Struggling for Authenticity & Relinquishing my Teacher Power

I’m currently facilitating a 6 week blogging challenge for a group of Pennsylvania educators who have committed to one post and one comment per week until Thanksgiving. Reading their posts has kept me invigorated, reflective, and even more strongly convinced (wasn’t sure that was possible!) that TEACHERS hold the answers to most of the problems plaguing our education system.

Last week’s prompts centered on the following theme: Teaching in the Age of Personalization and Technology. Participants focused on different aspects of teaching with technology, some challenging the value of technology in the classroom, others celebrating it with caution.

As I’ve engaged with fellow educator’s ideas, I’ve been challenged to reflect on the my core beliefs about technology in my classroom. I know teachers who are well-loved and highly respected by their students as well as highly effective and extremely relevant in their instruction. Yet, they overall eschew regular, integrated technology use in their classrooms, preferring to use it for select projects or in a minimal way to improve communication or distribute information and materials. Who am I to suggest that technology will improve an already amazing thing?

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I also know teachers who use technology merely because someone told them to. Or some slick presenter at a conference convinced them that kids love having devices and that love will automatically translate into love of learning or knowledge. I know teachers who pat themselves on the back for substituting a drill-and-kill worksheet for a kill-me-with-bullets PowerPoint. These are all very sad and ineffective uses of technology in the classroom.

Plus, people in the EdTech world love to lie.

They love to paint the world with bright screens, smiling faces, and moving multi-media presentations. So rarely do they also discuss the dark underworld of glitchy programs, lack of capacity in students, poor learning tools, and underdeveloped infrastructure in school environments.

I don’t think they lie with ill intent. They are just too excited to tell the truth. They see the possibility and can’t help but discount all the road blocks that exist.

I can be like that.

But I’m trying really hard to stop. And to listen. To stop telling someone how amazing something will be without also revealing the hours and hours I spent making it work. Stop encouraging a tech tool when I know a non-tech tool will work as well or better. Stop ignoring the fact that just because I love something doesn’t mean it is the best decision.

Sometimes the best learning takes place without a screen or wifi.
Sometimes the best learning takes place without a screen or wifi.

Yet, I still do believe every word of this post. I still strongly believe that technology MUST be a part of a student’s daily learning experience. I’m still pouring hours of my time to making my classroom a connected one.

My post’s title aptly describes my current position on technology in my classroom. This year I had a break-through in understanding the big WHY and the important HOW of connecting my classroom through social media and blogging. As I wrote in that earlier post, I’ve had some real successes that validated my choice.

As we round into the second marking period, I’m struggling to find my next step. So far, the social media in my classroom is still very teacher-directed. I do the majority of posting, retweeting, and culling of resources. When my students post a blog, I like to “market” it out to Twitter, trying to draw an audience to their awesome work. But I didn’t create these accounts to lead a duel social-media life. I created them for students to take ownership of them–running them, learning through them, and making connections with them–far beyond the ones I bring to the classroom myself.

I want to relinquish my teacher-power to enable their student-power to flourish. I want to facilitate an empowered classroom, not a compliant, passive one. Right now, I don’t feel wholly successful in that pursuit.

Part of this struggle is my lack of patience. I see the ideal place I want to be, and I compare that to my current state and bemoan the difference. That’s not fair to myself or the process. Learning isn’t a direct line, but rather a winding road with switchbacks, and hairpin turns.

So here I am, a passionate techie teacher who recognizes the lies of “easy tech.” A connected educator trying to convince my students to connect their classroom. A blog-challenge creator who’s just written her first blog for said challenge…and it’s week 3.

What I lack in perfect posts or plans, I hope I make up for with authenticity and intention. I will work hard no matter what, trying to listen more than I speak, and always respect those who hold a different perspective.

6 thoughts on “Struggling for Authenticity & Relinquishing my Teacher Power

  1. These are the conversations that Education desperately needs. Your passion for your students, your teaching, and technology is inspiring, and pushes me to do better. What’s great, is that this reflection is very meta. Our topic for the week is technology in the classroom, and while I’m extremely cautious about it, this essential conversation wouldn’t even be happening if it weren’t for the blogging challenge and the all the devices/ability to connect in the first place. In fact, I don’t think we’re too far away in our beliefs about tech’s benefits and necessity. But I find myself in a district that is not even gotten to the “transition” stages. Technology is most often used as a shiny bandaid–something that looks really great, but isn’t really given any serious consideration (with time and/or money). When those factors are absent from the equation, teachers are left on their own, and tech is often used as that “silver bullet” that Josh mentions above. Our students deserve better. You should feel encouraged about your tech-infused classroom, I’m simultaneously inspired and jealous.

    1. I agree with you which was my impetus for suggesting this blog challenge–we need to be digging deeply, much more deeply than we usually do, into these topics. Teachers need to be given the time and respect to analyze the cause-and-effect nature of changes in our classroom. We need to be given the time to support each other in transition. We need to be well-resourced.

      Have you looked into any potential grants for your classroom? I’ll keep my eye out for those that I see come through my Inbox and feeds and I’ll forward them to you. Introducing just 10 iPads to your class can have a transformative effect–of course depending on what you are able to do with them!

      Thanks for engaging. It’s so important.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Brianna. Technology in the classroom gets batted around so much in education that it’s great to hear from someone who uses it in authentic and effective ways struggling with how to best incorporate it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The best way to grow is to be honest, authentic, and vulnerable. It also seems to be the best way to earn the trust of others who may in turn be honest, authentic, and vulnerable with me. Thanks for stopping by to read and respond!

  3. You make some fine points here. Technology in education is like technology in anything else. It’s a tool to get a job done, but it’s just another tool. After all, just because powerpoint exists doesn’t mean a chalkboard doesn’t work anymore. Similarly, the existence of nail guns doesn’t mean hammers won’t work anymore. As teachers, we have to determine the best tools to get the jobs done, depending both on the preferences of our students and ourselves. Sometimes, it’s a great new resource. Personally, I love letting students use their phones as calculators, astronomical tools, triangulation tools (using the level), and even research tools to fact check me during a lesson. It doesn’t work for every teacher or every subject, but I like it. On the other hand, I’ve found lessons that benefit much more from low tech. Using the simplest measuring equipment can help students understand far better just how the device works rather than considering it to be a magic box which gives them answers. People have been teaching and learning our subjects for a very long time before computers and smart phones have been around. It’s easy to point at the number of smart boards in a school as evidence that they’re doing great things there. But when I go to a mechanic, I really don’t care what equipment he/she is using. I care that my car gets fixed.

    1. Josh,
      Thanks for stopping by to push the conversation. I like your use of metaphors around physical tools that have evolved. I think sometimes that the technology available to use does render some things obsolete. I think I use a pencil about 5 times a year. #truth

      I still use pens, and still print things, but as the technology improves, I can see myself using that less.

      Before 3 years ago I had never made a video. Now, I’m making them in 30 seconds on a daily basis and sharing them with the world. That is mind-blowing and has never been available to the average person.

      So although I still could use a chalkboard, I don’t. If I had a nail gun, I would forgo the hammer too (disclosure: my husband and I laid all of our solid oak hardwood floor–that would have been tortuous with a hammer).

      However, I do agree with your point about using the low-tech tool when it’s the best fit and keeps learning at the forefront. I guess part of my struggle right now is understanding how to prioritize different types of learning. In connecting my classroom, I’ve opened a whole different layer of digital literacy learning that didn’t exist in my classroom before. So now I need to make choices about what type of learning to elevate and when. It feels ambiguous right now.

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