Veteran Teachers & Ed Tech

These thoughts were originally published on tumblr in response to this post about a June 10, 2015 edWeek article Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach

I’ve read this post & the cited edWeek article several times (you can read it here if you like) and was trying to just scroll by, but I feel there are too many people telling partial and/or inaccurate stories of Ed Tech and I wanted to share my thoughts on the “veteran teachers” discussion.

First and foremost, let’s just stop lumping people of any kind together for the sake of an argument. We have to stop making the claim/assumption that veteran teachers all have the same (outdated) views on technology. I have worked with a number of newer and/or younger teachers who are very reluctant to using technology in the classroom in addition to the veterans who have their concerns. I can also honestly say that some of the teachers I see embracing technology the most are the veterans, and they are leading the way and doing RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING things in their classrooms (as are some of the newer and some of the younger teachers).

By saying things like, “…modifications in their classroom practices (which have been working ‘just fine’, btw!) are not required for their classroom to thrive” you are saying that veteran teachers do not have any interest in improving their practice or trying new things to support their students. You are devaluing the incredible efforts of teachers who invest year after year to be the best teachers they can for their students, and who often sacrifice a great deal to be everything and do everything they can for the learners in their classrooms.

I recently spent the morning with a 15-year veteran and her 5th graders who were completely owning their learning. She has sought out funding to redesign her classroom space with flexible furniture and a makerspace and has one of the most student-centered, thoughtfully technology-enabled classrooms in our district. In the past year she has embraced Twitter and is using video to capture, reflect upon, and improve her classroom practice as well as to vlog about her experiences and share as readily as anyone I have seen. She said to me about a year ago, “I don’t always understand or feel comfortable with all the technology, but I HAVE to learn it. I don’t want to be left behind, and my kids need and deserve nothing less.”

She is just one of many veteran teachers who I see jumping in feet first, and much of their success is BECAUSE they are veteran teachers. They have the craftsmanship to bring technology into their classrooms with intentionality (a HUGE misstep I see in many classrooms today where they implement tech for tech’s sake). Their experience is an asset in knowing what is worth investing in and how to fight the right battles within an education system that doesn’t empower teachers or students to take ownership of their journeys currently. The skills many veteran teachers have in classroom management and pedagogy helps ensure technology is enhancing teaching and learning and not detracting from it.

Are there veteran teachers who are not embracing or understanding the value of technology? Absolutely. But there are also teachers in every other category in the same situation. And these teachers all work in an education system that is not completely understanding the value either, nor providing the time, space, professional learning, and systematic changes necessary for technology to be implemented successfully in every classroom (especially in schools with highly impacted or underrepresented populations). It is perplexing to me how many people readily place a focus on veteran teachers for a lack of meaningful technology integration in our schools but completely ignore things like ed tech equity and access, or the number of other issues impacting so many of our schools that should be getting the same, if not more, attention as ed tech. Ed tech is not a silver bullet, and we need to be more thoughtful about how we support teachers and schools with integrating technology and moving toward learner-centered classrooms instead of dumping money and resources into programs and ed tech companies that claim to be the very silver bullet that we know isn’t out there. Lots of tech tools and products can be a game changer in classrooms, but we have to seriously think through the WHY and then support everyone involved throughout the implementation.

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