The Educator's PLN

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And I'd have given anything
To have my own PacMan game at home.
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade;
Now I've got it on my phone.

Brad Paisley – Welcome to the Future

I took a computer class when I was in high school. The fact that I see this as noteworthy tells you a little something about my age. I used to sit at a machine that looked a lot like a teletype without the little ticker on the side and type in simple BASIC commands. All the heavy-duty computing work was
done by a giant machine that had its own air-conditioned room behind a glass window. I think my BlackBerry can kick that machine’s butt for computing power and the USB drive that came free with my son’s Sims 3 game has more storage. We wrote “programs” with lots of “if…then” statements to cause that big machine to do magical things like spit out the square root of the numbers we fed it.

A mere two years later, my younger brother took a computer class. The new computer lab was filled with early Apple computers and had things like word processing, spreadsheet, and database programs. We had truly made a huge leap forward. His class learned their skills in order to take data they gathered on the accessibility of town building and turn it into a proposal that the town retrofit buildings to make them handicapped accessible. Not a square root in sight.

Why the trip down memory lane? Mostly to remind myself and others that both technology and its uses change quickly and it can be tough to keep up sometimes. As teachers learn more about the uses of the technology that is flooding into their classrooms, the way we work and the way we work together needs time to adjust.

When I started at my present (elementary) school, only 5 years ago, students had a “computer” class. The computer teacher taught each grade or class, 1st through 5th, for half the year. Classes were focused on keyboarding and using programs for word processing, spreadsheets, and graphics such as KidPix or Inspiration. The computer teachers would also do their best to trouble-shoot the other computers in the building, mostly PC’s of differing generations, but were limited by the need to have administrator authority in order to access settings or download updates.

Five years isn’t all that long. I know I haven’t gotten any older, I probably haven’t gotten much wiser, although I have, unfortunately, gotten a good deal wider. However, the life of our computer teachers, now called technology specialists, has changed greatly in some areas and not at all in others. They are expected to know a far wider range of applications, some of which pop up overnight, and support more technology both in the number of units and variety.

At the same time, they are pulled in opposite directions by administrators and classroom teachers. We still have a computer lab, but no more computer classes. All computer skills teaching must be embedded within academic subject content lessons. And our technology teachers still don’t have administrator privileges.

How do we find time to collaborate when one technology teacher covers the entire school?

How do we make sure our students learn to keyboard, create files and acquire other basic computer skills? (My students know how to Facebook, but not to type.)

How do we bridge the conflict between classroom and technology teachers that seems to pervade our discussions as the future comes at us faster than our school systems can adapt?

Everyday is a revolution.
Welcome to the future.

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Comment by Sue Densmore on March 7, 2010 at 9:13pm
Right on, Diana! There isn't enough time!

And to deny admin privileges to the "tech specialists" is silly. But I am pretty sure we do that at my school, too. I am not sure what the answer is to all this. We are expected to prep these kids, and more gets added and nothing taken away. Yet, we are not given the resources - materially or in terms of time - to really get acquainted with the tech we're supposed to a) use to teach and 2) teach to students.

I find myself sharing links and ideas with the top tech guy in our district, and the IT pro in my building. It has made for fun conversation, and once in a while something comes of it. Like I am allowed to run - and even update myself - TweetDeck on my PC so I can use Twitter.

But there's so much more to do!

Thanks for posting this.
Comment by Irene Farmer on March 7, 2010 at 7:44pm
Great blog Diana! You are so right. Our computer teachers have had their jobs redefined but not their privileges. It is difficult to collaborate when you don't have time to meet and brainstorm. I just suggested that our computer teacher join our PLN and begin to Twitter. Might help.


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