Tech Camp…is anyone listening?

So, as a blind teacher of sorts, I got “drafted” by a good friend to come give a talk at the district technology summer camp for teachers.  It’s exciting and horrifying, as you might expect for an event that has me do a lot of talking to strangers and educating people.

…oh, wait, that’s my job. Oopse.

But, introvert terror aside, it’s a really interesting environment.  Tech has been a huge part of my education; without it, I wouldn’t have one.  I’ve been using portable devices since long before they were common in schools (go go hipster teacher).  Technology is the only reason that I’m able to participate in my classes at all.  I read on various devices, I type up all my papers and notes, and if I didn’t have a calendar in my phone, I’d have forgotten to show up for college.

So this is great; tech is awesome!  And yet… there is such an atmosphere of resistance here, which I find very disturbing.  Coming from a “need tech” perspective, the idea that technology is damaging in the classroom is unsettling to me.  If I know, simply from personal experience, what an impact it can have, how much should these teachers know,  when it could have an impact on their entire class.  It should be a great resource, not a mysterious boogyman.

So why are so few of them paying attention?  It’s like we’re dragging them to the dentist’s office and shoving a laptop down their throats.  They’ve built technology into this big scary unclimbable mountain, and they’re unwilling to realize that it’s not an obstacle; it’s really the rope that helps you climb, perhaps panting and sweating but still climbing, up that mountain of trying to educate a thousand different kids a thousand different ways (I have had one thermos of tea and have been up since 6. Your metaphors wouldn’t be that great either so stop rolling your eyes).

I should probably preface this with my opinions on tech for tech’s sake; it’s annoying.  If it’s something that’s easier done by hand, do it by hand for the love of God.  But if tech  can help… use it!

Another thing you should know is I LOVE paper.  I love books, I love ink.  If they made a perfume of “old bookstore”, I’d wear it.  I think the real and true death of the printed book would be an irreversible tragedy (which is a post for another time).  But using a bit of tech in your classroom is not going to kill the printed page.  And these teachers aren’t resisting this change for the love of books, for the most part.  Mostly, it’s hard and it’s confusing and they just don’t care enough to want  to learn something new, which is the most obnoxious reason for shying away from something that I have ever encountered.

But, on behalf of every kid with a disability who’s had to sit by while their group members did all the work on the presentation, who felt insecure because of their lack of ability to participate, who ever got dirty looks because they weren’t helping… get with the program.  Put the computers in the classroom,  use something like a mac or a chromebook that has built in speech software, make them feel included. You have the power to   improve their educational experience by a thousand percent.    I got this new chromebook to play with for the purpose of this presentation, and, even though it’s a baby and it’s still in development, it’s amazing.  If I’d had this in a classroom where everyone else had it too when I was in school, it would have revolutionized my education, and maybe even boosted my confidence.  So the fact these teachers are denying these kids that opportunity because it’s “too hard” just makes me angry.  They could save everyone so much discomfort, and engage their students so much better, if they would use all the resources available.  It’s time to make the students with disabilities feel like functioning students.  There are many students who could avoid being sent into special ed entirely if they just had this available.  I hate to say it, but there is a stigma behind being sent into special ed.  So if we can make it easier on some kids, it seems to me that there’s a responsibility to do so.

And, on a purely administrative note, if that happened, the kids who really needed the extra help would have access to the help they needed.  The inundation of kids in special ed simply because they can’t read a piece of paper is hurting the students who need more one on one assistance, and it’s a fixable problem.

…Okay, that’s my rant.  We just finished with a really great morning speaker who encouraged the use of technology, and I could just feel the hesitation in the room, and it just upset me.  There are so many uses, and my specific purpose is just one of hundreds, and this is still getting treated like a sub-par option.

So, if you teach, if you’re an administrator, if you’re *anyone* who has influence in a school… listen. Help a person out, put a bloody laptop cart in your classroom.  Get a few iPads.  Do something to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Now I should, you know, plan out that presentation I have to give, which is sort of like this post, but less angry and with more demonstrations.

And finally a disclaimer: this nifty little chromebook thing… still needs work. I edited as best as I could here. But I’m still sort of a noob.  If I screwed something up, it’s hopefully a tech fail, not my momentary morning illiteracy rearing its ugly head.

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