Becoming a Digitally-Competent Teacher

It kind of drives me crazy when educators try to argue that they don’t need to be tech savvy. Yes, it takes work to keep up with rapidly changing technologies. No, not every new tech tool (toy?) needs to be adopted into a formal education setting. But it’s not 1989, people. I think it’s safe to say that computer technology is firmly in place in schools. And, yes, there has been a shift in the expectations for teachers because of this.

But it’s not as if this kind of shift hasn’t happened before.

Having the ability to write things down shifted the way education happens: now you don’t have to remember every single piece of information off the top of your head; you can write it down and look back at it later.

Having information available in books shifted the way education happens: now you can encounter ideas beyond your immediate experience or interactions with other people.

Having pencils with erasers shifted the way education happened: now you can easily change your mind about something you’ve written, erase, and rewrite.

Having ready access to computer technology (with internet access!) is yet another shift. And while there are always downsides you could argue, we could argue downsides to writing things down (“Now you don’t have to remember everything for yourself!”) or reading other people’s ideas (“This information is biased!”) or using a pencil (“No one takes a firm stand on anything; everyone is changing their mind!”), it seems to me that people are quick to point out the negatives to integrating computer technology in education.

Prensky Quote
Image by Jose Picardo [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
It seems to me that many experienced educators, and even administrators, expect young teachers at the beginning of their teaching career to be very tech-savvy. These experienced folks might look to their younger colleagues to lead the way for technology integration. But I think that might be a mistake. Here’s the thing: it takes a lot of thought and work to integrate technology well into your teaching practice. But honestly, it takes a lot of thought and work to do almost anything well in your teaching practice. So let’s stop using this as an excuse.

I sense a lot of fear in some educators when it comes to technology. I wonder why that is? (But, to be fair, I’m a technophile…)

Yes, the younger generation has been labeled “digital natives” because they have grown up with ready access to digital devices and a wired (wireless?) life. But do you describe yourself as “electricity native” because you grew up with widespread access to the powergrid? Do you describe your parents as “indoor plumbing native” because they grew up in the post-outhouse world?

Unfair expectations aside, I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about how we can do better to prepare novice teachers entering the profession for the challenges and expectations of technology integration. As a teacher educator, I think we can continue to get better at this…and if more experienced teachers are going to look to the younger generation of novice teachers to lead the way, we must continue to improve.

But I think it’s equally important for the veterans to continue to develop their facility in teaching with technology.

I saw this infographic from Daily Genius (@DailyGenius) on Twitter recently. I think it’s a good place for us (all of us, novice or veteran) to begin thinking about how we can use technology in our teaching practices. After all, each of us can (and should!) continue to learn and grow.

Digital TeacherImage by Daily Genius, and originally available here.

(This piece was originally posted on Dave’s blog, iTeach and iLearn.)

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