Thoughts from a teacher-librarian

Posts tagged ‘technology’

When being a parent and an educator collide

My son is struggling a bit in his freshman English class. He has never been a huge fan of reading (a fact that is horrifying to his librarian mother…..maybe that’s why he always says it). Now he’s being required to read longer, more complex texts and analyze them in essay form. This is challenging to him. In addition, there is a student teacher in his classroom. I thought this might be helpful; you know, the young, cool teacher brings out the best in the young students. Wrong. This student teacher is stuck in the era where technology was not integrated into the classroom. He doesn’t use the projector in his room. Shared Google docs seem like they’re foreign to him. I set up a meeting to discuss my son’s progress. The student teacher looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested that, as a parent, it would help me to support my child (read that as: nag on him as needed) if he would post the major due dates for projects, tests, etc. on the calendar in Skyward. He said he didn’t know how to use the calendar feature! I looked to the regular classroom teacher, but he also said he had never used it. Yikes! Then I asked him to electronically share a rubric for an upcoming project so that we could see what the expectations are. Once again, blank stare. He said that he always writes that stuff down on the whiteboard in class. He offered to write it on the board for me so that I could copy it down. Really.

I feel so excited when I think of the technology available to students and staff today. The things I mentioned are actually really SIMPLE technology. I didn’t ask the teacher to create his own website for the class (although that’s a simple task with today’s tools)……..just communicate more effectively and efficiently. This would really benefit everyone in the end. I work in a different district than the one where my son attends school, so I’m not sure I have any pull (OK, I have none), but it is exasperating to me that my son is receiving basically the same kind of English class I received as a student. Except 30 years have passed, people!! I think there is still value in reading the classics and learning to look more deeply at them, I just think that there are much more compelling tools at our disposal these days. Is is too much to ask that teachers be expected to use them?

Here are some of my thoughts about changing this:

Schools for teacher training should make sure that the staff they choose to mentor student teachers are effective users of technology. I really think this is imperative to changing the culture in our schools!

Let’s go one step further…..schools for teacher training should be heavily emphasizing the need for using technology creatively in ANY classroom. Technology should never be used just for the sake of novelty, but in ways that modernize and improve upon educational tasks. How can technology help a teacher? How can technology help students? How can technology improve home/school communication? These should be common themes.

Principals should make sure that part of a teacher’s evaluation is whether they are using technology to enhance education in their classroom.

What other ideas do you have on the topic? I know I’ve only brushed the surface.

A self-imposed tech break

We recently had a two week break from school and I decided to use that time to unhook a little bit from the tech world. I haven’t done this for an entire two week period EVER. Well OK, at least not since I have become so tech-immersed. Hey, what year was that, anyway? Sometimes I will go for a weekend without checking in, but never two weeks. Frankly, there is rarely a day that goes by without checking email (personal and work), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+…..you get the idea. I know I am not always keeping up with what’s new and I feel compelled to log in and read things every time I have a few minutes. I am certain that I am not alone in this.

So how did it go? Overall I did well. I still checked e-mail a couple of times each day, but I didn’t spend much time on it. I think that I would have been very overwhelmed by the backlog if I hadn’t kept up with this. I looked at Facebook, but I rarely post on there any more and it seems like many others don’t, either. The people who post approximately ten funny/pithy/angry pictures a day won’t miss me since I rarely ever comment on their posts, so this might be something I can cut back on permanently. Eureka! Ten minutes a day gained. When it comes to Instagram, the only real reason I check it is to see my 15 year old son’s posts, since I don’t really post things myself. I could really limit my stalking of him to once or twice a week! What did I miss the most? You know and love it……TWITTER!!

For the first few days I felt a bit anxious that I wasn’t checking my Twitter feed. There had to be tons of good ideas being shared & I was missing them all! Once the first few days went by it became easier to ignore the call of Twitter. It was probably good for me to disconnect for a bit and really relax my mind. I found I was able to finish a few books, which I haven’t done often enough lately. It was nice to discover that I still do have an attention span that is longer than 144 characters. I know I missed lots of sharing, but I guess I’m OK with that. There are always new ideas to be had and I can’t possibly keep up with all of them. It’s good enough to check in with Twitter on a regular basis, but there is no official quota necessary. Keeping up with new ideas is what keeps teaching interesting and challenging and I certainly don’t want to give that up completely. Twitter is awesome because of the sheer number of ideas being shared and because it’s so quick and easy to skim and save a few gems. I love sharing the new ideas I’ve learned.

One unexpected consequence of me giving up technology for two weeks was the fact that I really noticed when those around me were in addict mode. A couple of my friends may need some intervention. One of them was playing games on her phone the whole time we were trying to have dinner together. She’s 65….so I guess tech addiction knows no age restrictions!  

In my own household, my husband, son and I had a good conversation about the tech rules in our house and decided we liked them. We have a lot of technology in our home: 1 Mac, 1 Chromebook, 1 PC laptop, 1 iPad, 1 iPad mini, 3 iPhones, 2 Kindles….yikes! It sounds really bad when you actually list it all out. One major rule is that we don’t bring any of this to the dinner table. We use that small amount of time to talk and connect with each other. Also, my son and I turn off technology use after 9pm so that we can wind down before bedtime. He’s a teenager, so it’s a struggle to detach from his friends and social media, but he agrees that the 9pm rule gives him an excuse to pull away. He says it’s good for him to have a snack and chat with us for a while before he heads upstairs to get ready for sleep. We seem to have our best conversations after 9pm; we snuggle the dogs, sometimes watch a taped show like “Modern Family” & laugh and talk together. 

I may not take a two week break very often, but I will most definitely remember the value of unplugging. I hope to reduce my screen time each week. I’ll maximize my time at work and unplug a little earlier each evening. It’s all about balance.