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My Weary Query

Teachers are tired. Teaching is a tiring profession. It is very emotional. Teachers are also tired of technology since it has been pushed into the schools from above for years and rarely with any thought about as to how it would really integrate into actual classroom practice, or what teachers actually wanted to do, or about how it impacts the relationships within a classroom that are so important."
~ Wei Ma, Ph. D. student in educational studies, EDTEC blog

Isnt it interesting how a simple blogging message can launch you onto an intense self-think? Presented with such certainty, Wei Mas comments ran so contrary to what Ive experienced as an educator that they made me stop in my reading tracks and think. Although there are definitely elements of teaching that make me weary at times, technology is not one of them. If anything, technology integration is the thing that inspires me and fuels my teaching fire. In spite of that, I know that Wei Ma is right. For many educators, technology initiatives invoke feelings of dread, anxiety, or apathy. That often has perplexed me. How can the very thing that invigorates my teaching serve as a draining experience for another teacher? Its almost like were looking at the same thing through different glasses.

I decided to ask my colleagues on the MiddleTalk listserve if technology initiatives and integration are a source of weariness for them, and if they agreed with Wei Mas statements. Responses came from the far corners of North America and, as you would expect, were as varied as the locations.

VOICES FROM THE FIELD

Technology is change and change is hard for many people. For me, technology has not been pushed in "from above." I embrace technology and seek it out. Technology reflects a different way of teaching and learning as well as a different way of life.
~ Julie, Kansas

My Weary Query Series

Be sure to read Part 2 of Brenda Dyck's blog on how technology initiatives affect teachers, which asks the question "Why don't all teachers innovate when they are given computers?"

Are technology initiatives and integration a source of weariness for you? Share your thoughts on the Education World message board.

I do not feel technology has been pushed down on me. Perhaps because I was fortunate to be a part of Michigan's Freedom to Learn Laptop Initiative, which had a built-in PD component, I feel differently than others. However, I am always willing to be the guinea pig for new tech tools that come out. I am excited to share ideas with my students and have them share what they know with me. I embrace technology and how it is constantly changing my personal and professional lives.
~ Cossondra, Michigan

Many of you commented that it's not the technology as much as the adapting to technology that some of us might find stressful or tiring, and I agree. When Apple IIe's and Commodore 64's first became visible in our classrooms (usually at the teacher's expense), we had no idea of the changes that would be taking place in education! In the last ten years, many of the mundane tasks of classroom management have been relegated to the computer, and it hasn't been easy for some of us to switch from the more tactile paper society to a paperless society (a paperless society that requires hard copies of everything on a weekly basis). My own adjustment has been to develop tolerance for the icons that can't be changed into words on my computer screen! If I had lived before the creation of written language, I'm sure that I would have been helpless.
~ Ernie, Nevada

My experience lately (at a couple of different schools) is that technology has been mandated from above: You will use X if you want to keep working here, and you will use it Y number of times. These mandates have come with very little training on how to actually integrate it into the classroom. That makes me more frustrated and antagonistic, than weary.
~ Tracey, Georgia

I agree that technology simply is an aspect of change, which is inevitable. The key, I think, is how that change is facilitated. It can be scary and wearing, or it can be exciting and engaging -- just like teaching and learning. By the way, exciting and engaging can certainly result in being weary, but it's a different quality of wearinessweary from doing good, meaningful work is different from weary doing meaningless work.
~ Chris, Maine

I am weary of fighting to try to GET the technology! I see and hear about wonderful uses and applications, but not in my school or district. We are so far behind, and, therefore, our students are so far behind, I don't know how we would ever catch up! I can personally add little bits and pieces, but my own wallet will not make up the deficit for my classroom or my students. I would happily join the learning curve, but I am weary of the acquisition fight.
~ Patti, California

Technology invigorates me. I love it! Far from having it forced on me, I seek out the newest gadgets and introduce them to my students as often as possible. Why? Because I have seen how much these gizmos improve my effectiveness with my students. I rely on the students I teach to show me what is effective and what no longer works. I do not wait for the adults in charge to figure it out.
~ Cynda

Yes, I am weary, my staff is weary, my students are weary, and our parents are weary. It's the same song -- too many initiatives each year, no follow-through, no revision, and with no authentic feedback or input allowed. Technology is only available to the computers teachers and the few who can weasel their way into the lab between classes. Technology as tools? Until last year, I was using a Pentium 2 computer in my classroom. We are still unable to download applications to our teacher stations, as they are used for doing attendance and word processing. The wiring in our building makes high-speed Internet as realistic as light-speed travel. We buzz about 21st Century Learners, but ban laptops, iPhones, MP3 players, and cell phones. It seems to me that we treat digital natives with the traditional European practice of assimilating and crushing native culturesNow, is it technology that wearies me; the Damoclesian promise of it; the annoyingly positive attitudes of those who have it and use it (the more annoying practice of having it but not using it); or the confounding policies that encourage/mandate/block its effective use? I don't know. The bottom line is, yes, we're weary, but we're still pushing through!
~ Neil, Canada

I think teachers are weary of hardware and software training. I think the missing link is the professional development that speaks to integration and results. Why will using a SMART board engage my students? Which content lends itself to the technology? How can online communication enhance my relationships with my students, my colleagues? In Pennsylvania, we are spending tens of millions of dollars on a Classrooms for the Future initiative that places laptops in the hands of teachers and students and Promethian boards in classrooms...AND much of the .coaching around using these tools to enhance student engagement gets reduced to hooking up the systems, not in reflecting on its benefits. Teachers need to have a forum in which they can practice, reflect, and refine integrating technology into their lessons and units. They need to build understanding of the benefits through experimentation not mandate. Otherwise, they will resist and revert back to the familiar until this too goes away.
~ Chris, Pennsylvania

I think what wearies us is the layer upon layer of seemingly unconnected new initiatives and the revolving door of administrators who rotate in and change things, then rotate out as someone new comes in to change things once again. Wei Ma's words about pushed down from above and little thought about how to integrate describe many initiatives and directives. When computers quit, or the server is down, or you have to fight for space in the lab and then give it up before your project is done -- that's wearying. But that is poor management and insufficient funding -- not the integration of technology into our teaching. Frustrating yes, but symptomatic of many aspects of school. Technology integration is invigorating. I still remember my first Apple IIc -- I thought I had gone to teacher heaven, even with those floppy disks. For the first time, I could create student materials that were error free, and I could change them easily. When I got my first Mac and accessed the Internet from home -- oh my goodness, the possibilities seemed endless. Then, when I could take the entire class to a lab and see kids who usually were just defeated by writing, take pride in a piece they created -- that was just the best. I won't even begin to describe how computer access turned projects from drudgery into excitement.
~ Jill, Maine

I am weary. I've been in this business for 20 years. I'm weary of too many people who try to tell me what to do and how to do it. Cut me some slack. I am a professional and I want to do what is best for my students. I want them to grow into productive citizens who pay taxes to keep this country on track and pay into social security so I don't have to eat dog food in my declining years. Technology is just a tool. If someone tells me that I HAVE to use it, it's the same as someone telling me I HAVE to spend the two weeks before testing to prepare for the test.
~ Ellen

I am not weary at this point. Yes, I'm only four years into my teaching career. Yes, due to my age I'm much more like a digital suburbanite than a digital immigrant. I do feel that a lot of the technology staff development I have received has been poorly designed. I can see why many teachers who have been in the classroom longer feel discouraged and weary with the pace and change of technology. Many schools are looking for a magic fix with technology. Just as with anything in the classroom, there is no magic. There is hard work behind the scenes and well thought out planning on the part of the teacher to incorporate the technology in a meaningful manner.
~ Todd

Next: Brenda explores the complex and sometimes messy process of classroom technology integration. What can we learn from the voices from the field -- everyday teachers who are trying to make sense of how emerging technologies fit into the 21st century learning landscape -- and how can we use their insights to answer the question "Why dont teachers innovate when they are given computers?"

About the Author

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author: Brenda Dyck
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09/12/2008
Updated 07/28/2009