Fear, Technology, and Discernment

ImageA blog post by @mrsdkrebs got me thinking about what is holding me back from being the chief learner in my class. For many teachers it is fear.

Several ETMOOCers have expressed levels of fear and uncertainty about the course or an app, but I think the real source of fear is much deeper. While some of us are genuinely nervous about technology, most of us are really worried about losing our status as “Expert”. For decades teachers have been experts, the source of knowledge in schools. When students had questions, they asked the teacher. Bringing technology into the classroom often ushers in fear as well because teachers are sure that several of their students will know more about the tech than they do and that will mean the end of their reign as “expert”. I’m not proud of this feeling, nor does it match my educational philosophy (or my practice most days, I trust), but if I’m not brutally honest about naming that splinter of fear in my mind, I can’t locate it and pluck it out for good.

In my previous post I mentioned fear as a catalyst for growth, but too much fear is paralyzing, so in the interest of balance, I offer a charm to ward off the fear of technology rooted in losing the title¬†Expert.¬†In many of our classrooms we may have to concede that title to a student(s) in regards to technology (and what wonderful learning relationships will blossom), but there is one vital area of expertise that you and I have that our students desperately need–discernment.

When it comes to technology, development happens at a near exponential rate. Technology evolves with a because-we-can attitude with not enough but-should-we?. More than ever our students need us to be experts that walk and work along side them in the real and digital world. We need to model discernment, sharing our own mistakes, discussing our own time and content boundaries, making time for reflection (for them and ourselves), asking them to join the larger discussion of which technologies should be developed and how. In this way I can hand over some of the control in my classroom and still be an “expert”. Sometimes my students may be way ahead of me when it comes to the latest apps, but I need to be leading them when it comes to applying those apps.