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BFTP: 7 stupid mistakes teachers make with technology

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past.  Original post December 5, 2008. This list also appears in my book The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide.

stupid (adjective): given to unintelligent decisions or acts

Stupid is as stupid does. Forrest Gump

Stupid is not my favorite word. It sounds mean and harsh and ugly. But after reading that according to Newsweek that 25% of employees visit porn sites from work, and that the adult video industry claims hits on porn sites are highest during the work day*, it was truly the only term that seems to fit this sort of human behavior. I don't have any overwhelming objections to pornography per se. But perusing it at work? That's stupid.

I use stupid under fairly constrained conditions. To me, a stupid act has a degree of willfulness about it and is serious. Making an error once is ignorance; making the same mistake multiple times is stupidity. Unfortunately, I see stupid acts and beliefs related to technology in schools too often.

These would be my nominees for the most stupid things** a teacher can do related to technology...

1. Not backing up data. "You mean having two copies of my files on the hard drive doesn't count as a backup?" The first time a teacher loses his/her precious data my heart breaks. The second time, well, stupidity ought cause some suffering.

2. Treating a school computer like a home computer. Teachers who use a school computer to run a business, edit their kid's wedding videos, or send tasteless jokes to half of North America (including that fundamentalist English teacher down the hall) are being stupid. Teachers who take their computers home and let their kids hack on them are being stupid. Teachers who don't own a personal computer for personal business deserve to get into well-deserved trouble.

3. Not supervising computer-using students. It is really stupid to believe Internet filters will keep kids out of trouble on the Internet. For so many reasons. Even the slow kids who can't get around the school's filter, can still exploit that 10% of porn sites the filter won't catch if they choose to do so. They can still send cyberbullying e-mail - maybe even using your email address. Or they can just plain waste time.

4. Thinking online communication is ever private. Eventually everyone sends an embarrassing personal message to a listserv. I've heard of some tech directors who get their jollies reading salacious inter-staff e-mails. You school e-mails can be requested and must be produced if germane to any federal lawsuits. Even e-mails deleted from your computer still sit on servers somewhere - often for a very loooong time. Think you wiped out your browsing history? Don't bet that that is the only set of tracks you've left that show where you've been surfing. Your Facebook page will be looked at by the school board chair and your superintendent and principal know who the author of that "anonymous" blog is. Not assuming everyone can see what you send and do online is stupid.

5. Believing that one's teaching style need not change to take full advantage of technology. Using technology to simply add sounds and pictures to lectures is stupid. Smart technology use is about changing the roles of teacher and student. The computer-using student can now be the content expert; the teacher becomes the process expert asking questions like - where did you get that information, how do you know it's accurate; why is it important, how can you let others know what you discovered, and how can you tell if you did a good job? The world has changed and it is rank stupidity not to recognize it and change as well.

6. Ignoring the intrinsic interest of tech use in today's kids. Kids like technology. Not using it as a hook to motivate and interest them in their education is stupid.

7. Thinking technology will go away in schools. The expectation tha "This too shall pass" has worked for a lot of educational practices and theories. Madeline Hunter, Outcomes-Based Education, whole language, and yes, some day, NCLB all had their day in the sun before being pushed aside by the next silver bullet. (I think that metaphor was a bit confused. Sorry.) But it is stupid to think technology will go away in education. It isn't going away in banking, medicine, business, science, agriculture - anywhere else in society. Thinking "this too shall pass" about technology is pretty stupid.

That was fun. What would make YOUR list of the top stupid mistakes you've seen teachers make with technology?

Oh, I am not above making stupid mistakes as well. Maybe this posting was one of them...

* And you wondered what those strange noises were coming from the next cubicle.

** While surfing for porn at work might qualify as THE stupidist mistake a teacher could make with technology, those CIPA-required filters that only the kids know how to get around may be keeping this act off my teachers' stupid list. And here I bet you thought CIPA was about protecting kids.

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Reader Comments (3)

What came first 5 or 7?

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

I wonder if I shared this with my staff before the break I would be sure to get coal in my stocking?
Great post, Doug!

My example:

Who cares about copyright and attribution? No matter that I've got a whole wikipage of copyright friendly image resources just continually and year after year tell the kiddos to Google image search, save, print out, & use without notation in all project assignments. Why not! It's not REALLY like cheating, right? LOL

Happy holidays dear friend & thank you for all the educational inspiration, ideas, support, & generosity all year round!

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGwyneth Jones

Hi Gwyneth,

The copyright issue is stupid because of the message mis-use sends to kids. But, yeah, it drives me nuts too.

I am very thankful for our friendship as well and I think I learn more from YOU than vice-versa!

Happy holidays!


December 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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