Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Paddling as Fast as I Can

21st Century teachers face a monumental dilemma.  It seems that we must choose to stay current with technology or sacrifice family and personal sanity.  The flood of technological advancement can make us feel like we are in a canoe paddling upstream on a fast flowing river.  We paddle as fast as we can, but progress is tediously slow.  There is no time to rest or the river will push the canoe back downstream, so we point the canoe up the middle of that river and dig as deep as we can until exhaustion drives us back.  An experienced canoeist will survey the river ahead, carefully observing where it bends and flows around obstacles.  This canoeist will guide the canoe into the quieter waters behind the obstacles and on the inside of the bends.  The expert does not take on the whole river, but chooses where meaningful progress can be made.

Teaching ranks high on most lists of high stress jobs.  On careerbuilder.com teaching ranks fourth out of the eight highest stress jobs.  The Mainstreet Newsletter ranks teaching number 5 on their list of 12 most stressful jobs.  Since teaching is already so stressful it does not make sense for a teacher to chase down and become an expert in every new technology that comes along.  Technology is supposed to make life and jobs easier.  However it seems that any time or resource saved through the use of technology is immediately consumed by something else that was not previously possible.  I remember when it was proposed that using computers would save paper.  That certainly has not been true in my field of administration.  We are now asked to produce reports and statistical analyses that were not possible to do before the advent of the personal computer.  Of course everyone seems to want a 'hard copy' to file away in some secure never to be looked at again place.

Teachers must not ignore technology, but they must become wise navigators.  We must carefully choose that which will make our job easier and more effective.  An article by Yair Amichai-Hamburger in the December 27, 2009 NewScientist outlines four vital elements in relating to technology: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and critical thinking.  Our actions must be self-chosen, important to us, and carried out in the most effective way possible.  Human beings need to feel close to other people and if technology gets in the way of those relationships we need to learn when to turn the devices off.  Using our critical thinking skills is of utmost importance.  Rather than getting caught up in the latest technological craze, we should step back and do a careful analysis of its value to us personally and to our profession.  I think it is perfectly acceptable to let those who have the need or the time to engage the 'latest and greatest' to test the technology first.  If it proves to have value that would fit us personally, then embrace it.  On the other hand it may just be a passing fantasy that we did not waste time or money on.

There are many ways to learn about the use and value of new technology that will not consume time that teachers do not have.  Subscribe to relevant podcasts and listen to them while in your car or on public transit.  Listen to podcasts or watch video presentations while waiting for an appointment with someone who thinks their time is more valuable than yours.  Fill those empty minutes with valuable input.  Then when you arrive at home put the technology and stress away so you can devote your full time and energy to building that most important relationship with your family.  Organize and prioritize all things to maintain a healthy balance.

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