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Technology As Privilege: Why Using It Matters

“Itsy? IT? It was an Edtech thing in Philly.” I heard my coworker say.wpid-img_36431.jpg

“ISTE?” I interjected excitedly. “Did you go? Did you have fun? How was it?”

He took a moment to measure his reaction. “Well, it was good to get swag…?”

“That’s it?”

He sighed, “It’s not that it was bad, it’s that it’s hard when you know your school doesn’t have the resources for the things there and you don’t control the budget.” He shrugged.

I nodded, knowing that similar feeling of frustration.

In my piece about going paperless, I knew I was coming from a privileged experience: my students and I are at a school that celebrates innovation, and their one-to-one education begins far before me. We have the budget and support to provide students with technology and experience using it.

When I taught in California though, that wasn’t always the case. There was a laptop cart we all shared, and a computer lab we could reserve. We had the drive, but not all the resources. Still, I counted myself blessed: there are many schools where access isn’t an option at all and the “digital divide” is very real.

It’s this knowledge that occasionally infuriates me about teachers who have access, but refuse to attempt trying technology in their classrooms. Having access and time to use any technology is an immense privilege, and I can’t help but feel that innovation is not just a best practice, but also a responsibility for those of us who are given that luxury.

I am not asking teachers to be inauthentic. I have met teachers who are amazing without a scrap of technology. That’s awesome. I am very impressed. I am not saying that if you refuse to let your classroom become full of student iPad stations or any version of that, I’m angry with you (or even that I disagree with you).

Still, it feels wrong to ignore that the world is digital. Assumedly, if you’re reading a CUE piece, I’m preaching to the choir, and I think it’s safe to say that technology is a thing that our students will interact with.

There’s a belief in social justice work that if you come from a place of privilege, you should come “collect and educate your own” (see #8 here).

So, this is me collecting teachers with rows of computers at their disposal, but an unwillingness to open them: Being able to choose the role technology has in our classroom is privilege. Having the space and opportunity to innovate and try new things is privilege.

If we can try something (and really, I mean anything), I think that it’s essential that we do—both for our students, and the education field as a whole. If it works, that’s great, and we can celebrate (and perhaps even share!) our success so that we can all learn from each other.

If we give something a wholehearted attempt and it doesn’t work, or the tech didn’t really fit our needs, we

try something and fail is more than try nothing and succeed phrase handwritten on sticker notes

should share that. If something doesn’t work for us, we deserve to name that and ask “why?” Was it something we missed? Or perhaps something in the design that wasn’t a good fit with our classroom culture. Or that style or type of technology doesn’t fit with our particular teaching style. That’s fine. At least we tried, and can all learn from that too.

We tell kids to try their hardest and give their best effort when they are afraid of attempting something new. We encourage them, tell them that failure is an important step to learning and figuring out what works for them. Why are we so unwilling to take the same approach towards innovation in our own practice? If we are centered on our students, then we must model the same things we ask of them every day in the classroom.

If you don’t have access to technology, I hope you get that support. If you’ve tried something and it didn’t work, I empathize. I keep trying to understand Snapchat and fail consistently. I hope you keep trying new things.

But if the access and the opportunity are there, and we are tempted to leave it on the table because it is “inconvenient” or “too hard,” I encourage us all to do something that lots of teachers do:

Ask ourselves, “What would I say to my students right now if they were in my shoes? What would they say to me?”

In the end, I think they would want us both to hit the ground running, and try big, crazy things together.


Ed. Note- This post begins CUE’s series of Connected Educator Month (#ce15) blog posts. For all things Connected Educator Month visit their schedule on the CEM main site and follow #ce15 on the tweets. Connect with the CUE blog by tweeting at me (@TheWeirdTeacher) and leaving comments in the comment section (where else would you leave comments? Sticky notes on your computer screen? That’s not very connected, except with extremely weak glue).

Torres Headshot

Christina Torres currently teaches 7th and 9th grade English and Drama at University Laboratory School in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She previously taught in Los Angeles, and worked on Teach For America – Hawai‘i staff. Christina holds a Masters in Education with a focus on Digital Education from Loyola Marymount University, and more info can be found at http://christinatorres.org

International Podcast Day Q&A with Jeffrey Bradbury

CNG7BkLUEAAIYaUFor International Podcast Day I spoke with education podcaster extraordinaire Jeffrey Bradbury, creator and host of TeacherCast about TeacherCast’s beginnings, podcasting advice, student podcasting, technology set-ups, and why he hasn’t had me on his show.


Doug Robertson: Why did you start TeacherCast?

Jeffrey Bradbury: TeacherCast was created on July 11, 2011 as a way to creatteachercaste a single location for teachers in my school district to visit and find out how they can use today’s latest and greatest ideas and technology in their classrooms.  The question of “how do I help my students better” really was the driving force behind creating a single site that helps teachers learn no matter how they learn.  On TeacherCast, you can learn visually through blogs, online courses, Livebinders, and videos, they can learn aurally through podcasts, screencasts and live broadcasts, and the website also offers kinesthetic learning in the form of onsite workshops and presentations.  No matter how you want to learn, TeacherCast has something available for you.

DR: What do you do on the days when you feel like there’s nothing for you to cast about?

JB: My students, my fellow teachers, and my PLN are a constant source of questions and topics for TeacherCast content.  I enjoy being able to reach out and help others either by phone, voice, video, or written words.  There is always something to create.

DR: How did you get started technology-wise? What was your first set-up?

JB: I have always been a techy person. I started my own website business while a teenager and then continued into video production when I became an orchestra conductor.  The transition from video editor to podcaster to live broadcaster was pretty easy.  

DR: Can you talk about some unexpected things you’ve learned because of your podcast?

JB: Many podcasters, sponsors, and others in the field are unfortunately really heavy on looking at numbers.  The question “what do your numbers look like?” is unfortunately both a question that everyone wants to ask each other, yet, professionally not one that should really be discussed.  Instead of looking at numbers and stats, I would love to see podcasters focus more on content.  Sometimes you have no idea who is listening to your show and will get inspired to do great things.  I’d much rather have one person listen to a show and then create awesomeness than 100,000 people listen to the show and do nothing.  

DR: How will you be celebrating International Podcast Day? Giant headphone-shaped cake?

JB: This year, I will be celebrating International Podcast Day by sharing the love of video production with students in my new school district.  One of the ways we will be doing this is through an amazingly cute video that was created with our kindergarten classes.  We designed a very adorable video presentation where they had the opportunity to showcase things they are proud of doing.  Helping students achieve their greatest potential is the best way to celebrate International Podcast Day.

DR: If you could give advice to someone who was appearing on a podcast what advice would that be?

JB: Many people appearing on their first podcast (or even creating their first podcast) want things to be scripted. They want a list of topics or questions ahead of time.  It always amazes me that we are all professional educators… professional public speakers… professional advocates for our content area, and yet we are nervous to put a microphone in front of us and have a conversation with another human being.  My best advice is to just relax and be yourself.  I tell my guests all the time: “ I have done over 500 shows and I have yet to interview anyone.”  All of my shows turn out to be conversations… some are great… some are not so great.  Preparing your guest with questions ahead of time may be good in the short run, but what happens if you want to go off script for a bit?  Allowing the back and forth flow of conversations and topics ideas are what makes podcasts great.  If you are asked to be on a podcast remember… you are AWESOME and just have fun with it.

DR: Why hasn’t TeacherCast gotten Weird one-on-one yet? Is it because Sam and Wokka don’t want another puppet-user on the show? You can tell me, they’ll never see this.

JB: I’m afraid of men with blue hair.

DR: Should students podcast? Why?

JB: The ability to create awesome content in any format is easier now more than ever.  Students have the power to create videos and audio projects using their tablets, phones, and laptops very easy and very quickly.  This helps students get a voice in this world, it helps students create a digital footprint, and it helps prepare them for college and ultimately job interviews.  There is a direct connection between a student being able to speak into a mic and share his/her own experiences and being in a room at an interview and answering the popular “Tell me about yourself” question from a potential employer.  

DR: Anyone living or dead that you could podcast- Who is it and why isn’t your answer “Doug Robertson”?

JB: Doug Who? Do you mean that Duck Dynasty guy?  Yes… I’d love to have those fellers on the podcast sometime. [Ed. Note- I am not amused, Mr. Bradbury.]  

There are so many people I would love to have on the program.  The Pope, the president, Beethoven, Mr. Rogers, Jim Henson, my grandparents.  

DR: Anyone fictional you could podcast- Who is it and why isn’t your answer “Yoda”?

JB: Big Bird… no explanation needed.

DR: What podcasts do you listen to?

JB: I actually don’t listen to that many “educational podcasts.” I have a long drive to work each day and I find myself listening to podcasts on Final Cut Pro, WordPress, SEO, WWE, and Public Speaking advice.  Some favorites of mine include: Mac Break Studio, WP Watercooler, MatMen, YourWebsiteEngineer, and anything that includes Jon Taffer, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo, and Kermit the Frog.  

PodcastingCUE thanks Jeffery for his time. To check out TeacherCast go to teachercast.net. There are many other educationally-focused podcasts roaming the internet to check out, including Pushing the Edge with Greg Curran, The Dr Will Show with Dr Will, The Rockstar Principals Podcast with the Rockstar Principals, The Amazing Teacher Podcast, The Transformative Principal Podcast, and E.P.T. This is an incomplete list and if you know of or have an education podcast people need to know about please note and link it in the comments. 

catDoug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and a tenth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

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