I just read an intriguing article by Dr Bronwyn Stuckey asking ‘Why aren’t more teachers involved in educational technology innovations?‘ It’s a question which to some large degree is entangled with a question I’ve discussed with many people, ‘Why are so few teachers prepared to learn to code?’
Here are some possible answers:
1. Time. Many teachers I know have little time available to them to do anything outside of preparation and marking. Adding in something left-field which doesn’t have a simple pay-off in day-to-day activities is just too much.
2. Inclination. Teachers are as much a product of, as purveyors of, the silo-mentality that pervades education today. Technology is the purview of maths and science geeks. Those operating in other disciplines were often not exposed to technology in any part of their training, and, equally often, opted for the discipline they teach in just because it didn’t involve maths or technology.
3. Fear of not knowing. Far too many teachers have succumbed to the idea that they have to know what they are doing – that the nature of teaching is being in charge. And they don’t like the fact the kids know more. At the recent ICTENSW conference a wonderful teacher made the point that the way he teaches technology is to let the kids take the lead and to openly admit that he doesn’t know all the answers. That’s a brave position to take.
4. Denial. There does appear to be a generation of older teachers who still believe that this pesky technology stuff is a passing fad that’s going to go away. The ones who won’t let students use a computer to take notes, who miss the parent-teacher meeting because they defiantly don’t use calendar software, who use the smartboard as a projector screen. Thanks to the timeline involved in change over the last 20 years, many of those are the more senior teachers setting the tone for schools.
5. Inability to see the point. This really ties into the innovation question – many teachers just can’t see the point. Unless you know something about how technology can be used, you can’t see how to use it. So an English teacher may well say ‘Coding is no use in teaching English’ simply because they don’t understand what can be done – say, for example, how much value there is in getting students to understand grammar through writing a program to construct sentences.
And, you see, one of the fundamentals of being involved in technology innovations IS understanding the technology. I would say learning to code is a prerequisite to technological innovation. Learning to code is the best way to grasp what is possible so that you can then look to innovate: Otherwise you’re not innovating, you’re just speculating.
There are some wonderful teachers out there doing amazing things with technology; but it would be foolish to think that was the majority. We sit at a cross-roads where we need to get a substantial majority of teachers to adopt and absorb technology, as producers as much as consumers, so that we can instill the necessary skills into the next generation. And so we can see more teachers involved in educational technology innovations.