Teaching Profession Opinion

The Tech Shift: From Tried and True to New

By Jody Passanisi — January 28, 2013 3 min read
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Jody Passanisi

Ryan Kinser writes in his post that, “There are too many of us who fear technology, who believe sound pedagogy doesn’t require it ... .” This is true. It is something that every one of us encounters at our schools. I tried to address this fear in my last post—how playing with technology can help teachers become more comfortable with tech. But to even get to that point, it is important to look at the rationales behind this fear of technology.

Understand the Fear
Implementing technology in the classroom can be challenging, but no teacher is trying to be difficult or stubborn by refusing to do so. Most teachers truly feel that their way is better—the way that has been tried and true for them. Teachers need to be shown why; they need to have the usefulness of technology “proven” to them. Having a “prove-it-to-me” attitude is a good one to have in this case, because it will help teachers ensure that the new technologies they employ are done so purposefully.

Because the reality is that teachers must (discerningly) employ these technologies now; it isn’t an option any more.

To help ease this transition from tried-and-true to new, let’s put it into a historical context. Yesterday, during history class, we discussed one of our U.S. History course’s themes: “The use, disuse, and misuse of new technologies are crucial to shaping the events in a country’s history.”

When the students brainstormed for meaning, they first came up with the usual: iPads, computers, GPS, etc. But when pressed, the students realized that technology goes way further back than that.

Just like the wheel, technology is any tool that allows us increased ability to do something we were doing already, or ... to do something completely new. We need to communicate to the teachers in our schools that technology isn’t here to hurt us, it is here to help make what we were doing in education better, and to help us imagine a different world of education for the future.

While historically technology has been used for good and for bad, there is no doubt it has led to progress. It has led us here. Of course teachers are resistant to new technology. In the past, people have always found the psychological shift from what is comfortable to what is new to be challenging. When teachers are reminded of this shift that has occurred over and over throughout history, it puts this conversation in a different perspective.

Compare and Contrast
One thing that has worked to help educators (or anyone) clear this mental hurdle is pointing out these shifts in history. This video, which humorously depicts a monk in the Middle Ages getting tech support to deal with his “new” book, is often a good icebreaker to begin this metacognitive conversation.

Additionally, pointing out times when technology has worked better than the “low-tech” alternative will help this shift.

For example, social studies students can use Skype, or similar programs, to speak with politicians—a face-to-face interaction that would likely not be possible without technology. Letter writing, the “low-tech” version, would not be as effective or as efficient—or as powerful.

In the same vein, presentations used to be limited to posterboard and, more recently, Powerpoint. Now, myriad types of presentation software and platforms allow students to imagine presentations that are meaningful, sophisticated, and unique. Previously, presentations lacked individuality because of the limitation of the tools.

Showing teachers these instances where the technology allows for the expanding of classroom opportunities, including demonstrating students’ unique talents, will only help to show the value, purposefulness, and necessity of shifting to the world of technology.

Make the Shift ... and Like It
Yes, change is hard, and can be it is painful for teachers to see everything they’ve worked for using the old technologies be replaced by something new. But we all need to see this as an opportunity: We can create new things, imagine new ideas, and build off the foundation of work that has already been done. We won’t know what can be done until we dive in and try.

Keep this in mind when you are helping implement new technologies in your settings: These shifts have happened in the past and we have improved as a society because of them.

Jody Passanisi is a middle school teacher at an independent school in the Los Angeles area and a clinical educator in the Day School Leadership Through Teaching’s teacher-induction program. She and her teaching partner, Shara Peters, write about education on their blog and on Twitter @21centuryteachr.

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