Are You a Tech Teacher or an Education Reformer?

I am honored to have Will Chamberlain be the first guest author in this series on practical ways to implement change in your school. Will is a valued member of my PLN. I look for his insight on a wide-range of topics, particularly with blogging with elementary students.


Turn and face the strain
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Turn and face the strain
Where’s your shame?
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time

Lyrics by David Bowie

One definition of change is to transform, to be made different. These words are very powerful in the world of education because it is very difficult to change. We have so much baggage from years of school experience as students learning (for the most part) in the old models using textbooks, workbooks, and worksheets. Many of us became teachers because we found school to be something we were very successful at. The old model worked for us.

As a successful student I thought I would also be a successful teacher. After all, I knew how to be successful in school so I should be able to pass that on to my students. I spent ten years trying the old model and it left me and my students frustrated. The old model worked for a few, but not all and I wasn’t satisfied with any of my students failing. The problem was, I had no idea what to do.

I spent the last six years searching for how to become a better teacher. The biggest transformation has come through all the learning I have done because of the relationships I have developed through the internet. The reading of class blogs, professional educator blogs, and conversations on Twitter has helped me change almost every facet of teaching. But I had to want to change.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives

and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Mark 6:4

Every school has those teachers: the reading expert, the math expert, the tech expert. These are the teachers that you go to when you need help with a specific curriculum related problem. The problem is the tech expert is looked to for their expertise in using technology, not for innovation in the classroom.

Believe it or not, technology is a huge hurdle for teachers that want to change their school. Way too many teachers have no interest in using anything more tech based in class than a dvd player. They either don’t see the value of using technology, have an inferiority complex about their ability to use it effectively, or are just plain too lazy to try something new. When the “tech teacher” tries to talk to them about anything school related their minds file it under “tech stuff they don’t need to know about” and nod their head while mentally making their shopping list. What is the solution?

If you are the “tech teacher” you must emphasize process changes, not technology tools. Don’t talk about how students blogging is a great way to encourage better writing. Talk about how expanding the students’ audience encourages better writing. After all, technology is simply the tool we use, it isn’t our teaching model. Finally, you must practice what you preach. Like a pastor caught cheating on his taxes your “testimony” will only be powerful if the other teachers see you teach the way you advocate. Be an education reformer, not just a tech teacher.

  • Alex Rosenwald

    In addition to my position as a chemistry/physics teacher, I am also a Building-Based Technology Facilitator, which means I run after-school workshops and professional development seminars at department meetings on a wide range of technology tools.

    Many want to use technology for technology’s sake, without stopping to think about what the overall goal is. I have also found that many teachers seek to integrate technology simply because it is part of their PIP or due to a mandate from their department supervisor. To that end, the first thing I always ask my fellow educators is “What is your vision?” which takes many of them by surprise (and without a good answer).

    As we go forward, and as technology tools become more prevalent and options open up, professional development needs to focus more on knowing *which* tool to use, not simply instruction in a specific tool, in order to reach our instrucitonal goals.

  • wmchamberlain

    Alex, you are exactly right. We need to really push technology as a tool. I think even those of us in the know forget that sometimes. While my teaching changes coincided with my use of tech in the classroom, I don’t need the tech to teach differently.
    .-= wmchamberlain´s last blog ..Live Streaming Today: District Spelling Bee =-.