Overcoming the "Techno-geebies"
It seems like there are new gadgets and devices, new computer
programs and Internet-based opportunities for adult educators
to use every year. Yet, for the most part, technology is generally
under-utilized in the classroom.
I'm part of that first generation that grew up with computers in
the home. Now, they weren't much of a computer by today's
standards. My first computer was a TRS-80, which you had to
program by hand to do anything, including play games, and saved
data with a horrifying squealing sound onto cassettes with metal
tape. In fact, I remember when I was in third grade, I would spend
two days typing in code we found in a CoCo magazine (CoCo
was short for "color" computer), plus a day debugging all the typos
we had made, just to play a game called "Possum Run"; but it
was completely worth it to see that possum splat.
So when someone says, "Hey, Glenda, we're going to introduce
interactive whiteboards into the ESL classroom," I get giddy. New
toy?! This is better than Christmas! Yet, I can hear the other
teachers, too. They aren't quite as excited as I am. They want to
be, I think, but their excitement is dampened by the "techno-geebies," as I recently heard the feeling described.
It's not really technophobia. Most teachers I know aren't afraid of
the technology. They can do things with an overhead projector
that I would never have thought possible. They can thread the
old reel-to-reel movie projectors. They have computers and cell
phones that can text and browse the Internet. They can program
their DVRs and watch 3 shows at once! They are definitely not
afraid of technology. Their voiced concern is that the learning
curve on the new technology, be it a program or a piece of equipment,
will take away from their instructional efficacy.
It's a legitimate concern. No one wants to stand in front of a class and fumble around trying to find the right key combination, command code, or the file that was there a minute ago but has now mysteriously disappeared. So, here are some ideas on how to work through the "techno-geebies."
- First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the new technology
before you introduce it as part of your teaching
presentation or as part of technology instruction to your
students. I would hope that directors investing money
in new technology would provide time for training, but if
they don't, it still falls on you to become the expert. I personally
think the best way to become the expert is to play
around with the new technology piece being introduced.
- If you're in over your head, ask for a life preserver! Maybe there is someone with more computer and technology experience in your organization that can help you. Have you called the GREAT Center to see what they can do to help? Do they have any professional development workshops coming up that might help? What about the publisher or manufacturer? Can they schedule a training day for you and your colleagues? And once you've played around with it and asked for help….
- Practice with other teachers before you practice on your students. Brainstorm ways the technology might be used. Try it out. What works? What doesn't? What might cause you to lose your students' attention? How will you address it? There are times when the best laid plans have to go by the wayside. You may need to….
- Talk to your equipment. "Listen, Mr. Interactive Whiteboard. I've done this for 24 years without you and if you don't act right, I'm turning you off." Yes. I've done it. I've threatened my computer, my projector, my printer, my Blackberry. I've even threatened the poor old overhead. No, I don't think they hear me, but this exercise reminds me that if the technology is not working out, I can change my plan. Always have a "low tech" plan B. Think about what you will do if the PowerPoint fails, the Internet won't connect, or that fancy-dancy new piece of equipment is flashing the theme from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Decide how much time you will allow to try and fix it, and once that time goes by, switch gears to "low tech" and go on with the show. But, finally…
- Don't give up. Integrating technology into the classroom
is important. Our students are living in the same world
we are, where the service person coming to fix my dryer
brings a hand-held invoicing device and the cashier at
McDonald's punches keys faster than any of the old
IBM key-punch crews. We need to have technology in
our classroom because our students will be expected
to use technology at home, at work and at school. So,
go back to step one. Play with it some more. Get some
more training. Collaborate with other teachers. Maybe
your "low tech" plan is just a "different tech" plan this time
Like we tell our students, the more you practice, the easier it will
About the Author
Dr. Glenda Rose is the Distance Learning Coordinator and an EL Civics Instructor for Austin Learning Academy. She regularly presents at statewide conferences.