The Irascible ProfessorSM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up."... ...James Magary

Commentary of the Day - January 22, 2002:  Teacher Rabbits - Another View on Computers in the Classroom.  Guest Commentary by Beverly Carol Lucey.

Yet another problem with schools: teachers who won't learn new tricks.  Computer labs are important to level the playing field between the affluent and the poor.  If teachers refuse to learn what their students need to
know...Uh, oh.

When our high school got its first clutch of computers, those of us in the Humanities Department (upstairs, AWAY from technology) were frightened.  The business and math department seemed very excited.  Like little bunnies we  Liberal Arts folks trembled and put ourselves on red alert.

"Farmer Brown is installing machines."

"This can't be good."

"What will become of us?"

"Pen and paper was good enough for my Grandfather Rabbit."

"I think Satan is behind this."

"What if, what if, what if....... Woe is me."

We, upstairs in the Humanities Department, heard strange words such as:

data base

spread sheet


We wanted a raise, not machines.


We had faculty meetings in which Science People asserted that raw data could be turned into winning Science Fair Entries and scholarships.

We noticed that handmade banners for Spirit Week had morphed into elongated dot matrix streamers that urged Our Team to do great damage to Their Team.

But the world shifted on its axis.  Suddenly or slowly a few of us relearned a very important lesson: TEACHERS HAVE TO BE LIFE LONG LEARNERS.

Teachers who refuse to be learners will not understand why it is that a student has difficulty with this subject or that skill.

Teachers who watch how differently they and other teachers in the room go about learning how to use a new technology will understand their students better.

They will see different learning styles, see the need for collaboration, and understand how frustrating it is not to be able to get the teacher's attention when they are stuck.

The teachers who could not make the leap to learn new skills turned into cranks and spent the rest of their careers bemoaning how things "used to be."

All this fear predated even 14.4 modems, free use of the Internet, and graphic web sites by a good few years.  Ancient history.

But still, taking workshops in using computers changed me profoundly as a teacher.  After many confident years in the classroom, I was watching myself learn and struggle.  Because teachers teach what comes easily for them, it is easy to forget that struggle.

Workshops reminded me that learning is collaborative.  Learning is both linear and full of random leaps.  We learn what we need to know and get to use, more easily than we learn something that we are told will be useful...someday.

Isolated schools with outdated libraries need not deprive students access to the world anymore.  Urban schools can provide disadvantaged students with opportunity far beyond entry level jobs by writing grants for up-to-date labs.

But teachers and administrators who will not learn how and when to integrate computers into their curriculum are perpetuating an ignorance that will keep the playing field unlevel for a generation of students.

Part of any teacher's job is to be able to bring what is new and exciting in the world into the classroom, while imparting appropriate guidance and perspective.  Curious or affluent students will succeed on their own. But what about the rest of the kids?

When I left my last high school job three years ago we had a beautiful new Mac Lab for our second floor.  It was in use constantly and was a major part of student research and writing.  Interacting with students in the lab remains some of my fondest memories.  One of the reasons is because we were teaching each other.

Since then, the 50% of the Humanities faculty who avoided the lab still avoid it.  Younger teachers have moved on to better paying jobs.  The computers have not been maintained.  The lab aide position was cut.  The machines are not used.  Some of the rabbits are happy.

"I heard there's porno on the Internet.  We don't want that."

"See? I told you it was just another fad."

"A text book was good enough for me, it's good enough for them."

"Please pass the carrots."

©2002 Beverly Carol Lucey
Beverly Lucey is a former high school teacher who now publishes e-zines, most notably the Language Wrangler and the Woman of a Certain Age Page.

For additional views on computers in K-12 classrooms see our commentaries of December 13, 2001 and December 19, 2001.

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© 2002 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.