My Primary Interviewee is in her 33rd year of teaching. She has taught a variety of grades throughout her career including kindergarten up to high school grades in an alternate school setting. Currently she is teaching grade 3 at a primary (K-3) school in BC. The interview was conducted at her school on Tuesday, January 17 at 3:00pm.
My Secondary Interviewee is in his 8th year of teaching. He has taught a variety of secondary courses in the math and science area and is currently teaching Calculus, Pre-Calculus 12, Physics 11, and Pre-Calculus 11 this semester in a secondary (10-12) school in BC. The interview was conducted at his home on Tuesday, January 17 at 8:00pm.
The interviewees both had some recurring themes throughout our conversations such as time, appropriate use of technology, and the frustration of technology failure. Change is occurring in the math classroom, in their opinions, and it may not be what you think:
“In math I’m not even sure if it’s so much technology, math has just completely changed from when I started teaching. When I started teaching it was worksheets, you delivered the lesson, it was all teacher talk, then you worked on the math pages and you sent home what wasn’t done…And now I see us using all sorts of different manipulatives, different ways…getting kids really involved in their learning. I think math has really, really changed…I think it [technology] has transformed learning a lot because kids who didn’t learn by the teacher direction, do the homework, kids who couldn’t learn that way are being given the opportunity to learn in a way that is working for them. And that’s where I see technology and just even the whole way we have changed the way we teach has definitely made a difference.” (Primary Interviewee)
“I think in certain places you could implement technology and it could increase their learning if people knew what they were doing and knew how to use it was appropriate for the topic but just throwing technology in there isn’t going to do anything. I think since we’ve gone away…since we’ve put less technology in the math classrooms the kids are learning more than when they had more technology to use. Because they have to rely on understanding how to actually do it they can’t rely on just knowing where to put the numbers into the technology and having it do it for them. So I think they’re actually having that struggle and figuring it out on their own and not relying on some piece of technology to help them or be able to do it is actually helping them more fully understand the topics that we do.” (Secondary Interviewee)
How do we move forward, I wonder? Both interviewees admitted failure with technology when the reliance is too high and cited the need for a backup plan. “And sometimes I don’t [have a backup plan] and then it’s hard…you really have to change your whole lesson” (Primary Interviewee). How do we encourage educators to persevere when failure utilizing technology in the classroom can be frequent? “The computer carts are almost useless. To get enough bandwidth for the kids to do anything is almost impossible.” (Secondary Interviewee).
Lack of infrastructure, hardware, and funds seem to be general concerns that apply to many. The time it can take to learn these new innovations and implement them is not always rewarding right away or in some cases at all. Education, or possibly just our current public school systems, seems unable to keep up with the current pace of technology innovations. Sometimes it seems to me that the whole system needs to change, along with the way we teach. The question of how we can effectively navigate these ever-changing technology waters as educators while maintaining life balance, providing engaging learning opportunities, and properly preparing our students for the world, still engages me even as I near completion of this program.