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Tech Up, or Tech Off

This is all about my desire to see the back of this quote:

"Technology won't replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those who don't"

Which in my experience can sound an awful lot like "Tech up, or Tech off" to the very non-tech lovers I think it is hoping to reach.
It all started on twitter....
Original tweet @TechKnowPedia
Then due to my inability to be concise, discussion moved to the comments section at the original post by really friendly and interesting tweeter Steve Wheeler . (I'm much cheered by how lovely the edTech and ELT crowd on Twitter are actually. Evidently there is an undeserved, negative Twitter reputation much like the undeserved Mumsnet reputation. Probably the Daily Mail's fault in both cases. They seem to like going "BEWARE ! Evil lies here !!" about every form of Not On Our Site discussion.)
Anyway, moved to the comment section and then Blogger and Twitter ganged up on me and agreed I talk too much. Due to alleged crimes against character count I couldn't post my reply to Steve Wheeler. So I am putting it here instead. He is in bold. I am not. This way I won't lose what I said, in case I want to say it again, or change my mind and need to work out why.
Thanks for your comments TFLNinja (I don't know your real name, you've hidden it well!)

Sorry about that. I joined Twitter under my real name for the first time about 18 mths ago, as a person, not as a teacher. I'd only been on it 2 days and "The Spark" (that became a long drawn out, months long saga, ending in us having to get a new phone number and go ex-directory) happened. I think my husband would leave me if I left any trace of my online presence that would stimulate that bloke into spraying his personality disorder all over our lives again. Once savaged by Rottweiler, twice deeply paranoid and twitchy.

Any significant change has to be managed sensitively

I think that's it in a nutshell. I very much doubt anybody is raising barriers on purpose. It's just so easy when you are dead into something to be accidentally blinded to how it is received when you have a different starting point. I was all "singing to the choir, baby" the first time I heard The Line. The only reason why I was aware of how it could feel like a punch on the nose was because I was sitting next to my best friend, Who was slowly going purple. And not in a good way.

many of the current crop of teachers are as technically adept as the students they are teaching, and those who *are* resistant (or fearful) have ample opportunity to try to use technology in their teaching

How many of the current crop will still be teaching in five years time ? I can't see a case for wasting a single edTech-resistant, but capable and seasoned teacher when staff retention is an ongoing issue.

Motivation and engagement play a significant role in eroding resistance and disinterest in learning. That's one of the bigger selling points of edTech. Whereas putting people on the defensive with a nice cheery "You're Dooooooomed, doooooomed I tell you !" .....not so much.

Like seeds chucked on stony ground, opportunities and resources get wasted if resistance flavoured barriers are accidentally nurtured. We dumped "Because that's the way it is and you'll end up unemployable if you don't" as our lead message with the kids for a reason. Never mind the economic/time investment down the drain, it's too wasteful in *human* terms. Resistant to tech types *can* (mostly) be won over, to some degree. But it takes more carrot and a lot less stick.

I can't think of any valid excuse for teachers not to incorporate aspects of technology into formal education, and not to do so IMHO does a disservice to the children we teach

My son goes to an online British secondary school. Take away the tech, and we have an insurmountable geography barrier standing between him and a decent education that suits him. So I'm more keenly aware than most at just how life & education changing edTech can be and don't disagree with you at all that tech can and should feature in children's education.

However, if asked to choose between any old teachers + 100% tech friendly OR his teachers + a single lightbulb, a slate and a very tired blackboard , I'd go for the latter in a heartbeat. A good teacher with the ability to turn a child around, raise their expectations of themselves, give them a challenge and support the rise required... that is what I'd choose for my child. Even if that teacher made hissing sounds in the manner of a vampire confronted by silver every time you waggled an iPad in their direction.

Mind you, I'd much rather be offered a less stark either/or choice. In a perfect world we'd live a stone's throw from a school stuffed to the gills with good teachers, who offered a diverse array of special talents that they had honed because of a personal passion. I'm sure enough would have SuperTechPassion to ensure Squirto wasn't missing out digital-wise cos it's a popular enough interest for an awful lot of people. But I wouldn't make AllTeachers+Tech my line in the sand. I'd hate him to lose say, an English teacher who had the knack for inspiring children to read for the pure pleasure of it, on the basis that she still couldn't work a mouse.

How can teachers who don't exploit the power and potential of technology justify not using it

How can we TechHeads justify not exploiting the power and potential of "you catch bees with honey, not vinegar" to fan even teeny tiny glimmers of motivation and engagement ? Where's the upside to *not* changing the tone ? I don't think the sky would fall if the tone of the edTech message did a 180 and the outcome was observed to see if uptake improved.

when the children in the room next door are making videos, blogging, Skyping with children in a school in France or building robots?

Which has to weighed against how many more children are slogging through lesson where the wow-factor-tech is King and the education has been pushed into second place (if that). Or how many children are spending hours of learning on a project/unit where the "cheese on broccoli" tech layer added nothing more than several times as much expense, time and effort for the same/lesser learning outcomes. There's a reason why the number of pro edTech articles yelling "pedagogy before technology" aren't showing any signs of dwindling away to nothing.

Scott Thornbury came up with (or at least I think he did, maybe he was quoting ?) E-cubed (economy, ease and efficacy). I started actively using his E3 again when even I, Mrs AniPadSupergluedToEachHand, had to recognise that for every truly tech enhanced lesson I was reading/hearing about, watching, or doing ...there were a notable number where the tech aspect quite clearly threw at least 2 Es out of the classroom window. I don't blame teachers for that. Having been told "tech up, or tech off" via The Line, it's not all that surprising that there might be rather a lot of eBox ticking & iAr*e covering going on.

For that reason alone I believe that the 'overused line' will continue to be used.
I agree with you that it will continue to be used. A lot of people who like edTech seem to love it. To them it smells of carrot not stick. They either can't, or won't see the cat in the rain. And for a few of them in my neck of the woods, even when they do catch a glimpse of the soggy moggy who could have instead been plonked in front of a virtual 3D fire to the point of iConversion, they won't give up The Line and all its ramifications. Because on some level they kind of feel the non techies deserve the discomfort of being on the wrong side of the window.

Increasingly school leaders are looking for teachers who can exploit the full potential of every resource that is available.

Increasingly school leaders are looking for teachers full stop. Due to teacher flight from the profession. Status and pay are dropping in real terms, whereas stresses and strains are not. Perhaps not ramping up the "do all of the things, for all of the people, all of the time" pressures might help with that. Maybe SL (or the gov leaning on them) might consider trying something different, like choosing good people, with solid teaching skills and personal-passion driven, diverse areas of specific expertise. A staffroom made of Masters, not Jacks. Even if that means *some* staff members are giving tech a wide berth, while still doing a great job of educating and bringing other expertise to the school-wide table.

Again, I'd take an excellent, but mouse-phobic teacher over a so-so one whose CV dripped with I-Can-Do-isms for my kid. Very, very few people can be all singing, all dancing, super stars at everything. So unless offering a job of a lifetime with the salary and benefits to match there's no point most SLs making All Round Rock Star an "indispensable" on the job ad wish list. There just aren't enough genuine Elvis Costellos to go around. Setting an unrealistic bar for puny humans means you risk getting a Peter Andre or 2 in your staffroom, cos he looked good on paper due to a genuine talent for self promotion masking mediocrity.

What happened to the teachers who resisted the introduction of pencils, paper (which replaced the slate), photocopying or educational television? There are none (that I know of).

Apples and Oranges.

Slate is to Paper/Purple ink repo machine is to photocopier... as peach is to nectarine. Small learning curve. A big and blindingly obvious gain. Even to the staffroom's Luddite in Chief it must have been clear from the get go that resistance was futile.

Educational television, as I remember it, was us shoved in front of the Big TV ....IN SILENCE CHILDREN !....which then terrified us with horror films about child murdering farms and foot munching escalators. That was no steep learning curve, they could use a plug already and were Masters of the Shhhhh ! So that is as tough skinned apple is to peeled grapes. One less lesson to plan. Just buy extra tissues.

IMO, in strong contrast with the above, non-tech is to edTech as Apple is to Unpeeled Durian.

The ones whose mouths water cos they've had a taste, and loved it, don't get that to the militant Apple Munchers the Durian represents loads of time and effort, grappling cack-handedly with unco-operative spikes. All for the sake of getting a rotting zombie smell up their nose that they have NO desire to add to their mouth. So they retreat to the decidedly less offensive apple and genuinely do not understand the techies enthusiastic munching. "Tech up or Tech off" just adds spikier spikes and pongier pongs to what can already be a bit of an uphill battle for everybody concerned.

As time goes by and the technologies we currently see as 'exotic' become mundane and are absorbed into the teacher's toolkit, so the new and emerging technologies appear on the horizon. One thing is certain - there will always be change, and the teaching profession is one of those that is at the centre of this maelstrom. I think for that reason alone, the maxim will remain and retain its relevance.

I agree there will always be change/progress in our tools. And there will always be trailblazers, who will always swell in numbers, always getting increasingly irritated by the latest batch of Apple munchers. And they will in all likelihood still keep using The Line (or latest reincarnation), with the same effect it has always had.

So far I haven't seen any notable interest in edTech circles in stopping that particular phrase train. Which is a pity, cos I think it is as useful for encouraging reluctants...as splashing somebody (fannying around with protracted toe dipping) in the shallow end is.
Totally recommend following both Tweeters above, whatever field of education you're in, or however you feel about EdTech. They don't bite, even if you see things from a different angle. Some accounts seem to recycle same old, same old, but the ones I linked to give "fresh stuff" with an original slant, which is refreshing after you've trawled through quite a lot of rehashed "articles". These days it feels like it's the grassroots bloggers in the main who write the stuff with real depth and thought, whereas quite a few of the big hitters in the Media World seem to be stuck in a rut. So yeah. Like Twitter, but I think the experience is enhanced by pootling around in the search faciltity and looking for people to follow, rather than brands/entities.
Why is Blogsy not checking my spelling ? There was no "Won't be loved by Dyslexics" on the tin when I was buying it. Marvellous.

I'm no Dodo

I have woken up at stupid o'clock on this Sunday morning. I blame the ageing process. So I thought I'd get on with planning and materials making. Revved up Keynote, and started making a collocations mini book for next week.

And then gazed at the screen with deep suspicion. There were several words that my dyslexic spidey senses told me should be triggering the red underling that is my lifeline to correct spelling. But they weren't. Checked all the options. Spellcheck was turned on EVERYWHERE on the app and the iPad. The App union had set up a picket line and Keynote was no scab.

Oh woe is dyslexic me.

Whenever I hit a roadblock that shoves my Dyslexic TEFLness to the fore, I get a mini flashback with a hot wave of shame. I relive being there when my mother was told I was dyslexic.

I was 10. At boarding school (RAF baby, they paid). I didn't get to go home, after so my mum must have been called in specially. Everybody stood for the whole 10 minute meeting. Me, mum and the teacher. Teacher said in a hushed and Very Grave Tone "I'm afraid Mini-preTEFL-Ninja is dyslexic". 

Pretty much I thought I had some murderous disease at that point. Due to my drama queen tendencies, which kicked in young. I had a moment of flash-forward where I was a 70s style "What Katy Did", which was mainly dropping dead, while everybody wailed at my graveside wishing they had been Much Nicer to me.

I only realised I wasn't a dying swan when a tiny, brown book was handed to mum with strict instructions that I was to make the effort to use it. Not much point handing it to mum. She was leaving in a matter of minutes. So she ceremoniously handed to me. Like a book shaped Holy Grail. I only realised this whole, weird, freaking-me-out meeting was about my Black Dog when I opened it. 

Tiny print. 

Word after word. 

Rewritten with dashes like this.


Not sure exactly how that was supposed to help given I couldn't even use a normal dictionary because I never knew what the next letter was. You try finding a word in a dictionary when you don't know what letters are in it, nor in which order. It's as useful as a chocolate teapot in that context. 

Nor was I given any indication as to how I was supposed to use this tiny, brown book. Which was worrying. Because the air was thick with the expectation that if just pulled my finger out and utilised this wonderful, curative gift.... things would be instantly different. 

Nothing like a wodge of pressure in a vacuum of know-how to make a 10 year old hyper ventilate on the inside. 

Nobody *ever* explained how it was supposed to work, nor what I was supposed to do with it. I gave it my best shot. Spent months touching it, opening it, staring at its pages, waiting for the penny to drop and to finally understand how it worked. I felt so very, very stupid. Because having needed no explicit instructions, its use had to be blindingly obvious, to the non-thick people. Finally gave up trying to work it out. Carried it everywhere. Made a great show of faux-consulting it during lessons and prep. Felt the weight of keeping up the pretence. Plus the ten tonnes of disapproval when red pen continued to liberally decorate every single page of all my exercise books.

So here we were again. My personal failing. My inability to do this "one small thing" being asked of me. Except instead of the more usual lazy/slapdash/could do better/must try harder accusations, it appeared they were saying I was defective, based on my mother's stricken face and the teacher's solemn one.

To the point of being unable to work out how to swallow my cure.

I know what people think. Oh, but that is how it was nearly 40 years ago. Nothing like that today. Which is true. Things are a lot better in many respects. Thanks to the grit and determination of those who have researched, studied, created resources, fought prejudice and offered quality training.

But if you think a dislexsic-ly shamed, little girl is to modern education what the Dodo is to the Animal Kingdom...you are wrong.

Reflecting on SEN

Reflecting on SEN
I am knocking this out v. early Sat. morning just before I go to work. So may edit later.

In response to @RafranzDavis

And the tweet: Instead of sharing the handwritten student note from their life...Share a blog post about the practice that YOU changed because of it

Training with regards to children with special, or additional, needs in my field (TEFL) has long been thin on the ground. I am not entirely sure that as a profession we really believe that SEN is our "problem". So I was horrendously under-prepared when I entered the mainstream classroom after having been in the self selecting Language school classroom.

And I screwed up. Left, right and centre. Because I couldn't have told the difference between SEN, or naughty if my life depended on it. Nor did I feel any particular need to learn. I was all too happy in my child-free 20s and early 30s to carry on seeing it as the mainstream teachers' issue, that they should manage on my behalf. No excuses. I was being lazy, unthinking and self-obsessed.

I was aware that I wasn't perhaps the best choice for mainstream ed. So I voluntarily removed myself and stayed in my ivory tower of classes of children who by and large had "I do NOT want to spend my free time doing English" as the greatest barrier to their learning.

Then I had a baby. I became a parent. Everything changed. My son has no SEN, but he struggled with his education. By extension, so did I. As a result tiny humans and what their educational success and struggles mean to the people who grew them, or raised them became un-ignorable. My empathy had no limits. I went back to mainstream ed with a very different mindset. But still no tools of note.

There I met M. A 13 year old in my class. Whose SEN were stealing his education and life chances. He broke my lessons. He broke my classroom. He broke my heart. Because I could see his future and the overwhelming unfairness of a child having his road pre-written due to our lack of resources to make things different, felt like an utter tragedy.

So I started to attempt to self-train with regards to SEN. It's not "proper" training. I have no idea how I would access that. It's reading blogs and articles from parents and teachers with regards to SEN in the classroom. Plus an awful lot of time on Mumsnet lurking/posting Qs in education debates, where teachers and parents within insight in SEN try to resolve issues, share ideas and fight the real prejudice that it still attracts.

I got better. Not good enough. Far from expert. But better. I am sympathetic to how my methods and activity choices might cause one child to go into sensory overload, or have another whirling around struggling with a lack of focus, or create intense anxiety in another. I have SEN on my mind when planning. I fall, I fail, I still need to learn more. But my big change in teaching practice is that in my thought process  I include, not ignore, the challenges that children with SEN can face in my classroom, thanks to my teaching choices.

No Disney ending though. I am still not good enough. I probably need intensive, focused and ongoing directed input rather than scrabbling around on the net. And M is still breaking my heart. He is 23 now. He charges across the road yelling "Hello Teacher !" , the sum total of what I taught him, and regales me with tales of police, irate property owners, the M-using crowd he hangs with, who exploit him as their fall guy. He is likely to be in prison before he is 25. Which exactly what I got a Flash-Forward of, when I taught him as a child.

What kind of a society are we if we can see the writing on the wall for powerless children who get no say in the choices made for them in their education, and yet do nothing about changing our priorities in terms of the extent to which we are willing to fund solutions ?

All the scrabbling about on the net looking for  insight in the world can't compensate for that. Most developed countries are creating child-sized+SEN collateral damage willy nilly. M is far from alone. His future written by big, red pen of "must make cuts". 

He didn't change my practice by writing me a note. Not least because he can barely write. He communicated things he wished we knew in other ways. I believe he was the 1st kid to really make me listen hard enough to do something. Because while I had sobbed over some of the sadder situations my small charges had to deal with in the past, I didn't really do more in my role as teacher, other than offer rather useless, private tears they never saw. M hammered the point home rather effectively. I can't make anybody's world change a tiny bit via creating a puddle on my sofa. 

Empathy is not enough.

Ghost of TEFL Past

Me as a reflective teacher in the very early nineties. 

Which could be summed up as...

Rip Up Lesson. Declare hatred of teaching as a job. Pine for something less soul destroying and hard, like mining. Or stripping. Drink copious amounts of the cheapest, most brain cell destroying alcohol possible.  And then blame Jeremy Harmer for everything, in sometimes quite vicious terms.

I did move on from that, eventually. But I never really did get into reflecting in the way you read in the blogs of teachers sharing their reflections today. 

Maybe it's because we didn't have the Internet back then. Reflective teaching with an audience and feedback meant revealing your weak spots to your colleagues. Some of whom were right gits, who you could bank on storing up any Achilles' heel shaped titbits. Just so they could chop you off at the knees the next time the Despot DOS was in the room and a foul mood, wanting to be distracted from trying to divvy up shrinking hours between too many freelancers.

So my evolution as a reflective teacher was mainly via conversations with myself ... in my head. Which wasn't brilliant for encouraging the formation of complete sentences, let alone joined up thinking and pennies dropping. And it's quite lonely inside your head, unless you start talking back to yourself. Which brings a whole new level of worry to the TEFL table. Like, exactly how much is too much Mekong in terms of brain cell die off ? A flopped controlled practice where the past continuous wouldn't continue... just can't compete with "has whiskey eaten my grey matter, and will it grow back ?" sorts of concerns.

I am somewhat awed by the reflective writings of other ELT professionals. Also quite intimidated by the prospect of putting forth what might end up as unpolished, incoherent rambling. Just ripe for unfavourable comparison. Becuase the Gits of Staffroom Past traumatised me. And I am not wholly convinced their reincarnations aren't wandering around the net, waiting to sit and chortle, smuggy knickers style, in my comments.  

But, I've been a freelance TEFLer for the larger portion of my life, which translates as "no decent pension". With another 25-35 years of income-needing years ahead. So there's still an awful lot of scope (Gods of Illness and Disaster willing) for any efforts to get better at something worth while. Particularly in terms of bearing fruit that I (and my students) will have time to chomp on and enjoy.

So here beginith a new era of reflective practice in complete sentences and outside my own head. 

An old dog is about to attempt to learn a new trick.

Just as soon as I've drunkenly hurled a copy of TPOELT  across the room in revenge for a lesson gone horribly wrong. For old times' sake.

Actually no. Scratch that. 

The last time I got drunk I got pregnant. 

The Chianti Baby is 14 years old, and while my egg factory has probably shut up shop by now, I'm not taking any chances of a repeat of six years (yes, years. Not months. Six fecking YEARS !) of a miniature insomniac torturing me with sleep deprivation.

Harmer can stay on the bookshelf unmolested. A reprieve, in the name of a good night's sleep.

I will be adding my TEFL flavoured, reflective teaching links here as I dig them out of the the links list on my other device. Adding others as I find them. 

Recommendations welcome.

Git shaped comments, not so much.

TEFL with tiny human in tow

We are a minority perhaps. TEFLers that sprogged.

Of all the additional challenges caused by being a TEFLer parent perhaps Son of Thor's education has been my biggest issue. I hated our local schools. As in volcano style hated. I've yet to meet a parent here who is impressed, however a good rule of thumb is to avoid saying your piece as a forrin type. Because some people are quite happy to criticise their own stuff, but less keen on outsiders doing it. It got a bit frosty at the school gate towards the end.

Still, thanks to the lovely Internet there are choices these days, choices that can work well with the sort of hours we often find ourselves working. For the last few years my son has attended InterHigh, an online British Independent school. Which is doing a much better job than I did when I tried my hand at home education. There are other schools (see links below), none cheap as chips, but if education where you are is causing an almighty culture clash at least you have options.