Overcoming Teacher-technophobia in Four Steps
There it sits… showing off its silicon superiority and sleekness. Doesn’t matter if it’s an e-app or an i-thing; it’s there, reminding you that YOU, as a Digital Johnny or Janey-come-lately, don’t even know where to begin. (If you know what a Johnny-come-lately is, by the way, you’re in my age group.)
Everyone around you is tweeting and texting, swiping and blogging with devices that seem to get smaller with every passing year. More to the point, technology is now a category on your annual teacher evaluation. It probably reads something like: Integrates Technology. So, now, it’s part of your job. But what do you do when you just don’t know where to start? It is all so overwhelming!
I’m not going to throw a lot of tech-talk at you or even make suggestions as to what technology to use. I’m going to ask you to do something much more difficult. I’m going to ask you to:
1 . Have no fear
The mindset for working with technology requires that you understand that you can’t mess it (or them) up. Really. You can’t mess up an entire program by typing or clicking in the wrong place. It might make a loud noise or give you little warning, but you can’t break it. In fact, if you do manage to do some never-before-seen thing (which is incredibly unlikely), tech people are VERY interested in it because then, they can solve the glitch and be heroes. They like that kind of stuff. What’s really nifty keen is that whatever you DO do, can be fixed. Type in the wrong thing? Edit. Click on the wrong button? Go Back. No one is timing you. No one is counting how many times you mess up.
Those of us who remember rotary dials and typewriters, seem to have this sense of permanence about things. When we typed papers, we had to get it perfect or redo the whole thing. If we dialed one wrong number in a sequence, we had to hang up and start over. Technology is all about flexibility.
2. Embrace not knowing
This is a hard pill to swallow, I think. We like things spelled out, laid out for us. We are of the group who had manuals with instructions. However, with technology, you jump in and when you have a question, you seek the answer. There are HELP buttons and FAQs (frequently asked questions with answers). Sometimes, there’s even a handy reminder that pops up. Programs are designed to be used without knowing.
This is very different from the psychology of being told what to do and how to do it, which is how we were raised. You didn’t touch anything without fully understanding it. Your goal, now? Learn as you go.
Our children (and grandchildren), have learned how to not worry about not knowing. They put the game in the player, pick up the joystick and go, seeming to know exactly what they’re doing at every moment. They don’t. They just understand that it’s okay not to know because they’ll find out or figure it out.
3. Find a mentor who is in your age bracket
I don’t mean this facetiously. I mean it seriously. Young people, who are Digital Natives, are immersed in the technology culture; thus, they really don’t make the best explainers or motivators. They can (unintentionally) make you just feel inferior, just by their reactions: “You don’t know what a ‘mouse’ is? Really?”
That’s why finding a friend, who will talk in a way you understand, is key. Whoever this friend is, he or she should be comfortable with computers, those phones that can access the internet, iPads, and the internet, in general. Let this person know what you’re trying to do, and he/she will most likely have an experience that is similar. You are not alone!
4. Reinvent yourself as a Digital Pioneer
The pioneers who ventured out West had no idea what they were getting into. They planned as best they could, but for the most part, they figured things out as they went. This is where you are. You are neither Digital Immigrant nor Digital Native, but Digital Pioneer. It doesn’t matter that others have gone before you; this is undiscovered country for you. Discover this country for yourself and your students. You’ll do things you never thought you could do, and most importantly, you’ll meet students where they are…in their world.
You got this.
Mindy Kyriakides is National Board Certified Teacher in Language Arts for Adolescents and Young Adults. She began teaching at an urban, Title I school in 1998 and is now pursuing her Master’s degree in Higher Education. Her goal is to work with secondary teachers in teacher preparation programs to ease the transition into those crucial first years of working with teenagers. She and some of her former students published a book about their classroom experience: Transparent Teaching of Adolescents: Creating the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers. Mrs. Kyriakides also volunteers with Foster Care to Success, mentoring college students and is an advocate for the LGBT community. She dually resides in Cyprus and Florida.