Who Knows What about Technology?
Bell, Mary Ann, Multimedia & Internet@Schools
SINCE the new year and the new decade of 2010 was ushered in with the usual hoopla in January, I began to wonder how educators are faring when it comes to using technology. My last year as a K-12 educator ended in May 2000, when I began my new profession as a university professor, so the previous decade is not a period from whence I can draw direct experiences. Thus, I turned to colleagues for information. This spring, I conducted two surveys using the ever-useful SurveyMonkey. As is my wont, I queried members of my favorite online communities, LM_NET, TLC (Texas Library Connection), and EDTECH (for educational technology specialists). In the first survey, I queried librarians and tech specialists about their perceptions of the expertise of K-12 classroom teachers regarding technology and internet use. The results of that survey were shared in my Belltones column, "What Teachers Know (and Don't Know) About Technology--And Does Anybody Know They Don't Know?" in the July/August 2010 issue of this magazine, and they can be accessed at http://bit.ly/aE8qoe.
Then, in May, I asked similar questions of the very same group of respondents but directed toward building administrators. The numbers and comments for this inquiry can be found at http://bit.ly/99 YK2D. This month, I will share the results for administrators, compare them with the teachers' answers, and offer my thoughts about the similarities and differences.
In both surveys, librarians outnumbered tech specialists as participants, and there was a sprinkling of other participants. I acknowledge that these are informal surveys and that they, by necessity, involve generalizations. There are both teachers and administrators who are absolute tech gurus, and there are still technophobes in both groups. Given those disclaimers, I will proceed with some comparisons and contrasts.
First of all, how are the two groups the same? There were a number of areas in which the scores for both groups were similar enough to suggest that there is commonality between their abilities. Regarding basic operations and ability to use whatever office suite is available at a satisfactory, if not stellar, level, both groups' most chosen level was that of three on a five-point scale. Use of presentation software was similarly deemed to be fair, if not outstanding, with principals standing out a bit more than teachers.
Similarly, both groups were deemed to meet average expectations in simple internet searching. Both showed a need for improvement when it comes to awareness and use of Web 2.0 resources, and both were also perceived to rely too heavily on internet filters to keep kids safe and on task. None of this really surprised me. By the time I asked for information about principals, I already knew the teachers' scores and had a preconceived idea that principals would fare similarly.
All the same, I was surprised in one regard. I thought, with no basis in proof, that where there were differences, teachers would outscore administrators. That was not the case. In all respects, if one group did better than the other, it was the building administrators who led out. I had to ask myself why I thought the results would be opposite. This was not because the administrators I knew from my own experience were less proficient than teachers. My last principal was very much interested in technology, eager to learn new things, and interested in seeing teachers adopt technology. The main thing that I think caused my misconception was my impression that, while teachers are busy and overworked, principals are even busier. I know how hard my principal and assistant principals worked not only during school hours but also after-hours, on weekends, and during the summer. Since lack of time is what holds me back from exploring new applications and devices, I think I inferred that the same would be true for building administrators.
Furthermore, what were the reasons I thought teachers would outstrip administrators in an imaginary technology race? …