The level of technology has increased and continues to increase at a rapid rate in the world around us. It would be nearly impossible to find a profession or career that has not been radically affected by technology in general, and more specifically the computer. All professional fields, from diagnostician to dairy farmer have seen computer technology playing larger roles in their day to day functions. Among our many responsibilities as educators is the need to help our students be prepared for what awaits them in their future roles in society. Denying the tremendous importance of technology use in your classroom and as a teaching tool, is denying an aspect of your role as an educator and an aspect of student’s needs. Facing up to the challenge of integrating technology in the classroom and in our curriculums presents several problems.
If we agree as to the important role of technology in modern education, we must further admit that there are at present great problems with the integration of technology into the general curriculum of schools around our nation. Education for the instructor deals with the art of imparting knowledge in a subject area and grade level in which that instructor is adept and competent. More importantly, teachers function as a guide to the students “discovery “ of said knowledge. Educators, philosophers, scientists and psychologist alike have long pondered over effective methods of teaching and on how humans acquire and apply knowledge. The computer has only emerged as a factor in educational objectives relatively recently. Because of its “newcomer” status the computer has yet to find a sound, firm resting place in classrooms around our country and with teachers and administrators in the schools. Many teachers and schools have accepted the fact that computer technology is important to their students but are just not sure how the technology should be used.
Some teachers who have worked in education for many years, have gained experience with what “works” in their classroom. They have had success with traditional methods of instruction and assessment, and have prepared their classrooms to function around those methods of teaching with which they are comfortable, and with which they believe their students enjoy success. Teachers who fit this description may resist or even resent the suggestion of integrating new technology into their classrooms: “If it’s not broken why fix it” is an adage that describes this type of resistance.
Other educators, already overwhelmed with the daunting tasks involved with preparing lessons, grading papers and tests, preparing for mandated assessments and general classroom management, see the introduction of computers and new technology into their classroom as one more stone piled onto their delicately balanced scuttle. They respond like the character Scotty on the original Star Trek episodes when Captain Kirk has requested that he make the Enterprise move faster: “We jus can’t duh’ it captain, we haven’t got the power!”(read with Scottish accent) is how they may be thinking.
Still others have a desire to integrate the newest technology but simply have not been properly trained to do so. Because of our busy schedules, large workloads and familial obligations, it is extremely difficult to find time to become computer literate. With technology changing so fast it is time consuming to keep up with the latest trends not to mention learn a whole new language and set of commands and functions. These teachers might respond: “Computers, I’d love to but I thought a laptop was the place where my cat sleeps!”
All of the aforementioned attitudes are cute simplified versions of real problems that exist in the minds of educators in different variations and extremes. All are also completely valid and deserved to be adressed. The solution however is not so simple. Even as school districts and educators around the country are working on integrating technology into the classroom in a smooth and agreeable fashion the dilemma remains: What do we do with it once it is there?
The effectiveness of computers as stepping-stones to real learning has everything to do with how computers are used in the school. Just as in traditional lessons keeping students on task, setting goals, objectives, and outcomes and providing for assessment are essential. The pedagogy involved in the use of computers in classroom or lab lessons may vary greatly from more traditional methods, therefore extensive training is integral to any technology plan. I am of the opinion that any district that spends millions of dollars on new technology and little or none towards offering training to teachers is wasting their money. The mere presence of technology is not enough to provide the best learning experience for our children.
Having qualified leadership in administrative positions with regards to technology is now an essential to every school. Very often a big problem with the integration of technology into the curriculum stems from the decision-makers themselves. Administrators and board members in schools around the country allocate tremendous funding for technology plans with every good intention of bringing their school or district up to speed with the technological world. Without much prior experience and without a proper template to follow, the plans are often flawed. Commercial firms and salespeople often steer districts in directions that may not necessarily be the best for their particular school but will result in a substantial profit for their firm. Many schools have already created technological administrator’s positions. This position should be appointed to an individual with the student’s best interest in mind and a tremendous amount of knowledge in the field of computer technology. This person would also hopefully provide guidance and advice to all technological purchases that district had planned.
Aside from finding sufficient funding, the main problems schools around our country face in integrating new technology in the curriculum is in teacher-readiness, proper teacher-training and sound technology plans from the administration. Adressing these in no simple task but with time, cooperation and the overall needs of students in mind, educators will rise to meet this challenge.