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Technology (Like Charity) Begins at Home

When I was a highly ideological teenager bent on saving the world, my mother used to make a statement that would shut me down: “Charity begins at home.” I never understood what she was getting at until I was much older but it is clear that her message was that before I could elicit change, I'd have to live the change. I have always believed this in regard to technology and how our classrooms will truly make the jump to the 21st century ideal. Edutopia’s Jim Moulton wrote an article about this and he entitled it “Technology Integration Begins at Home.”

I've read so many disparaging comments from young whippersnappers accusing their veteran colleagues of railroading technology growth and causing classroom stagnation. These word wars are futile. The classroom cannot be the battleground. Not long ago I was speaking to a science teacher of 40 years who seemed to hang her head in shame at the popularity of her young, hip and totally connected counterpart across the hall. I know her years of experience and proven success were rapidly being overshadowed by the flash of youth with limited experience but very cool gadgets. Of course, both teachers' classrooms were identical. They were both decked out with the requisite projector and whiteboard setup, and both used the technology on a daily basis to varying degrees as recommended by the district. Neither teacher could imagine a classroom without a projector and whiteboard, but only one was a true believer in the value of the technology for learning. One teacher’s convenience was another teacher’s tool.

Are we pitting projectors, whiteboards, webcams and web wizardry against years of classroom experience? I’ve read some very heated forum posts and I recall one asking why we’d bring more technology into schools when we have a generation of kids already addicted to it. It went on to ask if we’d be comfortable supplying cigarettes to them if we thought it would help them concentrate. The other side is equally vocal but you get the picture.

My answer is this: technology (like charity) begins at home. Rather than forcing teachers to learn how to enhance their lessons, they should be taught how first to enhance their own lives. I think I’ll show the veteran science teacher how to share the digital photos of her grand kids, or how to post the photos of her dahlias and share her secrets of success on a gardening forum. I’ll show her how to access blogs on genealogy and introduce her to WordPress so she can explain in a blog of her own, her theories on the genetic markers of her clan. Once these teachers are taught about the ease of this technology and the magnificent power of web based research in their own lives,it only follows that it will be incorporated into their professional lives in a manner that is most effective.