Old teachers, new technology

My Thanks To …

My thanks go to Santtu Toivonen (Twitter: @touqo) for prompting this post.

Santtu tweeted “Any evidence or studies that the younger generation of teachers is more willing to adapt their teaching to fit new technologies? #edchat” which generated a fairly long exchange of tweets between him and me exploring a number of ideas, this helping me to clarify my own thoughts.

Initial Remarks

I will assume that all readers are familiar with the phenomenon that the ability to learn decreases with age. I will not explore this point further.

I will however mention an owner of a training organisation, in her 70s, who understands new technology very rapidly, and a lecturer in his mid-30s for whom using technology is somewhat difficult.

What I Learned

As a teacher, I will use the technology that is available, best suited to the learners’ needs, and which I feel I can use effectively. At one extreme, this could be two rocks to sit on, a stretch of sand between them, and a stick to draw with. (Who knows, I may well do this one day.) At the other extreme, it could be a mobile device that became available to the public earlier that day. I am fortunate: because of my own background in Information Technology, I find new technology particularly easy to use. To give a comparable example from the automotive industry, I would like to think that when gas-powered cars first became widespread, teachers would be very comfortable with the changes in the engine.

Different people have different aptitudes for different things: some find information technology very easy, while others can find it impenetrable. Again by way of offering two extremes, I realised that I had left my teacher behind when it came to learning how to program a computer about half-way through the course – this was back in 1970. At the other extreme, I still meet local teenagers who dread such classes – this could be due in part to the teacher, but having worked briefly with such teenagers they seem to lack the aptitude for the subject. This manifests itself in an inability to follow a set of steps in the order given, for example.

Da Capo

Looking into my crystal ball, I see more changes in degree over the next decade, rather than any changes in kind. The rapid transition from mobile phones to smart phones is a change in kind, but adding more power to smart phones is merely a change in degree: the crest of the Information Revolution is now behind us.

My guess is that tomorrow’s teachers will use the technologies with which they feel comfortable, and they will tend towards those subjects for which they have an aptitude.

4 thoughts on “Old teachers, new technology

  1. Pingback: OTR Links 02/23/2012 | doug – off the record

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful post. It’s a great example of how a simple tweet can initiate so much discussion and reflection.

    As one of the younger teachers at my school, I read the initial question posed by Santtu Toivonen with interest. I’ve been adapting and changing my teaching by incorporating more technology this academic year. The driving force behind this has been the enthusiasm and support of colleagues, particularly in the technology department, in addition to the opportunities for sharing and good practice at my school. I think that if you work in an environment where you’re able to approach others for help, regardless of your age or expertise, it makes a huge difference.

    I agree with your points regarding the stage we’re at in terms of technological change. One striking aspect of mobile and touch screen technology is how easy it is use. I think that there’s a lot more appeal for teachers to incorporate technology into their teaching when it has evolved to become so much more accessible.

  3. Madeleine, great that my tweet inspired you! I agree with you 100%, mobile tech today with enough bandwidth and touchphones providing excellent user experience is easy to use by anyone, regardless of age. This certainly was not the case say 10 years ago when I was a researcher trying to come up with location-based services. We had phones talking to separate GPS receivers over bluetooth, batteries dying in hours, bad usability, etc.

    But now anyone can easily learn how to utilize the devices and services. We have seen YouTube videos of babies and even cats using iPads. 🙂

    So it is more about right attitude and motivation than technological know-how. And my initial assumption was that millennials (diginatives) have this attitude naturally, since they have grown up in the middle of this technology. But Phil here in this post and during our tweet exchange made a good point that often older people are in fact more open to new tech & apps than younger folks. I’d still like to find out more about why that is the case.

  4. I am a beginning teacher very excited by the rapidly changing face of technology and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance my teaching for the benefit of my students.

    I agree with your point Santtu that it is about attitude and motivation. I am not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to technology, but I pursued blogging and ICT integration because I recognised that I needed to be equipped for this new world as I began my teaching career.

    However, it really shocked me how resistant and afraid most pre-service teachers around me were when it came to technology. These were not older people, most were quite young but they weren’t being proactive and getting involved. It still puzzles me.

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