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What teachers could learn from my mother about technology

A topic regularly discussed on Twitter is how to bring teachers, new to and uncomfortable with technology, to the table to support them with the rapid infusion of tech in education.  Anything new takes time and can seem daunting, but we expect our students to do this on a daily basis.  So why does the teacher culture seem to shy away from doing the same, or expect a grand session of professional development to bring them the comfort they need.

So what does my mother have to do with any of this?  My mother is a self proclaimed technology novice.  My father worked for IBM for 30 years and I clearly inherited his technology brain. My mother, who regularly typed papers for me on a typewriter, now looks to me or my father to type up items on the computer.  I accept this trade off for her years of stretching her pinky to those dreadfully stiff typewriter keys.

Being an IBM house for years, PCs were standard from the early days of DOS to the inception of Windows.  My mother did her best to travel these uneasy roads, and to her credit, she did amazingly.  She admits that whatever she knows she had to memorize, for the technology does not flow through her brain cells.

So imagine when, a few years back, after years of learning Windows, my father and I upend her world to try Apple products.  While I knew this road would likely be easier for her than the PC path, change is daunting to us all. Additionally, for a person who took years to develop some level of technology comfort, to be told “Oh, let’s change it up”….that’s just scary.

My mother took it all on in stride.  She knew she needed baby steps, but she was determined to figure it all out.  She listened, she learned, she practiced, and she knew when too much was too much.  But then she would come back, ask questions, and keep moving forward.  My mother was clear about what she wanted to know, when it was too much, and when she was ready for the next lesson.  She owned her path of progress and came forward to say tell me more.   What if more teachers owned the learning, owned the technology, made it work for themselves as they sought out the answers when they are needed, not when the professional development is scheduled?

Many tech people would gladly spend time with their staff to support them, but that is not usually how it is done, so most teachers don’t ask. It is scary to adventure into the edtech realm.  For myself, if my staff talked to my mother, they would see that I just want to encourage them to engage with it, find the fun, find the questions, and find the power it can give personally and professionally.

My mother the Luddite now has a MacBook, an iPad, an iPhone and an e-reader.  She is quite the technology queen, yet does she feel comfortable with it all?  Not at all times, but does she find ways to enjoy it because she owns the path she is taking with it.  My mother says when it is too much and seeks out the help when she needs it, knowing I will always follow her pace of learning, which makes the learning more purposeful.

In getting my mother’s approval to use her is this post, she wanted me to make clear, “It’s better to understand what you are doing than to memorize.  Also, you need to do things over and over so you remember them.  Memorizing is good, but if you don’t understand why you are doing it, it is harder to remember.”

So to all the teachers out there uncomfortable with technology, my mother, who is in an age bracket I will not mention for she might ground me, is embracing today’s technology with caution, care, and gusto all at the same timewhy aren’t you?   It is a lot to take on, and don’t think the tech people in your building don’t know that, and they are eager and willing to help and support that process.  However, the tech people just need teachers to own that path to make it work. If you don’t believe me, ask my mother.

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Note: My mother was a teacher at the New York School for the Deaf and the person who inspired me to follow my educational path to work with students with learning needs.  She may not get the tech, but she gets the passion.  Both my parents should be credited with my path of education and technology.  I love them both for it.  

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