Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Older Teachers Can Learn New Tricks

Are older teachers slow to adopt technology?

Why the myth that older teachers do not adopt technology as easy as a younger teacher?

I will admit that I fall into that older teacher area...24+ years. I consider myself a "digital native", although by definition I am really a digital immigrant.  I never used an overhead...I never had one in my classroom in the first place. I don't need white out because I type everything I do. I hate using the copy machine... there always seems to be such a paper shortage going on anyway and I prefer the cloud.  I am not sure I even need a desktop computer anymore because I can perform any task I need to accomplish on my laptop or tablet. I have never really enjoyed the SMART board (don't scorn me...I am not knocking the SMART board, I just prefer to be in student proximity while teaching).  Scanner?  I can use my tablet for that...

What I do like to use is internet connected devices.  Wouldn't it be a dream to have one for every faculty member and student in your school? I will continue to dream of a paperless environment.

Younger teachers, for the most part, are accustomed to living in this technology rich world.  I've never bought in to the notion that veteran teachers are anti-technology. It's hard enough for a teacher to do their job without asking them to add new technology without any help. I think you could ask many of the teachers I work with and they will tell you that they might be nervous at first when it comes to trying some new technology, but once they have had a chance to learn, explore, and integrate after a training they are eager to give it a try. What we perceive as resistance is really just fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or an effort to avoid what might be considered a waste of time if they feel that technology will not make a difference in their teaching.

I witnessed some of this fear or resistance this year as we implemented a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) program in our school district.  We implemented the program by starting with two teachers. Jennifer Richter is a young teacher while Sara Cummins falls in that middle range of 10+ years. (Thank You Sara and Jennifer...both of whom had to volunteer because I knew they would be great models for BYOT). It seemed some of our long term teachers of over 10 years were more resistant because it was something new and they would have to change the way they teach.  It didn't take long for the butterfly effect to take place.  As our teachers witnessed the success of the  BYOT program, more and more teachers wanted to join in.

Most of our older teachers were less resistant to change when they discovered that we were not going to throw to much at them at one time.  Changes in teaching style and methods could come in small snippets.  I feel we as IT people try to throw to much at our older teachers in one setting.  To get less resistance and quick adoption of something new you have to find a way to make the users comfortable and confident.  Our teachers changed their thinking quickly after they saw the difference in how their students were reacting to the new methods. They also saw how student engagement improved along with discipline.  Teachers also discovered how easy it was to collaborate with students and other teachers.

I don't buy into the myth that "Older Teachers Can't Learn New Tricks". If a teacher (Veteran or Young) is given viable technology options that can enhance the learning in their classroom, I think they will adopt it.  I have witnessed this in person and that is enough proof for me.




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