Classroom tech: Geekery not required


Teaching | Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Classroom tech: Geekery not required

You DON’T have to be a tech geek to use tech in the classroom. A little goes a long way, and too much can actually be detrimental.

There’s that teacher. Maybe she works in your building. Maybe she’s at another school in your district.

And she plans and executes these amazingly complex techy lessons. So much so that you can’t fully wrap your brain around what she’s doing.

She uses a buffet of websites, apps and digital tools. There are layers upon layers of concepts and ideas.

Her students are learning about the Mesopotamian War, curing world hunger and finding their life’s calling. (At least that’s the way it seems.) And that was just this week’s lesson.

It feels like her secret sauce is technology. She’s a technology wizard. A mage. A warlock.

She casts this spell with her lessons and her magic is Google and Seesaw and Flipgrid and a few others you’ve never heard of (or can’t pronounce).

The hope is that you’ll be inspired by her. That you’ll see what she’s doing and want to learn your own magic.

But let’s get real for a second.

When you hear about what she’s doing in class, sometimes it just makes you feel like you’re less than a great teacher.

Inferior, even. Like you can’t measure up to that. There’s a little part of you that thinks, “If that’s what using tech in class is supposed to look like, why am I even trying?”

In fact, it’s driven me to think, “Why am I even here in the first place?”

(If you think this teacher I’m describing is you, then please … keep doing what you’re doing. You do you. What you’re doing is not bad at all. Just know that the rest of this post might describe how others in your district might be feeling.)

If you’ve ever felt this way, trust me … you’re not alone.

Sometimes, it feels like you need an advanced degree in computer science to figure it all out, to be the kind of teacher that makes technology bow and do your bidding.

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve used technology in the classroom for years and years — and I coach teachers on how to use it well.

For heaven’s sake, I write a blog that talks a lot about making sense of technology in the classroom.

There are many times that even I feel like I don’t possess the layer of geekery needed to do the really cool things with tech.

The truth is that you don’t have to.

And I’ll argue that many times, too much geekery doesn’t lead to more learning.

“We don’t need tech geeks who will teach …”

I love this quote by David Geurin. He’s a high school principal and the 2017 National Digital Principal of the Year.

And even he doesn’t think tech geekery is the solution. Here’s the rest of that quote …

“We don’t need tech geeks who will teach. We need teaching geeks who will tech.”

I went to an amazing presentation at a teaching conference. The presenter described this detailed activity his students did with layers and layers of technology. It was so intricate and very well thought out.

At some point, I quit watching him and I watched the teachers who were listening.

Their eyes were glued to this presenter. I’m not convinced, though, that they were absorbing every detail so they could go do it in their classes.

I think it was a form of entertainment, like they were watching a network TV crime drama before going to bed.

It was a “wow, that’s cool” moment and then they went on with their lives.

These are the moments when many of us tend to minimize ourselves as teachers.

We see that first teacher in our district. We see that second teacher at the technology conference.

They can drive us to minimize ourselves even more.

Being on social media (it’s Twitter for me) can give me great ideas and inspiration, but it can make the minimization even worse.

These teachers, as far as I can tell, truly are the tech geeks … AND they teach. Is that the answer?

“… We need teaching geeks who will tech.”

Is tech really, truly the answer?

Nah. I don’t think that it is.

The learning can get lost in all of the geekery, in all of the flash. Students can get knee-deep in tech tools and complex steps and miss out on what the lesson is truly about.

Learning can get deeper as the tech gets deeper. But sometimes, doing the super-duper-extra techy stuff kind of just for us and doesn’t drive learning.


Keep your eyes and ears open for tools that are the right fit — the ones that fit YOU and YOUR STUDENTS — and can impact what you teach.

Look for the ones that can move the needle for learning. Then make those your mainstays, the catalysts that improve the teaching and learning without becoming the stars themselves.

I think too much tech can be a bad thing. (Don’t totally ditch tech, though. When used intentionally, it can be transformational.)

So … what do we need?

Just the right amount.

It’s like the dash of salt that makes your taste buds come alive with that new dish.

Too much salt? The meal is ruined. Leave salt out? It all falls flat.

A little tech — in the right places — goes a long, long way.

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