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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On Being Good

In 2006, can you be a good teacher without using technology? Are you doing your job if you don't use technology?

This was a very intriguing question posed by David Warlick in a recent post of his. I’ve struggled with this question, and I think I’ve come to a personal resolution about what I think.

OK, get ready to fire up those comments…

David posed these questions, with his answers:

Can a teacher be a good teacher without using technology? A resounding “YES!”

David continues:
Is that teacher doing his or her job? An emphatic "NO!"

I get stuck on the first answer. I certainly agree with the second. My issue: Can you be a good teacher when you don't do your job?

I think that if you asked most educators the first question, they would also answer yes. But I think that this thought is a very dangerous one, and in many ways, helps explain why our current application of technology to learning in the United States is typically optional and much less than optimal.

Think about it. I can be a good teacher without using technology. I can just hear it. “OK, fine, then I won’t worry about it because being good is pretty good. I’ll focus on other things because I have a lot on my plate. One less thing….”

And we wonder why teachers are less than interested in technology “integration.” They can be good without it. Press the easy button….

“I’m satisfied with being good, nothing wrong about being a good teacher….”

Wrong.

In my opinion, a fundamental belief that all schools, and all teachers, should believe in is that technology is critical, in fact, mission-critical to the learning process. And if you are not engaging in that mission-critical process with kids, and helping them understand how to use the tools of 21st Century technology, then you are doing less than you should. It’s that simple.

Three questions:

Is the use of technology as critical as effective classroom management, in what a teacher does?

Is the use of technology as critical as effective assessment strategies, in what a teacher does?

And is the use of technology as critical as effective cooperative learning strategies, in what a teacher does?

My answers? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

I believe that the effective use of technology in the classroom is equal, and just as important, as proper classroom management, just as important as effective assessment, and just as important as structuring learning in collaborative settings. It’s all part of a package, a vision if you will, of what constitutes good….

If you believe the above statement to be true, then how will you respond to these questions?

Could you be a good teacher if you didn’t use effective classroom management strategies?

Could you be a good teacher if you just ignored the proper methodologies for assessing students?

And could you be a good teacher if you just didn’t bother to help kids learn how to work collaboratively, and you just basically lectured 24-7?

Is it possible to be a good teacher if you ignored essential elements of your profession-essential elements that are absolutely mission-critical to learning and to the success of your students throughout the rest of their lives?

No, it’s not.

And another question. Would you be satisfied with an entire school of good teachers, none of whom used technology? You’d have a whole school of good teachers sure enough, but none using the very tools that can take students beyond the assembly line of the industrial age school to a place where learning is completely different, and prepares them for the competitive world ahead.

Would you be satisfied with that?

Did every one see Karl Fisch’s PowerPoint “Did you know?” Everyone really liked that, including me. How would a good teacher who didn’t use technology help address and reverse those trends contained in that presentation? How could that same teacher help our kids find their place in the world if they ignored one of the very tools that would be instrumental in such a mission?

Frankly, I’m tired of technology as a second class educational citizen. It’s not OK not to use it.

Simply put, a good teacher must know when and how to use technology to help kids learn, and must demonstrate it conscientiously, creatively and continually.

It’s one of the most important steps in becoming a great teacher….


Originally published in the Techlearning.com blog. David Warlick, Wesley Fryer, Miguel Guhlin, Terry Freedman, and David Jakes are the Techlearning blogerati.

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