As a doctoral student who specializes in educational technology and science education, meaning I work with a lot of preservice teachers and as a result inservice teachers, I have witnessed how the established education community mixes with technology. And that would be about as well as oil mixes with water. It can be done, but it takes a LOT of effort. However, this knowledge did not prepare me for what I have experienced at my own campus.
This academic year included an office move for me, to a space where I could productively pursue my classwork and research interests. Meaning I am on campus for a more extended time than in the past. I am a social person so this has been a pleasant change as I now have the opportunity to interact with faculty and my fellow grad assistants on a more consistent basis. But this proximity has also brought into disturbing focus the fact that not a whole lot of technology is being utilized to conduct business. Other than the occasional reference to our LMS WebCampus, which right now is invariably a complaint as we have updated our version of Blackboard Learn, it would appear technology has not advanced since Microsoft introduced their office suite (or whatever term Apple uses to refer to their office software as apparently almost everyone but me uses Apple products). Sometimes I feel like the red-headed step child, the family is amused by my use of tech toys but these toys appear to send the signal that I am “different”.
Having come from two different industries, banking and engineering, this is extremely confusing. How can a productive person NOT want to use a tool that can help him/her create and work more efficiently and effectively? If I were still in engineering and using the same type of tools as many of my fellow grad students, I would be using an abacus and drafting design plans by hand. It is a mystery to me why those in education perceive technology to be an “extra” as opposed to a necessary component of “getting the job done”. I understand that technology changes quickly and it can be difficult to keep up. However Google Docs has been available for quite some time, and YouTube’s closed captioning ability combined with Hangout On Air or recorded Skype sessions should be part of the repertoire of anyone conducting interviews. I may be misinterpreting the signals, but it seems there is almost a disdain for technology, that it is not worth the effort as the “old ways” work well enough. Maybe that is one of the reasons it is taking time to spread from higher education to the K-12 classrooms. If preservice teachers do not see technology used as a matter of fact in their classrooms, why should they make that extra effort?
But I do believe there is hope. Recently I presented some information about student-centered technology to a group of student teachers at a local high school. Of course I would have preferred the session to be more hands-on, but the time frame did not allow for that opportunity. The up side is I will be returning for a real workshop, not merely a presentation. However, I did see their eyes and hear their comments as I demonstrated some of the interactive features of a SMART Board. None of these student teachers have had the opportunity to use the Notebook software. The excitement was palpable as they began to brainstorm how they could guide student learning in their own classrooms, and they began listing all of the ways SMART Boards could help students for their content areas. These student teachers realized the value of technology and the implications for its use in their future careers. That moment made me glad I have chosen to specialize in educational technology, and more importantly, I did not feel “different” in that room.