Fear, Technology, and Discernment

ImageA blog post by @mrsdkrebs got me thinking about what is holding me back from being the chief learner in my class. For many teachers it is fear.

Several ETMOOCers have expressed levels of fear and uncertainty about the course or an app, but I think the real source of fear is much deeper. While some of us are genuinely nervous about technology, most of us are really worried about losing our status as “Expert”. For decades teachers have been experts, the source of knowledge in schools. When students had questions, they asked the teacher. Bringing technology into the classroom often ushers in fear as well because teachers are sure that several of their students will know more about the tech than they do and that will mean the end of their reign as “expert”. I’m not proud of this feeling, nor does it match my educational philosophy (or my practice most days, I trust), but if I’m not brutally honest about naming that splinter of fear in my mind, I can’t locate it and pluck it out for good.

In my previous post I mentioned fear as a catalyst for growth, but too much fear is paralyzing, so in the interest of balance, I offer a charm to ward off the fear of technology rooted in losing the title Expert. In many of our classrooms we may have to concede that title to a student(s) in regards to technology (and what wonderful learning relationships will blossom), but there is one vital area of expertise that you and I have that our students desperately need–discernment.

When it comes to technology, development happens at a near exponential rate. Technology evolves with a because-we-can attitude with not enough but-should-we?. More than ever our students need us to be experts that walk and work along side them in the real and digital world. We need to model discernment, sharing our own mistakes, discussing our own time and content boundaries, making time for reflection (for them and ourselves), asking them to join the larger discussion of which technologies should be developed and how. In this way I can hand over some of the control in my classroom and still be an “expert”. Sometimes my students may be way ahead of me when it comes to the latest apps, but I need to be leading them when it comes to applying those apps.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Fear, Technology, and Discernment

  1. G’day Scott,
    With this large amount of information now available at our students’ fingertips, we need to also teach more critical thinking and skills for using the internet effectively and efficiently. That is what this #etmooc will be helping teachers and educators to learn. Gathering information, bookmarking, hyperlinking, annotation – why re invent the wheel? Learn from others who have already gone down that pathway.

    • Amen to critical thinking skills and effective, efficient internet use. As you suggest, I’m participating in ETMOOC to learn the necessary mindset and skill set to continue the transformation of the teaching and learning in my classroom. Thanks for being part of the community.

  2. I think there can be fear about this interactive online space, but I also see it as a tool for empowerment. The increased access to resources and learning has really expanded our ability as teachers to be innovative. What do you think?

    • I’ve certainly found it empowering. The best part of the ETMOOC experience so far has been seeing the struggles and successes of other educators. I’ve definitely gained valuable resources, but taking the first steps in expanding my PLN and feeling the solidarity and support of this growing movement has given me confidence to move forward. I’ve been toying with transforming the teaching/learning in my classes, but now I’m ready to dive in deep. I can see the network of educators, including you, that will encourage me and equip me as I go. I’ll do what I can to reciprocate.

  3. Great post. I teach high school Spanish. I have been preparing for next semester (starts a week from Monday) and been thinking about all of the apps and tech tools out there. I have been trying to “discern” which ones will be the best. I want to settle on a few good ones, and then, hopefully, the students and I will become experts with those tools. I envision that we will be learning how to use them together, and I will tell them that when we start.

    This is my list of tools so far:
    – for blogging – Google’s Blogger – we are a Google Apps school and blogger is easy
    – for audio recording – Soundcloud – easy to use on computer or mobile device. Uploads easily to blogger.
    – for sharing – Twitter – easy to use and they already use it
    – for video – still trying to work this one out – iMovie (but not in the cloud, so maybe not) or wevideo (still working out some kinks) or maybe something else. I have to investigate some more.

    So, your post was great to read for me right now as I am trying to discern the best tools. Also, I should remember (as you mentioned) that the students might have better tools. If so, I will let them use them, but I do want to give everyone a starting point.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Kara, perhaps Vimeo for your video?

    • Your preparations for second semester sound very similar to mine, Kara. I’ve been blessed with a very small section of grade 12 language arts, and I’m going to be as gutsy as I dare; I’m going to show up on the first day with the curricular outcomes, and together we’re going to start planning how they would like to demonstrate their master of them.

      I have ideas, of course, but I’m going to do my best to keep them to myself and let student creativity and interest drive the agenda. I think it’s going to be some great scary-fun.

      As for some of the tools you’re exploring: I’ve used Google’s Blogger for years with students, and you’re right; it is easy to use and reliable. I think iMovie is tough to beat if you have Apple devices, and you could always use Google drive to store/access the movies, but not to work collaboratively on editing.

      Seems to me you’ve done enough homework on the tech to be prepared, but that you’re also willing to be flexible enough to bring students into the decision making process. I think that’s the groundwork for success. I’d be interested to hear how it goes.

  4. Hi Scott,
    I like your blog about being an expert without knowing everything. An expert is the one who knows about application of new apps and tools.
    I agree on this. As a teacher you are an expert in so many skills, that your students need to learn. The tool is not important it is what people do with their tools. Maybe you will enjoy this blog about http://halfanhour.blogspot.ca/2006/08/things-you-really-need-to-learn.html
    Keep on MOOCing
    Jaap

    • Thanks, Jaap, for the reassurance and the article. I skimmed the article, but it now sits in my reader so that I can spend some time with it. You’ll hear back from me in the future.

  5. Hi Scott, fear is a factor for sure… but letting go can be wonderful…. some of the best learning I have seen in my classroom has been when the kids became the experts… they then became peer mentors for others struggling, and were rewarded with a great sense of achievement!
    As far as tech goes, often they know how to use it, but the citizenship and best ways of using it for learning often escape them…. so working as a team is good…. that’s where building rapport with students is important!

    • Relationships really are the key in education; I agree. I’m MOOCing in order to develop some relationships and equip myself to make room for a greater variety of learning relationships with and among students. Your positive experiences with letting go are encouraging. Thanks.

  6. Scott,

    You’ve made so many great comments. I love this post. I’ve had some practice getting over feeling like the “expert” in my class. Even before technology, I learned I always had students who were smarter than I in brain power. That’s just the nature of teaching, and teachers who don’t acknowledge the intelligence of their students just get eye-rolled in the hallway. However, like you said, we also have discernment, which counts for a lot as we lead the way in learning for our precious learners.

    I think more than teaching web apps, we will continually walk beside them, teaching them how to learn, how to think critically, how to navigate. Navigation IS literacy in the 21st century, and students will need to learn this or be lost. Alec Couros mentioned he’s starting to talk about digital fluency, instead of digital literacy. Most of us and our students are digitally literate, but now we are becoming fluent too.

    I’m rambling. I think your blog post is going to inspire me to write a blog post, for I’ve been thinking about your post for two days. Thanks for making your thinking visible, and for sharing the link with me too.

    Regards,
    Denise

    • You’re very kind, Denise; thank you.

      “Navigation IS literacy.” Yes! What a great way to put it. That’s going to stick with me. Our students already live in a world of devices and apps (as Heather W-G points out http://tweenteacher.com/2013/01/17/byod-they-already-do/), so we had better adapt our teaching and learning practices to help them navigate the real and digital world. Seems to me you’re doing just that in your classroom. I’m catching up.

      I haven’t had time to dig into Genius hour, but I will. My basic understanding reminded me of this video about motivation
      http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-drive which (eventually) applauds organizations that occasionally allow the people within them to create with as little restriction as possible. (I also use it to help show my soon-to-be-graduates that money isn’t everything).

      But, more another time. Thanks again.

      • Scott, thanks for sharing the links. I liked Heather’s post; what’s even better are the comments on that post. Very interesting! It shows the passion involved around technology usage. However, it really is about learning, isn’t it? The technology is part of a bigger transformation of how learning happens now.

        And how we are motivated to learn, like Daniel Pink says in that excellent video you shared with me. That video is one of the reasons I started doing genius hour. I just wrote a post reflecting on a year of genius hour. (Did I already share it with you? http://mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org/2013/01/19/a-year-of-genius-hour-what-have-i-learned/ )

        Thanks again for the conversation!
        Denise

  7. Hi Scott – Serependitiously, this link came through my twitter stream recently. It is about nominating students as Digital Leaders to work with teachers and students in the classroom to integrate technology.

    http://dedwards.me/2013/01/26/digital-leaders-why-you-need-them-in-your-school-plus-a-few-tips-on-how-to-get-started/
    http://www.digitalleadernetwork.co.uk/?page_id=1618

    • Debseed,
      Wow! What a great resource. I’ve read through it a couple times, and now I’m figuring out how to start collaborating with my existing digital leaders asap, and also how to develop and nurture new ones. The post is packed with helpful ideas, and I’m grateful.
      Sincerly,
      Scott

      • Yes, I like the selection process they use, e.g interviewing, and asking them to produce an artefact using a tool they’ve not come across before. It will be interesting to hear if/how you implement it.

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