Submitted by an annonymous teacher of 18 years...
I would like to share my technology struggle with you.
I am a 5th grade teacher of 18 years. I often think back to when we had absolutely no computers or technology in our school.
How it was:
- We took attendance by hand and had a student bring it down to the office
- We hand wrote our report cards
- We kept our grades in a grade book that I could hold in my hands
- We got the weekly tip sheet in our mailboxes in the office and not by email
Here’s what happened first:
- Teachers take attendance on their laptops and submit electronically to the office
- I do my report cards on my computer over the internet
- My grades are kept on my laptop and uploaded to the school’s server
- I get emailed a tip sheet along with half a dozen district notifications daily
I remember when our building installed the computer lab. The first few years, it just sat there. A few brave teachers may have brought their classes in to attempt a “Computer Project.” Not me, I stayed away for many years. My students had always met their benchmarks and done very well on the whole. Why should I add a new aspect to the way I teach just because it is there?
This was fine until about seven years ago when our district began issuing laptops to teachers. I was told to check my email regularly as there would be no more paper tip sheets. Then came digital grade books and report cards.
I did my part and attended the half-baked district provided professional development on computer use and integration. I learned to use the computer, re-learned how to type and did everything I was supposed to do.
I would like to note that taking attendance and writing report cards on a computer in no way has any effect on curriculum or how the students learn. I believe that at first, technology integration in education was all administrative. I was ok with this, it’s more efficient , less paper, easier to communicate…etc. I get it.
Things went along like this for a while. I even started taking my class to the computer lab to use the computers for typing practice on a software program called Ultra Key, and for typing their final drafts. I was trying to integrate the best I could, without it affecting my curriculum timeline.
Lets fast forward to this past fall. I came in around mid August to prep my room for September. I opened the door and my whiteboard was gone. It had been replaced by a Smart Board.
I had seen smart boards at meetings. I did not ask for a smart board? What was I going to do without my whiteboard? How could they do this without asking or telling me? Wait…where was my overhead projector? It too had been taken and there was an Elmo Document camera on my desk. There were wires coming out of it going into the wall and there was also a projector coming out of my ceiling. I felt like I was going to have a panic attack! I had no idea how to use any of this equipment. I had no idea it was coming…and school was starting in less than a month.
I went to my principal’s office and asked, in the words of the late great Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On?” I was told that there were leftover funds from the previous school year and that pursuant with the district’s 21st century learning initiatives all of 4th and 5th grade has had smart boards installed in their rooms. Additionally, our building had acquired two mobile computer labs so our kids could use laptops in the classroom. What!?!?
Needless to day, this has been an interesting year.
How it is today:
- I spend as much time at almost worthless workshops that are over everybody’s head as I do grading and prepping my class.
- I have gotten to the point where I am able to use the smart board like an electric whiteboard, so I am where I was at without it.
- The Elmo is actually pretty nice, when I can get it to project through the projector, which is about 50% of the time.
- The laptop carts are nice when they work. When students have technical problems they can sometimes help each other, and sometimes they can’t. I cannot troubleshoot technical issues for two reasons:
1. I don’t know how.
2. Even if I did know how I wouldn’t have time to attend to the lesson at hand and help with computer usage.
I am a good teacher and I love what I do, but technology has made me question myself as a teacher. I thought technology was supposed to make everything easier and more efficient, like it did when we went to emails and digital report cards.
Does the fact that I am not a smart board technology wiz make me a bad teacher? If it does, it did not up until a year ago.
If we have the money to purchase smart boards, elmos, projectors, and laptop carts for teachers who don’t know how to use them, then why are we cutting the arts in our district?
To wrap this up, I would like to say that I am one of the teachers that has taken the time to keep up and learn these new technologies as they come through. Many of my colleagues have not. Alas, here I am writing an article on a website called “The 21st Century Teacher,” but I truly feel like technology has become a rain cloud over my classroom.
I am anxious to hear responses to this, along with any advice and/or similar experience out there.
Anonymous teacher of 18 years