Educator or Technologist?

Flickr user: eliazar

Something has been really bothering me lately. I’m taking a college course called Introduction to the Internet for Educators. When I first saw the title I was really excited because I figured the teacher would be teaching me all about how to use the Internet to help kids learn. However, thats not quite how it played out.

I am in a Master’s in Educational Technology program and the professors are all Ed Tech specialists. From my homely status as a teacher, I thought their goal as instructors would be to teach us how to all be better educators, not better technologists. At least not technologists in the old sense. The C++ sense. Maybe I’m totally off base here, but shouldn’t education classes teach you how to help kids?

With all the amazing tools available online, is our time learning about the Internet best spent learning how to code html and css? I don’t think so. While I agree that a basic level of understanding about those languages is important, to spend 15 weeks learning how to handcode and program seems a waste of a semester.

How often do Educational Technologists train their teachers to code pages? Seriously. My degree is supposed to teach me how to run an Edtech program at the school or district level. I cant imagine going into a school and doing a professional development session on CSS. I CAN however, imagine going into a school and teaching a group of teachers how to use wiki’s, or Google Docs, or even make videos that you can upload to Youtube. The only html you need to know to do that is how to copy, paste, and embed a given code.

Please tell me if I’m totally mistaken. In fact, tell me if I’m right too, an affirmation a day keeps the doctor away.

10 thoughts on “Educator or Technologist?

  1. Cory,
    You are right in your outrage. I’m at the end of the program, and I’ve only had a few teachers that actually taught how to utilize the innovations that are available. I’ve actually learned a lot more from you than from the program.
    I think that there are two problems that you are facing. First, the colleges determine the curriculum and the individual facilitators are not allowed to stray from the path. The second problem may be that the college level instructors are not of your generation, where technology has been part of your entire life. You see technology as a natural extension of your world, whereas, my generation still see technology as the newest fad (not all of us) in education. My generation is way behind the learning curve when it comes to technology.
    You, and people like you, will be the true educators that integrate technology into education. I know that you would do an awesome job as a course facilitator, and I for one, would love to take a course with you.
    Hang in there and plow (no pun intended) through the program. Once you get to the other end, you’ll have your degree and you will be in a position to make the changes that need to happen.


  2. Unbelievable!

    The whole point of the new web is the skills people need now aren’t programming but mass collaboration skills. Sure it would be nice to have programming skills but not at the expense of what is really required.

    This makes me also grumpy! And you aren’t wrong.

  3. Cory,

    You are spot on! This is one of the main reasons that technology continues to have little impact on education. It may empower tiny enclaves here and there – but it has not had the massive impact that it should.

    Your experience identifies one of the major reasons. EdTech isn’t about coding, it’s about taking what coders have already done and empowering student learning and teachers professional growth. There are plenty of people out there already creating new and usable applications every day – teachers don’t need to worry about this. It is incumbent on EdTech leaders, like yourself, to continue to push the envelope and wildly imagine ways that these tools can open the learning architecture in your classroom.

    True, it is beneficial to know the underlying ideas of coding and design – it’s even fun to play with on the side (and may help you see its power more clearly). However, it does not create a new vision of education and THAT is what your class should be doing, creating vision, opening new windows.

    Here is the dichotomy, your in the choir and within this space are mostly choir members. How do we stop singing to the choir and go about creating a voice outside that will foster and nurture change? How do we release the potential energy of technology/the web so that it becomes a viable vehicle for true educational reinvention?

    I found a simple definition of inertia , “An object that is not subject to any outside forces moves at a constant velocity, covering equal distances in equal times along a straight-line path.” Tech/the web is moving along slowly because so many are trying to “fit it in” or use it to simply to do what they are already doing, just differently. The power of Tech/the web is that we can use it to re-conceptualize our learning architectures so that they become powerful and visionary – creating what now doesn’t exist.

    You are in a position to do that, to make a change where it is needed – be a revolutionary in your class . . . sing outside of the choir. And, not to sound too grandiose and melodramatic, then go on to teach these possibilities to those around you.

    – Greg

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  5. Corey, I am in a similar program, although my professors are not all Ed Tech Specialists. We have had no programming at all, and I do believe a basic understanding would probably be helpful. As Sue states above with the tools available now I don’t believe you would need 15 weeks of it. I have had a different issue to deal with, the closest we have ever come to talking about web 2.0 is podcasting. I have finished all of my required classes and we never spoke at all about the applications all of appear to use in our jobs with other teachers or students. I feel as though the professors in my program have not kept up with the technology available.

  6. Hi Cory,

    Came across this YouTube vid that I think works well in the context of your post and the comments. Maybe you can pass this along to the prof and spur some discussion that can positively influence the course of the, well, course.

    – Greg

  7. @ greg – I posted the video (which I love and have seen before but wasn’t wise enough to bring into this discussion so thank you:) on the discussion board in my class. I followed with the question: How do you think this might change our Edtech program? Let you know how it goes.

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  9. Cory,
    I am about half way through my Masters in Curriculum /Ed Technology and I had some very frustrating experiences. There are about 5 classes that are supposed to have an emphasis on how to best utilize technology in education. I could not believe how incredibly outdated the materials were. It was an online class that had not been updated in about 5 years. The book was about 7 years old!

    I am taking another online class this month which is a SPED class. One of the students suggested to the instructor that we modify the final assignment. I sent an email to all of the people in the class suggesting we use a wiki to collaborate———–they FREAKED out! None of them have ever used a wiki which does not surprise me, but their unwillingness to learn is disheartening. These are not terribly old teachers either. Many are well under 30, but they are very technologically challenged.

    I’m looking forward to talking to you at NECC. Sounds like we have lots in common. One of my colleagues who is a computer tech began encouraging me about a year ago to start exploring Web 2.0. He said it was really cool to find a community of people online that share similar interests and viewpoints.

  10. @ Beth – If you haven’t already, you should check out Twitter. Ive learned more from the network of incredibly intelligent edtech people I follow, than I have from any class or PD Ive had in the past. I just started summer school and I asked one of the EdTech professors if I could use Web 2.0 design tools to complete design projects in her class. She asked me to tell her more of Web 2, she hadn’t heard of it. wow

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