Some teachers embrace technology; some push it away.
Every school has its early adopters—those who integrate technology in their classrooms without any urging. They find new tools and approaches outside the classroom and figure out ways to make them work inside. As smart, forward-thinking administrators, we make sure such teachers have the tools and support they need. These teachers serve as beacons of possibility and models for others to follow.
Too often, though, the models have not been emulated. Having lived in the trenches as a principal in a K-8 school district for a fair number of years, I have observed teachers pass by the early adopters the way they might walk past noisy street vendors: a quick look and an even quicker exit if what they see seems odd or intrusive.
Most teachers will not use technology if it does not directly support their curriculum that day, or at largest stretch, that week. This is completely understandable. As a state and a society, our expectations of teachers are huge. As administrators, we are also the enforcers of the daily demand that every moment of teaching match frameworks and standards and pacing guides. There’s plenty to do without juggling a bunch of extraneous technology.
A quiet change
Recently, though, a quiet change has been occurring in my district. As I talk to colleagues in other places, I’ve learned my experience is not unique. Schools across the nation have become smarter about purchasing technology, and many of our classrooms have received a huge face lift, technologically speaking.
Interactive white boards, document projectors, handheld devices, and projectors with lumen levels matching those of dwarf stars are now commonplace and rapidly becoming the new classroom expectation.
More significantly, many of the publishers of our state-adopted curricula have finally figured technology out. There are now appropriate, engaging, technology-rich resources available with many of our adopted materials. This came as a surprise to me because for years there was a dearth of publisher technologies supporting the curriculum, and those that did exist were clunky to use, thin in many areas, and lacking any real intellectual rigor.
That has changed. At my district and in my school, I walk down the halls and into classrooms every day to find most of my teachers using really cool math tools and resources which come from the publishers themselves—not from somewhere else. It’s exciting to see, and it is really good stuff. Even better, at least based on last year’s school and district math scores, it really seems to work.
Let me just give a full stop here and repeat this. The vast majority of teachers at my school are now using technology tools to improve their curriculum every day. This is a huge change in culture.
But is it real?
Recently I shared my observations with a couple of colleagues who are experienced, full-time technology professionals. Their reaction was very odd, as though I had disclosed an embarrassing fact about a crazy relative. I had the feeling that the publisher-provided tools were not viewed as “real technology” and somehow didn’t count.
So I went back and took another look. I didn’t change my mind. The publisher-created technology that accompanies much of our district curriculum is solid, appropriate, interesting, funny, motivating and educational. It also has the almost magical potency of being directly—yes, directly—related to the unit of study for the curriculum, which in turn is closely tied to state standards. It is here, ready-to-use, and relevant today. And that, my friends, just flat rocks.
If you haven’t done so, take a close look at the tech component that comes with the state-adopted materials used by your district. My sense is that most of you will be very pleasantly surprised. You’ll find that not all cool technology has to be corralled and brought to school; some great technology is already there.