Enough Excuses…

Chris Betcher is all fired up on his “BetchaBlog” with a recent post titled “Enough Excuses“. He finishes his post with the following:

…it’s time for those teachers who have not accepted ICTs to shit or get off the pot. I’m tired of accepting excuses. Technology is, and will continue to be, an absolutely integral part of the lives our students will lead. The work we are doing in our classrooms to prepare them for this future must contain a significant amount of access to, and understanding of, this technology or we are failing them as teachers. To be a technologically illiterate teacher in the 21st century is unacceptable, unethical and unprofessional. To hold students back from using the tools that they need to be literate for the 21st century is, quite frankly, immoral.

Seriously, if becoming technologically literate is too hard, or you don’t think it’s “your cup of tea”, then get out now. Quit. Let someone else take over and do the incredibly important work of educating our young people using the tools they deserve.

The frustration expressed by Chris in his post is something I hear from many of the people I work with in the field of professional development re ICT in education, and from an increasing number of parents and employers who are increasingly expecting students with these sorts of skills to front up to work. While the ways in which these people give expression to their frustration may not be as blunt as Chris has been in this instance, the frustration is there all the same.

Of course, there’s always another side to the story – and I can hear the counter arguments now, about the wider purposes of school, the importance of (apparently) non-ICT related subjects in the curriculum, the in ability of our school systems to provide the level of access to ICTs in the first place, and the higher priorities we must give to issues such as the “long tail” in literacy and numeracy to name just a few. Several of these point’s of view are well represented in the responses to Chris’s blog – providing for a very robust discussion which I recommend you read.

Of the responses I do like the one offered by Terry Freedman (whose article prompted Chris’s post in the first place). Terry simplifies the arguments by stating…

The key issue for me, which I don’t think has been touched on in any of this (or at least, I missed it if it has) is that all of the arguments about leadership, time, incentive etc are all irrelevant in the light of some simple questions that any teacher should ask him/herself:

1. Would you feel OK about not being able to read?
2. Would you feel ok about having to ask someone else to count up your loose change?

For me, using a computer is a pretty basic skill these days.

But even more important, why do these people feel so proud of their lack of ability??!

But even more important than even that, we should be educating kids for their future, not our past.

Terry’s last comment uses a quote that I’ve used as the title of some talks that I’ve presented over the past year or so – which probably exposes where I sit on the continuum of the debate! Our challenge as educators is how we will choose to respond – as individuals, at the school level and at the government/policy level.

3 thoughts on “Enough Excuses…

  1. Thanks for the fresh perspective. It can be difficult taking a hard line with experienced teachers who really do care about students. I would hope that most educational professionals would dive in to the world of technology once their schools offered in-depth, on-going professional development AND educated them on the role of technology now and in the future. So many teachers “Don’t know what they don’t know”. Thanks again for the post!

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  2. Thnaks for agreeing with me, Derek, and sorry to have used an expression you’ve used in the past — and there was I thinking I was being totally original!

    I understand people’s lack of time etc etc ad nauseum, but I suppose the bottom line for me is that there are some things I find unacceptable in an absolute sense, and teachers not being digitally literate, or however you want to express it, is one of them.

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  3. Just a suggestion for “at the government/policy level”… start proving some funding for schools to buy equipment. Many NZ schools have participated in teacher professional development through the ICT contract but are still hampered by the financial difficulty of placing equipment in the hands of pupils. I praise the government for initiatives like the teacher laptop scheme, school network infrastructure projects and the recent (small) increase in funding for IT. All this is hardly keeping us up with the rest of the world. Initiatives like the “One Laptop Per Child” programme are going to catapult the countries involved ahead of NZ unless we do something about it.

    I am still running a computer in my class with windows 95 on it just because I am loath to have one less computer. The teacher laptop scheme was a great start. Now it is time to extend this to pupils. Let’s join the OLPC initiative or what about the govt providing those schools that have been through ICTPD cluster programmes a similar amount of money to spend on equipment.
    We have enough work running sausage sizzles, selling chocolate and picking up pine cones to try to get our kids on camp without having to do the same to purchase computers.

    Oh dear I must have got up too early. rant rant rant.

    In my experience there are not very many teachers who “feel proud of their lack of ability”. There are some who bring up the arguments you mention (about the importance of other areas of the curriculum, or the long tail) perhaps out of a sense of shame or inadequacy. The ICTPD project has gone a very long way, I think, to address teacher inadequacy. I’m just struggling from an equipment inadequacy.

    As always, lovely to be challenged by your postings.

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