"I don't really have enough time to make this stuff."
For the past few years I have been working in my Ed Tech capacity, I've had the opportunity to model lessons using some of the innovative tech tools available to teachers today. When teachers see how engaging technology can be with their students, they get predictably excited as well. Then just as many of us feel when watching the Olympics, they say something to the effect: "That was so amazing, I wish I had the time/talent/know-how/etc... to do that with my students". I know that there are times when it can feel overwhelming when adding "one more thing" to the plate of a teacher that is already under distress from the demands already placed upon their students and themselves.
I remember being encouraged to be a "life-long learner" in college and in my early days of teaching. I found that as I got more comfortable teaching in one grade level for a few years, the urgency of becoming a life-long learner began to wane and I started to forget the importance of staying up to date on the latest curriculum, tools, and pedagogical practices.
When I began work as an ed tech I learned that there were many aspects of my job that required self-directed research to be an effective support for the teachers I was charged with training. This has caused me to work hard to spend time learning about tools that can really help teachers teach and students learn.
This is an honest, legitimate concern. I truly understand that the prospect of preparing lessons for 5 different subject areas each day can be quite a load to carry. The time it takes to really learn a new tool can make the process seem even more daunting. Insisting that teachers utilize technology is asking more than just swapping out that worksheet activity for this video and online quiz. It means they are going to have prepare materials in a new way and present them in a new way that may be so different it can seem quite terrifying. It means that they are taking the time to learn to teach material that may be very familiar in a wholly unfamiliar way. This is where the technology sell becomes more difficult. If teachers feel that students will learn just as well with the established practices done sans technology, why put anyone through the terrifying ordeal of trying something new that they feel could potentially fail and waste classroom teaching and preparation time?
The fact is the content teachers have been asked to teach has never been more rigorous. This is why it can seem that we never have enough time to "get through" all the curriculum we are being asked to teach. Students are coming from ever more diverse backgrounds in classrooms everywhere, making the ability to engage and meet the needs of various cognitive levels at the same time nearly impossible with traditional teaching methods. The answer to meeting these needs is to use technology effectively. If a teacher can teach content and gather feedback data from students at the same time, lessons can automatically be sped up or slowed depending on how well concepts are grasped. So, why should we use technology today? My answer is- properly using technology is the ONLY way we will be able to teach effectively.
School is a laboratory for students to learn how to live, participate, and contribute to the world. The technology outside of the school walls has advanced at a break-neck pace. The students can only be prepared to really use the technology they will be required to use in the world if they have the opportunity to use it (learn it) effectively in their current job- student.
This means that the minimum qualifications required for an educator are changing too. How can we ask them to be curious and engaged if we are too afraid to really learn about and implement the tools of our trade? We are in the time where it is no longer optional to do without technology and adequately educate our students. In order to make them ready for college and/or careers after they finish grade school, we must be likewise prepared. The good news is that it has never been more possible to learn about these great tools. Online tutorials are available for every quality tool I can find. School districts are recognizing the kinds of supports teachers need and hiring ed tech specialists to help transition teachers to the digital age. The cost of obtaining hardware is becoming so affordable that schools are offering unprecedented student device access. The reasons to put off using technology are becoming fewer. The urgency of implementing these practices and tools is becoming greater every year.
It's time to understand that to be a competent teacher, technology proficiency is as important as understanding how to multiply, read, or write. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the technology, start with one tool and get used to using it with students. It will become more comfortable. The preparation process will become more efficient as familiarity with the tool increases. We owe it to ourselves and our students to continue to innovate and research new ways to reach students through technology. Life-long learning is a critical part of being an effective educator. Becoming a teacher that effectively uses technology not only increases student engagement, it most importantly increases engagement with the profession.