If you give a man a fish….or in my case, if you attach a file to an email for a colleague, they will never learn to be self sufficient with technology! I have quite a few friendly neighbors who still call me frantically when their printer won’t work, only to have me rush over and plug it in. This is funny the first few times and makes me feel useful, but does it really help anyone? It is hard not to shake my head when this kind of thing happens (which is quite often), but it doesn’t help the problem.
We’ve heard about the digital divide amongst our students, but what about the digital divide between younger and more veteran teachers? And does it matter? I believe it does. A teacher’s attitude toward technology can have a huge impact on student learning, so I made it my mission to be a technology ambassador at my school, and if you’re even remotely tech savvy (if you’re reading this, you are) you should, too.
Here’s Why: Growth Mindset
Hopefully you’ve heard about all of the research by Carol Dweck out of Stanford about Growth Mindset. I so often hear teachers say, “I’m not techie” or “I can’t figure out computers.” What they may not realize, is that they are demonstrating their fixed mindset to their students. An easy change would be for them to say, “I’m still learning how to use computers” or “I haven’t learned how to do this yet, I need help.” But for some reason, this is often a black and white issue for certain people, and they feel they are either good with computers or not. A common trait amongst these naysayers I’ve observed, is the fear of failure. Those of us who are comfortable using technology with our students aren’t afraid of technical difficulties, or appearing not to know something. For some teachers, this is extremely uncomfortable.
Here’s How: Change Attitudes, Encourage Risk Taking
The first thing I did at my school was hold an all inclusive, tech 101 workshop for tech-phobic teachers. Without judgement, I walked them through the basics, from how to turn on the machine, to how to attach a file to an email. Without rolling my eyes, I let them go at their own pace, and ask questions they’ve always been too embarrassed to ask, (like, what is the cloud? And what’s an MP3?). The next step is to ask your colleagues what they would like help with. You’re not going to gain any followers by trying to teach them to code in their first workshop. They may just want to learn how to troubleshoot their classroom technology, so that’s where you should start. After that, you can slowly introduce tools that you think are useful, such Google Drive or ClassDojo, but don’t start with these. Make sure you allow a lot of time for exploration, everyone should have a device in front of them while you demonstrate and you shouldn’t move on until they’ve caught up. Sound familiar? Yes, this is just good teaching! Adult learners differ from kids in many ways, but when it comes to trying something new, we all bring different experiences to the table. We all need time and room to fail.