Every school has “that teacher.” You know, the one who’s been the subject of friendly jibes at faculty meetings because he’s “just not an email guy.” His home computer runs DOS, and don’t even get him started on the banalities of PowerPoint. Hand-scrawled, smudged-up transparencies and dusty notes smeared across a chalkboard were good enough for him, so By Golly they’re good enough for his students!
Or maybe you know the seasoned Language Arts maven who waxes poetic for the smell of the mimeo ink and breezes through each semester with nary a care in the world because her trusty Black Binder is full of the black-line masters she’s been using in order, for every class, for decades. Sit and git? Proven practice. Inquiry-based learning and relevant tie-ins to current life experiences? Ridiculous coddling! “Besides, I’m just not computer savvy.”
“Not computer savvy.” Even that phrase is archaic. “Computer savvy” barely scratches the surface of the depth of technological prowess that educators must possess in order to be effective agents of learning in today’s global society. Our students wake up every day and dip into a toolbox of Web 2.0 resources that define their identities. These same tools increasing define the post-secondary and labor market opportunities they will have. It is, therefore, unforgivable for teachers to remain willfully ignorant of the technologies and tools that define this generation of students and employers.
My father-in-law is a 64-year-old ASE certified Mechanic. He worked for many years before something as basic as power automobile locks was even considered. A standard automobile rolling off the line today includes an on-board computer, built-in GPS, and a thousand other cutting-edge technologies that were unheard of even fifteen years ago. If my AARP card-holding father-in-law were to admit that he didn’t know much about “today’s technologies,” the ASE would rightfully strip his certification, and the cars would no longer roll into his highly successful garage.
Fifteen years ago, teachers who where reticent to use email, online grading platforms, or, to a lesser extent, word processing software, could receive a bye. After all, those technologies were just beginning to gain footholds in our culture, just as power windows and locks in automobiles became recognized as the new “must have” luxuries to drivers in the early 90’s. But innovation transforms the modern world at unimaginable speed, and it is imperative that teachers stay one step ahead of the game…or at the very least in the game.
It used to be “cute” when “seasoned” educators said they “weren’t up on technology” in the same way it was cute for my grandma to say she was confused about “talking into that answering machine thingamagigy.” But what was “novel” fifteen years ago, or in some cases as early as five years ago, is now Absolutely Vital. To be a teacher who is “not computer savvy” in today’s society is NOT a cute quirk. It is the badge of a teacher who is tragically ill-equipped to help students excel in a world defined by 24-7 access to experts via Twitter, Skype, Google Hangouts, Global collaboration, RSS, collaborative Google Apps, Cloud Computing, Wikis, Moodle, Edmodo, Evernote, Diggo, Flikr, Facebook, Netflix, iTunes, Animoto, Garageband and Podcasts. These “wacky new tools” have replaced the manual locks and “crank roll up” technologies of the past. These tools have re-defined reality.
We cannot prepare our students to compete in a global economy by offering them sit N git with smudged transparencies and Black Line Masters. That’s worse than phoning it in … it’s using a rotary phone to do it.