Friday, July 29, 2011

Technology is Not New

By Tammy Brown

Technology is not new. When I taught fourth grade I taught those nine years olds about the technological advances and new technology developed by the Archaic Indian culture. Throughout history humans have made their lives easier and, for the most part, better by thinking outside the box and developing tools to make those changes.

Now, flash forward to the 21st century. Today hundreds of new technologies are developed by the day. Each year when I teach my sixth graders about the industrial revolution of the United States and the time of the great inventors it is so very easy for them to grasp the idea of all the new advances that were developed because they live in such a time now. We as the adults in the classroom, in the front office, and up the street at the board offices are the ones that can’t quite grasp this idea of new technologies and just how it’s supposed to make our lives better.

We view these as nuisances, distractions, and “just another thing we can’t afford”. School systems are paying technology directors, technology integrations specialists, and technicians for their technology departments and I do applaud them for that effort. My question is, “why?” We’ve said we’re striving to make sure our students will be ready for the world that lies outside of high school, but are we? How can we be when we view new things in such negative ways? How can we prepare them for their world when we want them to conform to our current world and we can’t even grasp the current one?

Our technology departments have become nothing but a department that a lot of schools systems have given over to the operations department. Maintenance…we’re maintaining the status quo. If we truly believe it is our job to prepare our students we need to quit maintaining technology and embrace it, look for new ways to use what we have, expect more out of the lessons being taught, expect more out of the professional development opportunities offered to teachers. The adults in schools should look at technology like the Archaic Indians did; technology is a tool not a different subject matter. If we viewed technology for what it is instead of thinking “I don’t have time to teach it” then we could embrace it and use it to teach our lessons about the Archaic Indians.

The “digital natives” in our classrooms, all 30+ of them, see technology today just as the Archaic Indians viewed the atlatl. It’s a tool to be used to do every day activities, to make things easier, more efficient, faster, with more creativity and fun. We need to begin to embrace their future and speak their language and move from being “digital aliens” into the new world of “digital immigrants”.

I believe that if we truly care about our students’ future technology and all the tools will become part of our everyday life and we’ll learn to use these things to the fullest potential.

Tammy Brown is entering her 19th year of teaching in the Madison County School System where she teaches American History to the sixth graders at Central School. She began her career teaching first grade and has also taught fourth grade. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with a focus in Technology Integration. She is a Microsoft Master teacher, a certified SMART teacher, and the 2011 recipient of the Alabama State Department of Education’s Marbury Technology Innovation Award in the middle school division.

1 comment:

  1. Great article and great thoughts!!

    Of course I agree that technology is a tool, and I agree that teaching students to use tools is important, but perhaps the most important tool they should be taught to use is their mind.

    The pace of technological change today will make even out most cutting edge technologies obsolete, or at the very least surpassed, in less than twenty four months. Stated another way, the technology taught to a 6th grader today will be obsolete before they make it to high school.

    If however, we focus on teaching critical thinking, problem solving and adaptive learning we are educating a generation of inventors, thought leaders, and innovators. The challenge in education today is not teaching a rote understanding of the mechanics of math, grammar or history, but rather the application of that knowledge and the ability to use their understanding to solve problems we don't even know we have using technologies that don't yet exist.

    But don't take my word for it...