Open Letter to the Teacher who said “I Hate Technology.”

Dear Teacher who Said “I hate technology,”

First of all, I want to thank you for your candor and your willingness to openly share your opinion regarding the use of tools for learning.  I am a firm believer that we should all have an open forum for expressing our opinions about our profession and the factors that influence it.  That is why I am writing here.

Rather than do what most readers of this letter are expecting me to do and refute your claims, I have to admit that I concur–I hate it too.  Yes, I must admit, that comes as surprise, I am sure, but something tells me that our reasons for this shared loathing will not be the same.  Let me share mine with you and then we can have an informed discussion to compare and contrast.

First, I cannot stand that I have had to give up hours of painstakingly annotating papers with carefully crafted comments and editing marks.  I’ll miss that fullness of self when I return the essays and research papers back to the students and they scurrilously thumb to the last page, jettisoning any comment or edit I made, to find out their total score on the paper.

Secondly, the fact that there will be conversations about topics in my class that occurr UNABATED and not in my presence is inconceivable and incorrigible.  Thoughts about the content of my class that do not occur during the sanctity of my 50 minute class period belong either as one-on-one conversations with me in the hallway, clearly stated on their homework papers, or held onto in the working memory of the student until the next class period or hallway conversation with me.

Lastly, the assignment of group projects should be a rite of passage that includes several if not all of the following situations for students: one student should do most of the work including but not limited to: writing, researching, organizing, and assigning ancillary roles to other team members, one student should lose the flash drive that has the slide presentation at least once during the assignment duration, one student, most likely the one who pulls down 30+ hours at the local burger joint, should not be able to meet with the rest of the group at any time outside of school, provided the other group members athletics and extracurricular activities schedules do not preclude any outside of the classroom meetings.  Additionally, I should not be able to see the extent to which each of these students worked on the project until the very end of the process.

As you can see, my role as a teacher is being compromised by the intrusion of tools that render aspects of my daily goings-on as obsolete.  This I won’t stand for.  Plus, adding to my ire is the fact that there is all of this talk about new definitions of literacy.  Reading is no longer just the deconstruction and reconstruction of text, but now I am being asked to help students make sense of rich media, data sets that are visualized, and more streams of immediate news and information on a daily basis.  If you ask me, there is just a whole lot of noise.  What do you say we just don’t listen to it?

We had teachers growing up who were able to teach us the finer points of composing, of calculation, of geography, and the greater literary works of both North America and Europe, yet their technology was limited to chalk, and blessed be, an overhead projector.  Can’t we do as much or more with the same?

So I am with you, I think, in resisting this move, and I’ll do just what’s mandated of me by my building principal.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go close my classroom door…

Cross-posted at Ecology of Education and TechLearning.


6 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Teacher who said “I Hate Technology.”

  1. I’m not sure if your response is to a hypothetical person or not, but I wonder if the tact you take in this blog post will be a constructive addition to the conversation. Rant is certainly an appropriate tag for the post, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone an occasional rant. However, if conversation is what your looking for, why not ask questions- Why does the teacher hate technology? Is it fear of being able to keep up with students? Is it frustration when the technology doesn’t work? Is it lack of support of administrators? Is it due to lack of time to learn the technology?

  2. Meredith,

    Thanks for the comment. These types of posts should always come with an addendum, and if time allows today, I am going to do just that. However, to clarify it quickly, it was not aimed at anyone in particular. What I was reacting to is the idea that we tend to propogate what we know and have learned when we are surrounded by change. We fall back on what we know when we realize we don’t know.

    I am not an advocate of technology integration. I am not an advocate of one tool over another. What I am an advocate of is relevancy and meaning by whatever means necessary. What I see a lot of is backlash against the use of web tools by those who refuse to see the value in it. I want openness, and sometimes I feel like I am tired of waiting for it. Thus the tone of this post.

    Could this have been delivered in a manner that will elicit conversation? Absolutely. By doing it in this manner I may have eliminated some avenues of discussion, and that’s OK.

  3. I am going to add my 2 cents worth here, from a different angle. I write supplementary materials for teachers in elementary school classrooms.

    When I was teaching in one of our nation’s larger urban school districts, we had very few materials of any kind. For example, it was diffult to teach guidewords because we didn’t have a full set of dictionaries that were the same. I doubt that this district now has a level of technology high enough to be useful. At this point, that would be much too expensive (especially with the prevailing rate of weekend theft and vandalism). What teachers often end up with is just enough technology to get in the way, but not enough to be helpful.

    If I could go into a school library set up with an internet-connected projector, word-processing stations, Inspiration, Photoshop, a couple of video cams and some digital still cameras, I could convert every teacher in two seconds flat. The problem is, they don’t have this stuff. They have a laptop to record grades and take roll. They have a computer lab that students visit once a week, maybe.

    The stuff has to come first, and then an enthusiast at each school.

    I am an artist as well as a writer. Technology has been debated in that field, as well. I have been asked whether I thought digital art would replace paint and graphite. My answer, of course not! I love digital art and have created some of my favorite works on the computer. I sell them online through Zazzle and Red Bubble. However, I still paint. It’s just another medium. A wonderful medium that can do completely new and different things, but just another medium.

    Similiarly, I think teachers will find that technology will never replace them. Teachers can use technology. They can share ideas. Their kids can take field trips in distant lands without getting on a plane. They can find out the latest information about the solar system, or the rainforest. They can access primary sources once only available to scholars with white gloves and a string of letters after their names. However, left to themselves, students will probably never find these things. They still need guidance and direction. Techology is just another tool, like books, peer tutoring, and, yes, the whiteboard.

    (By the way, my new book for primary teachers “Bit, Bat, Bee, Rime with Me!” was just released from Linworth Learning this week. It includes technology suggestions, but also a lot of old-fashioned hands-on arts and crafts fun.)

    1. Thanks for the comment. You stated “I think teachers will find that technology will never replace them.” I’ve come to believe over the last few years that there is a social aspect to learning that exists beyond what we see as traditional learning. We internalize meaning as we share, and as we communicate with one another. To that end, teachers will never be replaced by any piece of software or hardware. The role of teacher is as old as any other archetypical role in society.

      What I have been hearing from colleagues and in my own circle’s is more of what you spoke about in the first comment. Most of the teachers I work with are willing to take a leap. What is getting me is what Ryan Bretag often refers to as the closing of doors in our schools. We go to training, we hear the speaker, we get all charged up, but then we return to our classrooms and do what we know. Our problem is in reaching the tipping point, not with technology, but with saying “when is it enough? When will enough training be enough? When will we see the application of your innovative thought?”

  4. Patrick, I too hate technology. That is, I hate technology simply for technologies’ sake. On the other hand, I love learning and I love teaching kids how to learn. If I can use some digital tools among the other tools I’ve acquired over the past 17 years to help kids learn, I love that process. The more tools I have, the more effective I can be, as each tool may not be relevent, useful, or timely in every situation.

  5. I don’t hate technology, I hate the inequity it creates within a school, where only some teachers use it for the betterment of their students’ education.

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