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What is it that makes it so hard?

So we don’t have flying cars yet like we all predicted would happen, but new technology still pervades the 21st century. Cell phones, digital cameras, Internet, GPS in cars, podcasting, videoconferencing, ichatting… the list goes on and on. It used to be assumed that if you were talking to yourself as you walked down the street that you were a crazy person. Now it is assumed you are on a cell phone, iPod or some other digital contraption that is connecting you to someone or somewhere else. And age is not a factor either. From 3 to 103, all races, all languages, all sizes and shapes, everywhere around the world, technology is a part of people’s lives.

So if the use of technology is so pervasive in the world, why is it that when you walk into a classroom it not uncommon to see a dusty computer in the corner of the room that is rarely, if ever, turned on.

Oh, I’ve heard the excuses. I only have one computer and 20 kids. It never works right. I don’t trust the kids on it by themselves. The Internet is always down. I just don’t have time. Valid excuses? Debatable. Pencils break; kids have to share glue; they cut their hair with their scissors. But nobody ever gives up on those tools. I’ve never heard a teacher say, “We’re not using scissors, due to fact that they can be very dangerous for a 5 year old, we will tear everything by hand this year.” Yes, we’ve learned to work around the negatives of these tools; we know how to train children to use them; we make them a priority in our budget; we take the time to teach the kids to use them; they cannot and will not be replaced.

So why can’t it be the same for technology? I’ve seen the answers to the previously stated problems disappear and still no change. Better and bigger capacity cable is run, internet is stable. More computers are in the classroom. The kids are trained. They have time in the computer lab to learn the skills. But still the classroom is no reflection of the outside world.

There are 3 main factors that I believe contribute to this dilemna. The first is the LIFE factor. This factor deals with a teacher’s personal use and attitude towards technology. Do they use and value technology in their daily personal life to connect to family and friends? to plan vacations? even to shop? Next is the WORK factor. Do they use and value technology in their daily professional life? Do they see technology making their life easier to contact parents or colleagues? To do research? To organize data, grading, lesson plans? The next, and possibly the most important factor, is the STYLE factor. Is their teaching style conducive to integrating technology at it best? Do they strive to create a cooperative, collaborative, engaging and interactive environment for their students?

The answer, I believe, is deal with these factors one by one, for each individual teacher at an individual pace, to celebrate each step towards a 21st century classroom and to be patient because change takes time.

As a new tech coordinator (1 yr.), I see much of what you've described, but am still trying to figure out how to "integrate technology into classrooms". It is so much easier said than done. My questions are: which technology?, which classrooms? and when?

We've found time is a real problem, both for the tech staff and for teachers. It seems that to implement a new application, new method, or new tool which blends technology into the lesson, it takes repeated efforts with individuals or very small groups in order to catch on.

Our district has certainly spent a lot of money on computers, cabling, laptops, projectors, classroom responders, etc., but are students using it and benefittng? I'm sure some are, but what percentage, and what about the have-nots (or want-nots).

I liked what you wrote, insightful and concise. I'll check back - I have a week-old blog of my own.

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