We had two friends over our house last evening, who have been involved with Educational Technology since the Eighties. We reminisced about our involvement in early Ed tech and we collectively made a reflective observation. The rate of progress of technology seems to be moving faster than its acceptance by many educators. Today’s arguments for using technology in education as a tool for teaching are the same arguments we were making twenty-five years ago. Although, the percentage of those educators effectively using it has significantly increased, there are many who still will not engage it in any way.
The question arises why have so many not progressed beyond where educators were with technology 25 years ago. The technology has certainly progressed. Before the nay-Sayers jump up and run to the comment box, I am not saying that we cannot teach without Tech. I am saying that, as educators, we are slow in using it as a tool for education. Of course, if you are reading this post you are probably not one of the many educators who are resistant to technology use, but consider how many of your colleagues do not have the willingness or wherewithal to read this. That is why I find the comment that “we need to take baby steps” a hot button. After 25 years there are no more baby steps. We should have grown up, and we should be running. Someone may need to honestly reflect on the entire situation.
A memorable Movie with memorable scenes was The Wizard of OZ. One of the most memorable scenes was when Dorothy returned to Oz and again encountered the Wizard in all of his ire and wrath. Thanks to Toto the curtain obscuring the man controlling the Wizard was pulled back and revealed a man doing everything he could to keep it all working. Bellowing from the loudspeaker was the command,”PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!”
With that cinematic image fresh on our brains let us now talk about Informational Technology Directors. Hoping not to conjure reminiscences of some racist clichés of the sixties, I would say that some of my best friends are IT Directors. The job that these people do is not easy. They are responsible for all technology that runs the school system as well as delivering information for curriculum. That in itself may be more than any one person should be responsible for. One reason for this might be the rapid rate that technology has developed. The tech developed at a greater rate than a full understanding of the position of Tech Director. The more that tech evolved the more responsibilities these people obtained. This might be a problem.
Many IT Directors have a comprehensive understanding of technology. Many Superintendents and Principals, the leaders of education in many districts, have far less of a tech understanding. They rely on the ability of the IT Director, as they should. This places a great deal of unspoken power in the hands of the IT Director. Major purchases in technology for a district fall to the recommendation of the IT Director. Who better to make such decisions, since the IT Director knows Technology. The problem in my view centers with the knowledge that the IT Director has of the curriculum for which the technology will be used. Without an equal understanding of education, any decision could result in expensive purchases being underutilized or even going unused. This might be a problem.
Teachers should be comfortable with IT Directors. Ideally, a teacher should be able to go to an IT Director with a lesson and its objective. The IT Director with knowledge of education, as well as knowledge of tech, should be able to suggest ways to use technology as a tool to accomplish the goal. He/she might also point out if it is not possible to effectively use Tech in certain instances . The IT director should be consulting with teachers about their successes and failures to plan further integration or determining what went wrong. These meetings should be taking place with many people in all schools of a district. If this engagement is not taking place, this might be a problem.
Much, but not all, of the Professional Development should be organized by the IT director. A knowledge of Technology and curriculum as well as the staff’s understanding of technology is key. The IT Director should constantly be seeking out successes of teachers who are effectively using Tech. These teachers should be encouraged to share. Best practices are often what people need as a model to best understand the tech as a tool and not a focus. If this engagement is not taking place, this might be a problem.
Geek Speak is power. To many, it seems to be a secret language. IT Directors use scary acronyms and weird sounding words that are not familiar to those who speak English. This language may intimidate the most educated person. It certainly impresses Superintendents. IT Directors use this language to explain the intricacies of each piece of technology. It may be a cause for some teachers backing away from professional development for Educational Technology.The “ins and outs” of the technical aspects mean little to teachers. We do not have to know how to build a car to drive it. This might be a problem.
Without splitting the responsibility of the job between Administrative tech and Educational tech there may be too much for one person to handle. There is a different skill sets required for the positions. The skills of an office manager are required for one job, while the skills of an educator are required for the other. Without a separation of duties, this might be a problem.
These are all generalizations. I am just stating things that have been said over the last twenty-five years. Technology moves very fast, and change in our education system moves very slowly. We may need to do a formative assessment at this point. Do we have the correct person in a position with the correct skills to do what is necessary to carry out the task? That is the very same question applied to teachers. In many districts the person and the job are matched well. If they are not, this might be a problem
Technology is not the focus of education. Learning should be the focus of education and technology is one of the tools that helps teachers teach. The next time you experience the Wizard in all of his ire and wrath. Forget the words bellowing from the loudspeaker,LET”S PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” We may need to pull back that curtain and help the man reach a higher level of efficiency and understanding to keep up with the pace of technology. If we don’t this might be a problem.
Please do not print this out and place it in your IT Director’s mailbox with “Look What This Guy Said About You” scribbled at the top. Send this Link to your IT Director. He or she may find a reason to comment. If we do not assess the needs, we may not address the problem and this might be a problem.