Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

20th February 2015 at 00:00

When it comes to issues arising from the adoption of new technology, I'll defend teachers to the hilt against accusations of heel-dragging, naysaying and doom-mongering (accusations that, strangely, are often levelled by companies that want to sell schools something).

Primarily, teachers suffer from what I like to call "paradigm-shift fatigue" because every new piece of kit is hailed as a game changer - and that's before we get on to the lack of time to experiment with new-fangled tech.

However, there are also those teachers who cling to the belief that technology is beyond them. This holds them back, preventing them from increasing the amount of quality time they get to spend with their sofa (the prospect of which would have me happily donning an untested prototype rocket pack with highly unstable fuel and a wonky wing).

As an ancient philosopher whose name escapes me once put it: "Dude, don't be scared. If you put the effort in now, you'll be able to finish this stuff in half the time it normally takes." But although I think it's daft to be missing out, I understand the reticence. Keeping up with the pace of change and moving out of your comfort zone aren't easy, especially if there's no guarantee of any benefit.

And benefit is key. The onus on teachers to engage with new technology is pretty hollow if there aren't any immediate, proven reasons to do so. But if there aren't, why not? Can you imagine if this were the case in any other business transaction? "They're not buying into the product. It can't be the product so it must be them. Stupid customers!"

If I were a cynic with something to sell, I might subscribe to a narrative where teachers were averse to technology rather than admitting my product wasn't that good.

But is misplaced loyalty leading me to excuse my fellow professionals? Well, yes, to a certain extent. There is sometimes huge pressure to adopt the latest fad from the powers above who have shiny things in their sight line and smooth patter in their ears. On the other hand (and this is why I've not gone into full-on rant mode), I've met teachers who refuse to engage with tech simply because it would mean a modicum of effort. I don't believe they're as numerous as is sometimes made out, but they are there, lurking.

It's important to differentiate between these two groups because, nine times out of 10, if you give a teacher the time to explore something new, permission to make mistakes and examples of the proven benefits, they'll rise to the challenge. If you've done all that and someone is still refusing to even try - well, you may have a problem.

Now, let me see if I can reach Mach 3 with this rocket-pack thingy; if I do, I can spend the rest of the day watching DVDs on my beloved sofa.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212

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