I don’t often get personal on this blog. It’s not about me–it’s about educators and their profession–but times are different this year. When you’re geeky, you don’t always think like the people around you or answer questions in the usual way. A writing class I took asked us newbies to tell the class a little bit about ourselves. Here’s how I answered that:
I am a multi-cellular, hairless, short-snouted, large-brained bipedal omnivore, evolved over millions of years within the classification of Primates, in response to dramatic environment changes on the planet Earth to become Homo sapiens sapiens.
I occupy the geologic address
34E43.29 N and 117E10.82 W
…the political address
xxxx xxxx Dr., Laguna Hills CA.
…the email address
…and the internet address (my IP location)
I am one of over 8 billion big brained creatures living on Earth, each with unique talents and traits allowing us to best fit our local environment. I am a social animal, living in a large community–too large to know my neighbors by the methods other Primates use of ‘grooming’. Instead, we ‘gossip’ and ‘storytell’. I am surrounded by peers who feel superior to other mammals based on subjective factors such as physical characteristics or brain size. This primitive attitude has allowed my kind to take over the world but not run it well. Without significant changes, we will not remain the dominant species for even as long as dinosaurs, sharks, jelly fish, alligators, Great Apes, or horsetail ferns.
There’s always been something mystical about people in technical professions–engineering, science, mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of mathematical functions, even smile at the mention of calculus. The teaching profession has their own version of these individuals, called ‘technology teachers’. They used to be stuffed in a corner of the school where most teachers could pretend they didn’t exist, that what they did was for ‘some other educator in an alternate dimension’.
That all changed when technology swept across the academic landscape like a firestorm:
- iPads became the device of choice in the classroom
- Class screens became more norm than abnorm(al)
- Technology in the classroom changed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’
- 1:1 became a realistic goal
- Students researched online as often as in the library
- Students began spending as much time in a digital neighborhood as their home town
- Textbooks morphed into resources rather than bibles
Today, teachers who don’t use technology are an endangered species. Often, they’re too young to retire, so they get a digital map from a colleague to that place where they’ve been told they’ll find help–from a person variously called the ‘tech teacher’, ‘integration specialist’, or ‘tech coordinator’.
As they enter the room, they figure the person they’re looking for must be the one who looks up as they enter, fingers flying across the keyboard, never pausing and never slowing even as she smiles and says, ‘Hi!’.
Before you ask your question, I have a short list of signs that will help you have a more positive experience when you confront this big-brained Sheldon-look-like:
- You can’t scare them (in fact, even Admin and politics don’t frighten them). They’re techies. Try kindness instead.
- Patience and tech are oxymorons. Know that going in.
- Bring food. Techies often forget to eat, or ate everything in their snack stash and need more.
- Some days, tech looks a lot like work. Distract them with an interesting problem.
- Start the encounter with a discussion on Dr. Who, Minecraft, or Big Bang Theory. Find a clever tie-in to your topic.
- Understand that tech teachers often think trying to teach teachers to tech is like solving the Riemann Hypothesis (many consider it impossible). Bone up on basics before the Meeting.
- Life after the 100th crashed computer is what Oprah might call a life-defining moment. If that just happened as you walked through the door, turn around and come back another time.
- Understanding a techie who’s in the zone is like understanding the meaning of life. Again–leave the room; come back later.
This past weekend I attended the fifth annual Orange County California two-day geek WordCamp (#wcoc). These are affordable tech-centric events held all over the country where WordPress experts share their knowledge in 50-minute sessions (or three-hour workshops) on how to better use your WordPress website or blog (I have four blogs and one website that use WordPress). I was first introduced to it when TimeThief over at One Cool Site Blogging Tips posted on a WordCamp she attended in San Francisco. It sounded over my head–I’m not into coding and PHP and CSS–but she made it sound fun, like I wished I was into programming. That made me open-minded when a girlfriend suggested we attend.
The $40 registration included all the events, lunch both days, snacks (see the pictures of the snacks below), designer coffee (or black-no-sugar like I like it), two T Shirts, a mug… Too much to list. A popular room was the Snack Spot which included everything you imagine coders and programmers and computer folk consume. Snacks were non-stop, varied, abundant, with lots of water and coffee. Few sodas or diet drinks. Interesting…
And it was a blast. Packed with geeks who had personalities. The attendees were open, funny, engaged and engaging, buzzing with energy like overcharged power plants. Everyone was there to learn and share–in equal measure. I was one of the least experienced (for example, one of the presenters started with the ‘easy stuff’ for five minutes–half of which was over my head).
The presenters were eminently qualified. They knew their topics, fielded audience questions without a problem–and weren’t afraid to say they didn’t know but would find out, rarely ended early, never ran out of hints. One of the speakers was the guy who developed Amazon.com’s first website. That’s cred! Overall, presenters were professional, varied in their voice and focus, approachable, on-topic, and more than half, I understood. Why not all? Back to that PHP and CSS stuff that I could learn (I know I could), but who has time?
The most valuable thing I got from #wcoc knowledge. Here are my top twelve take-aways from my two days with these folks:
The British-based Telegraph recently posted an article about how technophobia could hold back the use of technology in the classroom. Their experts (including Lord David Puttnam, Member House of Lords and Chancellor of Open University) had this to say:
“We are watching a massively disruptive evolution within education, possibly for the first time in 100 years,” he continued. “A lot of people are finding that very uncomfortable…”
I recently had a conversation with my PLN about how they like technology in their classrooms. Few contest it’s presence (though some teachers absolutely refuse to allow it in the front door–some whole schools even), but is it used because we find it helpful or we’re forced to?
My PLN’s answers were all over the place, but far too many along themes like these–
- unable to squeeze one more thing to learn into my daily schedule
- are teachers prepared well to be effective facilitators
- training needs to be ample, effective, constructive, continuous and mandated
- serious lack of training and I’m so over loaded that I do not have the ability to add on one more thing
- we oooh and ahhh ANY TIME technology is used and label it innovative, creative, etc. when in reality it is not
- it is simply about common sense and using the tool that the teacher and the students get the best results with
Here’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Language Strand. This covers K-8, 87 Standards, and has 8 projects.
BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to check off the skill–track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print to out for your classroom use:
Why is appropriate vocabulary essential to academic success?
Students teach each other domain-specific words through presentations. This reinforces vocabulary, as well as presentation skills.
By the end of this unit, 3rd-middle school students will review up to 7 L, 4 SL, and 1 WHST, as well as authentically use and review Tier 3 vocabulary (or optionally, Tier 2).
- Words are beautiful.
- Knowing Tier 3 vocabulary helps students understand the subject.
Internet, Speak Like a Geek assessments, Speak Like a Geek sign-ups
If you teach technology, it’s likely you’re a geek. Even if you didn’t start out that way–say, you used to be a first grade teacher and suddenly your Admin in their infinite wisdom, moved you to the tech lab–you became a geek. You morphed into the go-to person for tech problems, computer quirks, crashes, and freezes.
Overnight, your colleagues assumed you received an upload of data that allowed you to Know the answers to their every techie question. It didn’t matter that yesterday, you were one of them. Now, you are on a pedestal, their necks craned upward as they ask you, How do I get the Smartscreen to work? or We need the microphones working for a lesson I’m starting in three minutes. Can you please-please-please fix them?
Celebrate your cheeky geekiness. Flaunt it for students and colleagues. Play Minecraft. That’s you now–you are sharp, quick-thinking. You tingle when you see an iPad. You wear a flash drive like jewelry. The first thing you do when you get to school is check your email
Are you going on road trips? Are you playing with your children, seeing friends you forgot existed, or engaging in retail therapy?
If I have time in between what I HAVE to do, I’ll join you. It might be a virtual trip, but we’ll make it happen.
Here’s what’s on my plate (so far) this summer of 2012:
- Attending ISTE 2012. It’s in my backyard this summer–San Diego.
- Attending training my school signed me up for on UbD, our new grading program (forgot the name), and robotics. One of the training sessions comes with a free lunch.
- Editing a K-6 technology curriculum and a keyboard book for Structured Learning (a great publisher of edtech resources for the classroom)
- Working on a tech thriller I hope to finish and get off to publishers. Of course it has lots of cutting edge technology in it and a quirky AI named Otto.
- Picking the brains of my two children. One works in cybercom for the Navy; the other the Signal Corps for the Army. Most of the stuff they can’t tell me, but I love hearing what they can.
- Working with tech teachers at my local school district on a technology curriculum for their K-6 classes.
- Presenting at several schools on tech ed topics. If you’re interested in working with me on that, please contact me at this link.
- Consulting with a Denver school district online to train their new tech teachers in what to teach in their computer labs next year.
- Getting back to my inquisitive, curious roots. I used to spend hours figuring out how to solve problems, find solutions, determine what made something tick. Now, I’m too busy. I can feel the rift in my spirit, my sapped energy, my fuzzy brain. This summer, I’m getting back to that. Here’s my promise:
For the next six weeks, when I see something techie I don’t understand, I’ll stop and ask the essential questions:
Celebrate your geekiness. Flaunt it for students and colleagues. Play Minecraft. That’s you–you are sharp, quick-thinking. You can’t help but smile when you see an iPad and the first thing you do when you awake is turn on the computer.
It’s OK. Here at Ask a Tech Teacher, we understand. The readers understand. You’re at home. To honor you, I’ve created this poster. It gives fifteen more ways to get your fully geek on as you go through your day:
- Be smart. Yeah, it feels good
- That’s my inner Geek speaking
- Think. Exercise your brain.
- Waves. Sigh.
- Repeat after me: People are my friends. Like Siri.
- Move away from the keyboard–Not.
- Some people watch TV. I play with a Rubik’s Cube
- Be patient. I’m buffering.
- There must be a shortkey for that
- Life needs an Undo key
- Leave me alone for 2 minutes and I’ll go to sleep
- Yes, I can fix your computer
- Like a computer, I do what you tell me to
- My RAM is full. Come back later.
- Slow down. My processor isn’t that fast
Want that as a poster? Here you are:
I posted this list of tech ten commandments. It’s a great list, a way to generally address how to make friends with your computer and the geeks who take care of it for you.
Here’s another list, focused on Lutheran principles. Just as good with a few changes.