Keywords: Connecting, Fluency, Time
For this interview, I spoke with Teacher R, a secondary math and science (Biology) teacher. She went through the teacher education program in the mid 1990’s and, after taking some time off to start her family, she returned to the profession 7 years ago and has been at her current school for the past 3 years. Her current teaching load includes math 8, science 8, science 10, and biology 11. As well, she is nearing completion on her own Masters program in resource. As she is a colleague and classroom neighbour of mine, the interview was conducted after school and in-person. Through our 20 minute conversation regarding technology and technology in the classroom, a few main points arose.
Connecting through technology?
One of the topics that came up in our discussion was that of using technology to reduce the amount of work and time required to mark assessments and provide feedback to students. Teacher R appreciated that technology can simplify her workload but was concerned that “… it wouldn’t be able to let you connect with the students. […] And you wouldn’t want to let the computer keep you from personalizing [the teaching].” The image of students learning, reviewing, and then being assessed all through the medium of technology could allow for teachers to take a reduced role in the classroom. Teacher R’s comments serve to highlight that educators need to make an effort to not sit back and allow education to progress without them, but instead to adapt to their changing classroom to continue to provide students the optimal learning experience.
This topic is one Teacher R felt strongly about was that despite all her intentions to plan and prepare a lesson that utilized technology, she still run into difficulties with connectivity issues. She recounted a lesson in which she had intended on using Bluetooth to mirror her iPad onto her laptop connected to a digital projector. When she was unable to connect her iPad to her laptop, she had to resort to delivering the instructions orally while the rest of the students work on their iPads. She also noted that “it’s nice to have access to technology and all these apps, but you time to go through the app and to be able to explain it to the kids. And then you need to be able to make sure it is working.” This served to highlight the importance of not only technology use, but technology fluency. In Teacher R’s case, having the right motivation and even having been given a short training session on the app she was to use in the classroom did not prepare her to troubleshoot problems with her devices. Thus educators and administrators must be wary of not only the software being used in the classroom, but also the hardware and how all the devices interact.
The third point that came up multiple times in our conversation was that of time. Early in the interview, when asked what she would like technology to do for her, she quickly laughed, “My marking?” While she did have ambitions for technology to do more for her (including making her lessons interactive and integrate all her presentation methods to be more seamless), the convenience factor that technology provides was one that she wanted.
Teacher R also noted, when discussing her connectivity issues mentioned above, that time was needed to allow her to become an expert in the technology. It was not enough to be comfortable with the software, but she wanted to understand all the supporting technologies so that small problems would not disrupt the class.
Lastly, she also cited time as a constraint that prevented her from discovering new technologies. She noted that “… in the future, we do need to spend more time on technology because that may be the only way to engage them.” The difficulty she found with adding technology to the classroom was that there were simply too many options and not enough time to identify which would meet her needs. The two pieces of software cited as examples during the interview (Doceri and ShowMe), “were recommended to me and I just set it up.” So rather than actively sifting through the myriad of options, she took what was offered to her and made the most of it.
Overall, this was an insightful interview in that Teacher R helped to identify many of the factors that limited her ability to integrate technology into her teaching. Certainly she has ambitions to include technology use, but it is clear that educators need support both in training and time in order to implement changes. On the other side of the coin, it may serve as a reminder to software and hardware developers to continue to refine their offerings so that they become more seamless and easier to use.
The full transcript can be seen here.