“I hate technology.”
As we’ve been doing a lot more technology projects in the classroom lately – things have really exploded since our January in-house professional development day – I’ve started to hear the inevitable complaining from students about technology.
“Why do we have to do this?”
“Why can’t I just stand up in front of the class and read it? Why do I have to record it?”
“Something ALWAYS goes wrong.”
“EVERYTHING is technology now!”
These comments are nothing new. They’re from A students and C students, young and old, and I’ve heard it for as long as I’ve been a librarian and an educator.
We teachers and librarians are often caught off guard by this. Maybe that’s because we like technology so much that we assume everyone else will, too… but I think it’s more likely that we assume students will like technology. After all, it’s a change from the norm and it’s fun, right?
I think there are a couple of factors that lead to this reaction to, as I experienced last week, using Audacity and Glogster. Many of these points come through long conversations with Lorri, so much of the credit for these ideas belongs with her!
1. If technology is not a constant in your students’ lives, then it will always feel like a Big Deal when they use it. Now obviously, technology is everywhere, even if teachers aren’t using it: students have smart phones, laptops, and smartboards in their classrooms. They do all of their research online and write all of their papers on the computer. They are accustomed to using Word, PowerPoint, and (sometimes) Excel, and they certainly know how to use the Internet (*cough*…right?). But if technology isn’t being used in the classroom on a regular basis, then of course it’s a big change when everyone has to trek down to the lab and learn how to use a new tool.
2. Technology isn’t black-and-white. For students who need to know exactly what to do to fulfill an assignment, or to get an A, using a new tool can be daunting. By now, they know what the expectations are for a paper or even a PowerPoint presentation, but using a tool like Voicethread is scary. More than framing a quote with an introduction and a transition, Voicethread requires a whole new set of skills: writing a script, finding the best images to support your research, editing down your script to fit strict parameters, and practicing speaking. Teachers can offer rubrics, but kids can’t go on autopilot. And it is often the “best” students who struggle most with this.
3. Technology = troubleshooting. Students aren’t used to having to do this. If they’re Googling a topic and can’t find what they’re looking for, they are stuck. “There’s NO information!” is a common cry. When we were using Audacity last week and the mics weren’t working, three students reached their breaking point. Because they are not learning how to solve problems like this, they get totally overwhelmed when something goes wrong. That said, the person who figured out how to get the mics to work? Was a student.
4. Teachers aren’t doing enough to emphasize the importance of tech skills. I think we sometimes assume that if we’re requiring our students to use a technology skill, we’re making it clear to the students that we value technology. Not true. Just like adult late adapters, students need to know why. No, we’re not asking you to learn this on a whim – there’s a reason why, in language class, you might want to record yourself speaking and then listen to it. There’s also a reason why creating a digital presentation is just as important a skill as public speaking live. Those reasons need to be built into the assignment, the rubric, and the classroom introduction to the project.
I do believe that the more integrated schools get, the more the kids will accept the smooth introduction of tech tools into their work. At a certain point, they won’t even blink. Technology is not a special. It is a tool, like an assignment book. It is something that we can manipulate and use, not something that forces us to sacrifice aspects of the learning experience. Certainly, it’s hard for me, as a technology educator, to hear kids bemoan technology. But I also know that they need support, and I need to be patient.