Is a teacher’s non-use of technology an excuse to be demoted?

And thus school has begun. I have a mysterious little bird – always writing these messages on my board. I know who the bird is but turn my back and let it happen. But I thought of it this morning as I thought of an apparent major decisionmaking fail brought to my attention this week.

This week a teacher came to me asking me to help a friend.

“The best AP lit teacher I know has been ‘demoted' because she isn't using technology. The administrators are afraid that they'll ‘get in trouble with the state' if they see she's not using any. Give me ideas to help”

So, that's it…no coaching… no advice…no help – just BAM – you're going to teach a younger grade even though we know you're the best AP lit teacher we've ever seen.

It is always about what technology helps you DO not technology itself

If you read my blog, you know that I love and enjoy technology and using it with my students. But I find this repugnant and ridiculous.

Yes, we need to help every teacher use technology but it is about what technology helps you DO.

Does every class use paper? Did we judge classes that used less paper as being substandard? There are ways to use technology in AP literature but it is AP literature not AP tech-ture for goodness sakes.

I could require every teacher to use an ipad, but if she uses it to hit her students on the head – does the mere presence of ipads mean it is put to good use? A teacher without ipads who doesn't hit her students is better than a student with ipads who leaves them with bruises. Are we honestly going to let the presence of an electronic device determine the merit of a teacher?

I'm hurrying up as best I can to finish my new book Reinventing Writing for just this teacher. But in the meantime use technology where it makes SENSE.

Mandates sometimes suspend good common sense

This is the thing that bothers me about state mandates. Sometimes people take things and use them as an excuse to disengage their brain from their eyes and blindly misinterpret the intention of what is happening. Yes, we all should be using technology. To me, the larger question is — looking at a school — will the student come out technologically savvy? Will they be fluent? Can they invent and create using it? Can they be a lifelong learner with technology?

Even more important – HOW are kids using technology?

Are they using technology to solve problems or are the computers basically there to program kids?

You know it is true. Some schools have technology all over and not one single ounce of creativity. Would that “rank” well with “the state?”

And here, you have a teacher using tons of creativity and shunning technology with an almost 50% pass rate in her AP class (far above the percentage of other teachers at that school from what I hear) and yet, somehow the fact she isn't using technology is a bad thing. Does the pass rate mean anything?

Honestly, if they want kids to use technology – they should buy them all ipads and get it in their hands. It is the school's fault not the teacher's if they aren't putting it in the hands of kids.

6 Aspects of Visionary Technology Leadership

Technology is important. It is something all students should be using. But the people at the top need to be visionaries about:

1- Giving technology access to all students.

2 – Adequately training all teachers about the effective use of technology (not just buying subscriptions to the latest drill and kill software package and calling that enough).

3 – Creating an environment where people can experiment and try new things without fear. (and where they can publish and share with a wider audience and connect and collaborate with other classrooms as well)

4 – Having a vision a school is supposed to be – conveying that vision and owning it with their decisionmaking.

5 – Supporting great teachers and helping them continue to thrive in a new era.

6 – Supporting students and keeping a focus on them.

I'm sure that those of you who study this for a living will think of more.

Arbitrary Decisionmaking often leads to a Sorry State

I am just angry that such foolish, ridiculous decisionmaking would be made and that technology would be a hatchet to remove a great teacher from a classroom where she and the students are successful. Arbitrary decisionmaking like this is what has gotten education into trouble through all these years.

Wake up teachers, and find good uses for technology in your classroom

Technology is more important than ever and I hope this will also be a wake up call to teachers. If you could see your administrators doing this, it is time to do something that makes sense. Use technology where it works and will help you improve learning — but find some place – I'm sure there is a place where it can help you teach. It is worth the effort.

The Electronic ruler rises?

Some will applaud this day that technology is being used as a ruler to measure teaching — but honestly, teaching is the only ruler by which we should measure teaching.

What are kids learning? What are they doing with what they learn? What are they creating? Can they solve problems in this field of study? Are they learning the habits that will help them be successful in their future?

Teachers – you can do this. Learn about technology – Twitter is a great place to start. Find the hashtag that fits with your field of expertise. You can find ways to integrate it into your classroom. You can't do everything but you can do something. It is important to do it for the kids. But realize that if you don't, it is going to have a very real impact on some of you. I can write all day long but it won't impact the back rooms where such arbitrary mandates are concocted and one such thing may come rolling your direction. But I've always found the best things I do in my classroom – I do out of love for the kids not fear for my own career. Good luck and get at it. You rock, teachers. You're important! Let's teach!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you see this sort of decision making happening in other places?


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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