I remember my first classroom the summer of 2008. I had just graduated and landed a job teaching summer school to middle school students. They gave me my very own classroom with an overhead projector and a desktop computer. To keep track of student grades, I had the option to use Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, or one of those grading books that I remember my teachers having in high school. I chose to use Word, and at the end of each week I would total up their grades, send a note home to their parents, and save the file to my floppy disc.
Today, in my very own classroom, I have a laptop cart with 30 computers that I share with other teachers, a Mac that I use to project on the board, and a laptop that contains my life’s work in teaching. Times have changed.
With these changes, technology literacy has also adjusted. My school district, Owen J. Roberts, maintains high but reasonable expectations when it comes to technology implementation. In addition to traditional technology use such as email and data collection, teachers must utilize their teacher pages to keep in contact with parents and provide digital documents on D2L. We are encouraged to expand beyond these requirements, but these expectations would put OJR “in the early stages of development.” By adhering to the minimum, teachers are displaying “basic digital literacy skills and digital citizenship…to complement standard curriculum objectives” (UNESCO, 2011). Because I have always been interested in technology, the impacts have been mostly positive as they have provided more opportunity, but in recent years I have begun to feel some frustration with the push for the “new tool” that seems to take over professional development days each year.
In education we seem to be at a standstill with technology where districts are simply wasting money on expensive programs without knowing how to use them or properly training teachers (Pear Tree Education, 2013). This is leading to frustration within my own district because the tool is overtaking the objectives. I have seen more consistency in the past two years with these programs and training teachers, and I hope that this is the first step to moving out of the early stages and into knowledge deepening and creation.
I believe technology literacy is best defined in the Pear Tree Education video posted below (2013). There are many different concepts that our students need to understand moving forward in the 21st century. Two very important ones are research skills and collaboration. There is a lot of content out there on the internet, and distinguishing between legitimate and inaccurate sources is a skill that must be learned. This is important in all aspects of life, from college papers to purchasing homes. In addition, to be literate in technology means people are able to collaborate and use it responsibly. Because so much online is anonymous, there have been many instances of bullying, and it is important to teach students not only to avoid this, but also how to effectively criticize online and respond to criticism (Pear Tree Education, 2013).
The growing importance of technology literacy has impacted me in many ways. It has specifically impacted me professionally through assignment options. In recent years, I have adapted many assignments to incorporate technology while at the same time requiring collaboration and discussions. The curriculum I teach has always required research and we have always taught the need to use reliable sources, but now I am using my platform to provide students with the opportunity to collaborate both in person and online. I have realized that not only does this give a voice to those who rarely speak up during class, but these discussion boards also help students understand how to respectfully present constructive feedback. While I understand and value face-to-face interactions, the reality is that many people communicate through text on a screen, and knowing how to do this with the correct tone is an invaluable tool.
I am sometimes overwhelmed by how technology has evolved over the years, but I am truly excited about how far it has come and where it is going as long as we can teach our students how to use it effectively and responsibly.