What I know and what I don’t know: Technology in the classroom edition

I had to wait until I was 10 to get my Apple II GS, which I’m pretty sure had less power than my iPhone.  I sent my first e-mail when I was 15, using AoL address.   Today, if you walked into my classroom you would see me using technology in a dozen different ways.  I’m really embarrassed by the number of Apple products I have in my apartment. I think a lot about how to best use technology in my classroom, because it’s something that best serves my students.  I think technology can be fun and silly and transformative.  I proudly post “Apple Distinguished Educator” on my Twitter profile. I spend too many hours e-mailing, reading online, checking Facebook, Skyping, and generally wasting time on my computer. I think most people I work with would say I’m techie

But I’m about to tell you something….

I’m a fraud. I have no idea how the internet works.  I don’t know what HTML or HTTP stands for.  I don’t know what’s inside my computer. If you told me that tiny pigeons existed in wires and delivered my e-mails across the world, I would believe you.  This week my students asked me how to do something in Garage Band and I had no idea what to do.  Please don’t ask me to set up your wireless or explain how to crop photos.  I have a lot of Apple products only because I think they are pretty and shiny.  The map that shows what countries people visiting this site took me ages to figure out. There are so many things I don’t know that I am shocked that the Apple Distinguished Educator people don’t take away my little plaque.*

But what I do know.

  • It would take a willful and malicious intent to break a computer**. No matter what keys I hit or what buttons I press, I have never made a computer explode or spontaneously light on fire. I press buttons until I get the machine to do what I want to do.  If I can’t make it do what I it to do, I find another way. Or I Google the answer.  Or I ask my students.
  • It takes time to “do technology”.  I’m busy, like every other teacher.  But like assessment or providing pastoral care, “doing technology” is imperative to our schools.  And “doing technology” is a lot more than just pressing buttons. I write new lessons and plan new collaborations every year. Using technology to help students or assess student learning can take longer than traditional methods (though not always).  I update my class blog.  I read articles and go to conferences and join COETAIL.   Yes it takes time, but it’s my job.
  • I have to be adaptive and flexible and tenacious when I can’t get the machine to do what I want it to do. But that is nothing less than what I ask of my students.
  • If I want to be in education in 10 years, I better be on the bandwagon now.  This might be particularly true in international schools.    We are moving a student-centered, collaborative classrooms quicker than we as teachers may like.  And the learning curve is only getting steeper, for both students and teachers
  • Technology and computers do change the dynamic in the classroom.  I used to be the person who held the most knowledge.  I was the expert.  Now the internet can provide answers, students can fact-check me on their phones, and they know how to do things on their computers I will never know.  And I have learned how to say “I don’t know” to my students and allow them to be the experts.  Or find experts outside the classroom.  I’m still the adult and the teacher, but the relationship has changed.  Will Richardson suggests as teachers we are connectors first and content experts second. I’m finding this to be more true each year I stay in the classroom.  Which leads me to my last bullet…
  • One of my goals this year is to use the computer to help my students connect with others outside the classroom.  Computers need to be more than a way to consume information, but a way to create, connect, and share. There are experts to learn from and people who want to learn from my amazing students.  Richardson talks about this “Age of Collaboration” fully in his article “World Without Walls“.  The Age of Collaboration is the one I like living in.   I don’t need to know how computers work**** to help my students navigate this Age of Collaboration. But I do need to work diligently and thoughtfully about how to create an dynamic classroom environment that is open to this new era.


* To the Apple Distinguished Educator people…please don’t take away my nice Apple water bottle.
** That said, back up your work and don’t drop the machine or spill liquids on the keyboard.
***And if I do need to know how, I can google it/wikipedia it/ask on Twitter/ask my students

Image Sources, Creative Commons Licensed, Found on Flickr
 2007-02-06 – the old and the new by silent (e)
Sharing Music, Roman Style by Ed Yourdon

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in COETAIL @YIS, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to What I know and what I don’t know: Technology in the classroom edition

  1. You need to think more highly of yourself! You have demonstrated in this one post how savvy you really are. It doesn’t matter how long it took you, you have a great finish product. You don’t have to know how a car works to drive it fast, the same as you don’t need to know how the internet or computers work to use them as effective tools for learning.

    I also think Googling an answer is a perfectly acceptable form of troubleshooting and something we should be modeling and encouraging our students to do as well, like you quotes Will Richards above, “we are connectors first and content experts second.”

    Finally, I love this quote: “like assessment or providing pastoral care, “doing technology” is imperative to our schools… Yes it takes time, but it’s my job.”

  2. Great post Rebekah. It was very nice to meet you. You were such a star and I didn’t realize you were an ADE to boot. I would have taken more advantage of your skills, ideas and knowledge. Thanks so much for continuing to our cohort. It seems you were ready for some higher level stuff, but I hope you got something out of it.

    See you around the webz I am sure.

    • I definitely got something out of it! A lot of the ideas at Learning2.0 and in our sessions echoed these ideas I wrote here and I could probably add a dozen more bullets after the sessions. Thanks (as always) for your support as I figure out how to navigate this new world!

  3. Monna McDiarmid says:

    What I know for sure: You are a really engaging writer and I am going to enjoy reading your posts, Rebekah! (Thanks for that!)

    What I suspect: This post could be your COETAIL Course 1, Week 2 submission. Wait… maybe it’s for week 1? (Okay… that one, I didn’t know for sure!)

    • Thanks Monna! It’s really nice to hear that the post are enjoyable. These things can be so narrowly focused that it’s hard to tell where to be serious, where to be flip, and how to convey my ideas in a way people actually want to read.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate your honesty; an Apple Distinguished Educator admitting and acknowledging there’s a lot about technology you don’t know. Next time I come across something I don’t know, probably within the hour, I’ll remember your comments. Also, you hit the nail on the head, adapting technology is more about attitude than technique: staying flexible open and tenacious, staying in the game.
    I will refer to this post as my goal statement for this school year.
    Looking forward to meeting you in person soon.

  5. shinjukuwest says:

    Rebekah, the last reply was left by me. I didn’t mean to leave a comment as an anonymous person. (that will be too creepy). Must say that yours was the first blog I left a comment on.

    • Sorry for the late reply! Thanks for commenting…I really do appreciate it. It’s all about being flexible. And pressing buttons! Good luck and hopefully I’ll catch up with you this weekend.

  6. Kim Cofino says:

    You are such a superstar Rebekah! You know way more than you think you do, and it’s your attitude and mindset that make you the excellent teacher and colleague that you are. I firmly believe you don’t have to know how everything works to use technology effectively in the classroom, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of to ask your students or look the answer up online. Thank you for sharing your perspective, and thank you for being willing to learn. It’s such a pleasure to work with you!

    • Remember my #secretcharm? Fake it to you make it! Also known as flexibility and positivity. I actually learn a ton from your grade 6 D&T students and pretend I always knew it. Really looking forward to this weekend and learning in a more formal setting. Thanks for everything (as usual)

  7. alexguenther says:

    I think I might have already said this in meatspace, but if you smash open one of those early Macs with a hammer, the design team’s signatures were in bas-relief on the back of the casing:

    The hammer probably isn’t mandatory, but it’s the only way I could get the sucker open. It was my family’s computer from like 1985-1994. But it was done with respect, like the bone-picking ceremony at a Japanese funeral

    (Oh, also, great post.)

  8. CathyGermano says:

    The title of your post “What I Know and What I Don’t Know: Technology in the Classroom” made me giggle. I find myself thinking that all the time and wondering when did I have to know everything? I agree with you when you mentioned collaborations, conferences and student centered learning. It is a blend. I am glad you shared that! Good luck to you.

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