Sunday, December 17, 2006

Teacher Techies, Techless Teachers, and The Tech Bus

Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, a book about fast changing technologies, divides personal technology consumers into five categories. His categories of tech consumers are, the enthusiast, the visionary, the pragmatist, the conservative, and the laggard. His categories although originally applying to technology consumers, may also be applied to teachers using technology. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, a book about leadership strategy, compares the leadership strategies of great companies to individuals on a bus and their positions on that bus. Taking the concepts of Geoffrey Moore and Jim Collins and applying them to the teachers we can better ascertain the roles of teacher techies, techless teachers, and the tech bus within the K12 setting.

Before applying theses concepts to the current situation, we must first understand them. Teacher Techies are individuals that are technology savvy and use technology as a teaching tool. In contrast, Techless Teachers are individuals that are not technology savvy and refuse to use technology as a teaching tool. If we place these teachers on a continuum we would find them at opposite ends. As for the tech bus, it may be defined as the new emergent technologies appearing in our schools (e.g. blogs, dictories, wikis, moodles, mashups, search engines, etc.). The tech bus is inherently intertwined with technology through computers and the Internet.

Now, consider the teacher as a tech enthusiast. When offered a new tech tool, this kind of teacher says, "Great, let me at it, I want to see what I can do with this tech tool". These teachers totally engage with the new tech tool and become consumed by it and its applications. Moreover, they’re really passionate about using technology both inside and outside of the classroom. You can usually find these teachers standing in front of the white line right beside the bus driver.

Next, consider the teacher as a tech visionary. Adopting a new technology for these teachers is about staying in the game. Visionaries, more than anything else, like to be in the front seats of the bus right behind the driver. These teachers are often more practical than enthusiasts because they wait for the tech enthusiast to figure out how to use the new technology before applying it themselves. They're thinking, “If I adopt this new technology, I can use it to benefit my teaching in the following ways.”

Then we have the teacher as tech pragmatist. These teachers won't think about using new technology until almost all other teachers are using it. "They're asking their colleagues, “Do you have a class blog yet? Me, neither.” But when they ask around and people say, “Yeah, I’ve got a class blog” then they start looking for a seat near the front of the bus. Unfortunately, the front seats are usually taken by this time and they usually end up sitting in the middle of the bus.

The teacher as tech conservative’s preference is to avoid change at all costs. They are the individuals in the very back of the bus. They’ll try and move up a few seats after everyone else is onboard, but they will do so unwillingly and under duress. However, once they move up a few seats, they are so far back that they can’t see where the bus is going. As a result, they never tap in to the real potential of technology and their teaching suffers, as does student learning.

The teacher as tech laggard can best be described as the stubborn horse. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. These are the teachers who say, 'This is bad news. It won’t work and we don’t need it.” In the South, they live by the philosophy, “If it ain’t broke, then it don’t need fixin.” If you haven’t figured it out by now, these teachers never get on the tech bus at all. In fact, they miss the tech bus on purpose out of stubbornness and fear. Most of these teachers shouldn’t even be teachers in the first place.

In closing, I’d like to think that I am a tech visionary. Unfortunately, I most likely fall in the tech enthusiast category. I’m passionate about technology and it keeps me out of my seat. I guess this is something that I will have to work on in the future for the sake of my students. After all, standing in front of the white line on the bus is against the rules. If you’re an educator, are you on the tech bus? If so, where are you sitting?

William Bishop (Bill)


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