This post has been written by Lindsey Wright
As technology continues to make its way into classrooms, some
teachers and administrators push back and resist changes that in the
outside world have long been accepted. Advances in technology,
particularly the Internet, have made permanent changes in almost
every sector, mostly to nods of approval. With the exception of some
outstanding examples like online college courses, education is the
only sector that maintains strong resistance to these developments.
Why is this?
Traditionalists as Teachers
The education system is one of the last strongholds of a very strong
sense of traditionalism. While teachers new to the field are more
open to the integration of technology in learning, it’s important to
remember that these new teachers are part of a generation who grew up
with computers and digital technology in their daily lives. When they
graduate and begin teaching, they’re met by a vanguard of teachers
and administrators whose own first contact with technology may have
been chastising their own children for wasting time on video games.
Thanks to continuing cuts in education funding and elimination of
teaching positions, the newest teachers are often the first ones to
be cut, leaving older teachers who view technology as a time waster
rather than as an educational opportunity. These same educators are
likely to also put education on a pedestal, and see it as something
above and separate from all other sectors, something to remain
unsullied by the perceived taint of technological advance. No one
contests that teaching the next generation is an extremely important
charge, the reality is that with technology playing a crucial role in
every other aspect of our lives removing it from the education
process does our children a great disservice.
Researchers in Belgium recently conducted a study that looked at how
teachers’ beliefs impacted the use of computers in the classroom. The
researchers stressed that most teachers’ beliefs and attitudes are
established before they ever see pupils of their own. In fact, a
great deal of their attitudes about teaching and learning are set by
their own experiences as students. If teachers’ beliefs about
teaching are rooted 20 years in the past, how can we break through
and embrace the realities of today’s technological advances and the
potential they have as teaching tools?
Additionally, and partly thanks to cuts in education funding, some
teachers fear being replaced by technology. Some may have concerns
about promoting technologically facilitated learning for fear of
becoming expendable and even superfluous. After all, if learning can
be outsourced to a computer, what need do we have for human teachers?
Truthfully, these teachers have nothing to worry about. No computer
can replace human understanding and, while a computer may be able to
successfully administer a math test or proctor other simple quizzes,
it can’t help personalize math teaching to each student or grade
Getting Past the Traditionalist Mindset
How can we get traditionalist teachers onboard with technologies in
classrooms? As teachers who’ve been in the system longer retire and
are slowly replaced with teachers who grew up using technology, the
system will eventually even itself out. However, this is a slow
process and not one likely to benefit today’s children. Instead, we
need to focus on encouraging our current educators to become more
comfortable with the technology that’s already available. By
promoting workshops to give teachers a chance to interact with the
tools in a hands-on manner and present a strong focus on the benefits
these tools provide, we can convince more of today’s educators.
By demonstrating the positive learning outcomes technology can
facilitate and what benefits it can provide students (especially
those who don’t respond well to more traditional teaching methods ),
teachers may be persuaded to move past limiting traditionalist views.
It’s important to emphasize to teachers and administrators that
adding technological tools to schools is not simply for the sake of
promoting technology, but because students need the opportunity to
learn the skills that will be a part of their lives as beyond school.
The benefits of educational technological tools are countless and
traditionalism for the sake of traditionalism is just as problematic
as technology for the sake of technology.