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April 1, 2011 / Sarah Ludwig

“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.

But why?

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.



Leave a Comment
  1. nate / Apr 1 2011 11:52 am

    ‘Technology = troubleshooting. Students aren’t used to having to do this.’

    I think this is *so important*. Life is one big troubleshooting experience. Whether it’s figuring out Audacity, an online bus schedule, or how to replace your bike chain, troubleshooting skills are key. Tech is actually a good way to teach troubleshooting and problem solving approaches.

    • sarahludwig / Apr 1 2011 1:30 pm

      I totally agree. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what the best way to support this skill is. The way I became relatively comfortable with troubleshooting was just trying… and if you’re scared of failure, you won’t try. SO…. how do we support all the teachers and students who are in that situation?

  2. Lorri Carroll / Apr 2 2011 10:17 pm

    Awesome post Sarah! I agree- we always want to believe that students will LOVE technology. Your points are on the mark… especially the ones about knowing what to do to get a good grade and troubleshooting. Troubleshooting is a necessary skill… how do we teach it? We are going to have to continue to think about this one. I’d say a good start is modeling .. what do WE do, as teachers, when things go wrong? If we are calm and explain the way we can go about working through the issues, our students will see that and learn from it. If we freak out and panic, our students will learn that too…

    • Jack Hardcastle / Apr 2 2011 10:25 pm

      what do WE do, as teachers, when things go wrong?

      For me, one of the most disappointing things as a technology integrator and support administrator is to see faculty who respond in these situations as the students Sarah mentions. Throwing up their hands, saying, “it’s just not working,” when all it takes is a little bit of problem solving and experimentation to plow right through. I think that many excellent tech integrators have this baked into their DNA, this process of routing around, debugging, researching, experimenting, re-attempting. Is there some reason that so many teachers, who ostensibly should be experts at “seeking out information” and training others to do the same, seem to be completely dumbfounded by even simple technology hurdles?

      This is not to say that technology issues, real ones that hamper you from doing your job, don’t exist. However, the majority of day-to-day issues just need a little effort and experimentation.

    • sarahludwig / Apr 3 2011 12:41 pm

      “If we are calm and explain the way we can go about working through the issues, our students will see that and learn from it. If we freak out and panic, our students will learn that too…” YES. Exactly!

  3. Lesley @cioccas / Apr 2 2011 11:05 pm

    Thanks for a great post Sarah!

    At first glance it I was thinking it was the teachers who were saying “I hate technology”, then realised you were talking about students, and young ones at that. I stopped when I saw your comment “we like technology so much that we assume everyone else will, too…” Whoops, not where I come from! I teach adults, and many with very low tech skills, but rarely hear them complain about technology, but I hear all of the complaints you mention from some of my teaching colleagues. You can imagine how hard it is going to be for them to use the ideas you and Lorri have come up with to bring the learners along.

    Part of the problem is that we don’t have technology in many of our classrooms, generally we do have to “trek down to the lab”, so it’s not a constant in their classroom life. Indeed, many of them can almost avoid it altogether, which may suit some of their students, but not all and I think doing them a disservice. Also, when there is technology, in the lab or for the classrooms which do have IWBs, it is often the case of “technology=troubleshooting” and teachers are easily turned off trying again. But, as you say, in your 4th point, we do need to emphasize the value of tech skills, it is as important for many of our students as it is for the teachers who are finding it harder and harder to avoid.

    I sympathise with my colleagues. Part of my role is to encourage and support teachers to use technology, but I’m finding that, without all of the things you mention: without the technology being a constant, without adequate PD time, and without adequate support when things go wrong (not my role, but something I seem to spend an awful lot of my time on), I’m finding it difficult to convince them they need the skills and in turn to help their students develop their tech skills.

    Sorry for the long comment, I’m now thinking I will develop these ideas in a blog post of my own. Many thanks for sparking off these ramblings.

    • sarahludwig / Apr 3 2011 12:40 pm

      Hi Lesley,
      I’ve taught adults as well, and I see a different set of challenges there, mostly related to that fact that adults with low technology skills are fearful of technology, whereas children and teens aren’t scared – just annoyed when things don’t work.
      I also experience much of what you describe with your colleagues. Most of the classroom work I do is with teachers who have some level of interest in technology, but there are plenty of others who don’t have an interest in exploring technology in their curriculum.
      I’m going to read your post – glad to get a conversation going!

  4. Bob Irving / Apr 5 2011 7:41 am

    I had to laugh out loud at the “I can’t find Pascal’s friends” statement! It is so true that we assume that kids get what we get. I think we’re sometimes fooled by their facility with some tech: smartphones, basic computer use, etc. And students who are taught to grind up and spit out content with no troubleshooting involved are easily frustrated when things “don’t work.”

    On a related note — isn’t troubleshooting related to critical thinking? Another set of skills that we need to teach more.


  1. “I can’t find Blaise Pascal’s friends….” « Lorri's Blog

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