Technology and Teacher Evaluations

Should a teacher in 2014 be judged on his/her ability to use technology when being evaluated on his/her effectiveness as a teacher?

This past week on Twitter, #edchat discussed the teacher evaluation.  There was much discussion on whether or not a principal is able to judge a teacher’s abilities if they are not educated in the subject they are observing.  I think most who commented agreed that principals are trained to spot good teaching.  Good teaching engages students.   If the principal or supervisor visits the class enough times, they will see the true teacher.    The problem is that principals, especially in Public School systems, are often not freed up with enough time to be in classes on a regular basis.

Observations are only a part of what a teacher is judged on.  We have other responsibilities that must be evaluated.  Are we on time?  Are we reporting accurately and reporting in a timely manner?  Do we communicate with parents effectively?  Can we use the technology tools and resources that our classrooms are filled with?

Some would argue that our use of technology should not be something we are judged on.  After all, can’t teachers deliver a complete lesson without using technology?  Of course they can.  But when we are teaching students for the 21st century, aren’t we doing them a disservice if we can’t show how technology can be used effectively in the classroom?

Teachers teach.  We do this by being in a class, delivering material through a multitude of modalities.  We talk face to face with our students to help them discover new ideas, we help them find solutions to problems, we even help them create masterpieces.  A good teacher can do all these things without the aid of a computer.   So therefore why should I be judged on my ability to use one?

Because.

Students working online doing research.

Students working online doing research.

Most of our student use a computer or hand-held device to gain new knowledge.  They need the teacher to help them weed through the relevant and irrelevant information.

Most of our students solve problems by using their computers or hand-held devices.  They need us to help them figure out which site, tool, or app would be the best for them to use to find their solution.  They need us to help them figure out the best way of presenting their solutions.

Most students use their computers and handheld devices to create their masterpieces.  They need us to coach them through the creative process.  Sometimes that means editing their work using a shared Google doc.  Sometimes it means video taping them as they discuss their portfolio of work to share with an IB examiner thousands of miles away.  Sometimes it means that we must show them new ways to create using digital tools.

So yes, teachers should be judged on their ability to communicate, instruct, and mentor students using digital tools.  To deny the roll of technology in the delivery of information in the classroom just makes one seem out of touch.   To deny the roll of digital tools in the creative process makes one seem archaic.  Yes, you can teach without the digital tools in our first world classrooms,  but shouldn’t we have to show our aptitude for using the resources given to us to communicate in the 21st Century?

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8 replies

  1. I would add two caveats…as I reply via wifi from my iPad at a Barnes & Noble coffee shop…

    Technology must be used in a developmentally appropriate way. I am a retired music teacher, loads of room for using technology–right? Wrong. I primarily taught K, 1 & 2 classes where my emphasis was on developing tuneful, independent singing, expressive movement–yes, I did use CDs AND a variety of hand percussion instruments for this purpose–and learning a repertoire of developmentally appropriate songs, all in a 25 minute music class… CDs and CD players, an iPod with lesson materials, an occasional YouTube short–even a record player with records that followed music books were what I had at my disposal. Occasionally a digital keyboard might be borrowed from another school… And I had two principals during my tenure who refused to buy needed materials for music students, unless through a district initiative. When the director of the arts department asked about my technology use, I pointed to my CD player, turn table, sole computer which in my latter years of teaching was connected to a cheap TV screen that became very fickle after a year…

    My second caveat–said technology and the systems needed–wifi, Internet service, equipment itself–needs to be impeccably maintained…and there must be back-up equipment when things break! Nothing creates chaos faster than technology failure–which I experienced regularly as a teacher and now as a sub. Nothing can replace the human voice and acoustic instruments in a music classroom…

    Until all teachers–everywhere–have equal equipment, equal access, and an impeccably maintained system, it is my opinion that no one should be evaluated on how effectively they use technology in their classroom. Perhaps Bill Gates, who has been so intent on re-formatory schools, could invest his time and money in his real area of expertise. That would be a welcome addition in most schools…

    • What you are saying is so true. We educators can only be good as our internet connection. I had many a day of frustration due to networks shutting down mid-class and no one knowing it. Projects could not be saved, projects could not be completed…etc, etc. I am lucky to be teaching in a place where technology works. Networks aren’t crashing. Printers print. What is disturbing to me is this idea that people have that using technology should not be evaluated. A teacher near retirement has nothing to fear. They, technically, are no longer being evaluated. But if a school just hired a teacher…shouldn’t they take note of the teacher’s ability to use technology appropriately, especially if this teacher was hired to work in a 1 to 1 environment?

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. My problem with the view of many educators is that Technology is an aide in teaching.Educators no longer have a choice in whether or not to use technology in the classroom. It is not an aide, or an add on. If education is to teach kids how to intelligently and responsibly communicate, collaborate and create in the world in which they will live, the very tools they will be required to use will be tools of technology. Teachers must teach digital literacy to be effective for kids in a tech-driven society. If a teacher is not tech-literate, he or she is not relevant as an educator meeting the needs of students who will live in a tech-driven world. The education system does not need, nor can it afford to have in it illiterate and irrelevant educators. Revamping the way PD is delivered could go a long way in alleviating this problem. Every educator has the right to live in a cave. They do not have the right to drag students into the cave with them.

    • The cave…dum dum dum….evil music is now being heard. This is really the crux isn’t it? We are at a point in education where maybe we, the teachers, can be the student’s worst impediment to learning. If we deny them the opportunities to learn using digital tools, we deny them a learning experience. We have to show students how to be resilient in our ever changing world, and if we cannot model that ourselves…we become irrelevant. Can a teacher do a kick ass unit on Shakespeare without the use of electronics? Of course. But why would a teacher limit themselves? We are the models. We are there to show the way.

  3. Yes, but it should be an evaluation of an instructor’s effective use of appropriate technology. Is the Prezi presentation actually offering a learning activity, or is the instructor simply reading straight from poorly designed, overcrowded slide views? Are students watching a YouTube video to kill 10 minutes, or are they taking notes and then writing a reflective critical response on the points raised?

    • I totally agree with you on these points. We discuss at my school these things a lot. If you have a student learning site, why are you showing videos in class? Can’t you just assign it as homework? What I’m discussing here is the disregard for technology. This idea that it isn’t what makes me a teacher, so why judge me on it.

  4. I am not a technophobe, nor a technowizz… I have huge reservations, even fears, about the overuse of and reliance on technology nowadays and I fear for younger generations losing basic human to human social skills… but you make an excellent case here. My cynicism has waned for a bit! 🙂

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