Monday, January 7, 2008

Teachers as Chief Technology Adopters

A teacher can be new or seasoned, extremely effective or marginally effective. They can use lecture/teacher-led instruction or constructivist-based instruction. They can be innovative or lack creativity. No matter the profile of the teacher, they assume and share an awesome responsibility in preparing students for the 21st century. They have a role that is pretty unique to their profession: they are Chief Technology Adopters.

I use this term Chief Technology Adopters for a few reasons. First, teachers, while interacting with content, ultimately will be the folks who teach the skills necessary for students to thrive in the 21st century. Secondly, the technology adoption buck stops with the teacher. For they are the ones, albeit assuming a great deal of responsibility, who decide when, where, how, why, and what technology is adopted. The logic seems clear; the action is complex. Lastly, teachers wield a pretty good amount of power. Maybe it's informal power, but they are chiefly the ones who decide on technology adoption. I've talked about policy and referenced Larry Cuban's work with policy in earlier posts. Yet again, I see a quote about teachers and policy. This is from January 2008's Kappan:

Even in a system that is tightly controlled, teachers have enormous power to mediate policy and bring about results that policy makers never envisioned.

As Chief Technology Adopters, teachers have the following roles:

Consumers of technology - Teachers directly influence and decide what technology is used, when, how, why, and what is used. They make choices - good, bad, and indifferent.

Consumers of policy - It's not just technology, but teachers are consumers of policy. As referenced from past posts, Kappan, and Cuban's work, teachers decide the policies they adopt in the classroom including technology adoption.

Technologists - Technology, while making strides, can still be complex for even a savvy user. Teachers as a Chief Technology Adopters need to understand the tools they use for instruction at least on an Advanced User Level. They may need to troubleshoot, or explain a tool in addition to teaching content. This is somewhat akin to a doctor knowing how to program their ultrasound units.

Curriculum Implementors - Teachers make decisions about what curriculum to implement, how, to what extent, and to what level of mastery. They also need to know the curriculum well enough to adopt technology to interact with goals, objectives, and standards on many levels.

Instructional Strategists - They need to size up a goal and decide how to best achieve it. Technology can or cannot be an instrumental tool in meeting the goal. Teachers need to understand their values and beliefs in learning and teaching.

Researchers/Visionaries - It's not just about being on the "forefront" or "ahead of the curve", it is responding and adapting to the needs of learners. It understanding the needs of learners today, tomorrow, and also in 5 -10 years. A skills determination is needed. They need to understand not just facts but how to problem solve using language arts/English, math, social studies, science, or other subject area. Understanding and leveraging research, trends, and patterns for Teachers as Chief Technology Adopters is a crucial element to really working towards 21st century skills.

Participants in Culture - Chief Technology Adopters participate in a culture of some form in their respective schools. It may foster the use of technology through learning communities, professional development, or coaching. The culture may not support technology all together - the teacher may be an island. But culture has a strong influence nonetheless.

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