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Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said "I Hate Technology." | Ecology of Education

Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said “I Hate Technology.”

Dear Teacher who Said “I hate technology,”

First of all, I want to thank you for your candor and your willingness to openly share your opinion regarding the use of tools for learning.  I am a firm believer that we should all have an open forum for expressing our opinions about our profession and the factors that influence it.  That is why I am writing here.

Rather than do what most readers of this letter are expecting me to do and refute your claims, I have to admit that I concur–I hate it too.  Yes, I must admit, that comes as surprise, I am sure, but something tells me that our reasons for this shared loathing will not be the same.  Let me share mine with you and then we can have an informed discussion to compare and contrast.

First, I cannot stand that I have had to give up hours of painstakingly annotating papers with carefully crafted comments and editing marks.  I’ll miss that fullness of self when I return the essays and research papers back to the students and they scurrilously thumb to the last page, jettisoning any comment or edit I made, to find out their total score on the paper.

Secondly, the fact that there will be conversations about topics in my class that occur UNABATED and not in my presence is inconceivable and incorrigible.  Thoughts about the content of my class that do not occur during the sanctity of my 50 minute class period belong either as one-on-one conversations with me in the hallway, clearly stated on their homework papers, or held onto in the working memory of the student until the next class period or hallway conversation with me.

ed5Lastly, the assignment of group projects should be a rite of passage that includes several if not all of the following situations for students: one student should do most of the work including but not limited to: writing, researching, organizing, and assigning ancillary roles to other team members, one student should lose the flash drive that has the slide presentation at least once during the assignment duration, one student, most likely the one who pulls down 30+ hours at the local burger joint, should not be able to meet with the rest of the group at any time outside of school, provided the other group members athletics and extracurricular activities schedules do not preclude any outside of the classroom meetings.  Additionally, I should not be able to see the extent to which each of these students worked on the project until the very end of the process.

As you can see, my role as a teacher is being compromised by the intrusion of tools that render aspects of my daily goings-on as obsolete.  This I won’t stand for.  Plus, adding to my ire is the fact that there is all of this talk about new definitions of literacy.  Reading is no longer just the deconstruction and reconstruction of text, but now I am being asked to help students make sense of rich media, data sets that are visualized, and more streams of immediate news and information on a daily basis.  If you ask me, there is just a whole lot of noise.  What do you say we just don’t listen to it?

We had teachers growing up who were able to teach us the finer points of composing, of calculation, of geography, and the greater literary works of both North America and Europe, yet their technology was limited to chalk, and blessed be, an overhead projector.  Can’t we do as much or more with the same?

So I am with you, I think, in resisting this move, and I’ll do just what’s mandated of me by my building principal.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go close my classroom door…

Cross-posted at Chalkdust101 and TechLearning.

Cartoon: Mike Worley

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  • jasonflom

    Ah . . . technology, the scourge of the old guard.

    We might do well to also hate technology for its ability to shed light on assumptions and render the teacher's knowledge authority obsolete. What's more, when students understand technology better than us, it only serves to illuminate our own ignorance, further eroding our positions of authority.

    What are we left to do? Level with students? Learn alongside them? Or worse, admit we don't know something and learn from them?! Blasphemy, Patrick. Blasphemy.

  • tcervo

    Great post.

    The problem with technology is that it requires learning, and teachers aren't supposed to have to learn anything new. They've paid their dues and are finished learning. “Why do I need to learn this? I don't need this to teach…” – is a perfectly valid excuse. Just like the student asking “Why do I need to learn algebra? I'm never going to use it in real life…” So, just as we excuse students from learning anything they don't think is relevant, we should also excuse teachers from the same.

    (/ end sarcasm)

  • http://chalkdust101.wordpress.com Patrick

    When we talk about change in education, we sometimes mistakenly hear competence. We want to move in a new direction–what was wrong with the old direction? Did those who brought in the old direction do it wrong?

    Managing change is more about bringing people to new levels of competency than it is about this program or that application. It's just frustrating sometimes when doors close before you even have th opportunity to talk.

  • http://anotherschwab.wordpress.com Andrew Schwab

    Part of learning is doing and for some teachers, until they experience how technology can really impact the learning process in their classroom, they are reluctant to embrace it. Unfortunately I think many IT people concentrate on the technology and implementation rather then on training and professional development. The expectation that you can install an LCD projector in a classroom and have the teacher stat incorporating it into their lesson plans on day 1 is a trap all too often fallen into.

    As a techie, I use technology everyday so it comes naturally to me. However as a new teacher, even I am fumbling around how to incorporate technology into my class. I can only imagine how a teacher that is technologically challenge might fair without substantial training and support.

  • tcervo

    Proper training is absolutely crucial. There are many good examples of how teachers are using technology with their students, both in and out of the classroom. It's important to make those connections so teachers can see the value. Problems arise, though, when some teachers refuse to even participate in the discussion. They don't need technology, and nothing anyone can say (or show) will change their minds – they've closed them tight. I think those teachers are in the minority, but they definitely present a challenge.

  • Ann Etchison

    I remember the point at which, some years ago, I realized it was okay to not know everything about a particular topic or process—to say, “I don't know”…or better yet, “I don't know—help me figure that out.” Not only was this a freeing life moment, but it also meant I could continue to be a learner well past my formal status as a student. Whew. I'm reminded of this because if I had to pretend to know everything in the technology/web 2.0 world, I'd be riddled with angst and unable to sleep at night.

    For those who get it to some degree, we see how the use of technology can free both teachers (great descriptors of this in Patrick's letter) and students to think, create, and engage in the learning process.

    So we have to figure out how to free people into feeling comfortable about not knowing how to use technology and then use our best arsenal of know-your-students instructional practices to reach them where they are and assist them in acquiring whatever skills they need. I am nowhere close to a technology expert, but when my octogenarian parents bought their first computer, I had to constantly remind myself that basic computer-ese sounded like a foreign language to them and ran the risk of making very competent people feel incompetent. No one likes to feel incompetent, but many can deal with recognizing their spot on a particular learning curve if moving along it is supportive and non-threatening.

    I agree with Andrew's comment about the need for training and support. I would add that it needs to occur in a way that excites them about the possibilities, engages them in the learning, and takes them from where they are to where they want/need to be.

  • http://chalkdust101.wordpress.com Patrick


    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Is there a point that we reach where we overtrain groups of people? I am not trying to be curmudgeonly, but I've sat in several “training sessions” and delivered more than my share where it was immediately apparent that unless someone stood in the teacher's classroom, nothing I was teaching was going to be implemented. When do we say that there is an expectation that needs to be met, and in order to meet it you need to design your own learning plan? We have these here in NJ, but they rarely have teeth and are rarely enforced. I like your idea of tying it to an engaging experience and to something they are passionate about, but I am skeptical. See tcervo's comments above.

    There is a need for scaffolding. There is a need for support and guidance. However, technology can no longer be treated as “another thing” you do in your classroom. It just is. Look at the cars we buy, the phones we dial. It's ubiquitous, and it should be an expectation that you find the right tool for the right time, and be prepared to use that tool regardless of its technological sophistication or its simplicity.

  • Ann Etchison

    I agree with “it just is” and hope that's a true sentiment for the vast majority of young educators entering the profession. As an admirable colleague of mine is fond of saying, the challenge in working with the resisters is to find the right balance of pressure and support.

  • jasonflom

    I think you touch on an important topic, Ann — the new generation of teachers entering the field today. It seems that too often people view teaching as static and fixed — hence our (over)emphasis on set standards and high stakes assessments. However, if we, as a society, take the perspective that teaching and learning are dynamic processes, we set the stage for exploration and experimentation. It is my belief that this is the sort of environment that will engage and inspire tomorrow's teachers to stay in the classroom and incorporate emerging technologies.

    At the same time, I feel like teachers are scapegoated like modern day Whipping Boys for the limitations of our current system. As such they are taught to remain in their comfort zones rather than try new things. With high stakes tests being what they are, the consequences are just too high. LIke the child who's spelling and grammar is criticized to the point where she/he sacrifices creativity in favor of short words and sentences, I think teachers fear failure because of the repercussions that follow. I'm sure that must play a role in shaping their perspective on new-fangled technologies.

    I'm not sure how to affect that larger paradigm shift. Perhaps you and Andrew Schwab hit the nail on the head — support, training, patience, and meeting teachers wherever they are on their learning curves. After all, slow change is lasting change.

  • http://twitter.com/anotherschwab Andrew Schwab

    I was going to say that time will sort this out, but then not going through a 1 year college credentialing program (I'm just an ROP teacher) I wonder how much technology integration is being taught to new teachers during their training. I know the young student teachers that come through our school seem more open and comfortable with technology so maybe time will be a big factor in tech adoption rates. I don't think attrition is enough though.

    As a former Manager in business I am constantly surprised that a decision to use technology in the classroom is not made by Administration and then implemented by the staff. Of course I am learning that Education does not run like a business and a large degree of autonomy exists for teachers in their classrooms.

    We have some teachers that I would not even bother approaching with technology. I have chosen instead to focus on those teachers that are interested in learning and exploring technology for the sake of their students and themselves and to try and grow the school culture through gradually increasing participation.

    The more teachers that start using technology, the fewer reasons those that don't will have for refusing to. My best allies in this are those long time teachers that have been open to new ways to engage the students.

    Still, we have no dedicated coaches and there is not enough time in the day. We will be introducing a Professional Learning Community using Elgg to the staff next year. Hopefully that will get more people engaged in this effort.

  • http://ClerestoryLearningBlog Kevin D. Washburn

    Think there's a deeper, possibly more discouraging aspect to this. The teacher who hates technology communicated a hesitation to learn and grow. Technology just happened to the target of the moment. And if that's the case, this teacher needs to find a job where learning and growth aren't the actual reason for the job to exist. We all resist change, and perhaps that's more the motivation here. But failing to recognize that growth = change, and that to continue being a relevant teacher I must grow, and that to grow I must learn, and that technology may be the thing needed to be known at this point in history—that's a sad commentary. Sure, our teachers did it without technology, but technology (other than filmstrips—BEEP!) was not an option.

    One more note: others have made the point that technology does not equal competence. True, so true! And there are places in the curriculum where technology is more of a distraction than a benefit. (Just because you can doesn't mean you should!) But today, when technology is an option and obviously today's students are going to need exposure to and instruction in technology, to not use it, where and when it's truly beneficial, is a disservice. Teachers should never be expected to use technology without being equipped to do so, but teachers should not resist its use where it would make their instruction even more successful.

    I wonder if teachers said, “I hate books,” when they were the new technology of the day.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonflom/status/1720557506 Jason Flom

    Reaching reluctant teachers. Technology discussion happening at Eco of Ed. What’re your thoughts? http://bit.ly/MLkp5 @pjhiggins

  • http://twitter.com/kdwashburn/status/ kdwashburn

    RT @JasonFlom: Reaching reluctant teachers. Tech discussion happening at Eco of Ed. What’re your thoughts? http://bit.ly/MLkp5 @pjhiggins

  • Meredith Bird

    Some good points here. One the one hand, I've heard stories from my mother (30+ year veteran in the public school system) of teachers complaining technology won't work, only to find out that they've failed to plug it in, they keep shoving floppy discs in the drive (without removing the previous one), etc. Certainly these are the extreme cases, but she has plenty of stories that demonstrate what (to my eyes) appears as plain apathy and laziness rather than justifiable discomfort with cutting-edge technology. That said…
    From my experience as a IT usability analyst, technology trainer, and software implementation consultant, I'm the first to validate what many of you have hit upon as major problems with technology implementations: A) The IT trainer may be knowledgeable about their software, but that is no guarantee (sadly) that they have any training/understanding of adult learning styles, teaching methodologies, etc. As you all probably know, there's great skill in juggling students with varying levels of aptitude, interest, varying learning styles, etc. If/when you can, assess the potential trainer's teaching expertise ahead of time… you may not be able to request a different trainer, but at least you can prepare strategies to fill in their gaps, help with crowd control, etc.
    B) The tech trainer should not be expected to be a messiah. There's no way for an outside trainer (even one employed by the county) to intimately know the ins and outs of that school's teaching programs and lesson plans. (The same is true within different locations of one large corporation; why do we expect more from schools/teachers that we do from higher-paid professionals?) And thus, as good as the trainer may be, s/he will never be able to craft in-class examples that *perfectly* apply to the customer-specific needs or context 100% of the time. (Heck, even different teachers will have different needs, teaching styles, etc.)
    C) Likewise, the teachers should be assisted on an ongoing basis. After all, isn't it “teaching 101″ that students (of any age) need to apply and repeat what they've learned to help ensure retention? There should be someone employed by the customer (i.e. school) that understands the users' daily tasks and facilitates both the curriculum development of the technology training classes AND the ongoing implementation of that technology in non-scary, attainable increments.
    D) Implementation should follow training as soon as possible. There were many times I cringed at going to a customer site for training, knowing that they had no determined plan of actually using the technology for another 1-6 months. If graphed out, the relationship is pretty darn consistent: success of client implementations can be gauged/predicted based on how soon after training the company (school) makes the concerted effort to incorporate the technology into their daily processes.
    E) Yes, some teachers just won't be excited/inspired right out of the gate. However, I think Andrew is onto something. Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society) witnesses great success when he teaches a topic to one very-interested student and then notices that student teaching his peers. Adults aren't *so* different. The technology trainer is “the other.” For better or worse, we trust those with whom we work/live in close proximity more readily than we do visitors. Utilizing this knowledge has proved very helpful in my experience as a tech trainer & implementation consultant. Sometimes it's not even the project coordinator/facilitator (see B above) that inspires; it's the fellow user at the same authority level, pay grade, etc. that proves to other users “it can be done! And it's actually helpful, not painful!”
    F) There's nothing like having to teach a new technology to someone else that makes you learn it *really* fast! As someone mentioned, life gets much easier when you use this to your advantage as a teacher. When you don't understand all the ins and outs of a technology, set your students the task of teaching each other (and/or you) about the technology. If students accuse you of using this as a cop out, explain that director- and executive-level corporate employees do this *all the time* to their direct reports. The employees who can concisely and effectively communicate the key info and lessons to higher-ups are the ones who get noticed through pay raises, promotions, etc. You're helping them develop a valuable life skill they'll be able to apply in their future jobs.
    G) Kevin states (below) that, “Teachers should never be expected to use technology without being equipped to do so…” While definitely true, here's where I do get my hackles up *just a little bit*. (Hopefully I won't raise yours in kind.) I totally agree that — ideally — *no one* should have to do something without first being equipped with the knowledge and skills to do so. However, this is a fact of life in the corporate world. Employees are regularly asked to take on something they're not prepared for, and they have to figure out how to make it happen, even when that means learning new skills, technology, etc. Hopefully they have a supportive manager/advocate, but sometimes the budget or time line just doesn't allow the option of formal training, etc., and you just gotta get it done. I'm in no way suggesting this is optimal. (There's a reason I decided to leave the corporate world.) However, I've heard my share of stories from teachers that — were they to refuse to work on/with something on similar grounds in a corporate environment — would find themselves unemployed. SO, this is to say that teachers do have some benefits and allowances that non-teachers do not get. The question that comes up for me is this: At what point do those allowances cross from rights to excuses? What is reasonable to expect? Perhaps we can base it on the same expectations that teachers hold their students to…
    H) Students are expected to be engaged in learning and even complete tasks they don't always see the immediate benefit of. Should not teachers set the example by being engaged in learning new things themselves? “Do as I say, not as I do” is rarely an effective method of inspiring others…. right?
    Okay, off my soap box now. *smile*

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  • http://twitter.com/cfanch/status/1749513051 chris fancher

    Just read @jasonflom’s Ecology Of Ed http://bit.ly/12KYRc

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  • Sean

    What tripe! If this educator spent half the time reading and practicing satire that he does patting himself smugly on the back for being able to use the internet, his pusillanimous attempt to humiliate his colleagues might not be so painful to read. The choice between chalkboard and information technology is a false one. The real decision we must make is whether we encourage our students to become slavishly distracted by the latest way to spend hours away from the company of other human beings or engage them in thoughtful, content-rich dialogue that invites them to participate in civilization. The good news for the author of this article is that he is well on his way of advancing his career in administration, where progress is measured in numbers of laptops and “innovative” web-based networking programs.

  • jasonflom

    Sean, your rebuttal inspires some questions for me:

    1. What are the merits of the different approaches to engage with colleagues whose views differ from our own? What communication challenges do we face when individuals categorically denounce an implement that others find valuable? How do we overcome those challenges?

    2. Do emerging technologies utilized by educators universally enslave students to newfangled fads that inhibit instructive interaction? If not, how do we best select those that enhance instruction and depth of understanding from those that hinder?

    3. What methods are most effective for engaging students with teachers, each other, and relevant content? Is it possible/reasonable for teachers to employ numerous tools in an attempt to engage all students? What role might technology play in that pedagogical arsenal?

    4. Do the strategies that educators, administrators, and districts use to teach (and assess) inadvertently bind students to tasks that remove them from content-rich dialogue pursuant to participatory citizenship? If so, what tools currently in use (by choice or mandate) and how can teachers turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones?

    5. Is the internet a legitimate way to participate as a citizen — globally, nationally, or locally?

    6. What unique skills might lap-top counters have that administrators from a more traditional track lack?

    I do not claim to have the answer to any of the above questions, but I do hope you will return to Eco of Ed and help us explore them. Thanks for being a part of the conversation.

  • http://chalkdust101.wordpress.com/ Patrick


    Being the author and educator in question, a few things surprise me about your response.

    You bring up a point that Jason hinted at in his response: while it is of utmost importance to “engage them in thoughtful, content-rich dialogue that invites them to participate in civilization,” perhaps more than anything else we do now is to teach them that the conversation is happening at many levels and in many places. It's not enough to just engage in the face-to-face, because so often in their future they will have to be able to engage in conversations that are asynchronous. Where are our students going to get their information from? With the ease at which information is created and manipulated, there is no greater burden for educators today than to aid in the formation of student “BS” detectors. How can this be done without full-on discussion and immersion in new forms of publication and information dissemination?

    It is not, nor ever will be, about the technology. As I stated in a comment above, technology just is. It's like data: it is what it is. It's here, it's in your classroom, in your student's pockets, and most likely written directly into your curriculum. The hard questions come when you begin to leverage it to accomplish the aim you speak of: meaningful conversation around issues of citizenship.

    Lastly, any technology that goes to make us less social should fail. See this video: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/renny_gleeso…. We haven't yet created the norms as a society for the behaviors that social technology has initiated.

    Thanks for the pushback, and in the interest of full-disclosure, I am an administrator, and I'd love to further this discussion with a focus on our definitions of progress. I can assure you that mine has nothing at all to do with the two generalities you pose.

  • http://beyond-school.org/ Clay Burell

    Oh snap. Well-done, Patrick.

  • http://twitter.com/johawke/status/2164416724 Jo Hawke

    Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said “I Hate Technology.” http://bit.ly/w1Utg (via @tonnet)

  • vale360

    Good points and excellent comments too.
    Hate often equals fear (and the “oh no it's not a chalkboard, which icon do I click?” feeling of panic is common, with training and support I've found that most teacher's can cope with yes, the huge shifts in “ownership” of learning. Training ensures that educators can also be gently accompanied in developing the new skills that technology-enhanced learning demands as well as participating in healthy balanced discussions on uses or abuses and of course their feelings too.
    So yes, hate often equals oh my what a lot of effort and change is needed?
    Together let's reduce the fear factor and help the multiple flow of learning.

  • http://twitter.com/web20classroom/status/5073408989 Steven W. Anderson

    An Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said "I Hate Technology." http://is.gd/4w4pR

  • http://twitter.com/klbz/status/5073455586 Karen LaBonte

    RT @web20classroom: An Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said "I Hate Technology." http://is.gd/4w4pR Awesome

  • http://twitter.com/jasonflom/status/5084596883 Jason Flom

    Engaging! RT @jabbusch: RT @web20classroom: An Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said "I Hate Technology." http://is.gd/4w4pR (@pjhiggins)

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  • mattscully

    I sure wish this conversation wasn't a “us” versus “them” framework. While it is a cleverly constructed argument, I believe it does little to further the important work of helping all teachers explore improving education. This posting will only further widen the gap and reduce the opportunity to collaborate.

  • http://twitter.com/stevejmoore/status/5598501358 Steve J. Moore

    [reading] Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said “I Hate Technology.” http://bit.ly/3KLJZa

  • mattscully

    I sure wish this conversation wasn't a “us” versus “them” framework. While it is a cleverly constructed argument, I believe it does little to further the important work of helping all teachers explore improving education. This posting will only further widen the gap and reduce the opportunity to collaborate.

  • http://twitter.com/ileadcommunity/status/5608090413 Jeff Johnson

    Open letter to teacher who said "I Hate Technology!": http://bit.ly/12KYRc

  • http://twitter.com/ggrosseck/status/8266027113 Gabriela Grosseck
  • http://twitter.com/gcouros/status/13584200636 gcouros

    Open Letter to the Tchr Who Said “I Hate Technology.” | Ecology of Education: http://ecologyofeducation.net/wsite/?p=603 I enjoyed this

  • http://twitter.com/mrsebiology/status/102713584626302976 Terie Engelbrecht

    Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said “I Hate Technology.”- http://t.co/WWQZmgN #edchat #edtech #edadmin

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  • http://twitter.com/gcouros/status/250660984224624640 George Couros

    Interesting post –> Open Letter to the Teacher Who Said “I Hate Technology.” http://t.co/fzIUnEn9 #psd70 #edchat