Wednesday, December 10, 2008

7 Mistakes Teachers Make With Technology

Doug Johnson rants:

1. Not backing up data. "You mean having two copies of my files on the hard drive doesn't count as a backup?" The first time a teacher loses his/her precious data my heart breaks. The second time, well, stupidity ought cause some suffering.

2. Treating a school computer like a home computer. Teachers who use a school computer to run a business, edit their kid's wedding videos, or send tasteless jokes to half of North America (including that fundamentalist English teacher down the hall) are being stupid. Teachers who take their computers home and let their kids hack on them are being stupid. Teachers who don't own a personal computer for personal business deserve to get into well-deserved trouble.

3. Not supervising computer-using students. It is really stupid to believe Internet filters will keep kids out of trouble on the Internet. For so many reasons. Even the slow kids who can't get around the school's filter, can still exploit that 10% of porn sites the filter won't catch if they choose to do so. They can still send cyberbullying e-mail - maybe even using your email address. Or they can just plain waste time.

4. Thinking online communication is ever private. Eventually everyone sends an embarrassing personal message to a listserv. I've heard of some tech directors who get their jollies reading salacious inter-staff e-mails. You school e-mails can be requested and must be produced if germane to any federal lawsuits. Even e-mails deleted from your computer still sit on servers somewhere - often for a very loooong time. Think you wiped out your browsing history? Don't bet that that is the only set of tracks you've left that show where you've been surfing. Your Facebook page will be looked at by the school board chair and your superintendent and principal know who the author of that "anonymous" blog is. Not assuming everyone can see what you send and do online is stupid.

5. Believing that one's teaching style need not change to take full advantage of technology. Using technology to simply add sounds and pictures to lectures is stupid. Smart technology use is about changing the roles of teacher and student. The computer-using student can now be the content expert; the teacher becomes the process expert asking questions like - where did you get that information, how do you know it's accurate; why is it important, how can you let others know what you discovered, and how can you tell if you did a good job? The world has changed and it is rank stupidity not to recognize it and change as well.

6. Ignoring the intrinsic interest of tech use in today's kids. Kids like technology. Not using it as a hook to motivate and interest them in their education is stupid.

7. Thinking technology will go away in schools. The expectation tha "This too shall pass" has worked for a lot of educational practices and theories. Madeline Hunter, Outcomes-Based Education, whole language, and yes, some day, NCLB all had their day in the sun before being pushed aside by the next silver bullet. (I think that metaphor was a bit confused. Sorry.) But it is stupid to think technology will go away in education. It isn't going away in banking, medicine, business, science, agriculture - anywhere else in society. Thinking "this too shall pass" about technology is pretty stupid.

What would make YOUR list of the top stupid mistakes you've seen teachers make with technology?


Dr Tan Hui Leng said...

Some teachers may think that technology can replace good teaching; i think not. It is true, to not engage learners with/ through tech is stupid. And tech is here to stay. Thus, i strongly suggest that tech especially powerpoints be used, but judiciously to add value to good and honest teaching.

John Hendron said...

I see little value added with using "Powerpoints." That's what teachers 5-10 years ago began doing in classes, to "integrate" technology. Instead, technology ought to be used in the hands of students to do things that other methodologies cannot do as well. This should include constructing their own knowledge, communicating with peers and experts, and creating their own original media beyond text, that can be shared and exchanged with others.

Alwyn said...

Thanks for the note, John.

I view Power-point as having a similar potential to any kind of graphic-intensive multi-media technology i.e. with images one can 'connect' more strongly, deeply, etc. That's it.

This is by no means to say I disagree with your view that students should be taking the powerpoint into their own hands (in fact, many of our college's classes include assignments where students are req. to produce their own slides, etc.).

I'm also with you with regards to students constructing knowledge, peer-sharing, creating 'original media beyond text' (I'm VERY curious to know more about this!) and the sharing/exchanging of learning.


John Hendron said...


Often, when teachers use PPT, it's boring notes the kids have to copy. That's what I see in some high school classes.

> creating 'original media beyond text'

Here I mean video, 3D walk throughs of spaces the kids have designed in SketchUp, original music, etc.

Alwyn said...


3D walk-throughs and original music sound great...what age/level of kids did you have in mind?

I fully agree that usually power-point serves as nothing more than data-dumps, which is why we're *trying* to educate our lecturers to more fully engage the aesthetic element (e.g.

Wilma said...

This is interesting. VADLO comes to mind, it is a powerpointsfor teachers search engine. There are good research cartoons also.

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