Interview with a Veteran Teacher

Interview on January 26th, 2009 with male veteran teacher in small to midsized (400 students) private high school. Questions in bold, comments on selected passages on the right, in italics. Q: What classes do you teach? A: Math 11, Physics 11,12, Chemistry 11, 12 Q: How long have you been teaching? A: 34 years Q: What is your degree in? A: Chemistry - BA Science plus PDP Q: Why do you teach? A: Well, to put bread on the table? (laughs) Actually, I really enjoy it, I enjoy the subject, and I enjoy the students. I enjoy helping people. Also, I like that I can control how I spend my day I'm in control of those things. I also enjoy the summer holidays. I do enjoy teaching ... though some days are better than others! Q: What technology do you use in your classes? A: Well, um, my own computer for keeping up daily grades and attendance - we use BCeSIS. And emails with staff. I get the school announcements, and read them from off the screen - any updates, that sort of thing. For smaller classes, I might show a YouTube clip, or use CD-ROM instructional software for Chemistry for instance. But I don't have a PowerPoint projector - most of the other teachers in my school do, and To be still enjoying what you’re doing after 34 years – whatever it is that you’re doing – is, I think, a definition of success. Quite obviously, this is a very veteran teacher who has been around for a while. And yet, this teacher is fairly techsavvy: he uses digital cameras, computers, etc. in his personal life.

Subject first mistakes the question as a personal one … but moves on to instructional uses. Question could have been clearer.

Subject has one computer for student instructional use in his classroom/lab. The graphing calculator subject mentions is fairly new, but he does

I'm supposed to be on the list. I do use a DVD player and television from time to time. I do have a TI-83 calculator with an overhead panel, but I don't use it very often because it's kinda clunky it shows a really pixellated image. Q: What challenges do you have with technology and education? A: The changing standards - you have a library of material and then it gets dated. Also, I don't have a PowerPoint projector - those who do have in my school one make extensive use of it. Generating notes for PowerPoint presentations is nice, but I'm reluctant to put in that kind of investment if I later discover that the program I'm using is no longer supported by the technology we have in our school. I've had that a few times. Q: Do you find that technology hinders learning in some cases? A: At times it may end up giving people a real quick fix to a problem and they may not be actually forced to think it through. Since Google, students need an answer quickly, so they don't know how to use a glossary or index. They want something right away, and to look back to a previous paragraph is too much effort. Q: That reminds me of Nicholas Carr's recent article questioning where Google is making us stupid. A: Well, it's an incredible resource, you can get everything there. It sort of becomes an Oracle of Delphi. We're all tempted to take the path or

not have enough for the entire class.

Here is the first instance of a recurring comment theme: this teacher has often been burned by technological adoption that has then been outdated, and he’s lost previous work. This makes subject somewhat suspicious of new technology.

Subject has only mild resistance to technology … some concern over students’ instant gratification orientation. See following answer as well.

least resistance, but we should be able to use print too. Q: Do you find there's a tendency to search for somebody's else's answer instead of figuring out your own? A: Yes. A person who uses resources well could gather info from many sources and synthesize in a neat way, but a lot don't. But technology has a lot of good as well - for example: computerized lab simulations. You can do the same thing as the graphing calculator but even more realistic - you can do a simulated concentration (acid/base), run a scenario, change something, and you can run a simulation again ... and see how it changes the results. And you can get physics simulations like that - change velocities or angles. These are fun, they're quick, and visual ... Q: Is that a good thing? A: Yes. Especially for some people. A: Do you find that technology accelerates learning in some cases? Q: Sure. Graphing calculators can help you see changing resultsets very quickly and easily by changing a few inputs, whereas doing by hand would take a long, long time. Q: Finish this sentence: technology allows me as a teacher to: A: Stay current. Motivate students. Q: How do students feel about using technology in class? A: They like it. I think if we had a bunch of computers and everyone had their own station they'd feel very Subject sees the need for “21st Century” skills, and the fact that students often do not have them, or won’t expend the effort required to exercise them. Subject does, however, value simulations that allow students to play with initial conditions in chemistry/physics, and other science courses, and see different results.

Subject recognizes that learners are different, and provides different options for those who need or would benefit from them.

Again, subject reveals a bit of a narrow perspective on technology (see page one) and thinks about how technology affects him personally rather than the class as a whole.

much at home. There are a bunch of students who do many projects on computers and they get a lot of time in our labs. They take to it very quickly. Q: Would there be some that wouldn't? A: not many Q: Probably especially not in your classes? A: No, I'm getting very academic and mature students. Q: Do students ever complain about not using technology? A: Only that I don't. (laughs) That I don't have a PowerPoint of my notes. Also there are students who would like a class-by-class synopsis of where their grades are. I don't do that. Some teachers do that. I don't do that. Q: Do you see gender differences in technology use? A: I would say that for the most part the guys tend to use a bit more technology for handing in labs, they would do the graphs and charts and graphics via computer. I've seen some really advanced lab reports. I predominantly have males in my classes. Q: Have you seen technology implementations that failed? A: There have been times when I've purchased an item for physics and I got some mileage out of it - a photogate timer, for instance - but the technology changes and you can't use a SCSI port, and you can't use it anymore. The set of students in his classes is self-selected and not average!

Subject’s students would prefer more technology in class. Note that PowerPoint has and will be mentioned multiple times. Interesting that this is such a primary example of technology in class … very debatable whether this is a good, bad, or indifferent thing.

As in many science courses, there’s an under-representation of girls.

Interesting. This is a very minor failure compared to some of the flameouts that have occurred in education. Is that because the private school has not had the money or motivation to try really ambitious things, or is it because they have intelligently

But in my colleagues' cases, I've seen a lot of real positive uses of technology. One uses PowerPoint for all his lessons, another does almost everything by computer - movie clips ... everything. Q: Envision the classroom of the future. What does it look like? 20 years out. A: Incredibly young kids! (laughs) They'll all have a computer screen that you could interact with and be able to monitor and discuss/chat. Maybe headphones so wouldn't disturb each other. Wired desks with electrical stimulation for those who are falling asleep ... (laughs again) Q: Are they all in one room? A: Not necessarily. There's a lot of benefit to it, we get a lot of personal interaction and have a fun time together. There would be a loss if it's depersonalized and just done by remote. But I can see that if someone's ill they wouldn't lose their place. On the other hand I would hate to have to pipe over lessons to Big White so the kids can play hookie and I have to keep him up to date ... Q: If you could give each of your students a top-of-the-line laptop now, would you? A: If I were Bill Gates, and I just wanted an outlet for my philanthropy, yes, but I 'm not sure the expense is justifiable. Other things might have higher priority. I'd be tempted. I

proceeding in a measured way, implementing only what makes sense where it makes sense?

Subject has a very lively sense of humor, which likely has helped him through 34 years of teaching. Noticed the scheme for keeping students awake …

Subject sees – I think very rightly – that there are huge benefits to colocation of students even when the ultimate technology is implemented.

Subject is somewhat conflicted and unsure whether 1:1 computing is the ideal. Is this a reflection of age or experience? Or something entirely different?

think they'd make good use of it. If so, I'd like to have some controls for games, inappropriate content, and so on. Even graphing calculators can be used to play Tetris! Would I? I'd be tempted. What I want to know is, is there a solution to being able to keep your archives accessible and be able to build on your own databank, or will you always have catastrophic loss, and you'll lose your data? It's like owning stocks - you think you have a lot, then you realize there's a recession and it's just paper. The transience of electronic storage makes me reluctant to make big investments in it. I suppose that's OK, it's just a learning tool ... you can just pick it up and dispose of it. I'm a bit of a packrat myself ... I like to be able to pick up something I've done in the past and revamp. Once again, subject is concerned about personal use of technology, and the ability to keep one’s own material accessible through changing technological revolutions. Subject wants to see controls on how technology can be used by students.

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