The Forgotten Resource

The system that I see in most school, public a little more than private but it's everywhere, is one that puts the priority on things verses people.  1 million dollars on technology in my school over the last ten years, but almost no percentage of that spent on people, (you can not count my salary as I work a full schedule teaching computer classes in a separate computer lab) not for Tech PD, for Tech Coaching, for Tech Collaboration, for Tech Investigation into Resources.  I see technology going into schools and it being a total hit and miss as to its use in the classroom because unless the teacher is so inclined to pursue learning it and exploring how to fit it into the curriculum, the equipment can just sit and collect dust.  My school is lucky, filled with a majority of Amazingly talented and dedicated instructors who are willing to take these tools and run with them.  But shouldn't the support of the greatest technology resource in schools today be a part of the expenditure.  Time is Money.  Teachers don't expect to get paid more, we just hope that some of our time be put to supporting the teaching.  What should a Tech Coordinator's primary function be, to support learning throughout the building, not as an addendum stuck on when it can be fit in after school, during lunch, or late night at home. When you spend a dollar on a new piece of hardware, software, online service, spend a dollar, or at least 50 cents on the time to use the technology well.

It reminded me of one of the best moments I've had as a school "Tech Coordinator."  I had been pushing and pushing for collaboration between me and the 2nd thru 5th grade teachers, (back then I hardly taught the early grades as I had convinced the administration that developmentally 1st grade and kindergartners  time with technology in a lab setting was counter intuitive) and so mostly because of scheduling, (though I have to give credit to Diane, who actually heard my pleading) I was given the opportunity to have 5th grade teachers push into the computer lab, the idea being I would collaborate with them to augment ELA, Math, and Social Studies curriculum by using technology.  Michael Lobe was the 5th grade teacher I came closest to actually collaborating with, doing what technology coordinators should do.  I think that was the only year where 5th grade teachers were required to be a part of the teaching going on in the computer lab.  I remember on more than one occasion Michael coming into the lab after school (because God forbid that we should be given time to plan out a lesson) to discuss how we should connect 5th grade curriculum with the 50 minutes in the computer lab.  The best I think was the Harlem Renaissance study we collaborated on: Michael focusing the students on artist of the period, suggesting web sites, getting worksheets for them to follow.  Me using Trackstar (and my Track is still there, search Mr. Fier as author to put the links together and than to lead students in the lab on how to use the computers, web browser, word processors to gather information and make presentations.  It was fantastic teaching and the best use of technology.  And so next year it dropped and I went back to teaching a lab class with no collaboration with classroom teachers other than what I could find to make on my own.   The type of teaching that Michael and I did, using technology the way it should be used in the schools, as a tool, not an end, has been shoved off the table again.  Guess it's not a priority?!?

Okay, that's TOO cynical.  It's not as dismal as all that, due to the fact that most everyone in my school, and truthfully most schools everywhere are looking to help their students Succeed.  There's a lot of blaming and I'm not here to point fingers at alleged bad guys, but to say there's somethings in schools that could be done better, let's talk about them.  How can we get the best use of technology in schools?  We start looking at it as a tool.  And if it's a tool, not an end, we spend equal amounts of time / money on the best resource we have to make it work in the classroom: The Teacher.