrating technology to the greatest degree possible. Thanks for making me more conscious of this! I look forward to future reads.

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