I’ll admit it – I’m a baby boomer. I’ve been in education for a long time and I’m nearing the end of my teaching career. I’m a member of the generation of teachers who are assumed to be resistant to using technology and fearful of changing their practice this late in the game. So how did I get where I am today? How did I learn all this technology stuff well enough to teach other teachers about it?
I’ll also admit that, until recently, I never took any technology classes. I finally decided to get a degree in Technology in Education just to prove that I know what I know. I have a secret and here it is: I learned more from my classmates in my formal university classes than from the instructors or the completion of required course work.
When I began teaching there were no computers in classrooms, no photocopiers in the teachers’ room, no VCRs anywhere. We had a spirit duplicator and wrote our originals on ditto masters that were awkward and difficult to edit and produced those purple-on-white worksheets with the distinctive odor. I was never very good with machines and I usually tried to get someone else to make my copies for me. In the mid ’80s a few personal computers were creeping into schools, but I was happy to get the school secretary’s cast-off typewriter for my classroom. I first touched a computer in 1988 when I was given an Apple IIe and kids taught me how to use it.
Since then I’ve taught with computers in GT and 8th grade ELA classes, worked with computers in an elementary school library, managed computer labs in a junior high school, and become a technology integrator for a middle school and eventually for the whole state – all of that with no formal training. I learned it all by reading, watching, listening, trying, failing, and asking. I bought and read books and manuals, searched the internet for answers to my questions, and kept certain tech-savvy friends on speed dial.
I didn’t know it then, but I was forming what now has a trendy buzzword to name it. I was creating a PLN- a personal (or professional, if you prefer) learning network. While in the beginning my PLN consisted mostly of print resources and my rolodex, over the years, as I’ve become more connected through the internet, I’ve expanded my network to include experts from all over the world. If I have a question now, I’m likely to ask my colleagues here in Maine, but I’m also likely to Google it, search Delicious, post it in a forum, tweet it, and post it on Facebook.
Without this extended network, I could not possibly learn what I need to learn in this rapidly changing world. While workshops and training sessions can make me aware of possibilities and get me started with new technologies, to stay current and relevant, I rely on my PLN. And although my retirement may be only a few years away, I don’t think I’ll stop learning any time soon.
I’m often asked about my credentials and my technical training and when I admit I’m just an old teacher, people inevitably ask, “How do you learn all this stuff?”
The only answer I can come up with is, “I just ask.”