Technological Illiteracy

Karl Fisch wrote a post Tuesday — “Is It Okay to Be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?” — that really, really resonated with me. He was spurred to write it after reading Terry Freedman’s post “Oh, Sir, You are too Kind.

I am in utter agreement with Karl and Terry. It’s time educators (and everyone else, for that matter) stopped displaying a bizarre sense of pride in their technological illiteracy. Not knowing how to do simple things in MS Word — such as moving between table cells and saving a document, in a scenario Terry describes, is inexcusable. In our society, dependent as it now is on technology, teachers who are incompetent with technology are jeopardizing their students’ success. I am not saying we all need to be at an expert level, but I’ll ask the same question Terry did. What message are teachers who can’t even create and edit a simple Word document sending their students?

It is especially frustrating to me when educators dismiss technology — “Oh, I just don’t know how to do any of that, ha ha!” To plagiarize the same argument Karl and Terry made — would you brag like that about not being able to read? Not being able to read as an adult in our society creates a sense of shame and embarrassment on the part of the non-reader, and a sense of outrage on the part of those who can read. It should not be acceptable in our society to be proud of not knowing something. I won’t go so far as to say that technologically illiterate teachers should feel shame and self-loathing, but they needn’t brag about their lack of knowledge either. There has to be a middle ground. A point at which, say, a teacher realizes his or her incompetence and decides something needs to be done about it — and not just running down the hall to the teacher who does know something about technology. As Karl said, teachers have to make the effort to learn. We accept nothing less from our students.

Teachers have to realize at some point that exhibiting ignorance with this sort of pride is not OK. It is OK not to know something and to try to fix that, and I would hope that most teachers would do so. I don’t know everything. That’s true. At the end of my life, I still won’t know everything. I would hope, however, that when I reach the end of my life, I will never have exhibited pride about being ignorant of anything.

[tags]technological illiteracy, education, technology, teaching[/tags]

8 thoughts on “Technological Illiteracy”

  1. Amen. As teachers, the LAST thing we should be proud of is ignorance!

    I hope I don't ever wind up working with someone who is. 🙁

  2. This point transcends professions. I am a lawyer, a profession where many pracitioners inexplicably remain proud of their Luddite tendencies. But a lawyer who does not know how to add numbers in a spreadsheet or to create a simple database to sort documents is going to be at a disadvantage in selling services. Students should be comfortable with a certain level of technology. I will not pass judgment on what that level is, as it could be the subject of reasonable debate. My personal view would put it at a higher level than the examples described in the main post, but at a lesser level then knowing how to create web pages in HTML.

  3. Thanks, guys. And Thomas, I agree wholeheartedly. Karl made a similar point in his post — parent after parent mention their weakness in math as though it isn't important, too, for instance. I am agreement about the level — somewhere between working with simple Word documents and knowing HTML. I suppose it would be helpful to come up with some sort of guideline. Here in Georgia, teachers have to pass a test in basic technology proficiency or take a course to meet the requirement, and I believe the course is on the more basic level, but I took the test, so I can't be sure.

  4. Old threads never die, apparently. I just linked to this on New Years Eve 2007 and could not agree with you more. The U.S. is one of the few countries where it's actually been "cool" to be dumb for a long time.

    Many teachers are simply going to be unfit to teach in todays world if they don't gain some basic tech competency soon.

    I'm a teacher. I head them brag about this all the time.

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