Responsibility and Educational Technologies

Responsibility and Educational Technologies

As the week of festivities at the MA New Literacies Institute (NLI) 2012 wraps up I’ve taken some time to reflect on the events of the week. One common thread that has me thinking as I’ve made my way back from Cambridge is the role of responsibility of teachers as they make room for technology in their classroom. This thinking has been motivated by my colleagues, most notably Greg McVerry as he discussed his thinking that it is not our (his) responsibility to teach HOW to use a program, digital text, or digital tool. I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at this admission that instruction in a basic tool use was the responsibility of the individual teacher, but now that we’re a couple steps from the NLI, I have to say that I agree.

It is no longer cool, “retro”, or even acceptable to say that you “just don’t get technology.” Last year at AERA P. David Pearson (among other researchers in the room) stated that “we get it finally…stop beating it into our heads.” The “it” that he was referring to was the fact that new and digital literacies are changing literacy and the way that we communicate, socialize, express ourselves, etc. The consensus was that it is perfectly understood now…and that we no longer need to make these arguments as we begin explaining research or instruction that stems from our research. From now on we were to just get into the “nuts and bolts” of how do we react to, or address these changes. Fast forwarding to this week, teachers began echoing these sentiments. Don Leu gave a great keynote framing all of this work…and making the argument, and the teachers all expressed the sentiment that “we get it already…now what do we do?”

What has me thinking at the conclusion of the NLI is not that we don’t need to frame the argument anymore, but the HOW question that arises. As Greg points out in his blog post, the HOW question is one of balance. I now agree that I don’t have time, or should have to provide basic instructions on tool use. I should not have to…and will not…provide basic guidance on how to blog, or sign in to Edmodo, or use Voicethread on your iPad. I will provide step-by-step instructions (with screencasts) showing you how to do all of this. But, it is your responsibility as a teacher to teach yourself, and learn how to negotiate the interface of these digital texts and tools.

It is my responsibility as a teacher educator and educational technology advocate to put together easy to follow and understand training materials that are freely and openly available online. It is my responsibility to share possible pedagogical and instructional uses of these texts and tools in your classroom. It is also my responsibility to help troubleshoot and problem solve use, access, and management issues with the use of educational technology. It is also my responsibility…and I relish this responsibility…to share new texts and tools, and ways in which they improve upon what we’ve done up to this point in the classroom.

At the conclusion of this week I am beginning to recognize the fact that it is no longer my responsibility to make the case or argument for the need of these new and digital literacies in our classrooms. The research and our own 21st Century lives bear this out. At this point it is unacceptable to not provide a space for these digital texts and tools in our classrooms…or at least prepare students for their later use in their lives. It is not my responsibility to get teachers signed up to a digital text or tool, or help remember passwords, or negotiate basic interfaces of a program or text. Teachers need to provide themselves time to “play” with a digital text or tool…and build up their skill level. With appropriate materials…and the plethora of training materials available online…this should be easy.

I’m still thinking through the effects of this on my work with teachers and educational technologies, but certain shifts have begun to take hold in my thinking. In future posts I will discuss the responsibility of teachers…and then finally the responsibility of students as we address these changes in our classrooms. I may try and unpack what responsibilities I see for administrators and parents/community…but that remains to be seen.

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