Technology Doesn’t Hate You…

When I was an education major in college, I was packed off to a school to do some field training, or “Student Teaching.” I worked alongside two teachers in the school who taught in my field.

I learned something not long after I got settled in and started to pay attention.

Teachers spend a TON of time complaining about…everything. Lunch time in the faculty lounge was no different than the gaggle of junior high girls at their lockers after 4th period who met for such philosophical discussions as to which student teacher was cuter (There were two of us. I lost out to the math guy.) Or how boring the class they’re going to next is. It was the same thing, although perhaps not quite in content.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if the teachers ever compared me and the math guy….huh.

Anyway.

I used to sit silently during my 40 minute lunch period and just listen. The usual targets were other teachers, whom I expect reciprocated their complaints during THEIR lunch periods, administration, regulations, testing, and yes…even their students. I gained valuable incite to the inner workings of the educator’s mind. Most of them loved their jobs, but they loved to complain about it even more.

I left the field of education just as the classroom evolved to become more technologically centered. This gave people of my generation a hard-on. New toys in the classroom man! Woo! The older crowd glared menacingly over their glasses. These were the same people that resisted the move from chalkboards to whiteboards, and from the backs of coal shovels for homework to spiral-bound notebooks. Technology represented everything that was wrong with education. I remember one guy I used to have to walk slowly through the simplest of technology procedures used to keep two sets of grade books. The electronic one that he was mandated to send to the office every semester, and his paper copy- because he “didn’t trust the computer.”

Some of the teachers I dealt with probably wept openly when public schools abolished corporal punishment, so the very idea that they would have computers in their room was outrageous. With the education world being dominated by people of liberal political leanings, their attitude towards schooling itself was as terrifyingly conservative as you can imagine.

But the change was not to be stopped. Time marches inexorably forward, and the were handed laptops, projectors, smart boards, and more. Again, you could hear the cheers and shouts of ecstasy from the rookies, but the sounds of protest from the older crowd quieted to a dull murmur, and for a while, it looked like everyone was going to get along. Administrators smiled and patted each other on the back. “See? I told you!” “I knew they’d love it once they got used to it!”

And everyone sees how wrinkle-free the technology went into the classroom.

……..Except for the tech guys.

On paper all of the teachers in the school I work in now are flawlessly and happily using their technology, and all is right with the world.

The reality of it is, that their resistance has gone underground. A clandestine network of hatred geared towards the technological advancements that their younger colleagues and administrators so happily embrace.
One of my teachers, a veteran of about 300 years on the education system, had at one point not one, not two, but THREE laptops broken and sitting on a shelf in our office. Physical damage is also common. I can’t tell you how many times I go to fix a machine for one of the veterans and find keys missing, screens cracked, hinges demolished, or cords that look like they’d been chewed on- and the excuse is always the same. “I found it like that one day.”

The worse though….is the complaining.

“Technology hates me” is a favorite claim of one of my regular ‘customers’ in the school. Ninety percent of the problems she calls me for are either minor or completely imaginary. There are also the ones who take no time at all to bother learning how to use their equipment, and their misuse eventually leads to failure, and I’m called in a rage because “This piece of crap won’t let me do my job.”

FORGET trying to actually teach them anything either. I was once scheduled on a conference day to give several demonstrations on the functionality of smart boards as well as briefly outline how they could be integrated into the classroom lessons. A half a dozen classes were scheduled for the day. I had three slots where nobody showed up at all, and the ones where I did have participants- all they did was bullshit with each other the whole time, in a display of inattention and disrespect that would have gotten a student thrown out of their instructional period.

But, these lessons gave them more ammunition. When something went wrong “Oh, he never taught us that.”

At one point I was even called in and chastised by the administration at my old job because I was “Course and disrespectful” in a group email that I had sent to the faculty. We had instituted a new program where teachers could post lesson plans, test results, calendars, everything- on a personalized school affiliated web site. Parents could request an account that would be tied with their child’s schedule and have access to the class information. Upon the announcement, parents signed up in DROVES because they wanted to know what was going on in their kids’ classes. I assigned dozens if not hundreds of parent accounts in the first few weeks of the program. Then, the gleeful requests from parents changed to angry complaints that there was no information on the site from any of the teachers. I sent a probing message to the faculty basically asking “what the fuck?” (slightly kinder words, but this was literally the gist) I told them that we had innumerable parents complaining that there was no information for them to view on this brand new, shiny, and exciting system, and I asked if they could make an effort to at least put something up to mollify the masses. Well, because I backed them into a corner, they complained to the superintendent, and I was called onto the carpet for being rude to the teachers.

I’m convinced that instance was less a problem with ME than it was the fact that the stalwarts were being pushed into having to use the technology that was being made available.  I know for a fact that there is STILL an underground guerrilla war being waged in schools by teachers against the “Rise of the Machines.” I’ll fix problems by day for them, only to have secret ninja agents of destruction whisper out of the shadows at night and undo the repairs, cause more problems, or take whatever action necessary to undermine the damned computers.

This is not to say that all of the ‘old hands’ are guilty of undermining the technological advancements of education. In fact, we have one woman at the school I work at now who has devoted a significant amount of time to not only learning, but mastering the technology she is given to work with. She has been teaching since the days where they had to shoo the stegosaurus out of the cave before they could begin the morning math lessons.  I’m reasonably convinced though, that this poor woman is not well received by her aged colleagues, who see her as a traitor to their noble cause of bringing back the ‘old ways.’

As for me? The war wages on. The broken laptops, the mundane fixes, the imaginary problems, the viruses resulting from easily (and perhaps intentionally) falling for those “Click here” scams….. I am a war profiteer. The bloodless conflict that wages between the veterans of the good old days and the machinery that is going to take over the world is my oyster. As annoying as “My computer hates me” is…every time I hear it, that’s bread on the table.

Fight on.

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