I have been frustrated that for over 15 years we have been working on integrating technology into the classroom and it is JUST NOT HAPPENING. We all know that it has to do with the need to improve professional development and support for teachers. We all know that some of it is due to the lack of funding and the emphasis on testing. However, what has been bouncing around in my head for a few years is the thought that it is because we have been going about it the wrong way.
Over 15 years ago we had this technology that could do amazing things. Some teachers were early adopters and could figure out great ways to use it in their teaching (i.e. Tom Snyder and the one computer classroom), but most did not. We tried creating labs, we tried putting them in classroom (1-5 per classroom) and we tried COWs (computers on wheels). None of these things have really changed the classroom in general. In my experience there are a percentage of teachers who run with technology and do fantastic things and others who try some great stuff, but a few years later are back to doing things the way they did before. Schools have legislated that every teacher must have a web page or that you must take your students to the lab a certain number of minutes per week, but that hasn't worked. What is happening?
One of the really important factors that we have not considered is that growth is an organic thing. It happens when the conditions are right. You cannot make a plant grow if there is no water and no light. I am thinking that we have gone about putting computers in classrooms in a way that is inorganic and it cannot make big changes. The conditions are not right.
My AHA came when I was reading The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell. Here is the quote that struck me:
"John Tu donated thirty-five computers to our class, and what a difference they make! Ms. G said we are not limited to just using them on English assignments. She is going to let us use them for projects for our other classes before and after school...Thanks to spell check now I feel like there are no limits or boundaries enclosing my ideas and feelings. Sitting in front of the monitor with my fingers on the keyboard makes me feel powerful in a way that I never have before." (pg 147-148)There is more than that in what the student wrote, but the main idea that struck me was that technology here is being used because it makes sense, so it makes a difference and makes sense to the teacher. The conditions called for technology; it worked and actually became an invisible enabler! I think that part of improving conditions for technology to succeed in the classroom is a continued effort to help teachers understand what technology can do, even if it is just for themselves. Will technology use begin to creep into classrooms where teachers are aware and conditions are right?