(with reference to the interviews done by: Dana Bjornson, Catherine Sverko, Daniel Bosse, Gloria Ma)
In reviewing the interviews of my peers, there were definitely commonalities that stuck out for me, as well as some important “take away” lessons for me as an educator.
I felt that the themes around collaboration and communication were important in many of the interviews, but that collaboration/communication could look very different. Whether it is between colleagues, student/teacher, student/peer, or student/teacher/parent, the ability to collaborate and communicate is essential. Dana discussed interviewee “Brianna’s” use of a collaborative document between teachers (re: biology 12) so that all teachers were able to contribute to the formation and evolution of the course document, as well as make comments and suggestions. As collaboration between colleagues is incredibly important, but can often be difficult to arrange, I thought this was an innovative way to use digital technology to collaborate and design curriculum between colleagues. In another example, Dana’s interviewee discussed the fact that when a TOC (Teacher-On-Call) is in, the absent classroom teacher can still post information or a lesson using digital technology and students “know exactly what they are supposed to do” thereby allowing the teacher to communicate with students even when absent. This point was mirrored by one of my own interviewees, “Teacher T” (interview 1), who felt digital technology helped students stay connected even when the teacher or student was absent. While Gloria’s interviewee’s use of technology was more limited, she found technology especially useful for subjects like math and science, where she was able to communicate concepts to her students through videos, and was able to show students science experiments “easily on the document camera instead of having kids crowd my table,” again showing how technology can increase our ability to communicate concepts effectively with students. Catherine’s interviewee, Teacher T, has become a technology consultant through her experiences with technology, and now communicates her knowledge and skills with colleagues through collaboration and workshops.
A second major theme that emerged is around the fact that new media literacy skills are becoming essential for success in our current and future societies. Daniel found through his interview that “Mr. A viewed technology as an integral part of not only a student’s school education, but that technological skills would be necessary in their adult lives.” This connected directly to one of my own interviews, when “Teacher A” shared a quote they had heard “about teaching kids nowadays for a future that doesn’t technically exist yet, right, so you’ve got to teach them the skills to be able to work in a future that doesn’t exist.” Similarly, Catherine’s interviewee, Teacher T, found that by integrating digital technology into her program, her students “went from being terrified, terrified of death by Papercut to computer builders.” By integrating technology into our classrooms, we are not simply increasing the quality of engagement in our classes, but preparing students for their futures.
Finally, a major theme throughout interviews was simply how much or how often technology was used in classrooms. Gloria’s interviewee discussed a use of digital technology that was limited to a document camera, videos, and a projector, and Gloria noted that “most uses of technology were used mainly for her teaching. Students had no interaction with the technologies.” I found this comment interesting because in one of the interviews I conducted myself, “Teacher A” (interview 2), who discussed using a wide variety of technologies within the classroom, identified the document camera and projector as the “two top technologies.” As Gloria’s interviewee points out, in many cases it can be difficult to access technology. Gloria’s interviewee felt the teacher education program had not prepared her for integrating technology effectively and shared that teachers who felt they had been better trained on digital technology had been given experience in their practicums. One of Catherine’s interviewees, Teacher T, also discussed the fact that “while the board has been investing in hardware there is no training to go along with this. The staff have all been given Chromebooks but no in-servicing. One teacher used hers, of the other two one was locked in a drawer, the other had been leant to an Educational Assistant to use. All agreed they knew the Chromebook could be a powerful tool but they had no idea how to use it effectively.” However, along with this, is a certain amount of apathy as is pointed out by Catherine in her interview abstract, “What I found interesting first off with two of the three teachers was just the general apathy about technology. They used it mostly to show a video or have kids play a game. They seemed to think they were using technology well and had no real interest in investing their own time to learn more.” I have noticed this too is a common theme in the comments and responses of many others within the courses I have taken (not limited to this course, but within the MET program). Having said that, I found the responses of the two teachers I interviewed interesting as they both dealt with the issues of enough technology in their own ways as well. “Teacher T” (my first interview, secondary senior sciences) applied for and received a $10,000 grant which allowed her to have her own class set of iPads a well as the Camtasia program needed to provide her students with recorded lessons (complete with tablet drawings, practice questions, etc.). “Teacher A” works at a school that has 30 iPads that are shared throughout the school and one computer lab (another 30 computers in the lab). To compensate for this, “Teacher A” has come to an agreement that she keeps six iPads in her classroom at all times and then shares those iPads between students, allowing for the development of collaboration skills in her classroom. “Teacher A” has turned a lack of resources into a learning experience for her students. Daniel’s interviewee, Mr. A., also discussed difficulties with training around technology and “identified that most of the effective technology learning happening in his context was a result of informal learning from colleagues.”
My biggest “take away” from this interview assignment was found in Catherine’s interview with Teacher T, showing the evolution of the technology consultant from a teacher who began as one of the “stereotypical teachers that was terrified of technology. I really didn’t use it other than when I was forced to check my email and I would like Google stuff to find out the answer. What I mean is I could use the internet that was about it.” I loved “Teacher T’s” response to what prompted her to begin integrating technology into her classroom and how her use of digital technology has developed since she began. A real “go get it” attitude that I am beginning to realize is key for integrating technology into the classroom. I think I have tended to have a similar mindset to others who have struggled to integrate technology into their classrooms. I have felt that I wasn’t “good” with technology and that there wasn’t the proper training available to help me. I realize now that I have been sitting back and waiting for the right training to come along, or to have enough time to complete the adequate training before I really get started integrating digital technology fully into my classroom. I am now, especially through this interview project, beginning to understanding that teachers who have integrated technology into their classrooms have done so despite their insecurities and lack of technology and training. Yes, resources are limited; yes, training is hard to get; but ultimately, where there’s a will there’s a way, and rather than make excuses, they “just do it” (insert Nike swish here)!