Thursday, January 04, 2007

Making sense of it all


After a nice Christmas break, when I didn't think too much about technology, I'm back to the real world and deep in thought. I guess it all started when I read an interesting online article that dated back to 1994 or 1995 in which a few "experts" made predictions about what the Internet would be like 10 years in the future. Some very accurate prognostications, but also some that were way off, but I suppose that's the nature of technology-- we're never exactly sure of what's next. Certain technologies disappear almost overnight, some explode, then slowly fade away, and others have been around a long time and may always be with us. We're all at the mercy of the next "big thing."

That got me to thinking about how technological changes have affected the classroom. Remember laserdiscs? How cool was it to scan a barcode in the teacher's textbook and instantly see a picture on the TV? POOF! Obsolete.

How about creating a classroom website? I started out using Front Page, but then web-based tools became available. Then came Edline. Now there are blogs. What's next?

How about electronic gradebooks? I started out with my own spreadsheet. Then came GradeQuick. Now GradeQuick may be going away in our county as we move to a more all-encompassing student data management system with its own gradebook component.

Think about the hours invested by the average classroom teacher in learning any of the above, or anything else related to instructional technology. I get the idea that "the hurrieder I go the behinder I get." And if I'm feeling overwhelmed, I can only imagine what teachers must be feeling.

I am also discouraged by the many blog posts and magazine and newspaper articles that remind me that our educational system is still, for the most part, mired in the 19th or 20th century. Societal change is much too slow to keep up with the rapid advances in technology. We pay lip service to preparing our students for the "global economy" in our school mission statements, but the reality is we're preparing them to compete in the past.

I love all of the Web 2.0 stuff, but I'm frustrated by not knowing how to convince teachers that it's all worth their valuable time and effort. We all know the barriers: access, filtering, safety, responsibility, time... not to mention the increased importance of standardized testing.

I just feel like I'm not having an impact. If I were still a classroom teacher, I'd know that I had some influence over my students and their learning. Now I'm not so sure.

A friend of mine got out of the field of instructional technology for some of the same reasons I've cited. How do I keep myself from burning out as I mentally spin my wheels?

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