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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

Seven Stupid Mistakes Teachers Make With Technology

Stupid is as stupid does.
             --Forrest Gump

“Stupid” is not my favorite word. It sounds mean, harsh and ugly. But after reading in Newsweek that 25 percent of employees visit porn sites from work, and that the adult video industry claims that hits on porn sites are highest during the work day*, it was truly the only term that seemed to fit that sort of human behavior. I don't have any overwhelming objections to pornography, per se. But perusing it at work? That's just stupid.

I use the term stupid under fairly constrained conditions. To me, a stupid act has a degree of willfulness about it and is serious. Making an error once is ignorance; making the same mistake multiple times is stupidity. Unfortunately, I see stupid acts and beliefs related to technology in schools far too often.

These would be my nominees for the most stupid things** a teacher can do related to technology...

1. Not backing up data. "You mean having two copies of my files on the hard drive doesn't count as a backup?" The first time a teacher loses his or her precious data, my heart breaks. The second time, well, stupidity ought to cause some suffering.

2. Treating a school computer like a home computer. Teachers who use a school computer to run a business, edit their kid's wedding videos, or send tasteless jokes to half of North America (including that fundamentalist math teacher down the hall) are being stupid. Teachers who take their computers home and let their kids hack on them are being stupid. Teachers who don't own a personal computer for personal business deserve to get into well-deserved trouble.

3. Not supervising computer-using students. It is really stupid to believe Internet filters will keep kids out of trouble on the Internet. If they choose to do so, even the slow kids who can't get around the school's filter can still exploit that 10 percent of porn sites the filter won't catch. They can still send cyberbullying e-mail -- maybe even using your e-mail address. Or they can just plain waste time.

4. Thinking online communication is ever private. Eventually, everyone sends an embarrassing personal message to a listserv. I've heard of some tech directors who get their jollies reading salacious inter-staff e-mails. Your school e-mails can be requested and must be produced if germane to any federal lawsuits. Even e-mail deleted from your computer still sits on servers somewhere -- often for a very loooong time. Think you wiped out your browsing history? Don't bet that is the only set of tracks you've left that show where you've been surfing. Your Facebook page will be looked at by the school board chair; your superintendent and principal know who the author of that "anonymous" blog is. Not assuming everyone can see what you send and do online is stupid.

5. Believing that one's teaching style need not change to take full advantage of technology. Using technology to simply add sounds and pictures to lectures is stupid. Smart technology use is about changing the roles of both teacher and student. The computer-using student can now be the content expert; the teacher becomes the process expert asking such questions as “Where did you get that information? How do you know it's accurate? Why is it important? How can you let others know what you discovered? And how can you tell if you did a good job?” The world has changed, and it is rank stupidity not to recognize it and change as well.

6. Ignoring the intrinsic interest of tech use in today's kids. Kids like technology. Not using it as a hook to motivate and interest them in their education is stupid.

7. Thinking technology in schools will go away. The expectation that "This too shall pass" has worked for a lot of educational practices and theories. Madeline Hunter, Outcomes-Based Education, whole language, and (soon) NCLB all had their day in the sun before being pushed aside by the next silver bullet. (I think that metaphor was a bit confused. Sorry.) But it is stupid to think technology in education will go away. It isn't going away in banking, medicine, business, science, and agriculture - anywhere else in society. Anticipating that "this too shall pass" about technology is pretty stupid.

Next in TechProof: Seven Brilliant Uses Teachers Make of Technology

* And you wondered what those strange noises were coming from the next cubicle.
** While surfing for porn at work might qualify as the MOST stupid mistake a teacher can make with technology, those CIPA-required filters that only the kids know how to get around are keeping this act off my teacher stupid list. And I bet you thought CIPA was about protecting kids.

Meet Doug Johnson

Doug Johnson has been the Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato Public Schools since 1991 and has served as an adjunct faculty member of Minnesota State University, Mankato since 1990. His teaching experience has included work in grades K-12 in schools both here and in Saudi Arabia. He is the author of four books -- The Indispensable Librarian; The Indispensable Teacher's Guide to Computer Skills; Teaching Right from Wrong in the Digital Age; and Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part. His regular columns appear in Library Media Connection, Leading & Learning and The School Administrator magazines and his articles have appeared in more than 40 books and periodicals. Doug has conducted workshops and given presentations for more than 130 organizations throughout the United States as well as in Malaysia, Kenya, Thailand, Germany, Qatar, Canada, the UAE and Australia. He has held a variety of leadership positions in state and national organizations, including ISTE and AASL.

Article by Doug Johnson
Education World®
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Updated 03/06/2012