(Not my best title, I know. But it’s 4pm and I have yet to post!)
Teachers, at least elementary school teachers, are hoarders. We heart saving things with the rationale that “someday I might need this for (enter name of obscure project here) and if I throw it away, I’ll just have to go buy it again.” I have used this reasoning to justify mountains of dried beans stored in old tin coffee cans, toilet paper tubes, assorted scraps of cardboard and old glitter shakers that may or may not have remnants of usable glitter in them, but hey, you never know.
Teachers can also be a little bit jealous of one another. Like, for example, the year one of my Super Colleagues got all new classroom furniture because she moved into a previously unused classroom space. Suddenly my well-loved (read: CRAPPY) old furniture looked, well, even crappier. And I was a little jealous. Orrrrr, the time when another Super Colleague of mine wrote a Donors Choose grant that got funded and suddenly tons of beautiful new bottles of paint, pristine paint brushes and glorious watercolor sets were delivered to her classroom. Sure I knew she would share, sure I knew that she put in the effort to write a grant proposal, sure I knew it didn’t mean I was a bad teacher. But I still felt jealous. So imagine how some of us in the lower elementary school (who are painfully nerdy and enjoy new gadgets) felt when the upper grade teachers started to have Smart Boards installed in their classrooms.
I mean, there’s enough of a divide between upper elementary school teachers and lower elementary school teachers as it is. I have no idea why, but my impression is that many upper elementary school teachers imagine those of us down in first and second grades doing nothing but singing with children as we strum our guitars, painting pinch pots and gluing macaroni on every available surface. (P.S. – totally NOT what we’re doing by the by…I mean sure, I like arts and farts as much as the next girl, but usually only have time to do that in between, you know, teaching my friends how to READ, WRITE and COUNT.)
I think I have strayed from my initial point. The point I was trying to make is that teachers like to hoard things. And that we also eye each other’s things longingly and with occasional twinges of hoarder-jealousy. These feelings, which were previously limited to objects such as paint brushes, easels and extra sentence strips, now extended themselves to superior technology.
I remember walking by classrooms with Smart Boards, glancing inside and imagining what I would do if I had the power. I imagined powerful scenes…usually with children clustered around the board, engaged in furtive, productive conversation, pausing only to pay the utmost attention to my teaching brilliance and to interact with our learning through this amazing technological advancement that was the Smart Board. We would high five each other, drunk on our mutual learning and then maybe make a pinch pot or whatever. Sigh. It was going to be great. If only I could swallow the jealousy down and wait until it was my turn to receive what we had come to view as the Educational Holy Grail.
I never did get to use a Smart Board. I left before it was our turn down in the lower grades. I felt a little cheated. And then I read this article, which questions whether or not technological advances, such as the Smart Board, are the game changer we thought they were.
At the beginning of the piece, I have to admit that this Lonnise Gilley person sounds like she is a rock star of a teacher. I mean, rock on, sister friend! However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Ms. Gilley could probably rock it out with a piece of chalk and a chalkboard or an old dry erase marker and a scratched up easel. My point being that the fancy pants high-tech whiteboard didn’t make her great, she made the technology great.
Okay. These super fancy white boards may have the ability to put my stick figure diagrams to shame with full color images pulled off of Google and offer a ton of opportunities for high tech student involvement but…
How do you even turn it on? The article mentions that a lot of teachers are “ignoring” it’s interactive capabilities.
WHOAH! (insert incredulous tone.)
Before we go blaming the teacher, has anyone ever considered that no one thought to teach the teacher how to use those features? Or point out that they even exist? Or do anything besides hand her a billion page manual and say “good luck”? OF COURSE I’ll read the manual, you know, during all my SPARE TIME. Sure, I’ll just stick it into my schedule right here in between rehabilitating blind dolphins and folding paper cranes for charity!
I began to wonder if even Ms. Gilley, my new teacher crush, could make this high-tech whiteboard sing with educational genius without the proper professional development. (Notice I didn’t say “training.” We are not talking about the potty here people, we are talking about insanely expensive pieces of technology.) I mean, have you ever tried to pull off a new science experiment in your classroom and you probably should have done a dry run of the whole thing first, but you know , with your non-existent spare time and report cards looming in the coming weeks, you didn’t get around to it and then your lesson kind of bombs because you spend more time fumbling around with the battery and little wires and totally lose the attention of your friends in the process? (C’mon….be honest with me here. We’ve all been there.) Now imagine trying to incorporate a new piece of technology that yes, has unlimited potential, but a) you have no idea how to successfully integrate it in to your teaching because it was literally dropped in your classroom with not even a whisper of subsequent professional development lurking on the horizon or b) you’re not a very skilled teacher in the first place.
New technology is not going to turn mediocre (or worse BAD) teachers into Educational Trendsetters. And without effective professional development, even the best teachers are going to have trouble realizing their full potential.
So while yes, high tech whiteboards are very fancy and shiny and may spur feelings of Teacher Jealousy, let’s stop parading them around as Saviors of the Classroom and recognize that supporting, promoting and encouraging GOOD TEACHING (with or without technology) is our best investment.