Teaching Beyond Our Fears and Finding Balance Within
I've never met a person who didn't fear something. Some of us fear spiders. Some fear heights. Some fear extra pounds. Some fear change. Most of us fear something about the unknown. As an instructional technologist, I see teachers fearing the technology itself. I'm baffled by it, quite honestly, but I have learned to be a listener and to try to assuage their fears with good support and good analogies.
I have two teen daughters, one who has been driving for 3 years now and one in the permit stage of driving with adult supervision. On a regular basis, when they walk out the door to get behind the wheel of a car, I say a little prayer. In their friend groups, 94 to 98 percent of their peers get their license to drive and have access to drive around the ages of 16 or 17. It did not cross my mind to not let them have this privilege, responsibility and what I see as a necessity in life. I believe most parents are on the same mind track as I am: Driving is just part of growing up.
We, as parents, don't really overanalyze the fact that driving a car means taking risks like that child has never taken before, because if we did we would wrap them in bubble wrap and duct-tape and place them in a rubber room to protect them. I'm not saying we don't worry and lament the fact that "J speeds" and "K doesn't use her side mirrors like she should." I'm not saying that, when the phone rings from an unknown number or from your child when you know they should be driving, you don't have a mini freakout.
What I am saying is that we don't dwell on the fact that for the first time ever, they have control over the path of their day. We don't dwell on the fact that they are taking risks with their own lives and the lives of others as well. We don't dwell on the fact that they are in control of (plus or minus) 4,000 pounds of technology that will go 100 miles per hour and that their frontal lobes aren't fully developed. (Okay, maybe we’re thinking about it more now than we ever have since we’re seeing it in written form.)
But the truth of the matter is, we don't let our fears rule us. We dig deep into the "balance scales of life" and we come to the realization that the positives that come with the ability to drive exceed the potential negatives of not allowing that child to function with this important skill.
I see the use of mobile technology in the classroom in much the same light. There are pitfalls — poor digital citizenship skills, distraction, inability to ascertain when it is appropriate to utilize tech and when it is not — but much like driving a car, it will be a lifelong skill needed for today's and tomorrow's students. We teachers, much like parents of newly driving teens, have to use our discerning "balance scales of life" and meet those needs with our students.
Just like we wouldn't allow a 16-year-old who has never driven to go on a solo trip in our new car, we have a responsibility to guide our students in discerning good technology usage. When teachers say, "No, I don't want it in my classroom," they are limiting potential for their learning environment and for each student individually.
We must reach beyond our fears, hesitantly if need be, and embrace change and technology so our students can be future-ready.
Julie Davis is an instructional technologist at the K-12 Chattanooga Christian School (TN). She is a Common Sense Media certified educator, co-moderator of the educational Twitter chat #ChattTechChat and a planning member of #edcampgigcity. You can read her blog at http://techhelpful.blogspot.com.