I have a story to tell. More than 45 years ago, when my mother taught elementary school, I would, for years, go with her the week before school started to help her set up her room. One of the things she did was prepare a first week of school worksheet. Now, back in the day, this was done on a mimeograph machine. These huge, cumbersome, smelly machines used a stencil, ink, and paper to make copies. The ink smeared sometimes, and if you didn’t use enough of that horrible blue ink, or the stencil wasn’t cut correctly, your copies couldn’t be read at all. The older ones required someone to stand there and actually crank a handle to run the thing. That was my job. Cranking the handle, and “not getting ink on my clothes”. It was state of the art copy making. I was dumb enough to love that job. Even after they got an electric machine, it was I who stood over it, watching the drum turn and the ink smear.
One summer, we showed up at the school, ready to get to the business of decorating and copying when, as we passed the mimeograph room, we heard an excited ruckus. Mother and I went in and there stood several of her colleagues around something shiny and new: a state of the art Xerox copier. They’d heard of these things, but had never seen one. One of the teachers was trying to figure out how to make it work. After a few minutes of discussion, frustration and inability to get the thing to acknowledge their presence in the room, my mother, the classic ranter and rabblerouser , exclaimed, “I don’t know why they brought this thing in here What was wrong with the mimeo machine?”
My mother was a reluctant technology integrator. Here was something new and innovative, that would make her job easier, and she and her coworkers bawked at it. They were used to their trusty mimeograph machine (and their children who showed up to crank the handle for them), they weren’t interested in this contraption. Luckily, the school secretary showed up to help. She’d been trained over the summer; she thought the copier was amazing and she wanted to share her excitement about this new “toy” with the teachers. They weren’t having any part of it. After a few lessons on turning it on, letting it warm up, where to place the copy paper and how to make adjustments so they could copy their worksheets, most of the grumbling went away. Even Ma commented on how she wouldn’t need “help” (translate slave labor) to get her copies done anymore.
That was then, this is now. Technology integration and the reluctant teacher hasn’t really changed much. As innovation in the classroom becomes more apparent, there will always be those who aren’t quite sure what to do with the new contraptions coming out.
As technology liaison in my building for the past year and a half, its been an uphill battle getting teachers to a place where saying the word technology doesn’t result in a full on attack on me, the tech support guy for our building and/or the invisible people “downtown” who keep dumping stuff on them. Yet, something interesting has been happening lately, and I like it.
“I did it!”
Its the policy in our building that students shouldn’t use mobile devices in the classroom. That policy came from a place of “well, you aren’t using technology to teach, all they’re doing is listening to music and playing games instead of learning”. I respected that. It was an issue. The policy is being reconsidered however, as teachers are beginning to use apps for learning and new technology in the way of Promethean Boards and Chromebooks are coming into the building. We recognize that the little computers in the hands of our students are powerful, and they need basic skills in using them for learning and productivity in order to be successful after high school and beyond. There are still a few holdouts though.
We just completed a round of Promethean Board training the end of last month, and grumbling in the back of the room was the resident technophobe. He was at the training because he was ordered to show up for the training. He’d called me 3 times and emailed me twice about how he could get out of this, and I, as simply the messenger, told him to just show up; it wouldn’t kill him to play with the software. I’d be there to help him, if he needed my assistance. He didn’t want to be there. This stuff was “hard”.
I sat down the row of desktops from him as he fumbled and locked himself out of the website several times, with the trainer patiently coming to his rescue each time. He sat and mumbled; the person next to him helped him a bit and finally he got his little “project” to work.
“I did it! That’s cool!”
The IT director looked over at me, I looked back: we both threw our hands in the air and silently shouted “Hallelujah!” A note was made to put a new board in his room THAT NIGHT, so he wouldn’t lose momentum or enthusiasm. Other teachers on his floor have been helping him create new content and I’ve been told he’s done his first lesson using his board.
I ran into him in the copy room the other day as he mumbled over the “old technology”; the broken down machines we have to make copies on. I asked how his Board was working, and he smiled.
“I love it. Now, if we can just get new copiers…”
By the way, my mother has been retired now for more than 20 years and
hasn’t been near a copier in ages. She has dementia and we’ve looked at research on how playing games can help keep the brain fluid. So, I bought her a tablet for her birthday back in December. As my son sat with her and showed her how to turn it on and helped her load her favorite game, Word Search, onto it, she smiled and commented: “isn’t man amazing; all the great things we make?”
She gets mad at herself if she forgets to recharge the battery on the thing. She loves her new technology. She’s not reluctant anymore.