Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fight, Flight or Freeze?

New technology can be disruptive and often that is scary.  As teachers we make our lesson plans and when they go well some teachers refer to them and the learning engagements that they have created over and over again, year after year.  And yet, as time goes on, it's getting harder and harder for teachers to do this with technology.  New hardware and software is coming out all the time - regardless of whether or not we want it to, change is often thrust upon us.  Just as we get ourselves comfortable with using a particular  tool, it changes and we have to start learning it all over again, or sometimes it disappears and we have to start searching for a new one.  With technology the only thing that we can be sure of is that change is constant, and because our students are at the cutting edge, we as teachers need to be there too.  Students love to learn new things and often they will experiment with the new creative tools that come along.  Some years ago, when I realized that some of my students were using Second Life, I felt that I had to try it out too, to understand what they were getting up to in this virtual world.  Now I feel the same way about Minecraft.  With many of my 5th Grade students interested in gaming and programming, I'm thinking about how I can introduce it in an authentic way for all students.  When I mention this to colleagues I can see that it makes some of them uncomfortable, but I'm OK with this because I've learned that to be at the cutting edge it often is uncomfortable.  I try to keep abreast of all the latest developments in technology, but even so I really have no idea of what tech innovations are going to be mainstream in our schools in a few years time.  For example just 3 years ago iPads were "new".  Now, it seems, everyone has one and there is no turning back - and if we all have the technology, then as teachers we should be encouraging students to use it, even if it means that we have to acknowledge that we are no longer the "experts".  Teachers and schools react to this in different ways.  At a recent professional development, our Superintendent Craig Johnson used the fight, flight or freeze analogy to describe how some people and institutions are reacting to new technologies.  Some are fighting against it, clinging onto "traditional" standards, refusing to acknowledge the impact that technology can and is having on learning.  Some are running away from it and hoping that it doesn't overtake them.  Others are frozen, looking at what is moving towards them but stuck in the headlights and unable to move forward.

Some schools of course embrace the change and actively look for ways of using it to improve what and how they are doing things.  Thankfully I'm working at a school that is dreaming big dreams.  As I was looking at the school's Facebook page today I came across a couple of videos that made me smile.  The people in these videos are from all areas of our school:  students, teachers, administrators, parents, security officers, bus drivers, cleaners, canteen workers, and every one of them is proud and happy to be working here.  At ASB we pursuing our dreams and in doing so we are living our mission and enhancing the lives of others.

(As I read in a blog post today:  "We don't try to motivate them, we strive to inspire them")

Photo Credit: imkritta via Compfight cc


  1. Hi Maggie - I've seen Minecraft used with students to help develop writing skills - walking through different 'lands' the students describe the setting and the teacher then writes down the ideas.

  2. Hi Rebecca, if you are interested in Minecraft you might like to join the Google+ Minecraft in Education community that was set up by Colin Gallagher (who used to work with Don in Dusseldorf - small world!). Also you might like to look into the work of Tim Rylands who uses the lovely graphics in games such as Myst and Riven to inspire students to write. Here's a link to a video of Tim working in a school in the UK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5xFMmK5Ujs Tim was one of the presenters at Un-Plugged last year - his workshop was amazing.