I think this article by you is spot on.
I am interested in making technology use more ubiquitous, but I also need ideas for solutions to my situation. (By the way, I teach EFL in a government elementary school in Taiwan.) Like other educators I am happy to engage in teaching and learning through technology when it enhances the subject. By following #edchat, other twitterers, a number of weblogs and by playing with some of the ideas suggested there, I do my best to keep current with developments and how they can fit my situation.
Also, when I come across something I think is useful to my colleagues, I usually tweet or re-tweet it and occasionally I blog it. I have no doubt that the quality of education can improve through wider use of new technologies, and that our students expect this.
At the same time I would have to say that it’s also appropriate to have some “unplugged” or “low-tech” lessons (or at least parts of lessons) to balance this out.
The lack of funds here tends to be more a misapplication of funds – that is, poor choices made with no consultation. For example, you walk in one morning and find a new Smart Board has been installed. It’s nice and shiny and all the students are waiting in anticipation that you will wow them out of their socks. Unfortunately, you won’t because (a) you’ve already prepared something else for the day, (b) you didn’t get any training in how to use it, (c) the software and computer operating system are in Chinese (which you don’t read), and (d) the program won’t run PowerPoint interactively, which was what you’d prepared.
I would have to agree wholeheartedly with you, Tom, about the local leadership being a major deterrent.
Here the government people, the Education Department people, the Principals, Academic Directors, General Services Directors and Head Teachers are all locals i.e. Taiwanese, and many speak limited English. There is no-one from Canada, the USA, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand in any position of authority – we are all at the bottom of the ladder. Inevitably this means we do not influence, nor have any input into, the decision-making process here. Even worse, our ideas are not sought, and they are not welcomed happily. I know personally of a number of teachers whose contracts have not been renewed because they have been outspoken on such matters.
Just to make our circumstances clearer, do you know how difficult it is to use technology when you have to move between 22 different classrooms per week, having unreliable Internet connections, some with IWB’s some without, some with poor speaker systems or only the computer’s speakers, computers with different software loaded or none loaded to run what you’ve prepared, some with layers of dust on their CD players or no CD players at all, some with projector remotes missing that are missing batteries, etc? At some point, you debate whether it’s even worth bothering with technology and spending extra time preparing such lessons, when there is such apathy at the school.
What can happen is that you end up looking like a clown in front of your class and any credibility you may have built up goes out the window.
Here, we don’t have to worry about PD from the IT staff. They are not necessarily qualified to tinker with the hardware and software. They may be IT teachers but not technicians. Of course, for us “foreigners” they speak little or no English anyway, so they don’t try to teach us any PD. This generally means, no one else does either. I’ve heard that at least some of the “local” teachers have had IWB training, but not us.
To complicate OUR incorporation of IT into lessons further, our students are taught computer use, etc, but in Chinese. This means they need basing typing lessons before they can even enter a web address, let alone read it in English anyway. I’m not saying I haven’t taught lessons in a computer lab – I have – but I’ve had to lead them very slowly and very carefully, and direct them to where they could go, which is rather limiting.
Taiwan isn’t exactly backward in terms of technology. In fact, most of the world’s leading IT companies do much of their research and development here. I’m also sure students are tech-savvy. Unfortunately there is a long way to go to integrate IT into our teaching and learning.
So, after all that, I’d like to say that I don’t feel all that guilty about my limited incorporation of IT into my classes. If someone can come up with a better approach that won’t risk my job security, I’m happy to hear any of their suggestions.